Dolly Parton's marriage: Things you didn't know

Country music legend Dolly Parton has been married for over 50 years —that's something even Parton's huge fans might not know! Parton met Carl Dean in 1964, they got married in 1966, and the rest is history. Even with a marriage this long, though, it's easy to overlook: Dean is notoriously private and is almost never seen in public or even in photos with Parton. He doesn't attend red carpet events with her — even the really big ones — and he hasn't even made an appearance on her Instagram feed. 

Still, the two are happily married and will likely remain that way. In the years since they met, Parton and Dean have battled many rumors about their faithfulness to each other, as well as a lot of speculation about their extremely private relationship. Through it all, they've remained strong and have one of the longest lasting marriages in Hollywood. Take a look at some of the things you probably didn't know about Parton's marriage. 

They met outside a laundromat

Parton and Dean met back in 1964 in an unlikely fashion. According to Parton's official website, the two met outside the Wishy Washy Laundromat on the very first day Parton moved to Nashville, Tenn. When talking about their meeting, Parton said, "I was surprised and delighted that while he talked to me, he looked at my face (a rare thing for me). He seemed to be genuinely interested in finding out who I was and what I was about." Dean made such a good impression that the two ended up getting married two years later.

Dean spoke about meeting Parton in a rare public statement obtained by Fox News, saying, "My first thought was, 'I'm gonna marry that girl.' 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." Parton added, "If I had it to do all over, I'd do it all over again."

Their first wedding was a secret

Dolly Parton and Carl Dean renewed their vows for their 50th anniversary in an intimate ceremony in 2016, auctioning off photos from the event for charity, but their first wedding ceremony was a lot more low-key and private — in fact, it was totally secret. In an interview with CMT News, Parton explained that her record label wanted her to wait a year to get married. Since they had invested so much money and time in building up her career, she felt she owed it to them to do that. But Dean's mother was so excited about the two getting married that they decided to do it secretly.

Parton, Dean, and Dean's mother traveled across the state line to Ringgold, Ga. and got married in a small ceremony on May 30, 1966. Parton said she wore "a little white dress" and carried a "little bouquet and a little Bible." She didn't want to get married in a courthouse, so they found a Baptist church nearby and got married there. 

They have an odd secret to making their marriage work

Being married for more than 50 years is a feat worth applauding when you're in Hollywood — and Parton is certainly not a small star. It's normal to wonder how these two have been making things work for as long as they have been, and, as it turns out, Parton has kind of a strange secret to making their marriage last: she and Dean spend a lot of time apart. In an interview with People, Parton said she always laughs when people ask her the key to their love, adding, "I always say 'Stay gone!' and there's a lot of truth to that. I travel a lot, but we really enjoy each other when we're together and the little things we do." 

In a 2011 interview with Taste of Country, Parton shared that she and Dean are both very independent people, so they don't need to be around each other all the time. She also added that they're actually friends too, saying, "You've gotta be great friends. And you've gotta be able to be accepting and just kind of know that you're not gonna change that person, because you married him because you loved 'em for what they were."

The song "Jolene" was inspired by her husband

Dolly Parton has had so many hit songs during her long career, but one that has really defined her as a singer is "Jolene." The song is seemingly about a beautiful red-headed woman trying to steal away Parton's man, and it's not just packed with meaningless lyrics. It's actually about a real situation Parton and Dean went through. The Independent reported that, at a concert in Glastonbury, Parton said the song was "loosely based on a little bit of truth," adding, "I wrote that years ago when my husband... was spending a little more time with Jolene than I thought he should be."

The "Jolene" in the song is apparently based on a red-headed bank teller who had a "terrible crush" on Dean, according to a statement Parton gave NPR. Dean liked the attention and kept going back to the bank teller.  Parton started teasing him about it, and it became a joke between them. So it's actually "an innocent song," according to Parton. She got the name "Jolene" from a red-headed fan she once met, and it stuck. 

Parton once had an emotional affair

Throughout their marriage, there have been rumors that Parton was actually the one who cheated on Dean, having a relationship with her female assistant (via E! News). Parton has denied that, but she has revealed that she had an emotional affair. In the book Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters With Dolly Parton (via Closer Weekly)she shared a little about the emotional affair, which was rumored to be with her band leader Gregg Perry (via Yahoo! Entertainment). 

Parton revealed that the affair made her so upset that she considered taking her own life, saying that she eyed a gun in her room for a long time, held it, and was stopped when her dog, Popeye, appeared. She said, "The tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality, I suddenly froze and I put the gun down." That's the only affair Parton has admitted to — in an interview with The Guardian, Parton said, "I'm not admitting nothin'. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn't. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. And it's none of your damn business!"

They keep date nights super casual

When Dolly Parton and Carl Dean do spend time together, they like to keep things low-maintenance and simple — very simple. In a radio interview with Andy Cohen (via Country Living), Parton said they love to go to Taco Bell together for date nights, adding that she loves their tacos and their "little pizzas." She explained, "It's hard for me to get him to dress up to go to a nice dinner because he's just a country boy and hates that stuff. We do whatever's good. We have a good time." 

She also told People in 2018 that, on one of their first dates, Dean took her to "the drive-in window and got our food at McDonald's." She said they have a few small places they enjoy going to because they know they won't be "bothered." In an earlier interview with People, she shared, "I put on my little comfy clothes -– I call them my baby clothes -– and we just relax."

There's a reason you've probably never seen Dean before

Maybe you've wondered why Dean never seems to go anywhere high-profile with Parton. While that might seem like part of Dean's duty as her husband, Parton has explained that he's extremely private. When speaking at a Marty Stuart Jam (via The Boot), Parton said she brought Dean to an event in 1966 where they got all dressed up and she received an award. She said that afterwards Carl turned to her and said, "Dolly, I want you to have everything you want, and I'm happy for you, but don't you ever ask me to go to another one of them dang things again!" 

In an interview with Vogue, Parton explained that she respects her husband's decision to stay out of the limelight, saying, "My husband is not one who wants to be just thrown out there. He's very private, and I've always respected that for him and about him." Speaking to People, Parton said that, while Dean wants to be left out of her fame, "he's always been supportive." 

They don't regret not having kids

Even though they've been together for so long, Parton and Dean have never had kids. According to Closer Weekly, Parton had a partial hysterectomy in 1984, and, while it was difficult for her to deal with at first, she no longer regrets that they could never have kids. In an interview with The Guardian, she said, "My husband and I, when we first got married, we thought about if we had kids, what would they look like?" She added that, although they talked about it, "it wasn't meant to be" and, now that they're older, they're "glad" it didn't happen. She explained that, if she had kids, she "probably would have given up everything else" and wouldn't have had the career she's had.

Parton also told Billboard that she used to think she should regret not having kids, but now she's so close to her nieces and nephews that it doesn't matter. She said, "Now that Carl and I are older, we often say, 'Aren't you glad we didn't have kids? Now we don't have kids to worry about.'"

They had big plans for their 50th anniversary

For their 50th anniversary, Parton and Dean renewed their vows in a small wedding ceremony on May 30, 2016. For the couple, it was way to redo their secret marriage from the first time around, and, this time, do things differently. She told Rolling Stone, "I got all dressed up in the most beautiful gown you've ever seen and dressed that husband of mine up. He looked like a handsome dude out of Hollywood." They kept the ceremony small with just a few family members and friends and exchanged vows at a chapel near their home. They didn't plan anything too elaborate, saying they didn't want any "commotion." 

Parton shared with People that she was going to sell the wedding photos to benefit her Imagination Library literacy charity. She would basically auction off the photos and donate the money from the highest bidder. She added that she was "shocked" Dean agreed to something so uncharacteristically public. 

One of Parton's albums is inspired by her husband

In 2016, Parton released her album Pure & Simple, which is full of love songs. It's easy to assume that Parton wrote the tracks with Dean in mind, and, well, that's because she did. In fact, she told Rolling Stone that she was inspired by the her and Dean's 50th anniversary, saying that when thinking about the album, "I was just trying to think about all the different colors of love through the years. I thought, 'Well I'm going to write about mine and Carl's relationship.'" 

How did the name come up? She explained that she thought, "'It's just a pure and simple relationship,' so it started with that and then I thought, 'Well why don't I just write a whole album of love songs?'" Though the record isn't just about her relationship with Dean (some songs cover other types of romance), she said that she did write several songs about her husband.

Parton revealed Dean has a crush on this celebrity

In an interview on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon in late November 2018, Parton revealed a surprisingly intimate detail about her husband: There's an actress with whom he'd want to have a threesome. That person would be Jennifer Aniston. The Friends alum starred in the movie Dumplin', which featured a soundtrack of Parton's songs. When speaking to Fallon, Parton said she's a huge fan of Aniston and that her husband is "crazy about her." She added, "He was more excited that I was going to do a movie with her than he was that I got a chance to write all this music." Parton continued, "I think he kind of fantasizes, like, a threesome with us," saying, "He can't even get it out to pee much less get it up for three!" 

So what did Aniston think about all this?  "My mouth just dropped," she said, when asked by USA Today about her response to Parton's interview. "And then I laughed my (butt) off. That's Dolly." 

They have a camper and travel a lot

Parton and Dean do more than just go to fast food restaurants together. In an interview with Parade, she said that they have a "little RV" and they travel around together, saying, "We sight-see all of Tennessee and Kentucky, the areas that we can get back home from at night. Sometimes we'll stay over at a Days Inn [motel] where we can just pull up and sneak me in. We don't care, as long as the bed's clean and there's a bathroom. That's how we live." To Southern Living, she shared that they try to travel every weekend to see "out-of-the-way places [where] other people don't go." They like to see some history or just places that are "exceptionally beautiful." 

However, they never stay away for long. She revealed to People that, while Dean loves little trips, "he doesn't want to be gone a long time." She explained, "He wants to be mostly around the house." But because he knows she loves to do a lot and go see different places, they make it work.

Dean doesn't like to watch his wife perform live

Dean doesn't just dislike going to public events and being photographed — he doesn't even like to watch Parton perform live! In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Parton said that Dean has only seen her perform live a small number of times. She said, "He doesn't like to do that. He gets nervous seeing me perform. It's almost like seeing your kid in a recital. He's afraid I'll mess up." She went on, "Actually, he has seen me for a time or two and it did relax him a little. He saw that I do mess up and it's okay because people are not gonna punish me for it."

Parton also said that she doesn't really show him the music she writes and that he doesn't always listen to her music either, unless she essentially forces him to. It makes sense — Dean seems to be so private that he doesn't really like anything that has to do with Parton's mega-fame. 

Parton has said they're complete opposites

Obviously, Parton and Dean are not the same at all — they're the perfect example of "opposites attract." In an interview with People, Parton admitted, "We're completely opposite, but that's what makes it fun. I never know what he's gonna say or do. He's always surprising me." Speaking with The Guardian in 2014, she said that Dean is not a musician or very musical at all. 

To Parade, she said, "I married a really good man, a guy that's completely different from me. He's not in show business. He's not resentful of any of that." Still, despite their differences, they get along really well. Parton added, "He loves to hear about the things I do. I love to hear about the things he does. So we enjoy each other's company. We get along good. He's got a great sense of humor. We've just been best buddies and best friends and, evidently, it's working!" 

She goes by this name in private

We all know Parton as, obviously, "Dolly Parton" and not "Dolly Dean." But as it turns out, she uses her husband's name in private. In an interview with The Guardian, Parton said that she did take on her husband's last name quietly, saying that her passport says "Dolly Parton Dean." She also explained that she signs all of her contracts with the name "Dean." She never made the name change publicly because of her record deal, noting, "It made no sense. He never asked me to." That's not such an uncommon move in Hollywood, as many celebrities don't change their stage names after getting hitched.

And to Parton and Dean, it doesn't matter because she says she's "Dolly Dean" whenever she's home. She told The Guardian, "But then I'm also Dolly Parton. I'm Dolly Parton Dean. I'm myself!" She joked, "Anyway, if I had chosen the name Dolly Dean... I'd have been Double D. Again!"