Maria Shriver Details Her Visit to a Convent After Split From Arnold Schwarzenegger

Maria Shriver
Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Shriver compared the memory to a scene from 'The Sound of Music.'

Maria Shriver says her visit to a convent was a crucial step in the aftermath of her divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Shriver recounted the experience on the Making Space With Hoda Kotb podcast on Monday. 

"I went to a convent, a cloistered convent, and to be in silence and look for advice," Shriver shared, telling Kotb she was searching for guidance following the dissolution of her marriage. "And the reverend mother there … I actually have written about this but I haven't shared it, she said, 'I think you came here looking for permission.'" 

Shriver compared the memory to a scene from The Sound of Music, adding that the reverend mother told her, "You can’t come live here … but you do have permission to go out and become Maria." 

Shriver said the words set her free. "I was, like, sobbing," she said. "I had never given myself permission to feel, to be vulnerable, to be weak, to be brought to my knees. And the world did it to me. And then I was like, 'OK, God, let’s go.'" 

Shriver and Schwarzenegger were married in 1986 and separated in 2011, but did not finalize their divorce until 2021. 

The delay was caused by a lengthy legal process involving mediation by a private judge and a property settlement agreement that complicated the legal split.

The former couple shares four children -- Katherine, 32, Christina, 31, Patrick, 29, and Christopher, 25 -- and were married throughout Schwarzenegger's tenure as governor of California, from 2003 to 2011.

Shriver first filed for divorce on June 1, 2011, citing irreconcilable differences, following Schwarzenegger's public announcement that he had fathered a child with a longtime member of the family's household staff. The exes have stayed friendly, however, and have frequently appeared together with their children at public events. 

This week, Shriver -- a member of the Kennedy family -- added that she spent much of her life feeling invisible alongside her family and ex-husband. 

"If you, as a child, are standing next to the president of the United States, two U.S. senators, the first lady, nobody is looking at you," she told Kotb. "You are background noise. And you take that with you really through life, and you end up putting yourself in situations where that continues until you learn your lesson."

The experience, Shriver said, made it hard for her to feel comfortable with her self-assuredness. "It's not about other people seeing you, it's about you seeing yourself," she said. "And that took me a really long time, a really long time to learn."