When asked for her advice on how to keep a romance alive, Dolly Parton, 69, frequently returns to the same humorous refrain: "The secret to a long marriage is to stay gone."
And it's true that during the course of her 49-year union to Carl Dean, 73, the country music legend has spent much of the time out on the road touring — typically without her reclusive hubby, who prefers to steer clear of the spotlight. But these days, Dolly's changing her tune.
The reason? Her recent health crisis. In late September, the notoriously energetic diva was stopped suddenly in her tracks by crippling nausea and severe pains. She was admitted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., where she was diagnosed with kidney stones — a week later, she underwent surgery to have them removed.
Dolly Parton in May 2014. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Throughout the whole terrifying experience, Carl never left her side. "I don't think he rested until she was given a clean bill of health", an insider tells Closer. "As much as Carl and Dolly go their own ways, either of them would be totally lose without the other."
According to Alisa Ruby Bash, a family therapist based in Malibu, Calif., facing an ordeal like this can naturally draw a couple closer. "It's a reminder of what love and marriage is really about," says Bash. "Something that traumatizing puts everything in perspective."
To read the full story on Dolly, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!