Whitney & Bobby: Inside Their Split

09/23/2006 at 06:00 AM EDT

Whitney & Bobby: Inside Their Split
Houston and Brown
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown's 14-year marriage was always turbulent – they dealt with trips to rehab, rumors of infidelity and run-ins with the law. So what made them finally call it quits?

A relative of Brown's says the problems started last fall. "The relationship just spiraled out of control," the relative tells PEOPLE in its new issue. "They fought like cats and dogs. They would fight about what to eat for dinner, about who wasn't cleaning out the dishwasher. Stupid things. But they were always yelling."

Then things took a more serious turn in March when Brown's sister Tina told The National Enquirer that Houston was a drug addict. (Although Houston has never publicly addressed the Enquirer story, she most recently underwent rehab in April 2005; Brown did the same in 2000.)

Another source says the "final straws" involved recent tabloid reports that Brown, the target of persistent cheating rumors, has been carrying on a longtime affair with Karrine Steffans, who claimed Brown as one of her conquests in her 2005 kiss-and-tell book Confessions of a Video Vixen. (Steffans told New York's Daily News last week that she is not a "homewrecker" and denied having anything to do with the breakup.)

"I am not going to pretend that Bobby was a perfect husband – he's not," says the Brown relative. "But it's not like he just ran around with anyone. The marriage was broken."

But Victor "GV" Dugue, who is working on Brown's upcoming album, says that given the exes' equally outsized, "crazy" personalities, the relationship has always been volatile and that the current split may prove to be just another bump in the long and winding road. "Both of them are very emotional," he says. "They're arguing one second; the next minute, they're laughing again."

As Brown himself told PEOPLE in January, "They say opposites attract, but we're not opposites. We're one person." Adds the Brown relative: "Right now they're both angry, but there's a thin line between love and hate. They're going to always have a place in each other's lives."

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