Story highlights

Arnold Schwarzenegger opens up about the affair with his family's housekeeper

The former governor says he still loves Maria Shriver and wants to win her back

He describes her as "the most perfect wife"

(CNN) —  

Arnold Schwarzenegger said he blames no one but himself for the breakup of his 25-year marriage to Maria Shriver, whom he described as the only true love of his life.

“It’s my fault. There’s no one else to blame,” the former California governor told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” in an interview that aired Tuesday. “I … screwed up badly and I take the full blame for it.”

Shriver filed for divorce last year shortly after Schwarzenegger acknowledged that he fathered a child outside marriage with the family’s longtime housekeeper. He said he still hopes to win Shriver back.

“I love my kids dearly, and I love Maria … She has been truly the only love that I’ve ever had and that’s what is so pitiful about it,” he said, describing her as extraordinary and “the most perfect wife.”

Schwarzenegger admits habit of keeping secrets, including multiple affairs

Schwarzenegger and Shriver have four children together.

He characterized the affair as “just about the stupidest thing that any human being can do.”

“All of a sudden, from one day to the next, the personal life totally crashed and I wiped out everything, you know, that I had. I mean the thing that I cherished the most was my personal life, was my marriage and was my family. I always thought that it was one of my greatest accomplishments,” Schwarzenegger said.

The actor and former world-class bodybuilder touted his recent autobiography, “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story,” which he said delves into both the good and the bad in his life.

The native Austrian became an international celebrity in the 1970s as a bodybuilder, capturing four Mr. Universe titles before turning his attention to movies and becoming one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars.

He went on to become governor of California, a position he held until his term ended in January 2011. Since then, he has remained in the public eye and returned to the silver screen.

His success, he said, came in part from his ability to visualize what he wanted as a child.

“I always … had a vision, and the vision was so real that I really felt that I can accomplish and turn those visions into reality,” he said. It took a “hell of a lot of work,” Schwarzenegger said, but he was willing to put in the time.

Speaking a day before President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will face off in their first debate, he was asked if he had any advice for the candidates.

“The most important thing is to be real, he said. “To be as honest as possible, and not to drop a lot of numbers and facts and statistics, because people don’t remember that. You’ve got to be able to look right into the screen and to communicate with the people.”

Schwarzenegger: ‘I inflicted tremendous pain on Maria’