Dolly Parton Reveals the Surprisingly Simple Secret to Being Married for Over 50 Years

Pop culture icon Dolly Parton has been married to her husband, Carl Dean, for 54 years. But throughout Dolly’s career, Carl has stayed so far out of the spotlight that many fans have questioned his existence. The country music legend has now opened up about her extremely private marriage. She also revealed the surprising secret to their successful relationship.

Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Dolly Parton respects her husband’s decision to stay out of the spotlight

During a conversation with Entertainment Tonight, Dolly acknowledged the fact that a lot of people believe Carl isn’t a real person.

“A lot of people have thought that through the years because he does not want to be in the spotlight at all,” Dolly said. “It’s just not who he is. He’s like a quiet, reserved person. I’ve always respected and appreciated that in him.”

The Jolene singer also addressed the fan theories about Carl in her book Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life In Lyrics. She writes that Carl “figured if he ever got out there in that, he’d never get a minute’s peace.” Dolly added that he was absolutely “right about that.”

The multiple Grammy winner recalled Carl telling her that he didn’t choose “this world.” Instead, he chose Dolly, and she chose “that world.” However, he told her that they could keep their lives “separate and together.” She says that is what they’ve always done, and they continue to do so.

The country music legend has been with her husband since she was 18

Even though fans would like to see Carl, chances are that won’t happen. Dolly says she doesn’t mind attending events on her own. In fact, she says she’s always tried to Carl out of the limelight as much as she can.

As Closer Weekly notes, Dolly met Carl when she was just 18 years old not long after she moved to Nashville. She recalls that he wanted to take her out to dinner, and he pulled up to the drive-in window and got their food at McDonald’s.

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More than a half-century later, Dolly says that Carl hasn’t changed in that he still only wants to go places where he can be comfortable. She says they still have a few places they can go without being bothered.

“We have very similar tastes … love to travel around our little RV, and we don’t like parties and all that stuff,” she explained. “We both have a great sense of humor. So, we have a lot of fun.”

Dolly Parton reveals the surprising secret to her long marriage

When it comes to the secret of their “long marriage and lasting love,” Dolly jokes that it’s because she stays “gone.”

“And there’s a lot of truth in that… the fact that we’re not in each other’s faces all the time,” Dolly teased. “But we do have great respect and admiration for each other.”

In 2018, Dolly told People that she is gone a lot but she and Carl “really enjoy each other” when they’re together and the little things they do. She explained that they’ve been together for most of their lives, and he doesn’t care what she wears as long as she is happy.

“He loves me the way I am,” Dolly noted.

She also confessed that the pandemic has brought her and Carl together for a lot longer than they are used to. She joked that they “might not make it until the next anniversary” because she can’t get away.

“I’m stuck there now. I might find out who he is,” she joked.

Even though the couple never had children, Dolly says that was a deliberate choice and she’s gotten used to it. She also realized that since she doesn’t have kids of her own, “everybody’s kids” could be hers.

This is one of the reasons she created her Imagination Library. Over the years, Parton has donated more than 100 million books to children. She says her goal is to “empower children and give them confidence.”