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The 'last straw' before divorce is often not dramatic

Couples -- or often just one spouse -- arrive at the conclusion that it's best to end their marriage for all kinds of reasons. Often, people talk about the "last straw." However, that last straw is often proceeded by months or even years of problems.

As one psychologist and family mediator says, these problems "have continued to reoccur over time until one spouse finds it more painful to stay in the marriage than the anticipated pain of leaving." The last straw may be a realization of that rather than any particular event.

As one relationship expert notes, the last straw "could be something as simple as getting 'the silent treatment' for the fiftieth time or getting sick of years of emotional and sexual boredom."

One family law attorney who agrees with that theory says the last straw "usually involves the culmination of small behaviors which, over time, serve to break down the relationship."

Sometimes, both spouses reach that point at the same time. However, more often, one spouse arrives there first. When that happens, according to the psychologist, one spouse is ahead of the other in accepting the end of the marriage and beginning the "grieving" process.

The decision to divorce often isn't precipitated by a dramatic event like learning that your spouse has been cheating or illegally funneling money out of the family business to an account in the Cayman Islands.

If you believe that you are reaching that last straw, as subtle as it may be (or you believe your spouse is), it's wise to seek legal guidance sooner rather than later to help you prepare to be in the strongest possible position to move on as a single person if and when the marriage ends.

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