Dolly Parton’s marriage to Carl Thomas Dean is her first and will be her last

Dolly Parton and her husband Carl Thomas Dean have been married for 51 years now. Dolly is well known for her flirtatious behaviour and there’ve been numerous rumours of affairs. Now she reveals in her book that she and Carl have an open marriage, though he will always be her only husband.

Her first and last marriage

According to Dolly Parton her marriage to Carl Thomas Dean was her first and it will be her last. Given that they’ve been married for 51 years now, one would assume as much.

Dolly Parton and Carl Thomas Dean cozying

Dolly Parton and Carl Thomas Dean cozying

Still, she’s the only one who has ever publicly spoken about her marriage to Carl. He very famously shuns the limelight and leaves all the public stuff to her. So we do have to trust Dolly’s word on all things concerning her marriage.

And she has been more than candid about it in her book “Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton”, published last year. But more on that later.

Whatever it might look like from the outside, their marriage has been incredibly stable and you don’t celebrate a Golden Wedding Anniversary without having gone the long way around. Regardless of how different Dolly and Carl are, they’ve stuck through it all together.

Dolly and Carl are polar opposites. She’s 5 feet tall, an extrovert, known around the world and a beloved celebrity, who openly admits to plastic surgery. He is 6 feet tall, an introvert, a homebody and business owner of something so mundane as a road repair company.

According to Dolly they met at a Laundromat in 1964. She had only just arrived in Nashville and he warned her to put some sunscreen on in order not to get sunburned. What a pick-up line! She was 18 at the time, Carl was 22. Two years later, in May 1966, they were married.

Dolly became a business mogul and successful singer, who released over 40 albums and toured around the world. Carl stayed at home, worked his own business and later on the farm that became their home.

The couple never had children, but they have a big family regardless due to their many siblings, who provided many nieces and nephews.

In 1984 Dolly had a partial hysterectomy, which left her in a depression. It was Carl who helped her out of it, but it may well have been one of those times in their marriage, where things could have gone sideways.

But somehow that didn’t happen. At least not that anyone would have noticed from the outside looking in.

Flirts, affairs and an open marriage

Dolly is well known for her flirtatious behaviour and has long been rumoured to have had affairs with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Burt Reynolds. But she denies that she ever slept with anyone than her husband. She freely admits that she flirts with men, that she loves men on the whole and has fantasised about others. But she also tells her husband about it. He knows that she’ll flirt, but that there will never be anything else than that.

At least that has been the tune until Dolly published her book last year. Here things sound somewhat different. Sure, they let each other live their lives.

Dolly and Carl say cheese

Dolly and Carl say cheese

Dolly says she will always come home to her husband. And at home she is simply Dolly Dean. Carl supports her and loves her and even though he hardly ever comes out to do so publicly, she doesn’t doubt his devotion. Apparently he has only seen her live at a concert once.

As the quintessential introvert he likes neither crowds nor attention and is perfectly content to stay at home and work on the farm and let Dolly do her thing, because she lets him do his.

Dolly also says that it helps for them to give each other room and to not see each other for days on end, especially when she is on tour, because that gives them the opportunity to miss each other.

But Dolly also confessed that the two have an open marriage. It may not be something Carl really indulges in, but Dolly admitted that an affair of the heart in the 1980’s nearly drove her to suicide. In her book she didn’t reveal the name of the man she fell in love with and who subsequently broke her heart. She never will, either. But she did say that she sat in her bedroom and looked at her gun, entirely heartbroken, wondering about pulling the trigger. Her little dog quite literally barged in on her and she believes that he may have been sent by God to save her. She didn’t pull the trigger, after all, but realised how easy it could be even for someone like her – someone not at all prone to depression.

Renewing their vows

Whilst it may be strange to think that the worlds of Dolly and Carl only really overlap when these two are at home, being married for 51 years is a testament in its own right. Their relationship has been called unconventional, but then again, what is conventional anyway?

Dolly once said that she and Carl are proud of their marriage. It is the first for both of them and it will be their last. That in itself is rare enough in this day and age, even though the two are from a different generation where these things still mattered.

Dolly reportedly wanted to celebrate their Golden Anniversary in a big way and Carl was set to be on stage with her. The couple were even said to renew their wedding vows on the occasion. And indeed, Dolly had a special dress designed and the two renewed their vows on their 50th Anniversary. If she had to drag him kicking and screaming, Dolly said she’d do it all over again and wants another 50 years with Carl.

And now the two are on their way to their Diamond Anniversary and the way things are going, we expect them to reach that destination in good health and with much love.


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