The Duggars Have (At Least!) 5 Rules for Relationships
The 19 Kids & Counting family talks to PEOPLE about love and marriage
Jessa Duggar followed her family’s advice on how to find the perfect mate and, for her, it worked! She got engaged to Ben Seewald on Thursday.
But as fans of TLC’s hit reality show 19 Kids & Counting – whose new season launches Sept. 2 at 9 p.m. – know, the family’s views of love and relationships go far beyond their courtship rules of no hand-holding until engagement, and no kissing until marriage.
The Duggar Rules of Relationships also cover how to “court,” not “date,” what to ask a prospective suitor before you start courting and how to keep an existing marriage healthy.
Rule 1. Set Boundaries
“Dating with a purposeful mind-set is really such a contrast from what we are used to seeing in our world,” the family matriarch, Michelle, told PEOPLE. “Emotions get heated the closer you get. You’re like two magnets being pulled together,” she added. “You need boundaries.”
“What is so great is to set boundaries together at the beginning of a relationship and tell others, so it sets up accountability,” she said.
Rule 2. Court, Don’t Date
The Duggars don’t “date,” they “court,” according to Josh, 26, who married wife Anna in 2008. “Dating means you’re shopping around,” he said. “A courtship is the path toward marriage.”
For dad Jim Bob, “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. With dating, a couple will often pair off alone and that sometimes leads to a more physical relationship.”
“We want to get acquainted with a young man in a normal family setting, where we’ll be watching how he treats our brothers and sisters,” the Duggars write in their new book. “We want to see how he reacts to normal family events, such as Josie accidentally spilling her milk in his lap, Jackson unintentionally ruining his board game or Joseph trouncing him in a basketball match.”
Rule 3. Save the Physical Relationship for Marriage
Jill, 23, who married Derick Dillard in June, was happy to reserve her first kiss for the altar. “We want to save the physical side of our relationship for our wedding day and not go further than we should. If you are kissing, it gets more intimate.”
“Obviously, you can kiss and not have sex,” Jill said. “It’s about setting a higher standard so you don’t struggle [with temptation].”
Rule 4. Ask (Lots of) Questions
Before Derick and Jill began their courtship, she wrote a three-page list of questions for him, including no-nonsense queries about his faith, how many kids he wanted, and his drinking and smoking habits. “It was an interrogation,” Jill said of their five-hour Skype conversation. “I didn’t want to not have the guts to ask the tough questions.”
Rule 5. Have a Weekly Date
And as for their own relationship, Jim Bob says he and Michelle have a weekly date. “We will go out to lunch or dinner and talk together about the kids, upcoming events, what we have coming up.”
“It is easy to think of the things that are bothering you more often than the things that are wonderful,” Jim Bob says. “It’s important to remember those things about your spouse and think about those things. A great rule of thumb is to say 10 nice things to every one critical thing.”
And the newest suitor to the family – Ben Seewald – seems to understand their rules of engagement.
“The Duggar family gets asked a lot of questions,” Seewald told PEOPLE. “A lot of times we take it as a lesson, and we ask other people who are older and wiser than us to share wisdom with us about relationships. It’s an important thing.”