Dolly Parton and Carl Dean's marriage had its fair share of ups and downs. Insecurities could have torn them apart; instead, they inspired a song and a movie.
Hollywood or ordinary life, couples that last decades aren't dime a dozen. However, there are some couples that manage to push past all kinds of hurdles and create fulfilling bonds that remain strong for years. And among those lucky couples is Dolly Parton and her husband, Carl Thomas Dean. Their story of romance and love is one you might have never seen before.
The country music legend shares a beautiful life with her husband and has done so for over 55 years. "I've been married for 53 years come next May, and my husband and I have a great relationship. We've been together most of our lives," said the 73-year-old singer in 2018, according to Today.
While most people don't believe in love at first sight, that is exactly how 18-year-old aspiring singer Dolly and 21-year-old Carl began their story. "My first thought was I'm gonna marry that girl. My second thought was, 'Lord she's good-looking.' And that was the day my life began. I wouldn’t trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth," said Carl in a WSGC radio interview, something that was rare for him.
It wasn't just him though. Dolly knew as well that this was a man who was going to be by her side years later. They knew they were going to be each other's future.
Talking to People, Dolly mentioned what it was like dating Carl in the beginning. She said, “When I met my husband, he wanted to take me out to dinner. He pulled up to the drive-in window and got our food at McDonald’s. We know a few little places we can go without being bothered. He only likes to go to places where he can be comfortable!”
Fast forward to two years later. Just before she was to release her first album, Dolly and Carl took their relationship to the next level - by exchanging their vows with only Dolly's mom as their witness.
Since then, things have never been better. Carl stood by his vow of "in good times and in bad" as he supported Dolly through everything, including her rising fame. Yet, despite being the husband of an icon, he preferred being in the shadows. According to Town and Country Magazine, Carl once told his wife while they were heading back from a red carpet event, "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!"
Another factor that makes them a rare Hollywood couple is that they like to keep their personal life under wraps. It's why seeing them together is an uncommon occurrence. However, it works for them.
That doesn't mean it was completely smooth sailing. There were moments when Dolly's insecurities played in. According to Country Living, the famous hit "Jolene" was written after a redheaded bank teller took interest in Carl. "She got this terrible crush on my husband," Dolly told NPR. "It was kinda like a running joke between us—when I was saying, 'Hell, you're spending a lot of time at the bank. I don't believe we've got that kind of money.'"
She went on to say that the bank employee, Dolly believed, had everything she didn't, "like legs—you know, she was about 6 feet tall. And had all that stuff that some little short, sawed-off honky like me don't have." But faith kept the Dolly and Carl of them going.
As for the key to their successful marriage, Dolly says it's the appreciation they have for each other, especially when they meet after being apart. "I always joke and laugh when people ask me what's the key to my long marriage and lasting love. 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," said Dolly to Today. It looks like absence does make the heart fonder.
And she has many ways of showing her appreciation for Carl. One of those ways includes her performing a song dedicated to him called "From Here to the Moon and Back" in 2012. "I picked my husband, who I love, and I thought, 'Well, I’ll write some beautiful song about him,'" Dolly said, according to Oprah Magazine. Another way the couple celebrated their love was when they renewed their vows on their 50th anniversary. "If I had it to do all over, I'd do it all over again, and we did," said Dolly in an article by Taste of Country.
The bond the two share is inexplicable and a gemstone among lumps of coal. “He doesn’t care what I wear as long as I’m happy,” said Dolly to People. “He loves me the way I am."
"I know every line in his face and he knows every hair in my wig. (He's) not particularly (a fan of my songs), but he loves me. He loves me," Today quoted her saying.