John and Elizabeth Edwards’ separation was sad. Al and Tipper Gore’s was shocking. But now Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver have packed it in. When even such an institution finds it hard to keep it together, what hope is there for the rest of us?
According to the Los Angeles Times, Shriver has already moved out of the couple’s Brentwood mansion. After the paper began to dig about, the couple released a statement: “This has been a time of great personal and professional transition for each of us. After a great deal of thought, reflection, discussion and prayer, we came to this decision together. At this time, we are living apart while we work on the future of our relationship.”
(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Maria Shriver’s career.)
The statement goes on to make the standard pleas for privacy and declarations of shared personal goals in raising their four children, ranging in age from 13 to 21. While the news is not quite as eye opening as the announcement of the Gores’ split, it’s certainly unexpected; though Schwarzenegger and Shriver came from different political backgrounds, they had seemed to find a way to make their differences an asset over their 25-year marriage. Having had to hash out a lot of stuff early on, they were, it seemed from the outside, masters at spousal conflict resolution.
Like the Gores and the Edwardses, Schwarzenegger and Shriver waited until they were out of office to make changes in their marital arrangements. It’s unclear whether their union was the victim of dreams too long deferred or of the malaise that comes with the rapid deflation of power. Shriver gave up an impressive journalism career when her husband took office. Schwarzenegger recently expressed a desire to get back into making action movies.
(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 most shocking celebrity-relationship flameouts.)
As countless celebrities and reality-show newlyweds have proved, coupledom and the public eye are not always easy bedfellows. While divorce is no longer lethal to a career, and has arguably helped some celebrities’ profiles (hello, Jennifer Aniston), it’s still noxious enough that politicians would rather not do it while in office. It’s possible this split was long in coming.
Schwarzenegger and Shriver have not announced that they plan to divorce but merely that they are going to work on the future of their marriage. Should they end up separating permanently, the political landscape will be the poorer for it. Their union was like one of those quirky old houses that don’t seem to fit into the neighborhood but wind up becoming a beloved local institution all the same.