I'm a TV relationship expert. But 24 hours after I got engaged a fan told me she'd slept with my fiance - and I never saw it coming, writes Michelle Elma

I’m a life coach known as the Queen Of Boundaries, meaning I teach people how to stop others from treating them badly. I’m also the best-selling author of four books on relationships.

And yet 24 hours after announcing my engagement to the man I loved, in April this year, I discovered from one of my Instagram followers that he had been cheating on me. My instinct was to hide away. I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

I had proudly shared the news of my engagement to more than half a million people on my social media — and now here I was, the expert on personal development, betrayed and humiliated. But I didn’t hide for long. After just three weeks, I chose publicly to share my story — the infidelity, the heartbreak, all of it.

Michelle Elman is a life coach known as the Queen Of Boundaries, where she teaches people how to stop others from treating them badly

Michelle Elman is a life coach known as the Queen Of Boundaries, where she teaches people how to stop others from treating them badly

I posted a video on Instagram declaring ‘I am no longer engaged’ and explained why. As resident life coach on ITV’s This Morning, I also went on national television to discuss it.

It was hard to do, certainly. But it felt right. So many people in the public eye have been cheated on, and yet it’s rarely spoken about.

Typically, after a split, they’ll post, ‘We have decided to end our engagement, please respect our privacy at this time’, and there might be a statement about mutual respect and remaining friends. I didn’t want to do that. It wasn’t true and it didn’t feel like me. With the end of this relationship, I’d lost enough — I didn’t want to lose my integrity too.

As a relationship coach and social media star, I realise people expect my own life to be perfect, but of course it isn’t. And my feeling is that if I broadcast my highs — my engagement, my book announcements, my TED Talk — I’m duty-bound to address my lows too.

I felt I owed it to myself and other betrayed women to speak the truth and hold my head high. I’ve always been honest, whether talking about my scars from 15 surgeries after life-threatening childhood illness, including the neurological disorder hydrocephalus, or being plus-size.

On an emotional level, too, I was finding the congratulations texts that came pouring in very hard to handle, each one like a knife to the gut. Flowers were delivered to my door by delighted well-wishers. Tough as it was, I had to put a stop to it.

We’d got engaged on a Saturday, and immediately told family and friends, including my dad who lives in Hong Kong. Then, on the Sunday, I announced it on social media and for the first time shared a photograph of my fiance. This was the move that would prove to be his undoing, for in all my posts hitherto, over the three years of our relationship, I had kept him anonymous.

The post was a photo of the pair of us together, with me holding up my hand to display a beautiful diamond engagement ring. It was captioned: ‘I told you I would never post my boyfriend... MEET MY FIANCE.’

I was delighted, ecstatic.

As resident life coach on ITV’s This Morning, she also went on national television to discuss it

As resident life coach on ITV’s This Morning, she also went on national television to discuss it

But then, just half an hour later —after thousands of online comments and messages of congratulations — I got a message from one of my followers. ‘Is your fiance X [his full name]?’

At that very moment, my fiance and I were FaceTiming his brother to talk him through our news, and as the ping of the message came through, I said, ‘Ooh, who’s this person?’, and named my correspondent. My fiance didn’t react, nor even appear to hear me. But as soon as we finished the call, he went to the loo to be sick.

Not for a second did I connect this with her name. To say I trusted him is an understatement. ‘Oh no, did you eat something funny?’ I asked him, and turned to the TV to press play on our favourite programme, Grey’s Anatomy. At that point, I thought she must be a colleague, or a friend of a friend — someone I’d forgotten. But why was she asking me to confirm my fiance’s name?

I asked him again a few minutes later, still not suspecting a thing, and he said, ‘I don’t know. It’s creepy how many people know who you are.’

‘Well, she knows your full name — so why don’t you know hers?’

‘Oh, maybe she’s a girl I dated years ago,’ he said.

His attitude wasn’t defensive, but his response felt strange.

Half an hour later, another ping. But this time there was no going back, no glib explanations. This time, the woman sent me my fiance’s dating profile, from the dating app they’d met on. I could feel the room start to spin a little, my stomach to churn. I asked him what on earth was going on.

While dating, Michelle never posted her former fiance's face. It wasn't until she announced their engagement that she did

While dating, Michelle never posted her former fiance's face. It wasn't until she announced their engagement that she did

‘Why say “yes” to marrying me, if you believe what a stranger says on the internet?’ he replied.

Then she sent another DM: ‘I slept with him in November. He said he was single. I can send you the WhatsApp messages.’

I saw ‘November’ and I saw on his dating profile it said ‘Milan’. He had been in Milan in November on a business trip. ‘So did you sleep with him in Milan?’ I replied to her. She said, ‘No it was in London, the day he came back from Milan.’

My fiance was still sitting next to me on the sofa.

I asked her for evidence, at which point she told me the name of the hotel they’d used. He’d booked it, she said, so I asked him to type the hotel name into his email — up it came.

He’d deleted everything else, all texts, all dating apps, but I knew this was proof.

I started to shake. It turned out that he’d actually cheated on me with three women. He admitted to the second straight after admitting to the first, and the third a few hours later.

Apparently, I then asked him to leave, though it’s all a bit hazy.

Once he’d gone, I fell apart. I cried and cried big tears of shock and grief. I rang my sister who told me not to make ‘any big decisions’ for a day or two. Though I was emotionally exhausted, I couldn’t sleep at all, and in the dead of night, there was no one to talk to — except my dad, who’d still be awake in Hong Kong.

But I knew if I told my dad, it was over. That would make the ending of my brief engagement (and relationship of three years) official. And yet lying there at 4am, I thought, ‘Why am I protecting him?’ So I called dad and told him what had happened. The final nail in the coffin.

The next day, my fiance was going on a business trip and I went to stay with my sister.

He could have the weekend to move his stuff out of our London home, I told him. He was good about that. There were no fights.

I didn’t eat for about three days. I’m still not properly eating. When I think of certain details, I still feel nauseous. For four months we had been trying for a baby, so he was taking risks with my sexual health, for example. There are aspects of it that make me feel physically sick.

Michelle’s emotional post on Instagram three weeks after she found out about the affair

Michelle’s emotional post on Instagram three weeks after she found out about the affair

I’m 30, and becoming a mother is the thing I want most in the world, but now I know I will have to find another partner to help me to fulfil that dream.

There’s a massive grief around that. Indeed, the word I use to describe it is ‘whiplash’. That first night after finding out, I thought quite clearly, ‘Would you rather have a child with him, or would you rather never have a child?’ And what came into my head was, ‘No, that man is not going to be my child’s father.’

And still . . . I don’t think he’s a bad person because he did a bad thing. What he did doesn’t cancel out the support he gave me for three years. He held my hand during the worst two years of health I’ve ever had, for example, taking me to hospital appointments for brain scans, when long Covid made my hydrocephalus symptoms flare up.

It still makes me cry to think of the lovely way he proposed, after a day of paddleboarding on a lake, which was one of our favourite things to do.

He had prepared an amazing speech, how every day he wakes up next to me is his favourite day, and he looks forward to every day being a new favourite day.

Remembering that is hard not only because it feels so sad and such a waste, but because I don’t know how much of what he said was true.

In the video I posted announcing that I was no longer engaged, I said I still loved him, and I do. I’m not trying to hurt him by talking publicly about it, but part of moving on from a break-up is realising he’s not my responsibility any more. Yes, this is his life — but it’s also my story.

Later he told me: ‘I never thought I was good enough for you.’ He said he was always scared I would find out he wasn’t a good person. I hadn’t realised he was insecure like that, if he really is.

The truth is, he was going on dates and lying to these women too. He wasn’t being himself with any of us. I still don’t really understand it, and because I’ve left, I don’t have to.

Everyone at This Morning knew about the break-up the week before I publicly announced it. Ironically, I was in the studio then for a phone-in on break-ups, though this was to do with friendship rather than romantic relationships. I didn’t want to maintain the pretence that I was newly engaged, so I said to the producers, ‘Please can no one congratulate me on my engagement.’

I’m not superhuman. The first time I had to go to a public event after I’d told the world the engagement was off — it was the Baftas, actually — I had to tell myself, ‘No — I don’t care what you’re feeling right now, you have to hold your head high. He’s taken enough — your future, your dreams. He doesn’t get to take your self-esteem too.’

People have asked me if there were any red flags, and my answer is ‘no’. I’m an emotionally intelligent woman. But if someone wants to deceive you, they will. My friends and family loved him. My dad said, ‘He looks after you so well.’

He had asked for my dad’s blessing in December after we had been together for nearly two and a half years. His family loved me. Our lives were fully intertwined.

The only friend who ever said anything vaguely negative told me, ‘I think you went for the safe guy. At least you know he’ll never cheat on you’. The irony.

I do forgive him for what he did — I forgave him almost instantly. And I still love him. But none of that is enough to maintain a relationship. Love without respect is useless. Love without fidelity in a monogamous relationship is pointless. The decision to stay in the relationship is about whether his behaviour can change, and I don’t think it can. If you asked me whether I think he’d cheat again, I’d say ‘yes’.

I am so grateful to that woman for getting in touch. It took courage to message me, and I now think she’s a pretty fabulous person. As I joked on my Instagram post, you’ve got to admire his taste in women.

My ex tells me he wants me back, but I’m not a fool. It wasn’t just a drunken accident. It was intentional; three times when he travelled abroad, he went on dating apps. I don’t think he’d ever have told me, and I don’t think he’d ever have stopped cheating. Why did he delete the evidence? Because he wanted me and he wanted to carry on with other women.

Just before I discussed his infidelity on This Morning, presenter Cat Deeley came into the green room and said, ‘Are you OK? I can’t believe you did a segment on break-ups last week. I wouldn’t have known — you were great.’

I told her, ‘It was really nice just to do my job and not have to think about it.’ They wrapped me in bubble wrap and held me together with tape and glue. I have my sad moments and I still cry at home. But when I’m down, I’m good at fighting to get back up. Adversity breeds resilience. I’ve worked hard to develop my emotional intelligence and self-esteem and that’s paying off.

I’ve learned that whatever emotion you feel is perfectly acceptable. What makes the pain worse is telling yourself, ‘I shouldn’t be this angry, I shouldn’t be this sad, why am I still crying?’

And I’m dating again! Whether I get into a relationship, continue seeing people casually, or live this next phase of my life alone and single, I still believe in love. He didn’t cheat because he didn’t love me. He did it because of his own baggage. I believe he loved me. I believe I loved him. There is love out there for me still.

My followers have been amazing — 99.9 per cent of people have been kind. I had a few say, ‘Did you not think that woman was jealous, or an ex, trying to take you down?’ But no, I didn’t, because that’s not how I think and it’s not the world I live in. After I posted my video announcing that I was single again, there were 2,000 positive comments.

I have no regrets about going public on the nature of the break-up. When you keep a partner’s infidelity secret, you make their shame into your burden. But it’s not yours to carry.

I also believe that humans don’t heal in isolation. You need to lean on friends and family. In calling out what he did wrong, I know I did the right thing.

OTHER NEWS

8 minutes ago

Predicting 2 Steelers to start training camp on the PUP list

8 minutes ago

Celtics make another big call with Sam Hauser's contract extension

8 minutes ago

CrowdStrike’s Mistake Was a ‘Huge Deal,’ US Cyber Official Says

8 minutes ago

Ripple’s Brad Garlinghouse announces the end of legal battle with SEC

8 minutes ago

Bayern Munich confirm it is 'possible' Manchester United target Matthijs De Ligt leaves this summer

9 minutes ago

Texans host one of the NFL's top remaining free agent RBs for a workout

9 minutes ago

Miami Dolphins to host possible Shaquil Barrett replacement for workout

9 minutes ago

NFL analyst sees Jaguars adding high-end defensive player in 2025

11 minutes ago

Colts' projected starting offense ahead of training camp

11 minutes ago

Why plastic grass is devaluing your house – and ruining the environment

11 minutes ago

Khyree Jackson death: Vikings rookie Dallas Turner honors late teammate by keeping nameplate above his locker

11 minutes ago

Kamala Harris Says She Intends “To Earn And Win This Nomination” Following Joe Biden’s Exit From 2024 Race

11 minutes ago

Jays down Tigers to avoid series sweep

11 minutes ago

Fatal highway crash in B.C. Interior, 2 dead: Police

11 minutes ago

Kamala Harris: “My intention is to earn and win this nomination”

11 minutes ago

Can F-16s Compete Against F-35s? Lockheed Martin Thinks So

11 minutes ago

Joy in Newfoundland after ‘Lucky 7′ fishers survive harrowing days lost at sea

11 minutes ago

‘MAGA’ wasn’t Trump’s first slogan idea, and 3 more things to know about the phrase

11 minutes ago

Which Boston Bruins Prospects Are Most Likely to Earn Roster Spot? (Part IV)

11 minutes ago

MSNBC's Jen Psaki taken aback by her ex-boss dropping out: ‘I don’t think either of us had any indication’

11 minutes ago

Melting glaciers slow Earth's rotation, lengthening days

11 minutes ago

Travelling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell by Ann Powers review – the myriad faces of a musical maverick

11 minutes ago

Barcelona's cruise tax hike: Mayor aims to curb mass tourism

11 minutes ago

What Leeds Rhinos fans learned from Brad Arthur’s debut: substance over style and surprising players key

11 minutes ago

Would I be crazy to buy more shares in FTSE giant Unilever after a 20% rise?

11 minutes ago

How I’d aim to turn an empty ISA into £275k by purchasing cheap shares this summer

11 minutes ago

Biden staffers reportedly blindsided after president drops out of 2024 race: ‘We’re all finding out by tweet’

23 minutes ago

Tadej Pogacar wins Tour de France for third time with victory at time trial

23 minutes ago

Xander Schauffele’s Open Championship Win Sparks Major Golf Debate

23 minutes ago

Nico Rosberg’s sarcastic Max Verstappen verdict after Lewis Hamilton Hungary GP shunt

23 minutes ago

Bloomberg Opinion: JD Vance Sparks Fascination in China

23 minutes ago

Bayern Munich legend Uli Hoeneß wants Bayer Leverkusen ace, but worries there’s too much pressure on Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala

23 minutes ago

Barack Obama Calls Joe Biden “A Patriot Of The Highest Order,” Does Not Endorse Yet: “We Will Be Navigating Uncharted Waters In The Days Ahead”

23 minutes ago

‘I wish it would still be there when I get home’: The heartbreak of losing a neighbourhood tree

23 minutes ago

Justin Rose 'choking back tears' after Xander Schauffele surges to British Open title

23 minutes ago

KSI SLAMS bitter rival Jake Paul with three-word dig after the social media star knocked out former UFC fighter Mike Perry

23 minutes ago

Amateur jockey Alice Procter placed in intensive care after undergoing an operation following a fall at Cartmel that required an air ambulance to attend the scene

23 minutes ago

Rosenborg's clash with Lillestrom is abandoned after four anti-VAR protests inside the first 30 minutes as fans throw flares and FISH CAKES on to the pitch

23 minutes ago

Former Premier League star who played for 18 clubs reveals he has returned to Arsenal as part of academy coaching staff

23 minutes ago

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness issues key update on Matthijs De Ligt's future amid Man United's interest in the defender