How Have Dolly Parton and Husband Carl Dean Managed to Keep Their Marriage so Strong?

Music icon Dolly Parton and her husband, Carl Dean, have a marriage that has spanned more than five decades. While celebrity relationships come and go, Parton’s marriage has stood the test of time while also growing stronger. In a previous interview, the singer revealed how she and her husband have kept their union intact all these years, sharing the secret to their lasting and loving relationship.

Dolly Parton attending the Los Angeles premiere of "Joyful Noise" in 2012
Dolly Parton | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Dolly Parton and Carl Dean give each other space

Soon after Parton moved to Nashville at 18 to pursue a music career in 1964, she met Carl Dean outside of a laundromat. The couple instantly hit it off and eventually began dating. Two years after meeting, Parton and Dean tied the knot in Ringgold, Georgia.

The couple has now been married for 55 years, which is like a lifetime compared to Hollywood standards.

With their marriage spanning more than five decades, many have wondered how Parton and Dean have kept their marriage so strong all of the years.

In a September 2020 interview with American Idol alum Gabby Barrett for Amazon Music, the “Jolene” singer revealed her secret to enjoying such a long-lasting romantic union with Dean.

She explained that she and Dean are friends, first and foremost, which has helped keep their relationship amusing and entertaining.

“My husband and I always had a great friendship,” Parton said. “We’re both funny, and we both have a great and warped sense of humor so we’ve always had a good time. He’s pretty much a loner and a homebody, and I’m a gypsy. But when I’m home, I love that. We don’t do the same thing so it gives us different stuff to talk about.”

Seeing as Parton lives a jet-setting lifestyle, she and Dean often spend time apart, which she says is a key to their half a century marriage.

“He doesn’t get involved in my business, and I don’t in his, so we have our own little world that we create for ourselves. I’ve always made jokes that the reason our marriage has lasted so long is because I stay gone,” the multi-Grammy winner shared. “Well, there’s a lot of truth in that. We’re not in each other’s face all the time. I think there’s a lot to be said about having some sensible separation because you can’t be with somebody 24/7, 365 and not want to smack their face now and then.”

Dolly Parton says she and Carl Dean ‘have never fought’

Another trick Parton has up her sleeve for making her marriage work is treating it like a business.

Throughout their 55-year marriage, Parton and Dean “have never fought.” Instead, they work through their issues like business partners, resorting to calm discussions rather than full-blown fights.

“We’ve never bickered back and forth because I never wanted us to say bad things that we would have to remember,” she explained. “We get a little pissy now and then, but we’ll just kind of walk-off or go do something else and let that die down. You have to work at anything. Marriage is a business too, and you got to look at it like that. You got to make the right decisions for all the little things that come up.”

Dolly Parton and her husband have gotten through the ‘hardest’ year of their marriage

After being in a relationship with Dean for more than five decades, Parton has learned a thing or two about marriage.


Dolly Parton and Husband Carl Dean Have Never Called Each Other By Their First Names

One of the biggest lessons she’s taken away from her union is that things get easier as time goes on.

“The first year [of marriage] is probably the hardest,” Parton told Barrett. “You are trying to figure each other out and learn. That’s the year that you get the most rubbed wrong only because you’re having to share space with somebody you’ve never had to share your space with before. Your habits are different than theirs so you got to work those little things out.”

Parton added, “It’s best just to go to the other room rather than getting in a big old argument about it, cool off, and know they’re just as entitled to their opinion and their space as you are yours. So if you can think of it like that, and just know that when you both feel like you can calm down and talk about it, that’s where the love is supposed to come in and the understanding. Then if you get that worked out, smack him across the head.”