Sara Evans Reconciles With Husband, Shares Story of Abuse, Recovery on New Podcast And Through New Music

“It's very, very, very, very rare that a marriage can be healed from that, but it can be. Both parties have to be willing … they have to want to change. Until then, it's not going to happen.”

Sara Evans' reconciliation with her then-estranged husband, Jay Barker, started with a text – "Everybody says that I shouldn't contact you, but you are still my wife."

Evans and Barker had been married for 13 years in April of 2021 when they first separated following the former Alabama quarterback's abusive behavior. In January of 2022, they met for lunch and argued. The couple made headlines later that night when it appeared Barker attempted to ram the car Evans was riding in with his truck, and he was charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Two years later, the couple is back together. Evans chronicled their separation and reconciliation in her podcast "Diving in Deep with Sara Evans" and her new album "Unbroke," which will be available June 7. Her new single, "Pride," details the early days of the couple's relationship turmoil and is out now.

Perched on the overstuffed sectional in the all-white living room of her Nashville home, Evans admits she's nervous—not because of her relationship but because of how harshly people will judge her for reuniting with Barker.

"It's very, very, very, very rare that a marriage can be healed from that, but it can be," Evans said as a fire roared in the fireplace a few feet away. "Both parties have to be willing … they have to want to change. Until then, it's not going to happen."

The couple didn't reconcile immediately. Barker texted Evans about six months after the night her daughter called the police, and the singer was thrilled to see his number flash across her phone's screen. She didn't want a divorce. Barker's actions pushed her to filing. Before the incident with the truck, Evans had threatened with divorce before, saying, "Why won't you stop causing this issue in our marriage? Otherwise, we have an amazing marriage, amazing relationship."

When they went to marriage counseling previously in their relationship, Evans said Barker lied to the therapist or told half-truths. The singer believes getting in trouble with the police forced him to realize the person he'd become, who was someone he'd never been before they got married.

The couple has been in weekly, intensive therapy for the last year and a half. They worked to regain trust and inched back towards each other for a year before Barker moved back into Evans' home about six months ago.

"There was never a love problem or a marriage problem," she said. "There was a need to control problem and a problem with certain types of alcohol. Some people just should stay away from certain types of alcohol or to stay away from it altogether, which is essentially what we're doing now."

The couple has seven adult children between them. Barker adopted Evans' three kids, and none of them had seen the explosive behavior that occurred in January 2022. Evans' daughter called the police when she saw Barker hurriedly backing his truck up the road as he appeared to aim for her mother. Evans doesn't think he planned to hit the car; instead, he thought she was with another man and wanted to see who was driving the car she was in.

Evans went to bed soon after and didn't realize he'd been arrested until she woke up to a phone full of messages the next morning. She called a friend in Alabama and asked him to get Barker out of jail. The singer wishes news of the altercation hadn't made it to the press because it embarrassed their kids, but says she knows everything happens for a reason.

"He told my child that had the confrontation with him that it's the best thing that's ever happened to him," Evans says. "Probably nothing would've changed, and we probably would be divorced today if he hadn't got arrested."

Evans calls the couple's reconciliation "miraculous" but explained it's also a choice they're making to stay together. She's making a choice to forgive him. He's making a choice to forgive himself. And they're choosing to move forward and heal their marriage with the hope it will be normal and healthy.

She also made the choice to write songs about her experience – and to release them. Evans' "Unbroke" chronicles the arc from the beginning of the abuse to the couple healing their relationship and restarting their lives together.

The album begins with "Pride," which Evans co-wrote with Madi Diaz and Sean McConnell. Lyrics include: You left a mark on my face| And brought a dozen red flags in a vase| You thought everything would be okay| But it's not okay

Because the lyrics were so damning, Evans thought of changing them to spare Barker. But he wouldn't hear of it.

"Jay, if he were sitting here, he would say, 'This is all my fault,'" Evans says. "That's why he's so excited about the song, 'Pride.' He's like, 'That's the best song you've ever written, and you're not going to change it.'"

Evans walks a fine line with "Unbroke" because she wanted to be able to tell her story and talk about her music, but she also didn't want to subject their family to more turmoil. When she started writing the project, she thought it would be depressing, and she wanted it to be "super, super country." She wrote "21 Days" with Jeff Trott and Melissa Fuller. Trott made the demo, and she was so inspired by his work when she heard the song, she knew she wanted to change creative direction a little bit and that she wanted him to produce.

"I knew that the album needed to be quirky musically a little bit," she says. "There's a couple of them that are unbelievably country, but then there are some that are different, and 'Pride' is just somewhere in the middle."

Evans leans back on a pillow on the couch and fusses at her fluffy Tabby, Elon, for sharpening his claws on the chair by the fireplace. She's concerned about what will happen when her podcast and album come out and their family sees the headlines. She knows she's going to have to prepare everyone, and she's going to ask his children not to pay attention.

She's thankful they've put their marriage back together and that she can tell her story and share their happy ending. Evans isn't afraid of Barker anymore because she sees him do the work in therapy and doesn't feel like she has to manage his behavior or make sure he's continually happy. She gives him a lot of credit because he agreed to the intensive therapy when he could have taken his money and found a wife who wasn't going to write an album and start a podcast about the abuse she sustained at his hands.

"I've asked him several times, 'Why did you come back?'" she says. "Every time, it's just, 'Because I'm in love with you. I can't leave you. And I'm in love with our family, and I'm in love with your children.'"

Barker was like Elvis in his native Alabama, Evans explains, because the Crimson Tide to a national championship. Appearance meant a lot to Barker, Evans says, but he's over that now.

"He's still the winningest quarterback at Alabama, so I think he had so much pressure on him to be Mr. Perfect," Evans says. "That pressure was abusive to him in a lot of ways. Nobody can live up to that. I think he feels very free now from all of that and can just be himself."

While Evans and Barker managed to put their marriage back together after abuse, the singer wants to be clear she isn't advocating for that in most situations. This is just her story.

"I always thought of him as a great man, a great father to my children and a great husband who made some very horrible mistakes and decisions," she says. "I would never ever tell a woman if you're being abused, you need to stay and try to work it out. Your first move is to get out of your situation, get safe and then start therapy."

Latest News