Do people ever divorce impulsively?

Not often. Very often one spouse thinks about a divorce for some time before acting on his or her idea. If fact, the public divorce -- the one with a formal separation, the retaining of lawyers, the property settlement, the court decree -- very often follows a private divorce that begins months or even years before the public end of the marriage. Some couples never move beyond the private divorce and achieve an understanding by which each goes a separate way in all but name. The private divorce is emotional, a process of distancing and detaching, by which one spouse prepares mentally and emotionally for a public divorce, which is the legal end of the union.

Sometimes, the private divorce goes no farther than separate bedrooms and separate lives.

Yet when one partner think about divorce all the time now, when it is the only thing that gets him or her through the day, when thoughts are consumed by the idea of a divorce, then a divorce may be inevitable. A person who dwells on one idea all the time becomes as possessed as Captain Ahab in pursuit of Moby Dick.