Now that the older Duggar siblings are getting married and having children of their own, viewers are becoming very well acquainted with all the rules the Duggars are traditionally expected to follow. The idea of courtship was first introduced years ago on 19 Kids and Counting when eldest son Josh began courting his wife, Anna, and since then, it seems all the married Duggar siblings have followed the same side-hugs-only, no kissing before marriage rules. Recently, Josiah Duggar announced his engagement to Lauren Swanson, according to People, making them the next Duggar couple to tie the knot. But Josiah Duggar's courtship rules seem more relaxed than what fans normally expect, and it seems to suggest the family's expectations might be different for sons and daughters.
The ultra-Christian reality TV family definitely takes a different approach to dating and marriage than most. For one, well, they don't actually "date" at all: in 2014, Duggar parents Jim Bob and Michelle explained that courtship is their way of "dating with a purpose" (the purpose, of course, being figuring out whether your partner is the one you want to marry and have children with), and that it involves a lot of prayer and connection with God, according to TODAY. But there are a lot of things it also doesn't involve — namely spending time alone unchaperoned, hugs that don't come from the side, and hand-holding, kissing, or any other other physical contact. Even texts and video chats need to be monitored by mom and dad.
When a Duggar couple gets engaged (usually within a few months of entering into their courtship), the rules change slightly: while kisses are still saved for marriage, full-frontal hugs are still out of the question, and chaperones are still absolutely required, according to People, couples often then decide to hold hands. It's not just an issue of physical contact though: traditionally, unmarried Duggar kids aren't allowed individual social media presences, but sometimes an engagement will also mean a new Duggar Instagram account will pop up.
Josiah announced his engagement to 18-year-old Swanson on March 5, less than three months after the couple announced their courtship, according to Us Weekly. The two were naturally super excited to share the news, as well as his romantic proposal story (he popped the question in the "exact spot where her parents were engaged," which is pretty sweet), and in photos of the newly-engaged couple, they'd clearly moved into the "hand-holding" stage of their relationship. The young couple is obviously very in love, and totally psyched at the prospect of being husband and wife, but compared to the expectations placed on his now-married sisters, it does seem like Josiah has been getting a pass on some of the stricter rules of pre-wedding Duggar romance.
For one, they seem to be pretty affectionate. On Josiah's latest Instagram post, Lauren cuddled up to her new husband-to-be with her hand on his chest, and another post seemed to show a one-on-one Facetime conversation between the two. With Josiah living in Arkansas, and Swanson based in Georgia, it makes sense that the couple would be all about video chatting, but it's surprising that they'd be allowed to have private video chats before marriage. And then there's the fact that Josiah even has an Instagram account in the first place. Although his sisters had to wait until they were at least engaged to post on the 'gram, Josiah has had his own social media accounts since May 2015.
Then there were the recent photos of the couple taken while on a family trip to New Zealand, in which they look quite cozy. Though Josiah shared his own photos from his visit to Lake Taupo with his now-fiancée, paparazzi shots of the outing appear to show them hanging out solo and snuggling up against one another, according to Radar Online (at one point, Josiah even seems to help catch Swanson as she jumped down off a tank while visiting the National Army Museum, which seems like a lot of touching for a non-married Duggar couple).
Of course, none of this is even sort of scandalous by most people's standards, and if Josiah and Swanson have decided to ease up on some of the stricter rules of Duggar dating, then more power to them. But it definitely doesn't seem like Jim Bob would have ever allowed that much closeness for Jill and her husband Derek Dillard before they were married, and Jessa and her husband Ben Seewald didn't even hold hands until after the tied the knot.
To be fair, a number of the Duggar siblings have already shown that they might be ready to chart their own course: Jinger, Jill, and Jessa seem to be more than happy to ditch their long skirts for skinny jeans, and Jill also appears to have pierced her nose. And given that Jinger and her husband, Jeremy Vuolo, were married for a whole year before announcing that they were expecting their first child, it's possible she may have even been open to using birth control (a big Duggar no-no). But there's no proof of that, and the Duggars haven't responded to requests for comment regarding the rumor.
There might be a lot about the Duggars' approach to marriage and dating that seems unnecessarily strict, but if it works for them, then so be it. But given that Josiah seems to be able to push the boundaries of his own relationship more than his sisters were ever allowed to is kind of frustrating. If Josiah is setting a precedent for a more laid back approach to courtship though, then hopefully, at the very least, it means that any of his unmarried sisters will be able to follow suit if that's what they desire.
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