Russ Harrington, Associated Press
Alan Jackson and his wife, Denise, are happily married, at last.
NEW YORK Denise Jackson knew that her marriage to Alan Jackson wasn't perfect. She was too needy and insecure in the relationship, and he was on the road a lot, becoming one of country's biggest superstars.
Still, she wasn't prepared for the shock she got in 1998, shortly after the birth of their third child, when Jackson her sweetheart since their teen years told her that he didn't want to be in the marriage anymore. Hurt and disillusioned, she tried everything to get him back and turned to prayer.
A revelation came one day when a friend told her she wouldn't pray for Alan Jackson to come back, but instead, would pray for Denise Jackson to become the woman that God intended her to be. From that day on, Denise Jackson began to reassess the role God played in her life and, instead of focusing on how to repair her relationship with her husband, put her efforts into rebuilding her relationship with God. In the end, she says, becoming closer to God helped her become closer to her husband and save her marriage.
Jackson writes about her journey in the new book "It's All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life." And while her husband is on the cover of the book and included a CD of two songs, after the first few chapters, it becomes clear that the country singer is not the ultimate focus of her book.
Associated Press: What made you want to write this book?
Jackson: Honestly, I've had this desire in my heart for nine years, soon after we separated. I really started thinking about how my story is a story of hope, and I really wanted to share with people how nothing is impossible with him and how he can tackle relationships and restore them, and really just so people can be drawn to him. One of the points I make in the book is that I have everything in the world ... and yet at one point, I was insecure, and my marriage was not right, and how none of that stuff really brings lasting joy and contentment, but the thing that does is available to everybody, and that's a relationship with God.
AP: What kind of pressure did you feel to have this perfect relationship with your husband?
Jackson: I put so much pressure on myself. Everyone, I felt, was looking at us under a magnifying glass, and I had to be the perfect wife, who was the perfect size, who wore the perfect gown, who had the perfect jewels, and it was so stressful to live like that and to base your self-worth on what you thought other people felt about you. So that's why it was so freeing to really come to the place in my life where I realized that I shouldn't base my self-worth on any of that, that my self-worth really comes from being a child of God.
AP: When your marriage broke up, you describe it as a total shock.
Jackson: All along in our marriage we'd have these discussions about something just doesn't feel right, and it really boiled down to a codependency. Alan was the stronger one, I was the weaker, needier partner, and it just didn't feel balanced. And he kept wanting a partner who would be equal and who he could respect, but we really just didn't know how to get there. So that was really the issue that played out over the years. But it really wasn't until '98 that he said, "You know what? I can't live like this anymore, and I don't know if we know how to fix it," and that's when he left.
AP: He revealed that he was unfaithful at one point. How did you regain the trust?
Jackson: First of all, I had to be able to forgive him, and that's a free gift that you offer someone. So I was willing to do that, but in return he had to show me in tangible ways that he was trustworthy. And over an extended period of time he showed me in numerous ways.
AP: Do you always have that doubt though?
Jackson: It's been almost 10 years, and initially when we got back together I did worry and wonder was he really and truly committed to our marriage? But now I have such a peace and contentment about it, because he has shown me over and over and over that he does want to be in the marriage, and it's evident; it's evident every day.
AP: After he left, did you ever feel like, "OK then, I'm just gonna take everything you have" and get revenge?
Jackson: I have to admit that I did have those feelings, especially when we had been separated for several months and he really wasn't acting as if he was interested at all in reconciling. But then again, as I just stayed in my Bible study and really developed this relationship, I think God just softened my heart and made me want to have him back.
AP: Was Alan worried about you writing this book?
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Jackson: I think he was a little nervous at first. None of us want to tell people about our mistakes. But I also feel like he knew how passionate I was about this message, and he knew that in order to really tell it fully that I was going to have to reveal some details about our marriage and our relationship, and he really consented for me to do that and graciously wrote the forward for the book and included the two wonderful songs that you can get with the book. He's been wonderfully supportive of the whole thing.