I'd been married to John for 18 years when he left me out of the blue. I never expected to find him with my best friend... on Valentine's Day! By Michelle Bragger, 51 

Despite being the other woman at the start of their relationship, Michelle Bragger, 51, from Braintree, Essex, shared a happy marriage with John. 

But after 18 years and two daughters together, she never imagined she’d discover a devastating secret - and find the shoe was on the other foot.

Work is a common place for people meet their partners, but for Michelle, when John, 48, an electrician popped in one day to fix their office computers, she immediately noticed his wedding ring.

Nevertheless, the two hit it off and after a drunken snog on a Christmas night out, she told him he’d need to leave his wife if he wanted to make a go of it with her.

Over the next few weeks, Michelle continued to see John as he prepared to end his marriage, calling her out of the blue one day to reveal he had moved out.

Michelle was over the moon and the smitten couple went on to have 18 happy years together. But now, after catching John cheating with her best friend, she knows just how his first wife feels.

Michelle, an administrator, who lives with her two girls, says: “It felt like love at first sight meeting John. Even though I was the other woman, he convinced me there were plenty of issues in his marriage so I didn’t feel like I was the one tearing him away.

“We waited to be intimate until he’d left his wife and that made me feel like we were doing the right thing. After that, John and I had a solid marriage and I never looked back. Not once in all those years did he give me a reason to suspect he was cheating. I assumed we’d be together forever.”

John and Michelle loved to party with friends and, in between raising their daughters Samantha*, 18, and Lucy*, 14, they’d always been the life and soul of the party.

She continues: “We loved to spend as much time as possible with friends and family. My best friend Rachel Carter, 45, spent nearly everyday with us, often tagging along on day trips or nights out.

“John and Rachel got on so well and it made every event we went to as a trio so much fun. I never had a bad night when the three of us were together.”

But in December 2015, John dropped the ultimate bombshell, announcing he didn’t love Michelle anymore and that he was leaving her.

She says: “It came completely out of the blue, I was gobsmacked. We’d been happy and I just couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to make it work.

“I begged him to go to marriage counselling and give us a chance but John didn’t seem interested in working on our relationship. I managed to get him to stay for Christmas but those few weeks were the worst of my life.

“We agreed not to tell the girls and I fought back tears as we sat down for what would be our final Christmas dinner. I spent the holiday begging John not to leave us and in floods of tears with his harsh responses.

“I had been so upset over the festive season that by the time it came to breaking it to the kids, they thought I was going to tell them I had cancer.

“I held on to hope that John would snap out of it but once the new year arrived, he was adamant he was moving out.”

Unable to bear the thought of her youngest seeing her dad pack his bags, Michelle sent Lucy to Rachel’s for the night, who lived just three streets away. Devastated and confused, Michelle confided everything in her best friend.

Michelle says: “Rachel was the only person I could trust. She was just as shocked as I was, asking me if I thought there was any way we could work it out.

“But when John left, he wouldn’t even tell me where he was going and I started to lose hope. I couldn’t understand why he was being so secretive but it broke my heart.

“Inconsolable, Rachel was a shoulder to cry on as I’d tearfully recall every text I’d sent to John. Rachel seemed to think there was no hope for my marriage but everyone else I spoke to told me things didn’t add up, and I wasn’t ready to give up on us yet. After 18 years, I thought there had to be a way to fix things.”

Determined to fight for her marriage, Michelle decided on Valentine’s Day 2016 that she needed to find John and win him round.

She continues: “I started driving around our neighbourhood looking for his car. He was still taking the girls to school in the morning so I knew he had to be living nearby.

“It was meant to be the most romantic day of the year, but I didn’t even know where my husband of nearly 20 years was. I drove up and down the local streets, desperately looking for his car, but I was stunned to find it so quickly, in a driveway I knew all too well.”

Shocked to find John’s car parked outside Rachel’s house, Michelle decided it was time to get some answers.

Michelle says: “I couldn’t believe it, Rachel was my best friend. I marched up her driveway, wincing at the thought of all the things I had told her about the breakdown of my marriage.

“I instantly regretted it. I felt like such a fool as I imagined her and John laughing at me behind my back. But I needed to hear the truth once and for all.

“I banged on the door and as I waited for them to appear, I saw three vases of roses lined up on the windowsill. Rachel was supposedly single, so I knew there was only one person they could be from... John.

“Eventually, he opened the door and admitted everything. The two of them had been sneaking around while I was trying to fight for my marriage. I was crushed.

“His confession hit me like heavy punches. It was Valentine’s Day and Rachel was my mate. She should have been comforting me not moving in on my hubby. At a total loss for words, I swore at them and ran back to my car, sobbing as I drove home.”

For Michelle, it was the ultimate betrayal but she couldn’t help but feel some empathy for what John’s first wife must have gone through all those years earlier.

She says: “I was mourning the loss of two relationships. The two people closest to me had completely betrayed my trust. It was awful.

“After that, I did have some empathy for John’s first wife. How our relationship started wasn’t ideal and I now appreciate how she must have felt.

“At the same time, I didn’t know John’s first wife, but for Rachel - my best friend - to be so disloyal made it all the more horrific.

“After I left I waited for John to get in touch but when I heard nothing, the next morning I sent them both the same text.

“I told them how devastated I was and how the way they’d treated me was disgusting. Rachel didn’t reply and John’s response was pathetic. He just told he was sorry for the way I had found out. Reading that cold message made me realise I needed to cut them both out of my life for good.”

Heartbroken but determined, Michelle forced herself to move on, chalking her awful situation up to experience.

Michelle says: “I now know how it feels to have the rug pulled from under you but the worst part for me is that John and Rachel still live three streets away. It’s a constant reminder of what they’ve done.

“Besides the occasional awkward encounter at Tesco, I try to steer clear of them as much as possible. But the people this has affected the most is our two children.

“When Samantha and Lucy found out, they were crushed and I’m just trying to keep life as positive as I can for them.

“I’ll never get over the betrayal but once the divorce is finalised I’ll finally be able to draw a line under the whole ordeal for good.

“John was cheating on his wife with me when we met but I never dreamed he’d do the same to me. I’d never get involved with a married man again - once a cheat, always a cheat.”

John says: “Well I’m not going to comment on it, thanks.”

Rachel says: “I’m wondering if I should bring to your attention the fact that the relationship between Michelle and John was actually born from an affair that they had together whilst he was married to his first wife, leaving a two year old son. I’m presuming that she didn’t mention that she broke up a marriage when she contacted you to tell her sob story. I’m pretty sure she would have felt differently if the same had been printed in black and white about her. This can be corroborated by John if necessary.

“John will tell you that he was married and in a relationship with his first wife when Michelle seduced him, not sure there’s much difference here, does Michelle feel bad?
Does she understand? John had a child with his first wife too so sounds familiar right? Like I said, he had already left, so whilst technically still married, he wasn’t in a relationship. Divorce proceedings take time, I’m sure you are aware of that. She was and never has been my best friend. That is just her attempt to make a drama.”

*Samantha and Lucy’s names have been changed

Michelle was heartbroken when her husband left her. But when he shacked up with her best friend and she caught the pair together on Valentine's Day, it was an especially bitter blow. The team at Sell My Story helped Michelle name and shame the love rats in both a women's magazine and national newspaper for a top fee. If you're interested in selling a story, contact us to find out how it works.


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