By Jennifer Wulff Marisa Wong
August 28, 2006 12:00 PM

For the blended brood of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, the wedding of Oliver Hudson to actress Erinn Bartlett in Mexico last June was a chance for the clan to do what they love—enjoy time together. Bonding with her family has always been important to Oliver’s little sister Kate, 27, and as she watched the ceremony with her 2½-year-old son, Ryder, at her feet, the star of You, Me and Dupree clasped the hand of her husband, rocker Chris Robinson. But friends say the gesture didn’t tell the whole story. In a portrait of the Russell-Hawn clan taken that day, Robinson, 39, is a no-show. “It was pretty obvious they weren’t working out,” says a pal. “They’re friendly to each other, but there’s no real connection anymore.”

Two months later, the couple announced what some close to them had already guessed: After nearly six years of marriage, they had decided to part. “They’ve reached a difficult place in their relationship,” says a source close to the couple. “And they’re trying to deal with it together.” Friends say the decision to walk away leaves both with sadness. “They really love each other,” says one. “But they’ve grown apart.”

Not so long ago they were inseparable. Robinson, who rocketed to fame in the ’90s as frontman for the group The Black Crowes, was 12 years older than Hudson, but in many ways, they seemed to suit each other perfectly. Both shared a neo-hippie sensibility, complete with a shared bohemian wardrobe, frank talk about sex and drugs (Hudson told Barbara Walters she gave up pot, but added that her husband continued to indulge), and a life split between homes in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and New York City. They also shared a decidedly modern view of marriage. “I have faith in my husband,” Hudson recently told British Elle. “And if things are good at home I don’t care what happens on the road.” Outwardly anyway, they presented a united front, often kissing like newlyweds in public. “I never saw them have a fight, not a tiff, not anything,” says a pal. “They seemed like the perfect couple.”

Still, the gangly musician and his glamourous wife were from different worlds. Robinson never seemed comfortable at movie premieres. “Kate’s very bubbly and he’s kind of antisocial,” says a source. “Her family is very important to her and he seems more of a loner.” And since Ryder’s birth, Hudson admitted she had grown weary of a rock and roll lifestyle. “I have been in an Embassy Suites in Montgomery, Ala., stuck because I want to be there for my family,” she said in the July issue of Vogue. “And there have been times when I want to scream.”

It wasn’t always that way. Four days after their first date (a museum visit and a stroll in Central Park) in May 2000, Hudson moved into Robinson’s apartment. Seven months later, they had a New Year’s Eve wedding near Aspen, where Hawn and Russell own a home. Even Mom was pleased. “We love Chris. He has a similar free-spirit, love-of-life thing we all have,” she told PEOPLE in ’02. “He makes Kate smile and that’s all a mom can wish for.” Hudson reveled in her new role as a “road wife,” hopping on the tour bus with her husband, a college dropout whose band has sold 19 million records. She even put together scrapbooks of their journeys to show their future children. When she was pregnant with Ryder in 2003, Hudson was still at nearly every show, even getting inspiration for her son’s name after noticing his exuberant in utero reaction to a Robinson song called “Ride.” But after starting a family, Hudson became outspoken about her need to nest. “I don’t want to raise my children on a plane,” she told Vogue. “Kids need to have some stability. Chris and I are going to have to make that choice. We will have to pick a city.”

If the 2006 tour schedule for his band, which is taking him from Amsterdam to Las Vegas, is any indication, her husband wasn’t as ready to settle down. But as recently as Valentine’s Day, when they shared a romantic date at the River Café in New York City, the pair seemed affectionate. “They were nuzzling,” says one observer. “They seemed very much in love.” But in the intervening months, the couple were rarely in the same state. While Robinson toured, Hudson stayed close to home with Ryder. Still, she seemed determined to keep her relationship strong. “I love the idea that in marriage, no matter what, you work at it,” she said while promoting You, Me and Dupree. “Even when it feels bad and so wrong, you work at it.” While making Dupree, Hudson grew close to costar Owen Wilson. But, say pals, theirs is strictly a friendship. A third party isn’t involved on Robinson’s side either, says a source: “This isn’t about anyone else—this is about them.”

Next, the two will take some time to decide what’s best for them and their son. “Ryder is the priority,” says one friend. Robinson has more touring ahead and Hudson is about to leave for London, where she’ll attend the U.K. premiere of Dupree. Then she’s on to Australia with Ryder to film Fool’s Gold with Matthew McConaughey. Could the two reconcile after that? It’s possible. “This isn’t a divorce,” a longtime friend says of Hudson. Adds another: “It wouldn’t surprise me if they did work it out, say a month from now.”

It that were to happen, Hudson knows it would take a lot of work, now and later. “Your greatest hope and desire is that you’re with someone for the rest of your life,” she told W magazine last fall. “Is it possible? I don’t know.”