Jessa Duggar, the third daughter in the famous Duggar familiy, has entered courtship with a young man she met at church, Ben Seewald from Hot Springs, Arkansas. There is a two year difference between the two, Jessa being 20 and Ben, 18, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem.
“We are so excited for Ben and Jessa,” Jim Bob, Jessa’s father and patriarch on the show 19 KIds and Counting tells PEOPLE. “They are enjoying getting to know each other and are recommending sermons to one another.”
So what exactly is courting and how is it different from dating?
Jim Bob explains: “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.”
Michelle adds,”Courtship is not just about having fun,” she continues. “You are really considering if this person could be your life partner – you pray about it and see what happens.”
Jessa’s older brother Josh, now married with children also had a courtship that was featured on the long-running reality show. But, his first kiss with his now-wife, Anna, was saved for their wedding.
“Dad allowed them to do a side hug when they were officially courting,” Michelle, 47, explains about Josh and Anna. “Jessa and Ben have said that was the only contact they would have, when they initially greet each other, when he comes to visit for their first hello, they have a quick 30 second or less side hug and a goodbye side hug and they agreed that would be the only contact they should have.”
“They want to wait on the physical relationship until later,” she adds. “If there is an engagement that comes about, they will work together on their goals and standards for that.”
“It is sweet as a mom to watch Jessa go through this,” says Michelle. “She’s always been the organizer in our family unit and right now she is a little distracted. She and Ben are open to encourage others who may be considering relationships that you can stay morally pure and wait for the one God has for you and then on your wedding day, begin the physical aspects of your relationship.”
Ben has asked the parents, Jim Bob and Michelle to be allowed to communicate with Jessa by phone and text. He was granted permission and the family is very pleased with how things are going. “Jessa has a very steady personality,” says Michelle. “It has been interesting to watch their interactions because for her personality type, they share very similar beliefs. It has been fun to watch them and both of our phones are going off back and forth, ping, ping, ping.”
They mostly talk about scripture and theology.
Many a young man have approached Jim Bob to ask if they could begin courtship with Jessa, as well as his other older daughters, but Jim Bob says that Ben is the first to make the cut.
“He’s the first one she has shown interest in that has a spiritual focus and legitimate calling about ministry work,” he says. “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.”
Jim Bob said, “All of our family is involved in this relationship. It is an exciting time.”
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