Serena thought she had the perfect life with her husband then he told her he was gay

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When meeting an ex-husband’s new lover, it’s a woman’s instinct to draw comparisons between herself and her replacement. Is she prettier? Taller? Slimmer? Cleverer? 

However, when David, her former husband of 18 years, introduced Serena Morton to his latest squeeze, there was not a single similarity. Romanian, 5ft 10in to her 5ft 4in, gym-toned and 25 years Serena’s junior — so far so predictable, you might think. 

But the lover in question was also a man ‘David said “This is Carlos”, and I knew it must be one of his boyfriends. So I said: “Ooh, he’s nice, isn’t he?” and David laughed. 

‘Carlos was gorgeous looking, and I could have spent all night chatting to him. However, I think he felt uncomfortable when David introduced me as his ex-wife.’ 

Serena Morton was married to her David (both pictured) for 18 years before he came out to her. After falling apart the couple have reunited as best friends

Serena Morton was married to her David (both pictured) for 18 years before he came out to her. After falling apart the couple have reunited as best friends 

David, 60, and Serena, 57, have two grownup children together. But their marriage ended in bitter acrimony four years ago, after David told Serena he was gay, and could no longer continue living a lie. ‘My whole world exploded when David told me he no longer wanted to be with me, and wanted to date men,’ says Serena, a striking woman with gunmetal grey hair and olive skin, who tutors children excluded from mainstream school. 

‘I honestly didn’t know how I was going to go on living without him and yet, unlike when a husband goes off with another woman, I knew I couldn’t possibly compete. 

‘I’d lost the fight hands down, because I wasn’t a man and David made it clear that being with men was the only thing that would make him happy.’ 

Serena was unable to eat and lost two stone in weight, going down to just seven-and-ahalf stone. She felt so anxious she barely slept for months. 

‘I actually hated him for doing that to me and, I’m ashamed to admit now, I hated the whole gay community. 

‘I remember a friend being appalled by some of the things I was saying. She said: “Serena, this is not like you!” But I was hurting so much. David was the love of my life — yet now I realised I could never be the love of his.’ 

Serena credits their children, Abbey, 21, and George, 20, who are both students, for getting her through the nightmare, ensuring she ate the occasional sandwich and doing their best to cheer her up. Yet they, too, had some serious adjusting to do, as the revelation about their father’s sexuality came as a terrible shock to them both. 

Serena and David are pictured here on their wedding day. Serena said that she felt used at first and that David had only wanted children, not her

Serena and David are pictured here on their wedding day. Serena said that she felt used at first and that David had only wanted children, not her

Although David had told Serena he was bisexual when they started dating 23 years ago, he now says he was mistaken, and that he is — and always has been — gay. 

However, it was never something they felt the need to share with their children. It simply didn’t seem to matter, given the speed with which he committed to Serena. 

When the couple met in June 1999, David was in sales while Serena worked in a bank in their home town of Bournemouth. 

David was a customer and, ‘mesmerised by her beauty and multi-tasking skills’, he asked her out on a date. 

Within three months, David — a handsome, eloquent man of 37 — had moved in with her. Three months after that, with both keen to start a family, Serena was pregnant with daughter Abbey.

‘We were ecstatic,’ recalls Serena. ‘I remember walking into our bedroom, holding a positive pregnancy test, and David climbing out of bed and getting down on one knee, asking tearfully: “Will you marry me?”

‘I had no reservations about marrying someone I thought was bisexual, because when you exchange wedding vows, you commit to one person.’ 

I assumed he’d wanted kids but not a wife and I just felt used

‘I couldn’t have been happier — I’d always wanted children,’ adds David. ‘Serena is a beautiful woman and I was very attracted to her. And I definitely loved her. I still do — just not in the way a husband loves a wife.’ 

David, who runs a pub quiz company, struggles to explain how he could have been so content in a heterosexual relationship, when he is now certain that he is indisputably, unequivocally gay. 

‘I wish I had an answer,’ he says. ‘But, when I proposed, I was as sure as anyone can be that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Serena.’ 

In the months after their split, Serena felt convinced that David had lied and exploited her to realise his dream of being a father. 

‘The only way I could make sense of what David had done was to assume he’d wanted children but not a wife, which left me feeling used,’ she says. 

Serena was 20 weeks pregnant on their wedding day at her family’s local Methodist church. 

They celebrated with a meal for 50 and an evening reception for 200 guests at a beautiful hotel in Lyndhurst, in the New Forest. 

Both Serena and David say it was ‘the perfect day’. 

Abbey was just eight months old when Serena discovered she was pregnant with George — unplanned but very much wanted. 

Serena is pictured here with children Abbey and George. The children struggled to accept their parents split at first

Serena is pictured here with children Abbey and George. The children struggled to accept their parents split at first 

After George’s birth, she and David both recall, their sex life ground to a halt — and it never recovered. Both insist it never crossed their minds that this might have had anything to do with David’s sexuality. 

‘When I spoke to friends with young children they admitted rarely having sex either, we were all so exhausted,’ says Serena. 

‘David and I were always tactile. In bed we would have a cuddle, kiss each other and say: “I love you.” It never led to anything more intimate, because, I imagined, we were out of the habit. 

‘We held hands and put our arms around each other when we were out, just like any normal couple.’ 

For his part, David says the ‘desire was just not there’, something he also put down to the exhaustion of raising a family. 

Although sex is, in Serena’s opinion, an important part of a relationship, she was willing to stay married to David without it. 

Indeed, she doesn’t remember even discussing the lack of intimacy with him — because ‘everything else was pretty perfect’. 

He was the love of my life. Yet now I realised I could never be the love of his 

Eventually, however, David did start to question his feelings. He admits that, several years into his marriage, he became aware he ‘was gay and wanted to be with men’. 

He even dropped hints about feeling unfulfilled and needing to explore his ‘true identity’, which Serena says she was oblivious to at the time. 

Yet he couldn’t bear the thought of becoming ‘a weekend dad’ — and would have felt too guilty to cheat on Serena. 

So they muddled on until September 2018, when David says he could ‘live a lie no longer’ and announced that he was going to the Spanish island of Gran Canaria to make a go of his quiz business in a bustling resort there. 

‘I’d felt very depressed for a while,’ he says. ‘I was doing a job (in sales) I didn’t like, in a marriage that didn’t work for me. The children were teenagers, and I couldn’t carry on. Either I was going to die very bitter, or finally do something that made me happy. 

‘I had friends in Gran Canaria and there’s a big gay community, so I hoped sex with men would be part of the package.’ 

David never mentioned this to Serena. Yet a week after his departure they were talking over FaceTime and she said: ‘I’m sensing that you don’t want to be with me any more.’ David’s reply sent her spiralling into the abyss. ‘He just said: “No, I don’t. And I’m not coming back.”’ 

Serena says she knew instinctively that he wanted to be free to date men. Although he didn’t say it explicitly, his talk of male friends and references to feeling ‘more myself than I have in years’ all pointed towards what she had been trying to ignore for a very long time: Her husband was gay. 

Seeing their mother distraught, Abbey and George, then 16 and 17, wanted to know what was going on. It was an awful moment — and Serena spoke in haste. 

‘I don’t remember my exact words but I do remember telling them, in a state of upset and anger: “Your dad’s not coming back — and he’s gay,” ’ she recalls. ‘Abbey kept saying: “No, Dad wouldn’t do that.” And I said: “Well he has!” 

‘George just paced up and down the lounge saying: “Oh my God”. Eventually he said: “Well, if that’s Dad, that’s Dad.” ’ 

The following day, when Serena told David she had broken the news to their children, he was furious. 

He’d dropped hints about fulfilling his ‘true identity’

Even now, four years later, this is evidently still a very touchy subject with him. 

While Serena explains that she didn’t want the children holding on to any hope that their parents might get back together, David unconsciously clenches his fists and his breathing speeds up as he tries to suppress anger. 

Tentatively, I ask why this is such a big issue for him. 

‘Why?’ he asks, incredulous. ‘Because coming out is massively important to gay people. This is why “outing” people is considered to be such a terrible thing to do, because it is so grotesquely unfair and you should be able to share, as and when you feel it’s appropriate. 

‘I was denied my chance to speak to my own children about my sexuality because Serena had told them I was gay, instead of allowing me to do that, and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s unforgivable. 

‘However, we have both done things the other has found deeply hurtful and have had to move on, otherwise we’d be resentful and bitter for ever.’ 

David decided to record a video which he sent to both children, explaining his position. 

‘I told them I wasn’t the right man for their mother. I don’t think I said anything more explicit, because Serena had already done that,’ he says. 

While Serena was falling apart, David says he felt content for the first time in many years. 

‘I dated a couple of men, nothing serious, but the important thing was being able to be truly myself,’ he says. 

However, over the next few months David’s business plans hit the buffers. Missing him, and worried about how they would continue to pay for the family home — a detached chalet-style house in Queen’s Park, an upmarket area of Bournemouth — in January 2019, Serena decided to fly to Gran Canaria to see if their marriage could be salvaged. 

‘I missed David so much that I wasn’t functioning properly,’ she says. ‘I had to take time off work because I was having panic attacks that kept me awake all night, and my friends and family were worried about how much weight I’d lost. A bit of me hoped he’d see me and decide he wanted to be with me again after all.

‘At the same time, I was worried sick about how I was going to keep paying the mortgage and bills on my own, and wanted to make sure David intended to carry on contributing, at least until the children left home.’ 

Despite the rage and animosity there had been between the couple, astonishingly, when they met, David and Serena slotted back into easy companionship. 

‘David looked happier and healthier than he had in years, and the first thing he said was: “Have you come to drag me back then?”,’ recalls Serena. 

‘We shared the double bed in his Airbnb that night, snuggling up together as usual.’ 

Desperate to hold on to a bit of her husband, Serena agreed to try an ‘open marriage’ in which David would move back in to the marital home, but pursue relationships with men. 

She had no inclination, at that stage, to go on dates herself. But while she tried to turn a blind eye to David’s encounters with men, whom he’d met through dating apps, within weeks the torment had become too much to bear. 

‘I hated it. I couldn’t go near him when he came home from these dates,’ she recalls. ‘One afternoon, in May 2019, I told him I couldn’t carry on. We removed our wedding rings and I said we would each have to find somewhere else to live. I remember David rushing off to the loo in tears. Even though he didn’t want me like a traditional wife, he didn’t want to live apart from the children. 

‘I had thought I could still live with him, but it turned out I couldn’t, and I told him, angrily, that it was selfish of him to expect me to do so.’ 

David moved out, they eventually sold the family home and now live a 15-minute drive apart. 

But the relationships between David and some family members were in tatters. Although George continued to see his father, Abbey refused to speak to David, and Serena’s only contact with him was to discuss finances. 

‘I felt so hurt and, although I never asked her not to see her dad, I think Abbey was being loyal to me,’ says Serena. 

So far, so common for a divorced couple, especially in such trying circumstances. Serena eventually started a new relationship and it seemed as though she and David might never be close again. 

Then, last January, events took another turn. 

When Serena went through a tough time after her two-and-ahalf-year relationship ended, she realised there was only one shoulder she wanted to lean on. 

‘I called David, because only he would understand how I was feeling,’ says Serena. 

‘I had a good cry and David was really comforting.’ 

The two of them met for dinner several times in the months that followed, and slowly a friendship between them grew. 

In March, Serena invited him to join her and the children for Mother’s Day, and he and daughter Abbey finally healed their rift. 

‘Abbey told me she’d felt abandoned,’ says David. ‘I hadn’t imagined it would matter so much to her — but I was wrong. That was very upsetting.’ 

Did they broach the subject of David’s sexuality, I wonder. 

‘She said she wasn’t prepared to talk about it, and I haven’t spoken in depth to George about it either,’ says David. 

‘George asked me recently: “Are you happy you had children?” I thought “How could he even doubt that?” So I told him that I definitely am.’ 

Instead of returning to his career in sales, David has retrained as a glazier. But in late August, he fell from a ladder, breaking his pelvis and shoulder and crushing his ribs, and was rushed to hospital. When doctors decided to transfer him to the intensive care unit, Serena was surprised to get a call from doctors as his next of kin. 

‘I still feel that, after my children, she is the closest person to me,’ says David. He hasn’t entered a new long-term relationship, and other than that chance encounter with Carlos, he hasn’t introduced any new partner to his family. 

Since his fall, Serena has been a huge support to David, cooking him meals and driving him around. They speak most days and Serena says she doesn’t feel resentful about David’s reliance on her — just pleased that, although they can no longer be spouses, they are the best of unlikely friends.

Given how things have turned out, would they, with hindsight, have gone ahead with their marriage 22 years ago? 

‘I feel bad that Serena didn’t have enough information to make the right decisions,’ says David. ‘But I could never regret having our children.’ 

Serena is more circumspect. ‘If we’d known how things would turn out we probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with it,’ she says. ‘But I only have to look at our children to know that would have been a great shame. 

‘I wouldn’t be without them and, strange though it may sound, I feel honoured that David chose to have them with me. 

‘I was very much in love with him. Most importantly to me, we were good parents, so although there was a fundamental flaw in our marriage, we must have done something right.’

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