November 29, 1999 12:00 PM

Whatever the hardships of on-the-road relationships, rocker Bonnie Raitt and actor Michael O’Keefe always seemed prepared. “Sure, Bonnie will go off on tour,” O’Keefe told PEOPLE in 1991, just before they married. “The only way to make love stay is to let it go.”

In the end the maxim didn’t hold up to all those miles. On Nov. 9, Raitt, 50, and O’Keefe, 44, announced that they were divorcing. Friends say the couple—who had homes in L.A. and Marin County, in Northern California—simply spent too little time together. “Their different professions drove them apart,” says a pal. “But for a while they did try to make it work.” Indeed, O’Keefe—known for his roles as Robert Duvall’s son in 1979’s The Great Santini and as Jackie’s husband on ABC’s Roseanne in the mid-’90s—often joined his wife on tour; she in turn saw him act in plays in Manhattan. “They supported each other,” says the source. “It seemed like a good match.”

From the moment they met in 1989 while shooting a video to benefit the homeless, they shared a passion for liberal causes, with hiking and renting movies their leisure activities of choice. And each seemed to have been on a lifelong search for stability. O’Keefe, born to an upscale New York family, briefly joined the controversial sect called The Way at age 15; he later took up Zen Buddhism and was ordained a Zen priest in 1996. Raitt, the daughter of Broadway star John Raitt (Carousel) and pianist Marjorie Hay dock, grew up in California and turned to drugs and alcohol when her career stalled in the ’80s. In 1989, two years after she stopped drinking, Raitt launched a comeback with the smash album Nick of Time.

The singer’s most recent album, Fundamental, deals with the difficulties of relationships. (A typical lyric: “I’d trade the roses and the negligees if we could just connect.”) But her friends expect Raitt to move on. “She is a strong, cool woman,” says one of them. “She will probably write a song about this.”

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