Jessa Duggar, the 20-year-old daughter of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, is dating fellow churchgoer Ben Seewald, 18.

Jessa’s new boyfriend, her first, had to pass through Jim Bob’s evaluation. It was important to the Duggar patriarch that the young man after his daughter’s heart was duly spiritual and inclined towards ministry work. He believes that Seewald, unlike Jessa’s past wannabe suitors, fit the bill with his intelligence and religious devotion.

“When a guy is pursuing your daughter, you want to check him out and see if there are any red flags. With Ben, there hasn’t been,” Jim Bob told People. “It appears like a match made in heaven.”

Although they’ve been given permission to court one another, they’re strongly discouraged from so much as kissing, as the strict Christian family believes that kissing should wait until after marriage. “Dad allowed them to do a side hug when they were officially courting,” Duggar mom Michelle, revealed. “They agreed that would be the only contact they should have.”

The Duggars also believe that every serious courtship’s goal is meant for the involved parties to figure out if they’d be good partners in marriage. Conversation, not physical interaction, is front and center in Jessa and Seewald’s relationship. They were granted permission to text, provided the messages are a part of a group chat in which the Duggars are also included. “They are enjoying getting to know each other and are recommending sermons to one another,” said Jim Bob.

"It has been interesting to watch their interactions because for her personality type, they share very similar beliefs,” Michelle added. “It has been fun to watch them and both of our phones are going off back and forth, ping, ping, ping."

"Courtship is not just about having fun," she continued. "You are really considering if this person could be your life partner – you pray about it and see what happens."

Jessa, like her 25-year-old brother Joshua, plans to save her first kiss until marriage. Joshua married his wife Anna in 2008. Together, the wedded 25-year-olds have three children – Mackynzie, 3, Michael, 2, and Marcus, 3 months.

New episodes of 19 Kids & Counting air Tuesdays on TLC at 9/8c.

– Chelsea Regan

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