Imagine the pressure of having 18 siblings and two eager parents overlooking your first relationship… That’s exactly what third-eldest daughter Jessa Duggar is dealing with as she is courted by a local boy.
“We are so excited for Ben and Jessa,” proud dad Jim Bob Duggar told People Magazine of 20-year-old Jessa and her suitor, 18-year-old Ben Seewald. “All of our family is involved in this relationship. It is an exciting time.”
Jessa and Ben’s relationship will also offer viewers of the upcoming season of 19 Kids and Counting their first glimpse into how Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar allow their daughters to interact with suitors — although it should come as no surprise that the prolific parents are pretty strict.
“Courting is getting to know each other in a group setting, both families spending time together and the couple setting goals together to determine if they are meant to marry,” Jim Bob explained. “With dating, a couple will often pair off alone and that sometimes leads to a more physical relationship.”
Before they were allowed to court, Ben had to earn the approval of Jim Bob.
“He’s the first one she has shown interest in that has a spiritual focus and legitimate calling about ministry work,” he said, explaining other suitors were turned away when they failed to make the cut. “When a guy is pursing your daughter, you want to check him out and see if there are any red flags and with Ben, there hasn’t been. He is very sharp. It appears like a match made in heaven.”
Based on Ben’s Facebook page, he owns a local windshield repair shop. He is also heavily involved in church, which is where he first met Jessa. Jim Bob added Jessa and Ben’s courtship involves recommending sermons to each other. They are also allowed to correspond via text, although those discussions are mostly limited to theology and scripture.
In terms of their physical relationship, Jim Bob draws a harder line than most 21st century fathers: Jessa and Ben were allowed to “side hug” when they began courting. All other displays of affection — including kissing — are reserved for marriage.
“They want to wait on the physical relationship until later,” Michelle Duggar explained. “If there is an engagement that comes about, they will work together on their goals and standards for that.”
Previously, viewers of the TLC show watched as Josh Duggar, the oldest son, courted now-wife Anna. Their whole courtship and engagement was less than one year, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if there is another Duggar wedding in the near future!
The new season of 19 Kids and Counting airs on TLC every Tuesday night at 9/8c.