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We were married for 15 years...Then he told me he was gay

After her 15-year marriage dramatically fell apart, Carolyn Hobdey remembers the ensuing terrible weeks of soul-searching and hunting for clues that will be familiar to many ex-wives.

Was there something she'd missed? Did everyone know about their problems but her? Her grief, anger and pain were all-consuming. 'I felt as if I was dying from the inside out,' she recalls. 'It was the loss of everything. Had David ever loved me? Had it all been a facade?

'Our wedding. Each anniversary. The heartfelt cards, the letters — I pored over them and looked for clues — were there signs I should have seen? It all rattled around in my head, robbing me of sleep and stealing my sanity. It made the whole of our marriage feel like a lie. I felt like an idiot, I was embarrassed.'

Such sentiments are entirely understandable for any woman uncovering a long-buried deceit. But it wasn't an affair David had been concealing: ironically, it was Carolyn who'd strayed, succumbing to a brief, desperate affair with a work colleague after her marriage had slumped into a sexless 'arrangement' that had sapped her self esteem.

David's big confession was that he was gay, and he'd been suppressing it his entire life.

Carolyn Hobdey, from Somerset, split from her husband David when he told her he was gay (pictured together on holiday in Italy in 2006)

The Hobdeys' story echoes that of TV presenter Phillip Schofield, 58, who came out as gay last year, having been married to wife Stephanie — with whom he has two daughters — since 1993.

Schofield also revealed he knew he was gay when he married, but gave one absolute assurance: 'We will always be a family. That is the one definite, constant, absolute positive thing.'

Stephanie, too, went on to confirm that she loved Phillip 'as much as ever' and would 'still be there, holding his hand in future', a feeling which resonates with Carolyn, 47, and David today.

In fact, four years after their divorce, Carolyn is contemplating the improbable. 'Do you know what?' she says, only half joking. 'Perhaps we need to just get married again. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we ended up spending our old age together,'

As she voices the impromptu thought, David laughs in agreement. 'I feel very much the same,' he says, revealing that his partner Andy, 54 — with whom he's been in a relationship for seven years — is 'quite envious' of the warm friendship he sustains with his former wife.

So how has it come to this? How have the Hobdeys attained such a happy equilibrium that they now regard each other as the best of friends, and she has even kept his name?

'The fact is,' says David, 58, chief executive of a charity that cares for vulnerable adults, 'my life is richer for having been married to Carolyn.

'There were turbulent moments in our relationship but they passed. I'll never regret having married her and although I've started a new phase of my life, I still love Carolyn and I always will.'

Carolyn and David Hobdey are pictured here on their wedding day in 2000. David revealed to her after 15 years of marriage that he was gay

Of course it hasn't always been like this. After David's revelation about his sexuality, Carolyn felt a series of conflicting emotions: first sympathy for him, then hurt and rage.

'I felt sad for him not feeling able to be honest about who he was,' she says. 'I empathised with the burden he must have carried and how wearing it must have been to keep it contained for so long. But then came the pain, which crashed over me in a wave, and anger.

'David had watched me unravel from the guilt I'd felt about my affair. He'd watched me crucify myself with the blame. He could have said, 'Look, I'm gay, and it could be the main reason our marriage isn't working.' But he didn't.

'I felt denied a life I could have otherwise had. I might have tried earlier to have a child with someone who wanted to have a sex life with me. I felt such a sense of injustice.'

Flash back to their first meeting in 1998 at a business course: Carolyn, then just 24, was vivacious, bright and physically striking, tall and slender with a river of auburn brown hair. David, then 35 was 'gentle, kind, considerate and impeccably well-mannered', his outward seriousness leavened by a mischievous sense of humour.

Carolyn had had a short affair during the marriage with another man from her work. The couple are pictured together

David insists the attraction, for him, was physical 'but there were so many other factors: she was full of energy, so articulate and intelligent.'

David, then MD of a medical services business, a high-flyer on a six-figure salary, invited Carolyn, then an HR executive, to lunch.

I felt denied a life I could otherwise have had. I might have tried earlier for a child with someone who wanted sex — Carolyn 

Their friendship flourished and a few months on they were sleeping together. 'The sex was good, and plentiful,' recalls Carolyn. 'I thought David was the sun, moon and stars. We were smitten and nine months on we were engaged.'

On their wedding day in June 2000, at Hazlewood Castle, a stunning venue in Yorkshire, Carolyn looked radiant in pale gold, beaming with happiness, her handsome bridegroom in traditional morning suit smiling at her side.

When asked if he felt the whole event was a charade, that he knew, as a secretly gay man the marriage was doomed, David is aghast.

'Oh no!' he says, 'I had no misgivings whatsoever. Falling in love with Carolyn wasn't a lie.

'But I was concealing part of myself from her — the part that had feelings for men, and pushing those thoughts away from myself as well.'

The couple first met in 1998 at a business course. Carolyn was just 24 and David was 35 (pictured together) 

'Those thoughts', he says, had been haunting him from his early teens, when, aged 14, he remembers first being attracted to boys. 'But I can't say I wasn't attracted to girls, too. There were so many complicating factors. I grew up in the 1960s — homosexuality was only decriminalised in England in 1967 — and I was brought up to believe same-sex relationships were wrong.'

Raised on a council estate in Hemel Hempstead, Herts, David was bullied mercilessly, between the ages of eight and 15, by his homophobic stepfather: 'He called me a nancy boy and a sissy because I was reserved, quiet and studious.'

The reason I never told her (about my sexuality) was that I was terrified I’d lose her, my soulmate — David 

'I wasn't flamboyant or effeminate in any way and I can't remember repressing feelings of homosexuality,' David continues, 'But it was something I was aware of; an attraction to men.

'If I'd told my mum I felt attracted to boys as a child I think she'd have been horrified. She was loving and caring, but also very old-school in many ways.'

To begin with, Carolyn and David's marriage was blissfully contented. 'We were a perfect match intellectually,' says Carolyn. 'David was affectionate and loving and my family adored him. Our sex life was good. There was nothing odd about it at all. But then, after about 18 months, it started to fizzle out and finally, a few years on, dwindled to nothing.'

Carolyn and David Hobdey who were married for 15 years are pictured here on holiday in Cornwall in 2005

Carolyn does not believe there was a straightforward correlation between David's unspoken homosexuality and the end of their physical relationship.

Their marriage was besieged by pressures that would have tested the firmest of relationships. Both had high-powered jobs earning six-figure salaries, they had taken on taxing home-improvement projects and commuted long distances to work.

Carolyn was also suffering from gynaecological problems, which David found difficult to discuss, and left Carolyn feeling less than desirable.

'Reigniting our sex life became awkward,' she recalls. 'It soon became easier to accept things as they were because, in every other respect, we were really happy together.'

But then, when Carolyn was 32, she started to yearn for a baby. When she stopped taking the Pill her periods also stopped abruptly. An appointment with a specialist then revealed she was going through a premature menopause: she and David would not be able to have children of their own.

'I felt so many different emotions,' she recalls, 'Shock and distress which gave way to shame and humiliation. I felt my femininity, my desirability, the person I was, had gone.'

In response, David was, 'kind and caring, but he was like a brother, not a lover,' she recalls.

David (right) met Andy (not his real name), a carer (also previously in a heterosexual marriage) via a dating app and they now live together near Bath

Within a year they moved to Somerset where Carolyn began a new job as an HR director and it was here that she fell under the spell of Brad (not his real name) a 'charismatic alpha male who swept me off my feet'.

They soon began a clandestine affair. 'He made me feel sexy and attractive in a way David never did. And I needed that after the devastation of learning I'd been through a premature menopause and could never have children.

'I take full responsibility for my affair. It was wrong. But we're all human. I hadn't had sex for several years.'

'Was it really that long?' David says now. 'I know it was a long time and it felt wrong. I remember feeling worried that we'd lost something from the relationship, that we needed to do something about it, but we were going through such a stressful time . . .'

'And our marriage wasn't unhappy,' Carolyn points out. 'No one was more surprised than me when Brad walked into my life and I realised what was missing.'

It wasn't long before David found out. 'I'd seen some texts on Carolyn's phone that made it quite obvious she was having an affair,' says David. 'I felt as if my world had fallen apart. and I confronted her immediately.'

'And I felt awful; full of self-loathing,' Carolyn confesses. 'We didn't talk about it or sort it out as I didn't think I was worth his love. We moved into separate rooms.'

They rubbed along, leading separate lives under the same roof. Then in 2013, shortly before Carolyn was due to celebrate her 40th birthday with a big party, she noticed a change in David's behaviour.

'He seemed agitated, distracted. When texts came through on his phone he leapt for it. I thought, 'There's another woman.'

But then she noticed the name flashing up on his mobile was male. Gary. A week later she mustered the courage to broach the subject that had been niggling at her. 'I asked, 'Who's Gary?' David replied, 'Ummm. He's a friend. I met him through work.'

Carolyn then found herself asking her husband if he was having a relationship with Gary (not his real name). Minutes later, as David confessed that yes, he was, the pieces of the jigsaw finally fell into place, 'our lack of sex life, his inability to talk about sex or intimacy: suddenly it all made perfect sense.'

Carolyn (left) is now single. She heads her own business, MayDey, helping people to navigate change in their lives, and has written a memoir about her personal relationships

David explains what propelled him, after 51 years of sublimating his true sexual feelings, to act on them.

'By that stage I felt that our marriage was not going to survive,' he admits. 'It had been in the back of my mind, on and off, I knew that there was a side of my sexuality I'd never explored. I needed to do it and it felt like the right time.' David moved out of the family home, and they divorced. But their friendship was far from over. If anything, it strengthened.

'The reason I never told her (about my sexuality) was that I was terrified I'd lose her, my soulmate,' says David.

He concludes now that there are 'degrees' of being gay; that although he is homosexual, 'sex might not be as important' to him as to others.

David's relationship with Gary didn't work out: it was David's first gay encounter and Gary's first-ever relationship.

Then David met Andy (not his real name), a carer (also previously in a heterosexual marriage) via a dating app and they now live together near Bath.

David — whose stepfather disappeared from his life many years ago — was able to introduce Andy to both his parents, 'and they were fantastic.'

'My mum was wheelchair-bound with MS when she met Andy and he, being a carer, was so lovely and very natural with her.

'Towards the end of our day together, I said to mum, 'Have you worked out what our relationship is?' and she said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Do you mind?' and she replied, 'All that matters is that you're happy.'

Carolyn, meanwhile, is single. She now heads her own business, MayDey, helping people to navigate change in their lives, and has written a memoir about her personal relationships.

She explains how her anger was corrosive and destructive. 'When I realised I needed to stop trying not to love David, it was a lightbulb moment,' she says. 'He's still my biggest cheerleader, someone I want to share the good and bad in my life with. I feel I can talk to him about absolutely anything without judgment.

David, meanwhile, is quieter, less effusive, but he clearly adores Carolyn. 'When we are old, and the sexual side of our lives is not important any more, I can't think of many people I'd rather live with than David,' says Carolyn.

David smiles and nods. 'My life is infinitely richer for knowing her.'

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