Sara Evans: I Need to Be with My Children

She would've had a "breakdown" if she'd stayed on Dancing with the Stars, she says

Singer Sara Evans, who quit TV’s Dancing with the Stars after filing for divorce last week, told viewers of the ABC show Tuesday night that she “would have had a nervous breakdown” if she had not pulled out of the competition.

In a pretaped interview with host Tom Bergeron at the end of the program, Evans, 35, said she’s “still in shock” over the dissolution of her 13-year marriage. “If you’d ask me when I was a little girl if anything like this would happen, I’d have said, ‘No.’ ”

She also said – without being specific – that “something happened” to prompt her to end her marriage. “It’s very personal, it’s very traumatic and it was very hard for my children,” she told Bergeron. “Things drastically went downhill 100 miles an hour.”

In divorce papers filed Oct. 12, Evans alleges that husband Craig Schelske, 43, committed adultery, was verbally abusive, drank excessively and watched pornography in their home.

Schelske, a Republican fundraiser who ran for Congress from Oregon’s 5th District in 2002, denies his wife’s claims and on Tuesday promised to defend himself in court.

Evans and Schelske, who married in 1993, have three children, ages 2 to 7.

On Tuesday night’s Dancing, Evans told Bergeron, “It was always my intention to try to take things very slowly in the marriage. I’m completely against divorce. My intention was to continue to try everything within my power” to save the relationship.

She also thought she could stay in the competition. “The good thing is that I’m so used to performing. As you know, as an entertainer, we have the ability to just try to flip the switch, turn it on, do the dance and make it through the day. That’s what I was hoping was going to happen throughout the entire life of the show,” she said.

But a turning point occurred just before the show’s Oct. 11 dress rehearsal, she said, when she realized she “would have had a nervous breakdown” if she’d spent any more time away from her kids. “I needed to be right there, to look at my son at all times to see the expression on his face and see if he’s crying. I put him on the phone with our pastor immediately. I knew that nothing in my career, no television show, nothing was more important than that.”

Evans’s Dancing partner, Tony Dovolani, appeared at the end of the interview to hug Evans. He told PEOPLE about her abrupt departure: “When she called me I was shocked. She was working so hard. She broke both of her legs when she was a little girl (Evans was in a car accident at age 8). This was her dream to dance. She was living out a dream.”

He added, “I was very sad (and) disappointed, but not for me, for her. She was in tears, and she kept saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I said, ‘What are you sorry for? If I were in the same situation I would have done the same thing.’ We’re friends for life.”

Fellow contestant Joey Lawrence told PEOPLE after Tuesday’s show that Evans is “going to go home and be a great mom to her kids, and that’s the most important thing.”

Moving forward, Evans told Bergeron, “I’m worried about everyone involved. I’m worried about my husband, his family. I’m worried about my family. I’m also grateful for the outpouring of love and support from fans, friends and people in the industry and people all over the world.”

Asked what is next for her, Evans, who is one of PEOPLE’s 25 Hottest Country Stars, replied, “I can’t wait to go home and get back in my house, and cook and clean and do laundry and homework and watch movies and snuggle up and just be a mom.”

Overall, she said of her experience on the show, “I have felt so much love and support from the fans, even before all this happened. It’s so humbling and I’ll never forget it. I will never forget every second of this experience. I just want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart and I will come back for the finale if I’m invited.”

Said Bergeron, “You’re invited.”

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