‘Counting On’: What Happens When a Duggar Cheats?

No one wants to think about their partner cheating on them, but infidelity is not nearly as uncommon as we’d like to think. According to Psychology Today, it’s difficult to pinpoint just how many men and women cheat each year because researchers have to rely on self-reporting. It is believed that anywhere between 10% and 20% of partners cheat on their spouse at some point. In most mainstream cultures, there are several options when faced with an unfaithful spouse, but for people like the Duggar family, infidelity is a bit of a stickier subject. Dealing with it is even more complicated. So, what happens when a Duggar family member cheats?

Josh Duggar admitted to having extramarital affairs

Josh Duggar, the oldest of the Duggar boys publicly admitted to cheating on his wife, but not until he was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Josh’s wandering ways were uncovered during the Ashley Madison account breach scandal. While he’s the only Duggar who has ever been forced to admit to cheating, it’s possible it is not all that uncommon in the community. 

Josh and Anna Duggar
Anna Duggar and Josh Duggar | Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images

Fans have long suspected Derick Dillard of stepping out on his wife and the mother of his two children. He shared a bible passage via social media that seemed to point to potential infidelity, but there is no concrete evidence to link his social media post to actual activity outside of his marriage. 

Is divorce an option?

In the face of infidelity, many mainstream couples may make the decision to divorce. Whether they can no longer stomach each other after an affair is uncovered, or they simply feel it’s best to go their separate ways, divorce is an option. That’s not exactly the case for the Duggar kids, though. 

Both Jessa Duggar and Jill Duggar have covenant marriages. According to Starcasm, a covenant marriage holds a couple to a higher level of commitment than a traditional marriage certificate. While only three states in the United States offer covenant marriages, it essentially ties the couple together for longer if they choose to go their separate ways. 

A couple with a covenant marriage must prove infidelity, the commission of a serious crime or physical abuse to get out of the marriage. Once they’ve proven one of the three reasons allowed, they must wait at least two years before a divorce is granted. The wait time is longer if the couple has minor children. They must also submit to counseling before a divorce is granted. 

Anna could have chosen to divorce her cheating partner, but she did not. While it’s technically “allowed” as any person wishing to leave a marriage is legally able to do so, it’s mostly frowned upon in the community. Walking away could lead to alienation from the only support system that many people raised in the ultra-conservative Christian sect has ever known.  

Faith-based counseling and victim-blaming 

Anna and Josh weathered a pretty public storm as a united front, but the way they handled it in the privacy of their own home is anyone’s guess. What we do know is that Josh was sent off to deal with his addiction to pornography and sex at a faith-based rehabilitation center in Illinois.

While Josh was away getting treatment for his problems, Anna was carted back to the Duggar compound to live among her in-laws. She had only recently given birth to her fourth child, so surely, the help was needed, but her follow-up interview left many fans concerned about how the family dealt with the aftermath. 

In several interviews, it appears as though Anna blamed herself for Josh’s wandering eye. Reddit fans strongly suspect the rest of the Duggar family helped cultivate that feeling, too. Victim-blaming appears to be common in the family’s culture, and many fans believe it could put the young Duggar ladies in a vulnerable position. 

It is not known how the Duggar clan would deal with one of their daughters being cheated on because it hasn’t happened, that we know of. While fans have questioned Derick Dillard’s fidelity, there is nothing concrete to suggest he’s stepped out on his wife, Jill Dillard.