Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver – yet another couple and their children that are affected by an affair. Everywhere we, the public, looks- there is information about Arnold’s affair with the family’s housekeeper. Yes, I Dr. Karen shall also write about it. This is a hot topic not simply because these are celebrities, rather because this family is all too common as affairs are epidemic.
To add further pain to this particular family trauma, Arnold fathered a child from this affair. To add even further insult to injury Maria and the children have been a part of the lives of those whom there was a dark secret for 10 years. You never know the skeletons that are in the closet of others until you open the door. Many families carry secrets from those outside of the family unit, and there are far too many family members that hold secrets each day within one’s own mind from those closest to them, which clearly has happened here. A wide range of comments from varied sources are documented in magazines to newspapers, television, and radio addressing this affair. Some of the types of statements being made include; Maria should take him back and they should get marriage counseling, Maria should stay strong and not work on the marriage, Arnold is a powerful man therefore no wonder why he did this, she should have known, how could she not have known, and more . . .
I, Dr. Karen shall state; the overwhelming percentage of the population within a marriage, there is indeed someone cheating, male or female. Yes, that is the fact. It is of epidemic proportions! This family we have come to discover is in the majority. I counsel clients in my private practice each day where infidelity is the presenting problem that brings couples into the therapy office. Yet, often the reaction when someone in the public eye is discovered to have cheated, the comments from many experts reporting the reason why he cheated is because he is powerful. I shall assert that men that are not powerful cheat too, there are women that cheat as well. Note: cheating is not a matter necessarily of power nor is socioeconomic status to blame. Another top reason I often hear experts suggest as the reported reason for an affair is due to narcissism. Are you ready for the top reason? I shall share it with you right now. The top reason reported to me by men time and time again over the past 18 years of being a marriage therapist is that they do not feel appreciated and attended to. Yes, it is what I refer to as; “The Double A”. Feeling a lack of appreciation with consistency over time and feeling a lack of being attended to/receiving attention (The Double A: appreciation, attended to/receiving attention) to where the man feels under-nurtured is the most commonly reported reason for a man to cheat. It is “The Double A” that leads a man to feel lonely and unloved.
If you wish to learn more about; a) why men cheat, b) why women cheat, c) signs/predictors that your spouse is cheating, AKA: The Cheater Meter, d) cheating prevention methods for self and spouse, e) cheater personality style, the long awaited; Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual is expected to be released this Summer 2011! You will be able to order a signed copy directly from this website coming soon. I invite you to subscribe to my website as I will send out an email to all of those that are subscribers on the very day this cutting edge manual is available, and thus you shall be in-the-know.
Betrayal, hurt, traumatized, 3 key words that can be used to describe a person’s feelings when their spouse has been disloyal. Shocked, disappointed, sad, angry, 4 more words. Some marriages can come back with therapeutic help after such a blow. I help couples everyday where their marriages not only survive but with help and hard work those couples move far beyond survival and shift to thrive, and are truly enhanced. Other marriages cannot survive such a bullet and rather this discovery leads to further discoveries about other secrets and betrayals which deepens the wound and leads to more hurt. There are other marriages that this discovery ends the marriage for a new chapter of each of the adults lives to where the journey will then hopefully include; healing, increased self awareness, and moving forward in a healthy and productive manner. So, what happens to the children in all of this?
As a parenting expert and marriage and family therapist I shall share with you that kids are absolutely impacted by an affair! When people say things like; the affair has nothing to do with the kids, leave the kids out of it, and/or it is an adult matter, I am here to say; be real! The kids are in it, they are affected and will absolutely need supportive help to; a) understand this painful life experience, b) understand what they are feeling and how it has affected them, c) heal, and d) discover the next phase of their relationship life with each parent as it is changed. There are several different reactive responses a child may have when a parent has had an affair which is dependent on several key factors including; a) the child’s personality, b) the child’s age, c) the relationship the child has with each parent, d) the family relationship as a whole, e) what is said and continues to be said between parents and parent to child, f) the type of support and help they receive to cope, heal, adjust, and move forward.
Here are just a few reactions that a child may have based on a scenario such as Arnold, where the husband has cheated on the wife. Know this, for a son, a father whom has cheated on his mother is in an extremely challenging and painful position. Here is a man he looked up to, his father, and respected -that has hurt and betrayed his mother and thereby betrayed him. The son is forced emotionally to choose loyalties therefore, he chooses to be loyal to his mother and instinctively angry at his father and thus his reaction is to shut off his father from his life. A different response often experienced is that the son finds blame in the mother and becomes increasingly angry and bitter towards her blaming her for ruining the family by forcing his dad to seek out love elsewhere because she was not available the way dad needed and she should have known that. A daughter whose mother has been cheated on is impacted in terms of her own self esteem. She feels personally betrayed as though the father betrayed her. It is the daughter that develops a lack of trust in men. The thoughts in a daughter’s mind is; if the one man in my life I thought would never hurt me did, how can I possibly trust any man in my life. It is often the female that will then wonder if this is how all men are, as it is her father that she looked up to whom exemplified the best of men. Children no matter how young or old are affected by the knowledge that their parent has had an affair. How the parents handle it is of the utmost significance. I shall also share with you that for most children it leads them to question themselves as they age and develop relationships of their own, therefore it is important that parents acknowledge what their children are feeling and have therapeutic dialogues with them through the various stages and ages a child goes through, as needed.
The fact that a child was born from this affair, the fact that the housekeeper remained their housekeeper for so many years and from reports was cared for by Maria, the fact that this housekeeper was an important part of the family and trusted by the children, is an added layer of betrayal. This is not “just” a “wham bam thank you mam” scenario (which is hard enough on a family). This is a scenario where the children do not “simply” feel lied to by one act on a given day, this is rather a scenario where the children come to discover that their father has been lying to them every single day for a large percentage of their childhood. The children and Maria shall be grieving and mourning over the loss of the man they thought Arnold was, and the man they feel he can never be viewed as again. This is a true embarrassment for the entire family. This is a true loss for the family, in similar concept to a death in that what they thought was the truth of their life suddenly feels false. The family they thought they had and would have in the future now has been smashed to bits. Extended family typically is also hurt and affected when there has been an affair. Let’s talk about Arnold. What he must be going through now that this secret is out in the open, well, to put it briefly, it is traumatic for him as well. He is now forced to confront himself, that is challenging for many.
What about the public? Well, yet again, another reminder that families are vulnerable to making life choices that dramatically hurt themselves and their family. It is a shame. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for this to have been a fairytale story? Are there any fairytale stories? What even is defined these days as a fairytale story?
If you are struggling with a betrayal, or if you have cheated on your spouse and want someone to talk to, know that there are caring therapists invested in your mental health and well being available to help you through this trying time. If you have children, ask them how they are feeling, offer them someone to speak with about their feelings. It is hard for many to seek out help during such devastation. It is hard to choose to trust someone you do not know to talk to when you are in so much pain, and yet, that is exactly what is needed. The therapists here at Dr. Karen Ruskin & Associates located in Sharon, Massachusettes are available to schedule an appointment if you should so need. You and your family do not have to go through this alone. If you are reading this blog and you are out of state but want help, there are resources available to find a therapist that shall fit your needs. Two resources that lists therapists names, location, and specialty include;: www.therapistlocator.net or www.psychologytoday.com . Also, you can call the mental health benefits portion of your insurance and ask for a list of names of providers in your area.