There are even more people showing up at the home of the famously super-sized clan, the Duggars, these days.
Right on the heels of third daughter daughter Jessa, 20, entering a courtship with Ben Seewald, 18, of Hot Spring, Ark., second daughter, Jill, 22, is now in a courting relationship with Derick Dillard, 25, of Rogers, Ark.
“I was really impressed with his character and I was surprised how much we have the same vision and life goals,” Jill, whose family stars in TLC’s hit reality show 19 Kids & Counting, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “He’s a great guy.”
Jill, who with her sisters Jessa, Jinger and Jana, wrote the book Growing Up Duggar about relationships, got to put her thoughts and ideas about courting as opposed to dating into practice after her father, Jim Bob, introduced her (remotely) to Dillard, who was doing missionary work in Nepal.
“I had gotten an email from Derick a few years ago and gave him my phone number so he could share the work he was doing in Nepal,” Jim Bob says of his first interactions with his daughter’s new beau. “I was impressed with him as I got to know him over the years. He sounded like an amazing young man. I felt like from the beginning, they had similar personalities and goals. I thought they would hit it off.”
Several text messages and very long Skype conversations later, and Jill agreed. The couple began officially courting in November, a different process than dating that the girls explain in their book, but which has a focus on getting to know someone as a potential spouse. While courting, the couple is chaperoned when they are alone together and usually agree to limited physical contact.
“We got to know each other in the first few months pretty quickly,” Jill says. “I was in love with someone I had never met in person, but we really knew each other well.”
Derick, who now works as an accountant, has just one sibling in contrast to Jill’s 18, but says he’s been enjoying the time he’s spending in the Duggar household.
“We have a large pool of chaperones,” Derick says, laughing. “You have to come in armed with good jokes and I usually have Skittles as well. It has been such a huge blessing to get to see her a few times a week.”
Michelle, 47, and Jim Bob, 48, are parents to to Josh, 25 – who is married to Anna, 25, and have daughter Mackynzie, 4, and sons Michael, 2, and Marcus, 8 months – twins Jana and John-David, 24; Jinger; 20Joseph, 19; Josiah, 17; Joy-Anna, 16; twins Jedidiah and Jeremiah, 15; Jason, 13; James, 12; Justin, 11; Jackson, 9; Johanna, 8; Jennifer, 6; Jordyn, 5, and Josie, 4, who was born prematurely.
See an exclusive sneak peek below of the new season of TLC’s 19 Kids & Counting, premiering April 1 (9 p.m. ET) on TLC, which will feature both Jill and Jessa’s courtship experiences.
“This is such a precious season of life,” says Michelle. “I realize at the same time we are so thrilled we realize they are eventually going to be gone and start their own homes. We are cherishing this time together.”