Lisa Whelchel opens up about divorce: 'I still believe in marriage'

Yahoo! TV
'Facts of Life' Star Lisa Whelchel Has West Nile
'Facts of Life' Star Lisa Whelchel

When former "Facts of Life" star Lisa Whelchel began the game of "Survivor," she wasn't just battling the harsh elements, hunger, and back-stabbing tribemates.

She was also nursing a broken heart.

Just nine days before Whelchel left for "Survivor Philippines," her marriage of 24 years to Steve Cauble ended. She admitted that it was a way to "divert my attention and not just dwell on the loss."

[Related: Lisa Whelchel has West Nile Virus]

Whelchel kept the divorce a secret while filming the show, but broke the news at the beginning of the season. Now, she's opening up a bit more about the subject, though she still won't reveal why the marriage ended.

"I never thought divorce would happen to me. But Steve is still my best friend. We just couldn't be married," she told People.

In fact, according to Cauble, they still "spend normal family times together -- holidays, birthdays, and of course, watching 'Survivor.'"

Though Whelchel didn't share her heartbreak with fellow "Survivor" players, she alludes to it in confessionals. Her frequent tears -- derided by some fans -- are more understandable in the context of a fresh divorce.

A few episodes ago, explaining why she clung to former Tandang tribemates Abi and Pete -- despite their clear contempt for her -- Whelchel said, "I have never been good at breakups. I have continued in relationships way too long just because I didn't want to hurt them."

During last night's tribal council, host Jeff Probst asked her if she'd been in a similar situation of being caught between two sides.

[Related: Read our recap of last night's episode of 'Survivor: Philippines']

"Yes, but it's too personal to talk about," replied an emotional Whelchel.

Was she thinking of her divorce? Only she can say.

Whelchel's staunch loyalty could hurt her in the game, but she said she remained true to herself.

"Did I make mistakes?" she asked. "Sure. But that's life. You make mistakes sometimes."

Mistakes or not, Whelchel has a one-in-six chance of winning the $1 million prize and the title of Sole Survivor.

"All I'll say is that it was a wonderful experience," she told People with a smile. "But you'll have to keep watching to see if I win."

Lisa has got plenty of support on Twitter! Are you rooting for her, too? Sound off in the comments.