Dolly Parton Dishes on the Secret to 52-Year Marriage to Husband Carl Thomas Dean: 'Stay Gone'

Dolly Parton has been married to husband Carl Thomas Dean for 52 years, so it's no surprise that the country icon has a few tips when it comes to commitment.

Speaking to PEOPLE in a new interview, Parton revealed that one of those tips is to give each other space — something that she does plenty of thanks to her busy career.

“I always joke and laugh when people ask me what’s the key to my long marriage and lasting love,” she said. “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 May, Parton and Dean will have been married for 53 years, and while Dean never appears at events with his wife, the pair's relationship is as strong as ever.

"My husband and I have a great relationship,” Parton said. “We’ve been together most of our lives.”

The two met when Parton was 18 and eloped in 1966 because the singer's record label wanted her to stay unwed.

“We’d already sent out invitations and so I thought, 'I ain’t waiting!'" Parton recalled. "We went that same weekend to Ringgold, Georgia in a little church. I had a little white dress and little flowers, and my mom went with me.”

In 2016, the couple renewed their vows at their home in Nashville to celebrate their 50th anniversary, and it was then that Parton got to wear the wedding gown she'd always dreamed of.

“I never really felt like I had the wedding that we really wanted,” she explained. “He got all dressed up and I got all dressed up. Fifty years is a long time for anything, and I felt that we needed to do something to commemorate this. It’s been a good 50 years and I don’t know how many more years we’ll have left.”

While their vow renewal may have been a bigger affair, Parton shared that date nights with her husband are more low-key, including dinners at their favorite restaurants, picnics in the country and mini trips in their “little camper.”

“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,” the Tennessee native recalled. “We know a few little places we can go without being bothered. He only likes to go places where he can be comfortable!”

Though Parton is known for her glamorous sense of style, she shared that Dean appreciates her for the person she is on the inside.

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“He doesn’t care what I wear as long as I’m happy,” she said. “He loves me the way I am.”

Photo Credit: Getty / Emma McIntyre