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Soon after she moved to Nashville, Dolly Parton established a successful relationship and career. Though her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, distances himself from her career, she doesn’t handle him much differently than her business partners. She shared her best tip for long-term success in business and personal relationships.

Dolly Parton wears a white turtleneck and holds a guitar. She stands in front of a microphone.
Dolly Parton | David Redfern/Redferns

Dolly Parton and her husband met when she was 18

Parton first met Dean outside the Wishy Washy Laundromat in Nashville. It was her first day in the city, and she said she had no intention of getting a boyfriend.

“I’d left two boyfriends back home, and I thought the last thing I wanted was a boyfriend,” she wrote in the book Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics

Despite her desire to remain single, the two felt a quick connection.

“I was surprised and delighted that while he talked to me, he looked at my face (a rare thing for me),” Parton wrote on her official website. “He seemed to be genuinely interested in finding out who I was and what I was about.”

Dean knew right away that he wanted to be with Parton.

“My first thought was ‘I’m gonna marry that girl,’” Dean said, per Entertainment Tonight. “My second thought was, ‘Lord she’s good lookin.’ And that was the day my life began. I wouldn’t trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth.”

After dating for two years, Parton and Dean wed in a small, intimate ceremony with only Parton’s mother, the pastor, and his wife in attendance.

She explained how to be successful at marriage and business

Decades after their first meeting, Parton and Dean are still happily together. She shared that some parts of her professional life, namely songwriting, have helped strengthen their bond.

“When I wrote [Pure and Simple] I was in that emotional mood of having a wedding, planning a wedding, going back in time and feeling young again,” she told Maclean’s. “I was thinking about our relationship and how we were when we first got married. I’ve lived a lot since then and gone through a lot of stuff. The music does bring us together and it’s cheaper than therapy!”

In general, though, Parton finds it helpful to behave similarly with her husband as she does with her business partners. She also thinks of her business partnerships as marriages.

“I’m very open with my business partners, just like I am with my husband,” she said. “I’m very upfront and very honest. I don’t let a bunch of stuff fester and boil over. If there’s something bothering me in the business end of things with people I work with, I just say it right out.”

Dolly Parton and her husband had a second wedding for their anniversary

To celebrate their long-lasting relationship, Parton and her husband had a second wedding ceremony on their 50th anniversary. After having such a small first wedding, Parton wanted a more glamorous affair.


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“If I had it to do all over, I’d do it all over again, and we did,” Parton said. “I’m dragging him kicking and screaming into the next 50 years. Wish us luck.”