In their TLC show, "19 Kids & Counting," which premieres tonight, the Duggars have allowed their fans to see what life is like in such a big family. And now, one of the Duggar children has begun an exciting new chapter: courting. Jessa Duggar, 20, the fifth child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, has begun a courtship with Ben Seewald, 18, according to People magazine.
"Jessa has a very steady personality," Michelle, 47, told the magazine. "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."
But what is courting? According to Jim Bob, 48, it's not the same as dating. "Courting is getting to know each other in a group setting," he said. "With dating, a couple will often pair off alone, and that sometimes leads to a more physical relationship."
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Jessa is saving her first kiss for marriage, so PDA -- public display of affection -- in the traditional sense is out for the new couple. "Dad allowed them to do a side hug when they were officially courting," Michelle told the magazine. "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."
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Jessa and Ben met in church, so understandably, much of their correspondence centers on theology and Scripture. "They're enjoying getting to know each other and are recommending sermons to one another," Jim Bob said. He would know: Jessa's parents monitor their conversations, although they support the burgeoning relationship. "He's the first one she has shown interest in that has a spiritual focus and legitimate calling about ministry work," the patriarch said. "When a guy is pursuing 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."
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Jim Bob said that courting involves "both families spending time together and the couple setting goals together to determine if they are meant to marry. ... All of our family is involved in this relationship. It is an exciting time." That's a lot of people: In addition to Jessa, Jim Bob and Michelle are parents to Joshua, 25, (who just welcomed his third child with his wife Anna) twins Jana and John-David, 23; Jill, 22; Jinger, 19; Joseph, 18; Josiah, 17; Joy-Anna, 15; twins Jedidiah and Jeremiah, 14; Jason, 13; James, 12; Justin, 11; Jackson, 9; Johanna, 7; Jennifer, 6; and Jordyn, 4, and Josie, 3. "It is sweet as a mom to watch Jessa go through this," said 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."