Stand By Your Man?
By now, we’ve all heard about Arnold Schwarzenegger fathering a child outside his marriage and keeping it a secret from his wife, Maria Schriver, for over 10 years. On the list of ways to totally crap all over the institution of marriage, your wife, kids and extended family, that’s pretty high up there. But it didn’t take long for the narrative to take a predictable turn. Of course Arnold was a sleaze bag, it should supposedly come as no surprise that he would do this apparently, but Maria, how could she not have known? She must have known! Why is it, in these situations, the dialogue so quickly implies that the woman is to blame in some way?
To say the wife must have known is to detract from the heinous betrayal of the husband. The actual act itself gets all but forgotten in the twisted debate over who should have known what, and when. And what if she did know? So what? Does it matter? If she tried to keep her marriage together, to work through it, to forgive, doesn’t that fall in line with the ‘for richer for poorer, for better for worse’ part of the vows she exchanged with her husband over 25 years ago? She has now filed for divorce, so if she just found out about this betrayal, it has clearly proved one indiscretion too far and she’s taken the action she feels is appropriate for her and her family.
But it’s strange, how quick women are to pull out the ‘She must have known. I would have known’ judgment. It implies that the woman involved was complicit somehow, therefore making her less of a victim and more an accomplice in the deception. Then we’re back to the narrative of the man just being a cad, boys will be boys, cheating is expected and accepted. The woman should have had more control, she was weak. But essentially, when we say ‘she must have known’ it’s a way of comforting ourselves, of feeling superior and smug, as though that could never happen to us – we’d have more control. We never want to believe that could happen in our relationships.
As someone who has been involved with some spectacular liars in my time (have a search through some of the old relationship posts on here, should you wish to know all the gory details), I can tell you first hand, you really have no clue what you will do unless you’ve actually been there. It is incredibly easy to pass judgment and think you’d have complete control over your emotional investment in the relationship, able to spot a man who cheats and lies. Believe me, they come in all different forms. And you feel stupid and humiliated enough without people’s first question being ‘Really? You had no idea?’
When someone chooses to step outside their marriage and mess up on a level as monumental as fathering a child with another woman, you know whose fault that is? HIS. And while I’m loathe to describe Maria Schriver as a ‘victim’ because she’s clearly a woman who has her shiz together, it wouldn’t be so bad if we found it in ourselves to sympathise with her through what must be an absolutely mortifying ordeal.