Andrea Bertorelli says is so fed up of her name being dragged through the mud that she has decided to speak out for the first time in 35 years.
According to legend Collins wrote the song in 1980 about their bitter split and pointedly appeared on Top Of The Pops to perform it with a pot of paint on his piano.
But although Andrea, 63, admits having a short fling while married, she says it was the Genesis singer's behaviour that killed the marriage and she divorced him for adultery.
According to the for actress and eco activist they broke up because Collins changed when he stopped being drummer and went on to become the Genesis frontman in 1975.
But Andrea, who lives in Devizes with musician son Simon Collins, says she's fed up hearing about how his heartbreak over the split was the inspiration for his first two solo albums which contributed to his £120 million fortune and it's time for him to stop playing the victim.
The song featured on his 1981 inaugural solo album Face Value and went on to be used in advertisements, such as the Cadbury's Gorilla adverts, films such as the Hangover, computer games and books.
"He's made a lot of money singing about the break-up of our marriage and his heartbreak, and he's never stopped to consider my feelings or those of our children," she said.
"All these years on, he's still playing the victim, and I think it's time he stopped."
The pair were just 11 when they met at the Barbara Speake Stage School in West London but split when her parents moved to Canada when she was 18.
They were reunited when Genesis played Vancouver and Collins adopted Andrea's toddler daughter Joely when they married at the age of 24.
"Phil has claimed in interviews and his lyrics that I ran off with the decorator, but that's simply not true,' she said.
"Our marriage broke down for many different reasons, the main one being his short fuse and preference for arguing instead of discussing anything we disagreed on."
She added:"I divorced him – not him me – on the grounds of his adultery and he agreed. I was hearing about his affairs long before I had one. When we got divorced he named another woman that I had never heard of, so I don't know where and when it happened.
"There was also the fact that, within a day or two of me leaving the hospital after giving birth to our son, Simon, he went off on a two-year world tour with Genesis."
She said their problems started when he took over from Peter Gabriel in 1975 and then decided to tour shortly after the birth of Simon, now 38.
Left alone with a baby and four-year-old Joely, Andrea was lonely and eventually fell for the friend of the man renovating their new Surrey home. She says he wasn't a decorator by trade.
"We had a brief affair and I told Phil as soon as he came home," she said. "We did our best to put it behind us, but the same issues were there.
"I hated what happened and suffered from immense guilt and shame. It wasn't something I wanted to do. I think I just wasn't coping very well and made a bad decision, which I regret. But my relationship with Phil didn't end because of it."
Collins famously dumped second wife, Jill Tavelman by fax in 1989 and split from third wife Orianne Cevey in 2006.
Andrea says she knows the pain felt by Collins, who suffers from depression, has been real, particularly his regrets over his three marriages which produced five children.
But she said: "I remember watching Top Of The Pops the night he performed with the pot of paint on the piano. I was horrified; I felt sick and betrayed. I knew straight away it was a message to me, but it was a public one.
"Other singer-songwriters like Adele write albums about their heartbreak, but they don't name and shame like he did.
"When I asked him to stop talking and writing songs about our relationship he said he had "the artistic licence to write about whatever he wanted."
The Western Daily Press could not contact Mr Collins for comment.
© The Western Daily Press
- Phil Collins solves your New Year's Eve music dilemma
- Lorde covers Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" for BBC Radio 1: Watch
- How Phil Collins Accidentally Created the Sound That Defined 1980s Music
- Listen to In This Moment cover Phil Collins
- Phil Collins hands baton to 16-year-old son who performs faultless rendition of In The Air Tonight to BST crowd
Simon Friday, 15 May 2015 14:55 Comment Link Report
I kind of can't blame her for finally cracking after decades of being 'blamed' for their marriage break-up. It is always portrayed as her "running off with a decorator" and maybe that indeed isn't accurate and she just wanted to set the record straight. It's annoying that this article yet again perpetuates the "dumped 2nd wife by fax" myth.
Shirley Thursday, 30 April 2015 18:50 Comment Link Report
A wise lady said 'if we all divorced our husbands for being argumentative none of us would be married' . Phil clearly adores all five of his off-spring - several of which are no longer actually 'children'. His wife ran off to Vancouver with the oldest two - so no wonder he was upset as it must have made it difficult to see them regularly. How things pan out between kids and their divorced parents depends on several factors - such as - whether or not the parents are respectful to & about each other (then the kids feel less torn) and the frequency & quality of contact visits. The evidence from the articles I have read - including the one above - is that Phil did his best for the kids after the break-ups & has done his level best to avoid conflict & nastiness with his exes. He seems to try to keep things balanced & respectful. He has done his part well. I don't think she has & nor does this article help anyone - as it keeps bitterness flowing. Also if you read the articles relating to her 'going public' you will find that Phil forgave her affairs & asked her to get back together - which she admits she refused. I don't know what he did & like everyone else I am not really interested because it was long ago and he has produced fantastic music before and since. The break-up was really the result of her not sticking things out & being optimistic for better times whilst he was touring & simply thankful that he was hers - as Mrs Banks and Mrs Rutherford did.