Denise Jackson, wife of country star Alan Jackson, is stepping out of his shadow with her book It’s All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life, with co-author Ellen Vaughn.
In it, Denise recounts the ups and downs of her seemingly fairytale marriage, including how she forgave her husband’s infidelities, and she tells PEOPLE why she hopes her story will inspire others. Alan wrote the foreword and contributes a two-song CD. (Click on the box below to hear the title track, “It’s All About Him.”)
You and Alan separated in 1997 then reconciled the following year. How did he react when you told him you wanted to write a book about your relationship?
At first he was a little nervous about it. It’s not enjoyable to talk about your mistakes and regrets. But on the other hand, he knew why I wanted to write the book and that it was important for me to admit that he had been unfaithful, because one of the main messages of the book is about forgiveness and how healing can come when we work through problems and infidelities. Probably half the marriages out there experience what we do but there’s only a very, very small percentage that really survives.
What message are you trying to send?
The greatest blessings in my life have come out of my worst shattering – his betrayal and our separation were what led to this new, passionate love relationship with God and also led to us being able to have the kind of marriage that we both always wanted but just didn’t know how to have. Couples and especially women can relate to my story – my fears, my insecurities, my self-esteem issues, marital issues that Alan and I had as a result of marrying so young.
I was a teenager when I got married and had this almost Cinderella complex: “I’m going to marry him and he’s so confident and competent and he’s going to take care of me forever and life is going to be one grand fairytale.” On the outside, I’m sure that’s what most people think about us. But the reality is our marriage isn’t perfect. Even now, every day is a work in progress. I feel like our relationship now is based on love and respect and I think Alan sees me as an equal partner now versus the old relationship, when it was based more on dependency.
So how did you decide to forgive him?
I really had no choice. If I wanted to have my marriage to be restored, I had to forgive. I had to draw my strength from God.
How did his song "It’s All About Him" come about?
I just asked him if he’d be willing to write a song for the book and he said, “Of course.” One morning he was taking his morning walk and the song just came to him. He sat down on our porch and wrote it right there. We ended up collaborating a little bit, and he was gracious enough to include me as a co-writer.
How do you think the country music community is going to react to this book?
So far, everyone has just embraced it. Alan was worried initially that he would come across as they bad guy but what I’m finding is that everyone has just been so appreciative of him and that he would actually want me to tell our story. We’ve had endorsements from Carrie Underwood, George and Nancy Jones, Ricky Skaggs and his wife Sharon.