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Sara Evans Reveals She and Husband Jay Barker Are Back Together After Divorce, 2022 Arrest: 'We're So Happy Now'

In her new podcast, the country star explained that she and Barker have undergone extensive therapy

Taylor Hill/Getty Jay Barker and Sara Evans at the CMA Awards in Nashville in November 2019
Taylor Hill/Getty Jay Barker and Sara Evans at the CMA Awards in Nashville in November 2019

It’s been more than two years since Sara Evans’ husband Jay Barker was arrested for alleged assault, and the country star is finally ready to fill fans in on the status of their relationship.

Evans, 53, revealed during the first episode of her new podcast, Diving in Deep with Sara Evans, on Thursday that she and Barker have reconciled and are officially giving their marriage another go after she filed for divorce in August 2021.

“We’re so happy now, but I don’t want anyone to think that I'm advocating staying in a relationship where you are ever, in your gut, you know that you need to exit the situation,” she said. “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.”

The release of Evans’ new podcast coincides with the announcement of her forthcoming album Unbroke, which will drop June 7 and is her first album of new material in seven years. The record, buoyed by the first single “Pride,” chronicles her difficult journey with Barker, from their first separation to their eventual reconciliation.

The episode also marks the first time Evans has spoken publicly about Barker’s January 2022 arrest, during which he was charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly attempted to hit a car Evans was riding in with his own car. Barker, 51, entered a “best interest” plea in June 2022 to a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment, and reportedly received one year of probation.

Taylor Hill/Getty Jay Barker and Sara Evans at the CMA Awards in Nashville in November 2019
Taylor Hill/Getty Jay Barker and Sara Evans at the CMA Awards in Nashville in November 2019

On the podcast, Evans breaks down the night of his arrest, explaining that she and Barker — who first separated in April 2021 after marrying in 2008 — had met for lunch earlier in the day and gotten into a verbal argument “because he wasn’t getting his way.”

Later that night, Evans and one of her daughters went across the street to a friend’s house for a bonfire as Barker blew up her phone with text messages that blamed her for the demise of their relationship, she said. When she left the bonfire, Barker was waiting outside the home.

Related: Why Sara Evans Is Asking for 'Benefit of the Doubt' After Reconciling with Husband: 'People Are Going to Be Mad' (Exclusive)

<p>Andy Baxter</p> Sara Evans

Andy Baxter

Sara Evans

“It really scared me, and it scared all of us, especially my child that was with me,” she said on the podcast. “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 “Suds in the Bucket” singer said her daughter called 911, and the cops eventually arrived after Barker, a radio personality and former professional football player, had sped away.

Evans said the incident was especially shocking for her daughter, as she’d taken pains to hide Barker’s abusive behavior from her children for years. (Evans shares daughters Audrey, 19, and Olivia, 21, and son Avery, 24, with ex-husband Craig Schelske, though she’s said Barker raised her children.)

After Barker left the scene, Evans said she tried to call and text him to let him know police had shown up but was unable to reach him, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Barker eventually returned to the home and was arrested and spent the night in jail.

<p>Jason Kempin/Getty</p> Sara Evans at the CMA Awards in Nashville in November 2023

Jason Kempin/Getty

Sara Evans at the CMA Awards in Nashville in November 2023

“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.’”

Evans said that after Barker’s arrest, she turned off all commenting on her Instagram, and spent the next week sitting on her couch with her three children, unable to function.

“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.”

<p>Jason Davis/WireImage</p> Sara Evans (R) and her daughter Audrey (L) at the CMA Awards in Nashville in November 2023

Jason Davis/WireImage

Sara Evans (R) and her daughter Audrey (L) at the CMA Awards in Nashville in November 2023

Their road back together began several months later, when Evans, then on tour, received a text from Barker that read: “Everybody says that I shouldn’t contact you, but you are still my wife.” The message moved the singer, and before long, she and Barker had gradually reopened a line of communication.

“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 on the podcast. “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.”

Just as she’d kept Barker’s abuse a secret from her kids, she kept their reconciliation quiet, too, though she laid certain ground rules: therapy and marriage counseling.

Related: Sara Evans Tears Up — then Jokingly Declines — When Asked to Join the Grand Ole Opry: 'No Way I'd Say No'

“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 said that her daughter was a tougher nut to crack but that “a few long, really difficult discussions” between her and Barker have mended fences.

“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.”

The singer maintains that Barker has changed his ways, calling him a “completely different person,” and explaining that she’s now “happier than I’ve ever been.”

<p>Rick Diamond/Getty</p> Jay Barker and Sara Evans at the CMT Artists of the Year Celebration in Nashville in November 2011

Rick Diamond/Getty

Jay Barker and Sara Evans at the CMT Artists of the Year Celebration in Nashville in November 2011

Elsewhere in the podcast, Evans explained the origins of their marital issues, saying that Barker realized not long after their wedding that she was “very submissive,” which he took “advantage of.” She said things took a turn for the worse in the summer of 2020, and a “horrible” fight that July was a breaking point for the pair.

“I think I started realizing, ‘We’re in abuse. We’re using abuse in the marriage.’ And I didn’t want to admit that,” she said. “And I don’t think he saw it as that.”

She explained that early attempts at counseling were unsuccessful, as Barker “blamed everything” on her, and she had to force herself to take steps to file for divorce, even though she didn’t want to. Court records obtained by PEOPLE show the divorce was officially dismissed in February 2023.

<p>Andy Baxter</p> Sara Evans

Andy Baxter

Sara Evans

Upcoming episodes of Evans’ podcast will cover topics like marriage, divorce, domestic abuse, body image, motherhood, music and more, and she’ll chat with family, friends, celebrities and experts in various fields.

“I’m a huge lover of podcasts and can’t get enough,” she said in a statement. “I’ve always had a lot to say and for the longest time I’ve wanted to launch my own podcast. With everything that’s been happening in my life over the past few years, I felt like now is the perfect time to start letting everyone in and being more open and vulnerable than I’ve ever been before.”

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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