After 25 years of marriage, Arnold Schwarzennegger and Maria Shriver have separated.

People who have spoken with Maria tell us, despite her STRONG public persona, Maria has become a “shell of the woman” she appears to be because she is “terrified” of Arnold but in an emotional, not a  physical way.

We’re told Maria has been unhappy with Arnold for years and first planned to split with him back in 2009 but her mother passed away and Maria decided to hold off.

Then, we’re told, Maria wanted to try to break it off again in January 2011 but her father died, once again putting the split on hold.

However, once Maria finally decided to separate from Arnold and moved into a fancy Beverly Hills hotel, we’re told Arnold pulled a 180 and he’s been “working extremely hard” to win her back.

To make things even more complicated, Arnold and Maria have been spending LOTS of time together lately, hanging out during Easter, Mother’s Day and even their 25th anniversary which they celebrated together at an expensive hotel.

The joint statement said the two were working on the future of their relationship while living apart and they would continue to parent their four children — Katherine, 21, Christina, 19, Patrick, 17, and Christopher, 13.