There’s no denying that Arnold Schwarzenegger has had one of the most unique journeys in Hollywood. From professional bodybuilder to Governor of California, the man has been through it all. While he’s admired by most people for his memorable performances in film, much of his career has been marred by controversy.
One of the most-discussed controversies that took place in Hollywood in recent years was undoubtedly that of Arnold and his “secret son.” In 2011, the Los Angeles Times blew the lid off a huge secret between Arnold and his housekeeper. The two had had an affair in the nineties and went on to have a secret child.
The secret son’s identity was kept under wraps for over a decade, so naturally, the scandal shocked the public to no end. Jokes and opinions abounded as Arnold’s reputation took a hit. His wife Maria Shriver moved out of the family home and the pair filed for divorce shortly. It was certainly a tough time in the Schwarzenegger household.
Nearly ten years after the scandal, it’s worth noting that Arnold is in a much different place, both in terms of his career as well as his family situation. His turnaround could help a number of us battle our own share of controversy, gossip, and turmoil when the time comes.
He kept his family in the dark for years until a dramatic therapy session
From the get-go, Arnold has been upfront about his mistakes. The Austrian celebrity wilfully pursued an affair with his housekeeper, knowing full well that it was both unethical and disloyal. His housekeeper, Mildred Baena, had been pregnant with Arnold’s child at the same time as Maria was expecting her fourth child with Arnold.
And yet he didn’t come clean at any point during the affair or the pregnancy. Instead, Arnold found out about his illegitimate son years later when the boy was eight. The young boy was exhibiting features similar to that of Arnold, which prompted the then-Governor to begin putting the pieces together in his head. Yet he remained mum and didn’t utter a word.
It took Maria to bring up her suspicions during a couples’ therapy session years later for Arnold to finally confess to his infidelity. In fact, the confrontation at the therapist’s office took place a day after his term as governor ended.
The minute we sat down, the therapist turned to me and said, ‘Maria wanted to come here today and to ask about a child — whether you fathered a child with your housekeeper Mildred.’ I told the therapist, ‘It’s true.'”Arnold Schwarzenegger on Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story
He took full accountability of what happened and admitted he “screwed up”
Though Arnold could have easily refuted the claims and used his position of power to drive out the housekeeper and the son, he chose to own up to his mistakes, no questions asked. Not only that but he did say that his divorce with Maria was the lowest point in his life.
I had personal setbacks, but this was, without any doubt, the biggest setback and the biggest failure. Without any doubt. Not only failure, but you feel like, ‘I’m to blame for it. It was me that screwed up.’ And you can’t point the finger at anyone else.Arnold Schwarzenegger on The Howard Stern Show
He admitted that while it’s easy to imagine being “smart in hindsight”, mistakes were made nonetheless. When you’ve come upon such a tricky scenario and your skeletons are coming out of the closet, you can’t do anything but fight through it with the best of your abilities rather than obsess over past errors.
Arnold said that he and Maria tried out therapy while going through their divorce. Arnold didn’t initially want to go through with it because he knew he was at fault. “I know I screwed up. I don’t have to go through anyone to have to explain to me anything. I apologized to Maria. I apologized to the kids.”
At his lowest point, he took inventory of the most valuable aspects of his life and unsurprisingly, chose to make amends with his family first and foremost.
Arnold now has a great relationship with his love child
Though things fell apart in a rather brutal manner at the time of the scandal, Arnold has done well to build a relationship with his love child Joseph Baena. Speaking about the relationship he has with his children, Arnold said, “It is fantastic including my fifth child with Mildred.”
[Joseph]’s terrific and he totally understands the situation. So, it all has worked out… It’s a very tough situation for him. It’s a very tough situation for my kids. Very tough situation for my family. It was tough for everybody. But it has happened and now we have to figure it out, right?Arnold Schwarzenegger on The Howard Stern Show
Seeing that his mother was a housekeeper at their mansion, Joseph practically grew around his father and his half-siblings. Once it emerged that Joseph was indeed Arnold’s son, the Terminator star assumed full financial responsibility and continues to support him. He even bought a four-bedroom house with a pool for Mildred and Joseph.
And it’s not just financial support that Joseph receives from his father. The father-son duo has been spotted out and about in public many times. Arnold’s met his son’s girlfriend, attended his son’s birthday celebration and even attended Joseph’s graduation from college. “You have earned all of the celebration and I’m so proud of you. I love you!” he wrote as a caption to a social media post featuring the graduation.
In another post, he referred to Joseph as a “fantastic son” and a “great training partner.” The whole situation between Arnold, Maria, and Mildred may have been a nightmare of a scenario but the famous actor is trying his best to do right by his secret child and parent him the best he can.
Watch this Goalcast video on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s insane resilience in the face of adversity:
He finally mended fences with Maria and his kids
Divorce is never easy on the children, particularly not when there are extramarital affairs and secret love children involved. Arnold had a hell of a task ahead of him in the wake of the scandal. If he wanted to fix relations with his children and their mother, it was going to take a special sort of patience and resilience.
Thankfully, through the strength shown by Maria during these challenging circumstances, Arnold was able to retain a bond with his four children with Maria. “It has worked out really so well with the help of Maria, with the help of the kids,” said Schwarzenegger.
Arnold also shared an anecdote about how his kids surprised him with an adorable present at the premiere of one of his films.
My kids are a straight 10. I am so proud of them and I’m so in love with them […] There was a note — ‘You’re the greatest dad, you’re the greatest this. We love you daddy’ — all this kind of stuff. It really made me feel so good, each one sent a card. Each one sent a little gift, so that’s the relationship I was looking forward to have after this complicated bump and this screw-up.Arnold Schwarzenegger on The Howard Stern Show
Arnold and Maria themselves have built a functional co-parenting relationship. They’ve been spotted getting dinner together multiple times and even reunited to celebrate Arnold’s 73rd birthday most recently. There’s no way of telling whether they have become genuine friends but it’s safe to say they’re willing to put aside their differences for the sake of their unified family.
Taking accountability is the first step to righting your wrongs
Some mistakes are bigger and more consequential than others — there is no getting around it. Arnold’s transgressions took place over many years, if not decades, and there was no way he’d be able to get in everyone’s good graces as if nothing had happened. But instead of pointing fingers or diverting from the accusations, he successfully completed the first step of righting one’s wrongs: taking accountability and owning up.
To be able to admit you were wrong, that you made some incredibly poor choices that led to colossal damages for your family takes more strength than you think. When everybody in this world is so keen on deflecting blame and getting themselves in the clear, it takes guts to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge your severe mistakes.
Accountability is the first and possibly the most important step to gaining forgiveness. It doesn’t depict you as a weak person, it doesn’t paint you as someone who has no will; it simply shows others that you are willing to change. And there’s no way someone can’t change unless they confess why they need to change in the first place.
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