Magazine article Newsweek

The Fallout: It's a Catharsis for McGreevey. but What about Those Left Behind? When a Spouse Comes Out

Magazine article Newsweek

The Fallout: It's a Catharsis for McGreevey. but What about Those Left Behind? When a Spouse Comes Out

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Breslau and Debra Rosenberg

As Cathy Morton watched Gov. James McGreevey's televised confession last week, she felt drawn to his wife, Dina, who stood at his side with a pained half smile frozen on her face. "I've been there," says Morton, who says she discovered her husband cruising gay Web sites five years ago. "She may not feel lucky now," says Morton, who is now divorcing, "but at least he admitted the truth and took responsibility. That's something."

Few women have to endure the disclosure at a news conference, but Dina Matos McGreevey is hardly alone. Nationwide there are nearly 2 million "straight spouses" whose husbands and wives have come out of the closet, often after decades of marriage, says Amity Pierce Buxton, whose book "The Other Side of the Closet" examines the phenomenon. In most cases, says Buxton, wives or husbands are stunned by the revelation; in about a third, wives or husbands have an inkling that their partner is struggling, but "don't want to face the elephant in the room."

The wave of midlife coming-out crises is explained in large part by growing social acceptance. Gays and lesbians of McGreevey's generation were more likely to conform to the social pressure to marry--especially if they wanted children--than are young homosexuals today. As they approach middle age and watch their kids leave for college, many no longer see a reason to remain in their heterosexual marriages.

But while those coming out can find acceptance, even celebration, in their newfound identities, the partners and children left behind are often devastated. …

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