The Truth About Dolly Parton's 'Open' Marriage

Is Dolly Parton's secret to a long marriage an open marriage? As fans know, the "Jolene" singer has been married to Carl Dean for over 50 years now. They tied the knot in 1966, after meeting at a laundromat in Nashville, and haven't looked back since.

Still, it hasn't been all Hollywood mansions and red carpets for the beloved couple. Due to their "totally open" arrangement, Parton was once seduced into, what she calls, an "affair" with another man! To be clear, though, Parton and Dean do not sleep around. Instead, what the openness in their marriage refers to is each person's ability to enjoy the company of other crushes, fantasize about them, and maybe flirt a little — without feeling like they're betraying the other.

"Men are my weakness. Short, fat, bald or skinny — I've had crushes on some very unusual men but Carl knows I'll always come home and I'm not having sex with these people — I'm just flirting and having fun," the singer once told the Daily Mail

Dolly Parton has admitted to having a wandering eye

Some of Dolly Parton's most famous crushes have been Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, and Nicole Kidman's husband, Keith Urban. "I love to flirt, and I've never met a man I didn't like," Parton previously admitted (via the Mirror). 

In her talk with Daily Mail, the singer defended her wandering eye, saying that it's perfectly normal for her and Carl Dean's marriage. "But that's healthy. If I'm away I'll say to my husband, 'You don't mind if I fantasize about Keith Urban tonight, do you?' and he doesn't. He says he'd think less of any man who didn't fall in love with me," she said in 2014.

But it hasn't always worked out for the couple. Many years ago, Parton had an "affair of the heart" with another man. In her 2017 book Dolly on Dolly, Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton, the star opened up about the affair and said that when she and the man parted ways, the romantic feelings she had for him made her feel such guilt (for betraying her husband) that she considered taking her own life.

Dolly Parton's affair took a major toll on the singer

In her memoir, Dolly Parton wrote about the emotional affair she had in the early 1980s, and the depression that came after it.

"I was sitting upstairs in my bedroom one afternoon when I noticed in the nightstand drawer my gun that I keep for burglars. I looked at it a long time..." she wrote (via the New York Daily News). "Then, just as I picked it up, just to hold it and look at it for a moment, our little dog, Popeye, came running up the stairs. The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality I suddenly froze. I put the gun down. Then I prayed. I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God."

Parton doesn't know what came over her, but the terrifying event made her realize that any person can end up having suicidal thoughts when things get bad enough. "I don't think I'd have done it, killed myself, but I can't say for sure," she wrote. Thankfully, Parton survived the incident, which she referred to as a "terrible moment."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Dolly Parton and Carl Dean are still as in love as ever

Despite the hurdles in their marriage, Dolly Parton and Carl Dean have managed to stay together. And more than five decades in, they remain more in love than ever. 

"He really respects what I do and would hate to stand in the way of that. He always makes me feel pretty, even when I'm not. He'll say, 'I like it when you wear your hair up high,' and he even has clothes of mine in his closet that he'll bring out once in a while... I love dressing up for him," the star told the Daily Mail in 2014. "I think Carl will always see me the way he did when we first met, just as I do him. We'll never be old to each other."

As fans know, the couple never had kids — a decision which the singer regretted, at times — but they're happy it's just the two of them. "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,'" she told Billboard in 2014. All in all, these two have built a strong relationship that works for them.