Most Read: Lifestyle

Live Online Discussions

There are no discussions scheduled today.

Wellness chat

Wellness chat

Healthful eating columnist Ellie Krieger answers your questions. Join us at 1 p.m. April 23.

Weekly schedule, past shows

Posted at 06:38 PM ET, 05/10/2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, a political couple “in transition” after 25 high-profile years (photos)

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver during a 9/11 memorial ceremony in 2003. (Mark J. Terrill/ AP )

Is this how it goes in political marriages — not just “stay together until the kids grow up,” but “stay together until his career is done”?
Shriver and Schwarzenegger on their wedding day in 1986. (David Tenenbaum/ AP)
Last year, the splits of John and Elizabeth Edwards and Al and Tipper Gore — after so many years, so much endured together in the public eye — had the world asking “why now?” Both came not long after the men exited the political stage. And now, just four months after he wrapped up the seven years as California governor that topped off their uniquely high-profile quarter-century together, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver announced they have separated. (** Photo gallery: Other notable breakups among political couples **)

A complicated time for a couple, you think maybe? Shriver spelled it out in a video she posted on her Web site in late March, only now drawing a lot of eyeballs:

Schwarzenegger and Shriver and their four children during his first inauguration as governor of California. (Hector Mata/AFP)

“Like a lot of you I’m in transition,” said Shriver (who lost not only her role as first lady but both parents, Eunice and Sarge Shriver, recently). “It is so stressful to not know what you’re doing next. . . How do you get through it?” She did not appear to be wearing her wedding ring. After inquiries from reporters, the couple acknowledged late Monday that she has moved out of their L.A. mansion, “while we work on the future of our relationship.”

At his second swearing-in in 2007. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
Granted, Arnold and Maria weren’t your standard political couple. Long before he ran for office, the movie star and the network anchor had big careers, both entwined and conflicted. Their 1986 Hyannis Port wedding — nine years after Tom Brokaw introduced them at a charity tennis match — propelled both up the A-lists, he no longer just another action hero, she no longer just another Kennedy. Both seemed comfortable with the mutual starpower reflecting back and forth between them. (Schwarzenegger’s cheerful advice for making it in the U.S., he told a college graduating class: “Work your butt off. . . marry a Kennedy.”) (** Photo gallery: Arnold and Maria through the years **)

His GOP bona fides were sometimes questioned because of her liberal politics, and she reluctantly left her NBC job after concerns were raised about her journalistic objectivity, what with being married to the leader of the nation’s most populous state.

Ultimately, Shriver, now 55, played a pivotal role in his 2003 election when she stood up for him amid allegations he had groped numerous women over the years.

Shriver at Schwarzenegger’s U.S. citizenship ceremony in 1983. (Wally Fong/AP)
And now. . . ? Who knows what goes on in a relationship, but one former political wife speaks of a career trajectory’s push-pull tensions on a marriage. When your husband is in office, “you don’t want to do anything that would hurt them in any way,” Georgette Mosbacher, ex-wife of the late Commerce Secretary Bob Mosbacher, told us. And the transition back to civilian life can be devastating on a marriage. “That power vacumn that exists when they go back to the private sector is just. . . stark,” she said.

While Shriver’s next career step is unclear, her husband, now 63, has been exploring movie roles again.

And how about those kids? There are four of them, close to grown, and just now beginning to seize the spotlight that seems their destiny: Katherine, 21, who just published a self-help book; Christina, 20; Patrick, 17, recently profiled in Details for his entrepreneurial ventures and general handsomeness; and Christopher, 14. “They are the light and the center of both of our lives,” their parents said in their statement, asking for privacy at this time.

Read also in Reliable Source: Another Kennedy cousin weds: William Kennedy Smith, May 9, 2011

Read earlier in Style: Kennedy kin Maria Shriver readies for life after California governor’s mansion Nov. 2, 2010

By  |  06:38 PM ET, 05/10/2011

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company