As Cheryl Cole agrees to attend marriage counselling with Ashley, Becky Pugh wonders if they can ever get back on track.
The nation cheered as the PR announcement flashed across television screens last week: "Cheryl Cole is separating from her husband, Ashley Cole. Cheryl asks the media to respect her privacy during this difficult time."
For a happy moment, it looked like she was going to cast off the toxic millstone that's been hanging around her neck for the past three years. Finally, Cheryl seemed poised for flight. The inevitable next step was that she'd pack her bags, get custody of her beloved chihuahuas and hot foot it off to conquer LA.
Now, though, the nation's heart is sinking again. Cheryl, 26, has gone and done the honourable thing and agreed to attend marriage counselling with her errant husband. There may be hope for the ailing couple yet, dammit.
Why, you ask, would she dream of such a thing? The 29-year-old footballer has been nothing but trouble since they got together. In case you haven't been paying attention, there was the affair with glamour model Alexandra Taylor back in 2004, just as Cheryl and Ashley had gone public with their relationship.
Then there was the hairdresser, Aimee Walton, in January 2008. Now, he's been accused of sending sex texts to a Page 3 girl named Sonia Wild, sleeping with Vicki Gough, a secretary, and having a fling in July 2009 with American government worker Ann Corbitt. And those are just the ones we know about.
But word is that Cheryl is tormented by fears that she has been a bad wife, that he isn't the only one to blame for their problems. A close friend says: "Even though he cheated on her… even though she has been publicly humiliated by him, Cheryl still feels this terrible guilt that it happened because she wasn't a stay-at-home wife. She's always known that Ashley is needy and insecure… and that what he most needed was a wife who was there for him and a family to fulfil him."
Who knows whether Cheryl's preoccupation with her gigantic workload contributed to the end of their marriage – it does take two to tango, after all. But she is mistaken if she thinks that spending her days baking cupcakes at their £4 million Surrey home would have kept the petulant love rat on the straight and narrow.
For Ashley is evidently a wrong 'un. He can't even play the part of the remorseful philanderer properly, and has been undignified throughout this latest crisis. No public, Tiger-style apologies for him. First, he announced that if it came to divorce, Cheryl would have to "fight for every penny" of his £22 million fortune.
Next, he blamed the collapse of their marriage on Cheryl's mother, Joan Callaghan, the "pocket rocket", who lived with the couple and allegedly gave them "no room to breathe".
Then, he gave way to an outburst at the clinic in the South of France where he has been receiving treatment for a broken ankle. "---- off," he screamed at onlookers. "Why doesn't everyone just leave me alone? Just ---- off, my life has been ruined." Boo hoo.
Please, God, let the well-intentioned counselling fail. Then Cheryl will have done all she can and the moral high ground will be hers, but she'll be free of her selfish, whimpering excuse of a soul mate.
We have to admire her attempt to salvage the relationship, though. It is, undoubtedly, the right and proper thing to do. In the immortal and achingly ill-timed words of her first solo single, Fight for this Love, "Quitting's out of the question/ When it gets tough, gotta fight some more".
Blame her if you will for the regrettable decision to marry Ashley in the first place, but not for trying to make it work now.