Madonna & A-Rod's 'Spiritual, Emotional and Romantic' Bond

10/16/2008 at 11:45 AM EDT

Madonna & A-Rod's 'Spiritual, Emotional and Romantic' Bond
Alex Rodriguez and Madonna
Ronald Asadorian/Splash News Online; Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Madonna

Madonna

Did Madonna's relationship with Yankees star Alex Rodriguez lead to her split with Guy Ritchie?

A source close to the situation says the split was "a long time coming." And while no third party has been blamed for the breakup of the marriage, "There are many issues, and not the least is her strange relationship with Alex Rodriguez," says the source. "It is spiritual, emotional and romantic."

Rodriguez's rep had no comment.

Madonna originally met the ballplayer through their mutual friend, Ingrid Casares, and the singer introduced him to Kabbalah last year. (The pair also share a manager, Guy Oseary.) Their relationship did not sit well with Rodriguez's wife, Cynthia, who filed for divorce on July 7, citing her husband's "extramarital affairs and other marital misconduct."

Though Madonna was not named in the court documents, Cynthia's attorney told PEOPLE that A-Rod had an "affair of the heart" with Madonna.

Madonna, who was fighting off her own divorce buzz at the time, defended herself in a statement, saying she was not responsible for the couple's problems and proclaiming: "I am not romantically involved in any way with Alex Rodriguez."

Nevertheless, their friendship – and Alex's devotion to Kabbalah – contributed to the end of Cynthia and Alex's marriage, says the source close to the situation. "There is no question that Madonna's relationship with Alex was a big factor in Cynthia and Alex's decision to go ahead with the divorce," says the source, adding that the marriage "was way beyond repair."

The Rodriguezes settled their divorce last month.

A source says that Alex's interest in the mystical Jewish teachings has kept his relationship with Madonna strong. "When you want to understand A-Rod and Cynthia's problems – and Madonna and A-Rod's relationship – don't overlook the impact of Kabbalah."

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