I’m pretty fascinated with the Duggars. I’ve read all of Jim Bob and Michelle’s books, watched their TV show, and caught their interviews. The eldest Duggar daughters (Jill, Jessa, Jinger, and Jana) have recently released a book, which is on my ‘to read’ list.
When I recently read about the Duggars’ 7 rules of courting, I found myself not entirely disagreeing with the basic principles behind the seven rules.
Now, hear me out: On the surface, they seem old fashioned, like something Pa would have made Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder do back when they were courting, but behind the 19th century dating rules are some pretty solid ideologies — some that I think all teenagers should think about applying to their own dating lives.
Check out the rules — and my ‘modern’ take on them — below:
Rule 1: Courting is not dating; it’s “dating with a purpose.”
Before we start saying that being a teenager is too early to start thinking about marriage and commitment, think for a second back to when you had your first crush, and how you were convinced they were “the one.” Unrealistic, yes, but we’ve all done it. We’ve all been convinced (at least at one point) that you and this person would have your own happily ever after. You met in high school and were together forever, like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
No one goes through dating, even teenagers, without fantasizing that you would have a future with this person. We don’t specifically say that we’re going to go meet someone to marry, like the Duggar girls are, but to be frank: at least they’re not going to get their hearts broken because they’re not on the same page as the other person. The people they’re courting know they’re entering into the courtship with the distinct possibility that this will be a serious relationship.
Rule 2: There’s always a chaperone.
From the use of “chaperone,” I get the feeling that Jim Bob and Michelle have trust issues, either with their daughters or their suitors, BUT, Michelle claims, “There are a lot of things you can learn from not pairing off alone.”
Instead of thinking of it as a chaperone, think of it as a “group activity.” I’m all for group activities; especially for tweens whose parents don’t feel comfortable with them going on official dates, or younger teens going on their first dates. My first official date was when I was 13 — I went and saw a movie with my two best friends and each of our dates. Not only did the group situation alleviate most of the awkward tension and silences, but you can also judge your date on how well they treat your friends.
Rule 3: Brothers know best.
I’m an only child, so I really don’t have any personal experience with this, but it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to hang out with your sibling and your date occasionally. Michelle says,”The brothers can see how they treat Mom and Dad, or see whether they show the sisters respect.” I think you’re basically looking for a family member (whether that be a male or female) that you respect (that isn’t your parents) to give you a perspective on the person you’re dating. I’m sure if I was close with any family members around my age, I would want to introduce my date to them, to get their view on him.
Rule 4: Mom and Dad need to be included in all texts to the date.
Oh jeez. This further reiterates my belief that Jim Bob and Michelle have trust issues, and, personally, I would pitch a huge fit if my mom tried to read my text messages (and that includes any of them. The other day my friend and I were talking about Harry Styles, and her response to my text came through on the iPad — and my Mom was on the iPad at the time. I practically jumped over all the furniture in our living room so she didn’t accidentally read it. She still did, though, because I wasn’t quick enough.)
I’m quite torn on this. On the one hand, I would hate it if one of my parents tried to read my texts/made me include them in my texts with a guy I liked, simply because I think it’s an issue of privacy and I would be hurt that my parents didn’t trust me enough not to snoop.
On the other hand, the fact of the matter is, teens (and tweens) who are way too young are sexting, and that needs to stop.
So … I don’t know. I don’t know your child. If you think they’re too young to be in a relationship, yet they think they’re old enough to be in one? Maybe check their messages occasionally. I stress occasionally. Or ask them the kind of things they talk about with each other.
I think asking to be looped in to every single conversation is taking it a little too far. It’s all a matter of trust.
Rule 5: No kissing or hand-holding.
The specific references to kissing and hand holding is not what I’m going to focus on, because I don’t think that’s really the issue here. I think the biggest issue here, is in reference to when Michelle says ” … [Jessa and Ben are] saving the physical part [of a relationship] until marriage … so there’s no regrets.”
Michelle and Jim Bob don’t want their kids to regret doing anything physical with a person if the relationship doesn’t work out, and for that, I don’t blame them. What person doesn’t want a life in which they don’t regret a single thing?
When it comes to physicality in relationships, I’m quite conservative in my views. I went to an all-girls Christian private school for 13 years, and the result of that was when guys visited our school, we would stare at them like they were exotic animals in a zoo. We had school dances from eighth grade onwards, and at those dances, girls used to have competitions over who could make out with the most guys — I think the winning total was 28 guys (in three hours).
To me, I don’t agree with either the views of those girls at my school, or the Duggars’ view that you should wait until marriage to kiss someone. I don’t think you should wait until you get married for your first kiss, but yet … I never participated in those competitions.
Many teens these days have the sense that they need to lose their virginity to “get it over and done with.” They believe it’s not a big deal, and I think that’s where the Duggars have a good point: It is a big deal, and it’s not something you should just “get it over with.”
My point is, while I think it’s a little over-the-top to hold off on your first kiss until marriage, and not to hold each other’s hand until you’re engaged, the dedication to waiting until you find the right person to lose your virginity with is something that teens should take away. That “right” person doesn’t need to be the person you marry; it just needs to be the person you find yourself being comfortable and you feel like it’s the right time.
Rule 6: To court a Duggar girl, you have to go through Dad.
Again, the idea of a girl needing to seek her father’s permission to date a boy is sexist, and in my opinion, ridiculous. In saying that, though, the idea of introducing your parents to the person you’re dating is a good one.
I’ve never had been in the situation where my parents haven’t liked anyone I’ve dated, and I hope I never am, because it’s really important to me that my parents like who I date. But I’m not going to go to my parents and ask their permission or even their opinion on whether I should or should not go out with a particular person — and they’re not going to meet someone I don’t seriously like.
Rule 7: You can’t fail at courtship.
This rule is the simplest of all of them. It’s basically saying, either a relationship works out or it doesn’t. You tried; it didn’t work out, move on. Jim Bob says that “half of courtships don’t end in marriages,” and I definitely think this is part of the reason the girls aren’t entering into physical relationships before marriage — that way they don’t regret anything if it doesn’t work out. Relationships are about becoming vulnerable with another person, and some part of me thinks that the reason the girls are limited in how long they can contact the person they like is to limit their vulnerability, and in some ways, so it doesn’t hurt as much if it doesn’t work out.
I think this rule is the one that is easiest to agree completely to — sometimes relationships don’t work out. Sometimes you break someone’s heart, sometimes it’s mutual, and sometimes you get your heart completely and utterly broken. But you pick yourself up, you move on with life, and if you’re Taylor Swift, you write a hit song about it.
The Duggars do make a good point. A relationship not working out doesn’t mean you ‘failed’ in the relationship. It doesn’t mean that you failed as a boyfriend/ girlfriend; it simply means that you two weren’t compatible.
All in all, I think that the Duggars make some really good points. While I don’t agree with everything being said at face value, each rule has ideologies that teens should think about applying to their own dating lives. I also think that the Duggars’ courting rules have more to do with doing what they think God wants them to do, rather than doing it for themselves, and I honestly don’t agree with that. The choices a teen makes for their own dating lives needs to stem from themselves — not from what God supposedly wants them to do, not from their parents, and not from the person they’re dating.