NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and his wife of 31 years, Karyn, are splitting up.
Court records show Karyn Frist filed for divorce on Friday, while an answer filed on behalf of Bill Frist states that he "admits, with sadness, that irreconcilable differences have arisen between the parties that will prevent them from living together as Husband and Wife."
Family spokeswoman Beth Seigenthaler Courtney declined to elaborate on the reasons for the split.
"Dr. and Mrs. Bill Frist have decided to end their marriage," she said in a statement. "They ask for prayers, understanding and privacy at this time."
Bill Frist, 60, was a heart surgeon before entering politics in 1994, and his 12 years in the Senate were marked by a speedy rise but an uncertain tenure at the peak. The Republican was widely expected to make a 2008 presidential bid, but cited his close ties with the unpopular Bush administration in his decision not to run.
He considered a run for governor in 2010, but ultimately decided against a bid to instead focus on education and health issues.
In his 2009 memoir "A Heart to Serve," Frist recounted meeting his future wife in 1979 when he attended to her at a clinic while he was working as a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and she was a flight attendant based there.
Frist was engaged to another woman in Nashville at the time, and traveled home six days before the wedding to call it off. In his book, Frist described the break-up as "heart-wrenching," but also the right decision.
"Life is not fairy tale. Things don't always work out as one anticipates, and things are almost never as perfect as they might seem," he wrote. "Loss of a relationship, like death, is always difficult to endure, and some decisions leave prolonged pain and scars that not even time can heal."
Frist had not told his future wife about being engaged — or breaking it off — until about a month afterward. He described her as being furious and disappointed in him, and he said he feared that he had lost her. But the relationship endured, and Frist married Karyn McLaughlin in her hometown of Lubbock, Texas, in 1981.
The Frists have three adult sons.