What happens if a courtship like Jessa Duggar’s fails?

Ben with his arm around Jessa.

Despite the many precautions that 19 Kids and Counting‘s Duggar Family takes to “guard their hearts” before marriage, there are differences between individuals in a relationship that can arise during a courtship that forces them to call it off.

Jessa Duggar and her suitor Ben Seewald seem to be working toward marriage — which is the ultimate goal for anyone in a courtship — and there’s no reason to think their courtship will fail. For an example of what happens when a courtship doesn’t progress, we can consider the Bates, a family similar to the Duggars in both size and ideological beliefs.

Zach Bates, the oldest son, publicly entered a courtship with a young woman named Sarah Reith in 2011.

Zach Bates and Sarah Reith Failed Courtship

It was announced on the family blog.

“Zach headed for Missouri again! While there, he got up enough courage to ask Sarah Reith to begin a courtship,” his mom said in a post titled “It’s Official” in June 2011. “She graciously agreed and we think he couldn’t have chosen a sweeter, more Godly young lady! We are absolutely thrilled for both of them and pray for God’s direction in their lives!”

The moment he asked her to court was also shown on TLC’s United Bates of America.

Zach Bates Asks Sarah Reith to Court

Then, all went mostly quiet on the courtship front until July 2012 when mom Kelly said the relationship was over.

“After prayer, Sarah decided to end the courtship several months after it began. We have not posted any updates or answered any comments about it until now, in order to give both Zach and Sarah time to heal.”

Kelly explained that “although we would love to avoid heartaches in life,” the experience was an opportunity for Zach to draw closer to God.

“Zach is grateful that he and Sarah hadn’t chosen the traditional path of dating, since it protected them from wrong goals and further pain,” she said, reminding readers the goal of courtships are to maintain purity, discover if the other person is the right life partner and honor God.

After “healing,” Zach began a second courtship with Whitney Perkins in September 2013. They married last winter and are expecting their first child in October.

Zach Bates and Whitney Bates Wedding

In the case of the Duggars, there is generally enough of a gap between when a courtship begins and is announced to let the individuals know each other before millions of people start watching their every more. For example, Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard began talking in September and courting in November, but it wasn’t announced until late March. There is also some speculation that Jana Duggar had a failed courtship that was never publicly revealed. If that was the case, it’s good to know she would be able “to heal” without the scrutiny of the public eye.

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