The Duggars' Rigid Rules for Sex and Marriage Have Always Been 'About Setting a Higher Standard'

A look at what the Duggar family considers appropriate in terms of affection and intimacy

It’s dating, Duggar-style!

When members of TLC’s famous family begin to navigate love and marriage, there are plenty of strict dating and marriage rules that Jim Bob and Michelle expect all of their kids to follow. Here’s a rundown.

Courting: Chaperones are required on get-togethers, and only side hugs are allowed.
The Duggars don’t “date,” they “court,” oldest brother Josh told PEOPLE in 2014. “A courtship is a path toward marriage.” During the courtship period, possible mates spend time together with family members there to supervise, never alone.

As for the physical parameters, “Emotions get heated the closer you get,” Michelle told PEOPLE at the time. “You’re like two magnets being pulled together. You need boundaries.”

Of course, the Duggars and their spouses-to-be are “only human” as Joy-Anna Duggar‘s husband Austin Forsyth admitted on Counting On. “Sometimes we don’t always abide perfectly by our rules,” he acknowledged after they were filmed accidentally sharing a brief full embrace after Joy accepted his proposal. “We try. That was a real hard try.”

Engagement: Hand holding is permitted.
After Derick Dillard popped the question to Jill Duggar in 2014, the two were excited to move to the next phase of their relationship. “We’ve been holding hands ever since,” Derick told PEOPLE at the time. Though, Jessa Duggar and then-boyfriend Ben Seewald were waiting for that level of intimacy. Said Jessa at the time: “We want something to look forward to.”

Wedding Day: Kissing? They do!
“We want to save the physical side of our relationship for our wedding day and not go further than we should,” Jill told PEOPLE during her engagement. The Duggar parents encourage each couple to set their own parameters, though “it’s hard sometimes,” Jessa admitted. “I won’t say there isn’t a desire to kiss my man.” But as Jill put it, “Obviously, you can kiss and not have sex. It’s about setting a higher standard so you don’t struggle [with temptation].”

RELATED VIDEO: Joy-Anna & Austin Forsyth Reveal They Broke a Key Duggar Courtship Rule: “We’re [Only] Human

Wedding Night: The magic happens, and kids are soon to follow.
The Duggars are finally free to consummate their relationships after their wedding. “We want a big family,” Jill told PEOPLE of her and Derick’s family plans. Both she and her sister Jessa became pregnant within a few months of their wedding dates.

Marriage: The woman must submit to her husband freely.
The Duggar family prescribes to what is considered to be traditional gender roles laid out by their Christian faith. Moreso when it comes to sex: “There will be times you’re going to be very exhausted. Your hubby comes home after a hard day’s work, you get the baby to bed, and he is going to be looking forward to that time with you,” Michelle said on Today. “Anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls.”

Sex: Have it often.

Jill stressed the importance of maintaining intimacy in order to not let “fire in your marriage” die. In a blog post on the family website, she wrote that it’s imperative to have sex often because “you both need this time together regularly (3-4 times a week is a good start).” Acknowledging that kids and outside stressors such as work can impact a couple’s intimacy, Jill says it’s on the wife to keep things exciting in the bedroom. “You need to be intentional, proactive and work hard to keep the fire going,” she wrote. She also suggested getting “new lingerie (online is an easy way to buy!) as a surprise gift for birthdays, holidays, vacations or whenever.”

Divorce: Not. An. Option.
As a source close to the family told PEOPLE in the midst of scandal regarding Josh and his wife, Anna: “Divorce is not even something that will be discussed. [Anna] is fully and permanently committed to her marriage and her children. And she’ll have the support of Jim Bob and Michelle and everyone else in their circle in terms of staying with him and making this work.”

Counting On airs Mondays (9 p.m. ET) on TLC.

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