Hubby of 20 years was cheating with my best mate. Julie asked photo-features to tell her story in the press to set the record straight about her husband and best mate. Her story was published in Pick Me Up magazine

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‘Is that a real snake?’ I heard a voice say. I was in the back garden with my collie, Duchess, was in no doubt that the question related to my hubby, Shaun. 

‘What’s he been up to now?’ I sighed.

I went to the front of the house to find him paying a taxi driver – he’d been the one asking the question. And when Shaun showed me what he’d brought home, there was no doubt in my mind what the answer was.

‘You know I’ve got a phobia about snakes,’ I screamed. ‘That isn’t coming into my house.’

‘The house is in both our names,’ Shaun argued, pushing past me.

And that was how Princess became a member of the family. A couple of days later I even plucked up the courage to hold her, but after picking her up once, I knew I’d never do it again.

It was fair to say that Shaun and me didn’t always see eye to eye, but after spending my entire adult life with him, I was determined to make it work. If marriage was about compromise, and compromise was about putting up with exotic pets, then I’d just have to learn to get used to Princess.

I’d first met Shaun back in January 1995, when I was 21. He was the friend of a boy I was seeing and when that relationship broke down, I realised that my feelings for Shaun were more than platonic. That April, he was doing some decorating for my mum and dad when I popped in to see him.

‘If you want me as your girlfriend you’ve got me,’ I boldly said, and Shaun made it clear that he did!

We married in August the following year, and I felt like the luckiest woman alive.

Sadly, it wasn’t long before the honeymoon period ended. I discovered that Shaun had a quick temper and he struggled to hold down jobs, but he was still my man and I loved him.

So, with our 20th wedding anniversary approaching, and my big 4-0, we decided to renew our wedding vows in church and throw a big party.

We set a date for November 2014, and I got thinking about who to invite. I’d been really good friends at school with a girl called Astra and knew that she lived on my dad’s estate. We’d lost touch over the years, but I remembered the good times we’d shared with real fondness.

It would be lovely to catch up with her again, I thought, so I decided to drop her an invite to witness us renew our vows.

Astra accepted and we quickly picked up where we’d left off. Astra was a single mum of three and was nursing a broken heart after discovering the guy she’d been seeing was two-timing her.

‘You deserve so much better,’ I soothed. I was more than happy to be her shoulder to cry on. My dad was on his own following the death of my mum, and as he suffers with his health, I went round to his house most days to lend a helping hand. I’d always pop in to see Astra on my way home and soon began to consider her as my best mate.

When Astra came over to my house she may not have liked Princess, but she and Shaun got on like a house on fire.

When Shaun and I renewed our vows and promised to continue being faithful to each other, I was proud that Astra was just one of the 12 close family and friends there to witness our nuptials. 

But, just a couple of months later, I began to worry that Astra and Shaun were getting a little too close. They were always having a laugh and a joke together, and I often ended up being the one who felt left out.

‘There’s nothing going on between the two of you, is there?’ I asked Shaun.

‘Of course not, you’re being paranoid,’ Shaun replied.

Then my friend Claire phone me one day. ‘Are you at Astra’s house?’ she asked.

‘No, why?’ I replied.

‘Well, Shaun must be. Your car is outside.’

That was odd. Shaun had told me he was going shopping.

But when I asked him about it later, he said he’d just popped over to Astra’s for a coffee. I was determined to believe it. After all, even if Shaun was up for an affair, Astra wouldn’t do that to me. She was my best friend. I trusted her. When my paternal gran died at the grand old age of 95, she even came to the funeral to support me through it.

In April 2015, I took Shaun along to my school reunion. Naturally Astra was there, but rather than chatting to all her old school pals she spent most of the evening with Shaun.

‘Is that who Astra’s seeing now?’ one of our old friends asked. My heart sank. She wasn’t the first person to mistake them for a couple. I’d never felt so pushed out. 

A couple of months later I was on the settee watching telly when Shaun’s phone beeped next to me. He’d left it there when he’d popped up to the bedroom.

I couldn’t resist having a look at who was texting him, and when I saw Astra’s name I opened the message. My mouth fell open as I read their exchange.

‘Okay, baby girl,’ Shaun had written. ‘I’m back home now and everything’s okay. I truly love you.’

Astra had replied: ‘Okay, baby, I’ll see you tomorrow. I truly love you too.’ The message contained lots of kisses and hearts. 

Looking at the them, it felt as if my heart had just been smashed into tiny pieces, but instead of confronting Shaun, I took a photo of the two text messages using my phone. I wanted to show my friends, get their perspective before I did anything rash.

Over the next few days I showed the texts to Claire, my friend Becky, her husband Adrian, and my dad.

Their reactions echoed one another. The verdict was unanimous. They all said I had to leave Shaun.

But I was still mulling it all over one morning, trying to get my head around it when I was lying in bed when Shaun took a phone call. Next minute I felt a hard shove in the middle of my back. I could make out Astra’s voice faintly in the background non the line. Then he ended the call and I felt Shaun’s full weight on my stomach and his hands around my throat. He was livid that Astra had received text messages from my friends who had seen the messages she had sent o my husband and told her what they thought of her.

‘Help, someone help,’ I screamed. I thought I was going to die right there with his hands around my throat.

His grip was getting tighter but when neighbours alerted by my terrified screams started banging on the window I managed to break loose gasping for air. When he grabbed me again I kneed him in the groin.

Then Shaun was on the phone again. This time he was calling Becky to give her a mouthful. Turns out that she was so mad over the messages I had shown her that she sent Astra a text to tell her that what she and Shaun were doing was ‘bang out of order’. Within minutes, her husband Adrian was round at mine to give Shaun a piece of his mind for speaking to Becky so rudely. My friend had only been sticking up for me. Shaun’s actions left me in no doubt that he didn’t care about me.

‘I saw the texts between you and Astra full of hearts and kisses,’ I spat to Shaun. ‘I know what you and Astra have been up to behind my back.’

Instead of apologising, Shaun continued to deny anything was going on with Astra. He then flew at me with his fists twice. Luckily Adrian managed to pull him back before his knuckles made contact with my face. We had no choice but to call the police.  When Shaun left the house I told him not to come back. He was arrested later that evening at Astra’s house and was later charged with assault and assault by beating.

Meanwhile, I was left to pick up the pieces of my life. I’d lost my husband and my best friend.

Shaun and Astra were now living together, but still they maintained that they only got together after Shaun was arrested and I kicked him out the house. I didn’t believe that for a moment. 

‘She’s welcome to him,’ I told friends.

But in a way, Shaun attacking me over the text messages did me a favour. After spending a bit of time licking my wounds, I went on a dating site and met a wonderful man called Chris in October last year. We hit it off straight away and from the outset Chris, a wedding photograph, was caring, respectful and loving. He’s shown me what I’ve been missing all these years. We got engaged just before Valentine’s Day this year and plan to wed once my divorce comes through.

Last month he changed his plea to guilty he was given 12 months community service, a £700 fine and was sent on a domestic violence course.

Astra and Shaun are welcome to each other. Astra shares my dislike for snakes, well, now she’s got one living right under her roof…and after the way he attacked me that day I know he’s far more repellent than anything with scales.

When the allegations were put to them in full Shaun and Astra admitted they are a couple and live together.

Astra said: ‘I wasn’t in a relationship with Shaun at the time. It started after. I got with Shaun after him and Julie split up after the attack. That ( the attack) happened in relation to some messages I received off one of Julie’s friends on facebook.

‘We were closer than friends but nothing more until they split up. The row was about me that is correct yes. The row was about the messages.’

Shaun said: ‘I’ve been dealt with on this case in the courts and it’s got nothing to do with magazines. The situation was her fault totally. Yes me and Astra are together. But we are not engaged, she’s the one who’s engaged to her new partner and plastering it all over facebook.

As far as I am concerned it has been dealt with by the courts and is nobody’s business. It’s over and done with and I am just waiting for my divorce.