LeAnn Rimes and Dean Sheremet: Inside Their Relationship

07/29/2009 at 08:20 AM EDT

LeAnn Rimes and Dean Sheremet: Inside Their Relationship
LeAnn Rimes and Dean Sheremet, in 2008
Denise Truscello/WireImage

LeAnn Rimes

LeAnn Rimes

When the news broke that LeAnn Rimes and Dean Sheremet had separated – just four months after the singer was reportedly caught in an affair with actor Eddie Cibrian – it saddened many friends who had admired their marriage and what they did for each other over the past seven years.

In Nashville, those who knew the couple recall how the pair never seemed to spend a moment apart. Says one friend, "[LeAnn and Dean] were pretty much inseparable here." The pair were often spotted together at the gym, dining on the town with friends, dancing at nightclubs and even shopping for Rimes's wardrobe.

Profound Influence

Sheremet, in fact, is credited with helping his wife – who was 19 when they married – make the transformation from a country girl into a sexy siren. "When she met Dean, the whole image of who LeAnn Rimes was completely morphed into 'fabulousity,' " says a source close to the couple. Sheremet, 28, who choreographed the singer's Chicago-inspired video for "Nothin' Better to Do" in 2007, "saw the potential that was not being tapped," adds the friend. "Her wardrobe, hair and makeup changed almost over night from the time they started being together."

But sources say it may have been inevitable that they grew apart as they they both got older. "I don't think it's unusual considering how young they were [when they wed], and the business they're in," says a member of their social circle.

Separate Cities

As Rimes, 26, expanded her career into acting, she spent more time in Los Angeles, while Sheremet's career as a songwriter kept him in Nashville. "Maybe there was less of an effort to meet up in those moments where they typically would have met up," suggests a Rimes pal.

Rimes and Sheremet's strong friendship, however, is making it difficult for them to officially split. Though the singer has been spending time with newly-separated Cibrian, she and her husband are still in touch and it's unclear when – or if – they might seek a divorce. Says the Rimes pal, "There's still a lot of love and respect between the two of them. But sometimes love might not be enough."

Reporting by KAY WEST

For more on LeAnn and Dean and what drove them apart, pick up the latest PEOPLE, on newsstands now


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