But despite being blindsided by Matt’s actions, Cheryl has squarely laid blame for the break-up on a surprising source – the Army.
HR business graduate Matt joined the armed forces in June 2016, which saw him move from Brisbane to Wodonga for training.
Since then, Cheryl says Matt has been ‘brainwashed’ by the Army culture, becoming paranoid and withdrawn.
She claims Matt put his Army friends and life before her – telling New Idea she was excluded and humiliated by some of Matt’s comrades.
And just one day before Matt was due to start his Army post in Darwin, he called it quits with Cheryl over the phone – cutting off all contact since.
‘It was the most horrible phone call,’ Cheryl says. ‘I couldn’t even speak, I was so upset. I’ve sent him a couple of messages, but he just doesn’t respond back. He’s completely ignoring me. I just don’t know this man who was so loving only days before, talking to me on his long drive to Darwin every day.
‘He’s gone from talking to me every single day for five years to nothing at all. And he’s just ended it like I’m some dead branch that needs to be cut off. I feel so disrespected and so worthless. He made his decision after no discussion with me – and he chose the Army.
‘I was looking through old photos and I can see that as soon as he joined the Army, his whole look and demeanour changed. Once they got their hooks into him, everything changed. The Army takes all your beliefs and they just change you into the robot they want you to be. They preach to them every day about ex-communicating with anyone who’s not part of their group.’
As well as taking aim at the Army, Cheryl has also revealed how a mystery day at a winery with his tight-knit armed forces buddies – and a woman he’d become close to – just two weeks before the split brought more tension to the relationship.
‘Matt had his phone switched off for the entire day and night when he was at the winery with this girl,’ says Cheryl.
‘And when I saw photos of him and this girl...well, there’s one photo that just kills me, looking at how he’s holding her. They looked like they were having such a great time, and not in a friend kind of way.
‘I never thought Matt would betray me, I trusted him implicitly, and he and his friends all denied that anything went on. But after all the photos from the winery came out, I was blocked by everyone who was there on Facebook so I couldn’t see them. And I just think if nothing happened and nobody’s guilty, why would they block me?
‘I don’t think he’s with her now, maybe it was just some sort of dalliance. But going to that winery tour with that girl just seemed to be the catalyst to the end of us – especially as Matt was adamant that I not come down on that day.’
Cheryl said she regularly encountered humiliation from two ‘Army wives’, who never supported her and Matt’s relationship because of their 24-year age gap.
‘It was a bit like Mean Girls with these two,’ she says. ‘They were just horrible and excluded me. I just don’t think they ever understood our age difference. Most weekends Matt went over to their house to party. And if they were saying horrible things about me behind my back, imagine what they were saying to him? I would’ve been the butt of the jokes.’
With Matt refusing to talk to Cheryl, she’s been left to pick up the pieces alone.
‘I don’t think I’ll be able to move on,’ Cheryl says. ‘Not for a really, really long time.
‘I knew he wanted to have children and I offered – I said, let’s look into surrogacy, let’s do what we need to do because I don’t want you to miss out on anything in your life.
‘I hear the haters saying: “Told you it wouldn’t last!” But without the Army, we definitely would have.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea, on sale now.
This week in TV podcast Binge List: The Handmaid's Tale, Sheldon and Amy's wedding in Big Bang Theory, Sacha Baron Cohen's Who Is America?, Wentworth axed, and UnReal season four. Subscribe on iTunes http://po.st/syE3JF, OMNY http://po.st/hxjAhmor listen below: