Dolly Parton on Living Two Separate Lives: ‘My Life on the Road and My Life With Carl’

When Dolly Parton‘s career began to blow up in the late 1970s, everyone was so curious about her mysterious husband, Carl Dean, who was (and still is) never seen in public. In two of her most famous interviews of the time, with Playboy Magazine and Cosmopolitan, she spoke about keeping her marriage and career separate. When she was at home, she was with Dean. When she was on the road, she lived a different life.

Dolly Parton speaks onstage during the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Expo Hall on January 29, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Dolly Parton | Kevork Djansezian/WireImage

Dolly Parton said her ‘marriage is separate’

When Parton was interviewed by Cosmopolitan writer Laura Cunningham in 1979, she told her that Dean was the only man she’d ever been in love with.

“Doesn’t he look just like [Don Galloway] the guy on Ironside? We’re funny together—he’s so tall and thin—I call us ‘Spaghetti and Meatball.’ We fell in love when I was eighteen—on my first day in Nashville,” she said, as recorded in the book Dolly on Dolly.

But as much as Parton loves Dean, she said her “marriage is separate” from her professional life. The two didn’t mix.

“I have my life on the road and my life with Carl,” she said. “He has seen me perform, once. But we have our own life at home—without music people.”

‘It’s healthy for us to spend time apart’

One of the things that drew Parton to Dean in the first place was the space he gave her. He let her be her own person. In 1979, Parton was away from her husband for most of the year.

RELATED: Why Dolly Parton’s Husband Carl Dean Continued to Work After She Became Famous

“I think it’s healthy for us to spend time apart,” she said. “And I don’t get jealous. It never crosses my mind. And if he does somethin’, I never want to know.”

“I’m flirty, I love men, and I’m friendly,” Parton continued. “But if I ever did somethin’, I’d never say. I love Carl and we have a real happy marriage. He’s a gentle man . . . combs my hair . . . If he died, I couldn’t stand it.”

If Dolly Parton ever had an affair she wouldn’t tell her husband

In Parton’s interview with Playboy Magazine the year prior, she also said that if either she or Dean had an affair they probably wouldn’t tell the other.

“He wouldn’t want to know,” she said. “I think I would keep it from him. He would be more apt to tell than me.”

RELATED: The Song Dolly Parton ‘Based on [Her] Husband’ Carl Dean

“If I was ever weak enough to do something like that, it would never involve [Carl], he would never know it, he would never feel any effects from it,” she continued.

But no matter what happened, Parton said she’d never leave Dean.

“He knows I ain’t goin’ nowhere,” she said. “No matter who I met or what kind of an affair I might ever have, ain’t nobody in this world could take Carl’s place. There ain’t no way in this world I’d ever lose this man.”

Today, Parton and Dean have been married for 55 years.