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Schwarzenegger's secret life boggles divorce experts

The divorce rate may be sky high and adultery as common as short skirts in summer, but even in an age when train-wreck breakups make headlines, news that former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child a decade ago and kept the matter concealed from his wife and other children is taking some divorce veterans by surprise.

"I don't think I have had any cases where it's been a concealment of a whole other life for 10 years," said James Marks, a family law lawyer practising in Toronto. "It's not that common."

Mr. Schwarzenegger admitted this week he had a child with a member of his household staff who had worked for the family for 20 years, until her retirement this past January. Mr. Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, announced their separation earlier this month, but until now, the reason for the split wasn't known.

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Despite the circumstances, the case highlights the betrayal, lies and deceit that are at the root of most relationship breakdowns, said Karen Stewart, founder and chief executive officer of Fairway Divorce Solutions.

"It's devastating to find out you're dealing with something you didn't know [about]" Ms. Stewart said.

But instead of focusing on salacious details, she said it's more important to focus on how to recover from such damaging blows.

Acts of betrayal shatter the self-confidence of spouses and make it hard for them to trust themselves again, she said.

For many, getting over the relationship is nothing compared to regaining their sense of self and avoiding playing the victim. Ms. Stewart said Ms. Shriver now has the opportunity to do just that - and perhaps serve as a role model for others in the process.

"The journey of recovering is learning to trust yourself again," Ms. Stewart said. "It's not about the other party."

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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