What is a courtship? Justin Duggar of 'Counting On' reveals relationship with Claire Spivey

Priscilla Blossom
·4 min read
The Duggar family. (Photo: TLC)
The Duggar family. (Photo: TLC)

Fans of TLC’s Counting On are about to get a front-row seat into a brand new courtship between 17-year-old Justin Duggar and family friend Claire Spivey. But getting to know someone you like, or even falling in love, aren’t exactly typical experiences for the Duggar clan. That’s because the reality stars are Independent Baptist Christians and as such, follow a certain set of rules so as to adhere to their faith, including opting to court versus simply date.

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What’s the difference between courting and dating?

So what exactly is a courtship? Merriam-Webster defines courting as, among other things, to seek the affection of another, especially as it pertains to marriage. For the Duggars, it’s dating, with the goal of eventually marrying the individual. But there’s more to it than that. There are stricter rules around how you court when you’re a member of the clan.

To begin, the Duggar parents must approve of the individual that is courting or being courted by one of their own children. For young Justin, the 14th child of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, this likely will not be a problem seeing as the Duggars have been friends with the Spivey family for roughly two decades now. While not much more has been revealed about Spivey, the announcement mentions that she enjoys reading the Bible and praying with Justin, which seem like the types of interests the Duggars would want in a potential daughter-in-law.

The Duggar family follows 7 rules of courtship

Additionally, all interactions between the couple must be chaperoned. This is rule two in the Duggar family’s ‘7 rules of courtship’ and essentially means that all Duggar children must have others present while in the company of their sweetheart. While most teenagers in the 2020s would likely balk at the idea of having mom, dad, sister, brother, uncle, aunt or anyone else hanging around on a date, not too long ago having a chaperone was the standard in dating and courtship.

Considering the size of the Duggar clan, it’s likely not too difficult to find someone available to supervise with a Duggar boy generally present during the dates that their sisters go on. But as this is Justin we’re talking about, it’s quite possible one of Spivey’s siblings will be a more apt chaperone (Spivey is the eldest of six kids in her family).

One of the reasons for chaperones, of course, is to make sure the Duggar children are maintaining social distance — though not in the coronavirus sense of the phrase. Long before COVID-19 made dating a more complex issue in the world, the Duggars were asking their kids to keep their hands off their potential future spouses. That means no hand holding, no kissing, and not even regular hugs. The only thing allowed? Side-hugs. “We believe it’s best for them to save the physical part for marriage,” matriarch Michelle told TODAY in an interview back in 2014, and it seems the rules still haven’t budged.

Communication is key (and public)

And if you thought that was rough, overall there isn’t much of a semblance of privacy for Duggar kids on the prowl. In the same TODAY interview, the Duggars shared that both Michelle and Jim Bob are to always be included in text messages. The only way Justin might be able to share a private moment with Claire is on a private call (kept to one hour daily max). That said, if these are landline calls there’s always the chance someone could pick up the phone in another room—but we’re only speculating.

Of course, not every Duggar child has always fully adhered to every rule and regulation set forth by their conservative parents. In 2017, Joy-Anna Duggar’s now-husband Austin Forsyth admitted that the pair stayed out past curfew on a few occasions and that they even hugged a bit longer than allowed at least once. Considering the number of regulations their courtships are subject to, however, it’s surprising we haven’t heard of more instances of Duggar children crossing the line.

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