Recently, rumors have floated about a Duggar divorce in the works. Michelle and Jim Bob are said to be at odds over how to handle Josh Duggar’s return from the religious rehab program in which he was enrolled after his name turned up on a site devoted to extramarital affairs. That’s not all — Duggar daughter Jessa and husband Ben Seewald are said to be having difficulties too. Then, of course, there’s Anna Duggar, who has been encouraged to leave Josh.
Can the Duggars divorce, though, if their marital problems become insurmountable?
According to Jezebel, there are reports of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar contemplating divorce, with sources close to the family saying there are fights over Josh’s return home. The tale is that Michelle wants to be cautious about bringing the prodigal son back into the fold, especially with some family members uncomfortable having him around children, but Jim Bob is ready to forgive and forget fully.
Meanwhile, Jessa and Ben are reportedly struggling with what could be nothing more than new parents working through the changes a baby brings to their relationship, or something more serious. EnStarz reports that an unnamed source says Ben is having a hard time adjusting to the amount of Jessa’s time and attention baby Spurgeon takes from him. Indeed, he appears to hint at the same in the clip below from Jill and Jessa: Counting On, where he talks about having to make a greater effort to spend time with his wife.
Of course, the Duggar family isn’t exactly small, and there are sure to be plenty of babysitters when the couple want alone time.
Then, of course, there’s Josh Duggar and wife Anna. After Josh admitted to being unfaithful to his wife, Duck Dynasty stars Jase and Missy Roberts, who, like the Duggar family, are known for their conservative Christianity, spoke out to assure Anna that, biblically speaking, she had the right to a divorce.
Actually, it’s Josh and Anna Duggar who give the clearest hint about whether any of the couples are likely to divorce. In one Counting On clip, Anna talks about deciding not to do anything drastic after Josh admitted his misdeed, saying that she could have “turn[ed] a mess into a disaster” if she had made decisions based on her feelings rather than her faith.
If Anna stayed with Josh despite numerous scandals, and through infidelity, because of her faith, and that faith conflicted with her feelings, what exactly does the Duggar family’s faith say about divorce?
According to Talking Points Memo, Jim Bob Duggar attached his family to Bill Gothard, then the leader of IBLP (Institute of Basic Life Principles) and ATI (Advanced Training Institute) in 1992, and have been firm followers ever since. Gothard resigned from the board of IBLP amidst his own scandal, with allegations that he had sexually assaulted a number of women. However, even as other reality stars who were connected to the ministry have denounced it, the Duggar family has remained silent, and apparently attached to Gothard’s teachings of female modesty, submission to a male headship, and sexual purity.
So, what does this ministry, that the Duggar family follows so sincerely that courting couples aren’t even allowed to kiss or “front hug” until after marriage, have to say about divorce?
In one testimony on IBLP’s website, titled “Can A Hopeless Marriage Be Restored,” a tale is shared of a wife who was giving up on reconciling her marital problems. She details all the ways she fought to save her marriage, while her husband would not join her in counseling, or answer to either compromises or ultimatums. At last, however, through counsel, the wife is advised to confess her own sins, and to fast and pray. Sure enough, her husband came around.
The lesson here, IBLP explains, is that Christ commands couples to be reconciled.
In another piece of advice, IBLP answers a woman who wonders who her authority figure is if she is divorced.
The response includes the following,
“If you are divorced and your former spouse is not remarried and it is appropriate, take whatever steps you can to rebuild your relationship. Invite God to work through your marriage to build Christ’s character in your life.”
In an ATI curriculum document (PDF), sections on divorce and marriage include the purported link between divorce and cancer, verses declaring marriage vows to be lifelong, and discussion of divorce laws as “unscriptural and unconstitutional.”
It quickly becomes clear that IBLP and ATI preach firmly against divorce in most, if not all, cases.
Then there’s Michelle Duggar’s own advice on marital issues. She advised on her blog, for instance, that a woman must be sexually available to her husband at all times, despite her own feelings, and has spoken repeatedly of a wife’s duty of submission to her husband. As for divorce and remarriage, in the video below, the Duggar matriarch explains that even premarital dating isn’t allowed, lest one give away heart pieces or make a soul commitment to one individual who doesn’t turn out to be “the one” God has chosen. From that perspective, remarrying would involve going into a new relationship after giving away heart pieces and a major soul commitment to another individual.
So, is it likely that a Duggar divorce is really coming? Well, if so, they would hardly be the first people to deviate from their beliefs, change their minds, or make a mistake. However, it’s clear that a Duggar divorce would require a pretty hefty skew away from what they’ve preached for years.
[Image via TLC]