The heartbroken star now wonders who she really married, yet fears she’ll never be loved again

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After Cheryl Cole‘s husband Ashley packed his bags for the final time last week, she was left to survey the wreckage of her marriage.

Alone in a six-bedroom mansion with only her Chihuahua Buster for company, Cheryl’s struggling to cope with the humiliation of loving and defending a man who let her live a lie.

As we reported last week, Cheryl knew her marriage was all but finished in name after Ashley, 29, was caught cheating yet again.

But she’d still hoped to announce their split when she felt it was totally on her terms.

A source tells Now: Ever since Cheryl found out three weeks ago about [Liverpool FC secretary] Vicki Gough, she knew it was over. It was a question of when to make that public.

‘Her escape to LA was an attempt by her management to diffuse the situation, let her work out what she wanted to do and – most importantly – see if more girls came out of the woodwork.’

They were determined to handle it differently to Ashley‘s 2008 cheating scandal with Aimee Walton.

Back then, she fled to Thailand and was pictured sobbing and looking thin. This time they want to present her as a confident, independent woman, even if she’s crying inside,’ adds another source.

Cheryl Cole | Crying | Picture | Celebrity newsWhen fifth girl Ann Corbitt came forward it was obvious Cheryl couldn’t take him back even if she wanted to, which she didn’t.

Yet she couldn’t even say in her statement that she’d split from Ashley – she called it a separation. It shows how she’s struggling to come to terms with being single again. She’s so torn because her darkest fear is never finding a meaningful relationship again.

As recently as three weeks ago, Cheryl was talking about babies. Now look at the state she’s in,’ says one pal. Ashley‘s gone and she’s just petrified that she’ll be alone for ever.

‘She worries that success and money lower her chance of someone loving her just for her. She’s asking friends if she’ll ever find a man who’ll make her feel loved again.

Cheryl desperately craves the security of a relationship. She’s a serial monogamist and is terrified of embarking on a future without Ashley, despite his shocking behaviour.’

Although she’s one of the world’s most desirable women, Cheryl‘s always had trouble trusting men and surrounds herself with women and gay men. She feels more secure in that environment, especially as she was in an abusive relationship as a teenager.

It’s even left her worried about switching social circles with her career about to take off in the US, where she’s touted to appear on The X Factor.

Cheryl and Ashley Cole | Pictures | Separated | Now magazine

She’ll be surrounded by fake lovey-dovey types in Hollywood and that’ll make her concerns about trust even worse,’ adds one insider.

She doesn’t care about being the biggest name on the planet if she can fall in love a second time. She thinks she’ll never have what she had with Ashley. Only time will let her see him for what he really is.’

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See the full story about Cheryl and Ashley Cole in Now magazine dated 8 March 2010 – on sale from tomorrow!