Sara Evans Breaks Silence On Her Abusive Marriage And Reconciling With Her Husband Jay Barker

“I just did not want to divorce again and start over,” Evans admits.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

March 21, 2024

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Jay Barker, Sara Evans; Photo Courtesy Instagram

Sara Evans has a lot to unpack in the first episode of her new podcast, Diving in Deep with Sara Evans, which dropped today (March 21). While letting listeners in on some very personal aspects of her life, she opens up publicly for the first time about the abuse she faced from her husband Jay Barker over the course of their marriage and also gives an update on where their relationship stands now. 

When Did The Abuse Begin?

Within this self-guided discussion, she reveals that the signs of abuse from Barker, a radio personality and former professional football player, began soon after tying the knot in 2008. 

“I could tell that things were getting bad,” Evans admitted while opening up about some of the “volatile” moments that occurred. “I think I started realizing we’re in abuse…and I didn’t want to admit that. I don’t think he saw it as that.”

Sara Evans, Jay Barker; Photo via Facebook, Sara Evans
Sara Evans, Jay Barker; Photo via Facebook, Sara Evans

In July of 2020 the pair had a “horrible fight” in which Evans admitted she felt “sacred,” thus causing a separation that left her feeling “devastated.” While this was happening behind closed doors, Evans assures that her main concern was that her kids never saw or endured the abuse. The songstress shares her daughters Audrey, 19, and Olivia, 21, and son Avery, 24, with ex-husband Craig Schelske, however, she explained that Barker was the one who helped her raise her children. 

Evans Files For Divorce, Jay Hits Rock Bottom

The couple attempted to work through their problems with the help of counseling, but upon realizing that Barker had to resolve his own issues first, Evans filed for divorce. 

“It was never anything that I did. It was all him and what he was going through. He was having a hard time accepting a lot of things from his past, his childhood. I finally called a lawyer and filed for divorce.”

Then things escalated one night in January of 2022, when Evans says Barker hit his “rock bottom.” They were at lunch earlier in the day and ended up getting into a fight “because he wasn’t getting his way.”

“He wanted me to be the usual Sara and do whatever he wanted, do whatever he asked…do it his way. I said, ‘no, and also, the kids won’t accept that,’” she shared. “He got really upset and raised his voice…I just got up and left. It was freezing and I was walking to my car and was just sort of praying that he wasn’t following me.”

Sara Evans, Jay Barker; Photo via Facebook, Sara Evans
Sara Evans, Jay Barker; Photo via Facebook, Sara Evans

The Terrifying Situation That Led To His Arrest

She later realized that as a result of their argument, he was “not in a good headspace” and decided not to leave the area in hopes of being able to see her again the following day. However, that night, she and one of her daughters were at a bonfire at a friend’s house across the street, during which he had been flooding her phone with text messages that placed the guilt on her for breaking up their family. She recalled seeing Barker sitting in front of the house in his truck when they left the bonfire. 

“It really scared me, and it scared all of us, especially my child that was with me,” she shared honestly. “So the friend of ours was driving me. We were getting ready to pull into the driveway, and… [Barker] had a verbal altercation with my child, who had never seen that side of him, ever. And it scared the s— out of her.”

Evans continued, “Then he jumped in his truck, and he [was] sort of backing up at a very high speed. I knew Jay, so I didn’t feel the same way that my child felt. My child thought he was gonna plow our car down, that he was backing up towards our car, and that she was about to watch something horrific, or at the very least, an accident, which would have been his truck hitting my side of the car, where I was in the front seat. She was terrified.”

The Missouri native said her daughter acted quickly in her state of fear and called 911. The cops arrived after Barker had already sped away from the distressing scene. 

Sara Evans, Jay Barker; Photo via Facebook, Sara Evans
Sara Evans, Jay Barker; Photo via Facebook, Sara Evans

Evans Says Her Daughter Was Scared And Mad

Seeing as how she had shielded her kids from the abuse of 14 years, this was a shocking moment for her daughter to “see her dad like that,” Evans shared on the podcast as tears began to form in her eyes. 

After being questioned by the cops Evans admitted that she attempted to warn Barker through calls and texts that he was in “big trouble” with the police and that a warrant was out for his arrest. 

“I just felt so ashamed and so stupid, and my child was so mad. But you know that she was standing there thinking, ‘He’s about to hit my mom with a truck.’ I don’t know how close he got honestly, and I don’t know what it looks like to her. But I heard her scream so loud,” Evans said. “I really did not think that he was trying to hit our car. I think he was trying to back up as fast as he could to see who I was in the car with, to see if I was with another man. And my child thought, ‘He’s gonna run into them.’”

Barker did not get her messages, and he eventually returned to the home where he was arrested on the spot and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. According to a report by AP News, in June of 2022, the former Alabama quarterback entered into a “best interest” plea to a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment. He was released from jail after posting the $10,000 bond. 

“Because he’s my husband and I love him, I couldn’t believe it. It was traumatizing for me as well as him,” Evans admits.

Sara Evans and Jay Barker; Photo via Instagram
Sara Evans and Jay Barker; Photo via Instagram

“I’ve Lost The Love of My Life”

In an effort to avoid the public eye in this difficult time, she turned off the comments on her Instagram, stopped posting and spent basically an entire week sitting on her couch with her three children. “I couldn’t function,” she said. 

However, that didn’t stop the public from finding out about the arrest.

“I was just getting call after call after call after call, and I was like, ‘I cannot believe this is happening to me and my children again. I’ve lost the love of my life,’” she said. “He’s just gorgeous, he’s funny, we have so much in common. We feel the same about everything, raising kids, family structures, politics, religion, everything. We just love each other. We’re best friends.”

The Couple Begins To Reconcile

Several months later while Evans was on tour, Barker re-entered her life with a text that read, “Everybody says that I shouldn’t contact you, but you are still my wife.” 

Even though she thought he would never speak to her again, Evans felt moved reading his words and this re-opened the doors for them to start communicating again. 

“A lot of women will judge me and want to judge me. When he said, ‘But you are still my wife,’ I don’t know. I just melted because I thought, ‘I am still your wife, and we can talk if we want to. We’re both adults,’” she recalled. “So I texted him back and I think I just said something short and sweet like, ‘How are you? I’m on the road’ and we sort of tiptoed back to each other.”

Much like the years of abuse, she kept quiet about the fact that they had reconnected and were working to mend their relationship. In order to do that, she put her foot down saying they must go to therapy and marriage counseling “for the rest of our lives.” 

“I just did not want to divorce again and start over,” she said. “I just pictured myself being alone and missing him and thinking, ‘We could’ve tried harder.’ But it took me filing for divorce, I think, for him to realize, ‘Oh s—, she’s serious. This is it.’… Some people have marriage problems that are like, they fight all the time. We didn’t fight all the time. He fought me. When he was in his low spots, he fought against me, he pushed me away, pushed my love away. So every situation is different. I would never encourage anybody to stay in a dangerous situation.”

Evans then explained that her daughter had a harder time welcoming Barker back into her life. After “a few long, really difficult discussions” between her and Barker, the pair have since been able to reconcile. 

“She said, ‘You have such small shoes to fill.’ And he failed. And that killed him,” Evans said. “But we’re all Christians, and I’ve taught my children to forgive…. My three children have forgiven him and we’re all back together. Every day we thank God that we didn’t split.”

YouTube video

Are Sara Evans And Jay Barker Still Together?

According to the “A Little Bit Stronger” singer, Barker is now a “completely different person,” that he was back then. 

So to confirm the answer the “big question” of whether or not she and Barker are together at this time, Evans says they are “so happy now.” Court records obtained by PEOPLE reveal that their divorce was officially dismissed in February 2023.

However, she made sure to add that by sharing her story, she is not advocating for other women to stay in a relationship where they feel they need to “exit the situation.” 

“Every woman needs to follow her gut on that and do what is best for her. I believe and I hope that I’ve done that,” Evans shared.

New Song, “Pride” And Forthcoming Album

Along with dropping the first episode of her new podcast, Evans has also announced that her vulnerability will continue in her forthcoming album Unbroke, dropping June 7 via Nashville’s Melody Place in partnership with Evans’ own label, Born To Fly. To kick things off, she gave fans a look into the project’s 11 new tracks through her just-released track, “Pride,” which marks her first piece of original work since 2017. 

Written by Evans, Sean McConnell and Madi Diaz and produced by Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks), “Pride” is said to offer a candid look into the struggles that have occurred within her marriage. 

While reflecting on the new song, Evans shared, “A few years ago I started writing this album during one of the hardest times of my life. I was going through extreme difficulties in my marriage and during our separation, I wrote this song. It’s the most raw and real music I’ve ever written. It’s honest and vulnerable as though I’m talking to a friend in a private conversation. I’ve completely opened myself up to my fans on this song and album. ‘Pride’ is the first chapter of the story that unfolds throughout ‘Unbroke’, taking you from a breakdown to a breakthrough.”

Evans will also continue to share her untold stories of marriage, divorce, domestic abuse, body image, raising children, music, etc. on future episodes of her podcast, Diving In Deep With Sara Evans.

Unbroke Tracklist:

  1. Pride (Sara Evans / Madi Diaz / Sean McConnell)
  2. 21 days (Sara Evans / Jeff Trott / Melissa Fuller)
  3. Mask (Sara Evans / Chris DeStefano / Emily Shackleton)
  4. Cleaning Out Your Closet (Sara Evans / Alex Kline / Allison Veltz-Cruz)
  5. Heartless (Sara Evans / Ashley Monroe /Andrew Petroff / Jeff Trott)
  6. Downfall (Sara Evans / Jeff Trott / Sean McConnell)
  7. I Wanna Be Wrong (Sara Evans, Karyn Rochelle)
  8. Sorry Now (Sara Evans / Karyn Rochelle / Shane Stevens)
  9. Better Than This (Daniel Tashian, Marc Beeson, Sara Haze)
  10. Unbroke (Sara Evans / Ryan Beaver / Adam Hambrick)
  11. Gypsy Ways (Sara Evans / Jeff Trott / Melissa Fuller)

For more information on Sara Evans, visit SaraEvans.com

If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship abuse in any form, help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides free, confidential support 24/7/365 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), DHOH 1-800-787-3224 (TTY), or chat online at TheHotline.org.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.