The Truth About John David And Abbie Duggar's Marriage

We first met John David Duggar as a perfectly coiffed, polo-wearing 13-year-old on the 2004 TV special "14 Children and Pregnant Again!" Unlike their younger siblings, John David and his twin sister, Jana Duggar, didn't jump right on the marriage train as soon as they reached adulthood — as of this writing, Jana is in her thirties and is still the oldest unmarried Duggar sibling. Instead, the twins lived the single life for much of their twenties.

John David was 28 when he began courting Abbie Burnett of Ada, Oklahoma, and they were wed before he celebrated his 29th birthday. While that may seem like a perfectly normal age to meet your future wife, it's nearly ancient by Duggar standards — John David's extended singledom even had him joking about being a "bachelor 'till the rapture," per TLC. Fans rejoiced when he announced his courtship to the down-to-earth nurse from Oklahoma, and their relationship has quickly become a favorite topic of discussion among members of the DuggarsSnark subreddit and other forums. But TV doesn't always tell the whole story; when the cameras are off, what are Abbie and John David really like?

They met when the Duggars spoke at Abbie's church

Although John David and Abbie Duggar knew each other for a long time — they're both from the same circle of large evangelical families, after all — they didn't make a love connection until 2018 when John David's parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, were invited to speak at the Ada First Baptist Church in Ada, Oklahoma. John David had flown in for the event. In a TLC video (via People), John David said that he and Abbie "fell in love very quickly."

As they explained on "Counting On," Abbie and John David chose to forgo some of the typical Duggar courtship rules — which include no front-hugs or unsupervised dates — in favor of establishing their own set of relationship guidelines. They decided that it was okay to take a more relaxed approach to courting due to their advanced ages, as 26 is practically ancient in the world of Duggar love and marriage. Don't be too scandalized, though — the couple maintained the family tradition of not kissing before their wedding ceremony, which featured the kind of skin-crawlingly awkward kiss that takes the age-old term "sucking face" to a whole new level.

John David and Abbie Duggar got engaged pretty much immediately

If you followed John David Duggar's journey to the altar, perhaps you got the impression that although he took courtship seriously, he wasn't interested in doing it forever. He made it pretty clear to Abbie Burnett that he wanted to skip straight to kissing the bride rather than drag their minimal-touching courtship on for too much longer than it takes to throw on a white dress and say "I do." Mere weeks after his courtship announcement, John David got down on one knee inside an airplane hangar — a spot fitting for a man obsessed with his aircraft — and asked Abbie to marry him.

Although the two concepts may look similar to viewers of "Counting On," John David and Abbie maintain that engagement is very different from courtship. John David explained in a TLC video (via People), "A courtship is more of a I'm getting to know this person with the idea of the possibility of marriage," whereas an engagement is "actually that commitment towards marriage." For most Duggars, courting and getting engaged have the same end result. However, in a rare move, Josiah Duggar and Marjorie Jackson broke off their courtship in 2015 before he popped the question, per People.

They're two peas in a pod

We've watched a lot of Duggar relationships blossom throughout the years, and most of the family's numerous courtships and marriages seem to happen at a breakneck pace. However, Abbie and John David got hitched even quicker than the other Duggar siblings — so why do they seem to have the best relationship of the bunch?

Even comment boards dedicated to slamming the family find it hard to dislike John David and Abbie, citing their endearing "weirdness" and obvious "chemistry" as proof that their relationship seems more authentic than those of some of the other siblings. On the DuggarsSnark subreddit, one commenter wrote that they think the couple is so "weird" because they're "the only two [Duggars] who were genuinely made for each other." The couple appears to be happy when the TLC cameras aren't rolling, too — a look at their Instagram page shows post after post featuring genuine smiles and fun family outings.

Abbie Duggar has interests outside of the home

Both John David and Abbie Duggar were raised in large evangelical Christian families organized along strict traditional gender lines. We didn't watch Abbie and her siblings grow up on television like the Duggars did, but the now-defunct family blog 10Burnetts gives us a pretty good idea of the kind of upbringing Abbie had. According to the blog, she and her seven siblings were homeschooled, so her mother seemingly eschewed prospects of a career outside of the home to work as a full-time housewife, just like Michelle Duggar.

While Abbie doesn't appear to be working outside of the home as of this writing, she has something most of the other Duggar women don't — a degree. A diploma certainly isn't necessary to prove intelligence, but Abbie's nursing degree from Pontotoc Technology Center (per The Ada News) does open up a lot of doors outside of the traditional housewife path her mother and mother-in-law have chosen. She's even entertained the notion of someday returning to work — in 2019, she told Us Weekly that she plans to keep her nursing license and that she and John David have "talked about looking at some options of [Abbie] getting a job." It's far from a clear answer, but it's also a far cry from saying that she wants to be a housewife forever.  

John David Duggar is a pilot

It's certainly not unprecedented for Duggar men to work outside of the home — rather, it's expected of them to be the breadwinners of the family while their wives take care of the housework and the child-rearing. But unlike his father, brothers, and brothers-in-law, John David Duggar's interests extend beyond real estate or contracting. The Duggar Family Fan Blog reported in 2012 that John David had earned his pilot's license, a move that family members Jeremiah Duggar, Josiah Duggar, and Austin Forsyth have copied, according to The U.S. Sun. For years, John David has shuttled family members around in the fleet of small aircraft purchased by his father.

After moving in with Abbie, John David was once again the sole pilot in the house — but not for long, according to The U.S. Sun. In August 2020, Abbie Duggar earned her student pilot certificate. However, she couldn't legally carry passengers at the time. Abbie and John David never shared the exciting news on social media, nor did they ever update fans on Abbie's future flight aspirations — could it be because, as The U.S. Sun claims, Abbie's accomplishment is forbidden by patriarch Jim Bob Duggar's strict rules?

They're both used to publicity

The Duggars have gained fame — or infamy, depending on who you ask — for their enormous family. For matriarch Michelle Duggar, having children isn't just a hobby — it's a mandate. She and Jim Bob Duggar are followers of the Quiverfull movement, an evangelical Christian crusade popularized by churches such as the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP), an institute with which both the Duggar and Burnett families are involved. A 2013 schedule for an IBLP event even listed Abbie Burnett as a musical performer. 

When you get down to it, the goal of the Quiverfull movement is for its adherents to out-populate those who don't share their religious views by having as many children as possible, per Patheos. Many of these fundamentalist evangelical Christian families — including the TV-famous Duggars and Bateses — try as hard as possible to gain a platform or following outside of their immediate social circle in order to evangelize to others. As a result, blogs like 10Burnetts, which portrays the everyday antics of Abbie's family and features several posts by Abbie herself, are a dime a dozen. While Abbie didn't grow up in front of TLC's ever-present cameras, she was likely raised with an understanding that publicity isn't just the goal — it's the expectation.

Sibling time is important to the couple

When you grow up in a family as large as John David Duggar's, it's statistically impossible to not develop a close relationship with at least one of your siblings. Over the years, we've learned that John David is less outspoken than some of his siblings, like no-filter tomboy Joy-Anna Forsyth (née Duggar) or sassy prankster Josiah Duggar. Instead, he has earned a reputation as a go-with-the-flow guy who gets along with pretty much all of his siblings, particularly twin Jana Duggar. Jana appears to return the sentiment, writing in an Instagram post that she "couldn't have asked for a better twin to go through life with."

Luckily for John David, there's no sister-in-law drama here. From the get-go, Abbie fit right in with John David's sisters, particularly Jana. Both Jana and Abbie are low-key older siblings who understand what it's like to be the last man standing — in a September 2020 "Counting On" confessional, Abbie shared that she, too, was the oldest unmarried sibling in her family before meeting John David. She told fans that she knew what it was like to be "left up at the top, just plugging away at life" while other siblings flew the coop, per InTouch. Their friendship at least gives Jana the chance to get out of the house — after raising her siblings, babysitting one baby probably seems like a well-earned break.

Abbie Duggar cuts her husband's hair to save money

Like many supersized families, the Duggars use just about every frugality measure in the book. For them, cutting costs means cutting hair — trips to the salon add up when you multiply the cost by 19! In earlier specials, we even saw the girls perfecting their at-home perms, which made us exceedingly grateful that televisions can't transmit smells. While newer seasons of "Counting On" show the Duggar women getting their hair cut by professionalsJinger even appears to be a regular visitor to the salon – the men still seem to think that the at-home choir boy haircuts they've had for the past twenty years work just fine.

Apparently, Abbie Duggar's childhood chores didn't include playing cosmetologist like the rest of the Duggar women. In the early days of her marriage, Abbie shared a photo on Instagram of her first attempt at cutting John David's hair while one of her sisters-in-law, Jessa Seewald (née Duggar), looked on with a face of either disapproval or indigestion. If we say so ourselves, the cut turned out quite nicely — however, with the direction John David's hairline is going, Abbie may not have to worry about this particular duty too much longer.

John David Duggar paints his wife's nails

On an episode of "19 Kids and Counting," viewers learned just how important "manliness" is to the Duggars when Michelle Duggar was spotted holding a flyer warning wives that they can "destroy" it, per Patheos. So fans expect to see her sons participating in activities the family might consider manly, like playing football and operating heavy machinery. However, John David bucked the trend of adhering to pre-defined gender roles by adding something unexpected to his honey do list: giving his wife a manicure.

"I'd rather be the one spending time with my wife versus paying someone else to spend time with her," quipped John David on "Counting On" as he prepared to buff and polish Abbie Duggar's nails. It's a sweet gesture, and Abbie must not find John David's lacquer skills lacking since she's put the fate of her cuticles in his hands "quite often," per John David. He even has opinions about her manicures, saying that "French tips are more romantic-looking." As for Abbie, she praised her husband for "perfecting" his work and "getting better and better each time" he does her nails. 

They live below their means

According to Duggar Data, John David and Abbie Duggar live in a single-wide trailer parked on land owned by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar in Springdale, Arkansas. It's not clear exactly how much John David and Abbie are worth, but Celebrity Net Worth puts the number around $500,000. Even if their real worth is much lower than that, the couple has several sources of income, including proceeds from "Counting On" and John David's towing company, per "A Love That Multiplies," and they appear to be doing just fine.

No word on why the couple chooses to stay in the trailer, but it's a stark difference from the living situations of some of the other Duggar children. Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard, for example, own a four-bedroom Arkansas home, according to the Dillard Family Blog. And although they aren't homeowners, Jinger Duggar and Jeremy Vuolo live in a Los Angeles residence worth around $700,000, per Radar. Perhaps Abbie and John David will move to a larger — and less mobile — place down the road, but it seems like they're perfectly happy in their single-wide as of this writing.

Abbie and John David Duggar love being parents

Abbie and John David Duggar saw their lives change forever in January 2020 when Abbie gave birth to daughter Grace Annette Duggar after a 36-hour labor, per Daily Mail. The birth came after a long and difficult pregnancy, during which Abbie suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum — a condition that causes debilitating nausea — and ended up in the emergency room, according to Us Weekly. Bucking the Duggar tradition of filming all of life's bloody, intimate moments, Abbie and John David kept TLC's cameras out of the delivery room. They still starred in a birth special, however, and they filmed their own footage at the hospital after Grace arrived.

Despite a tumultuous beginning to their life as parents, Abbie and John David seem to be enjoying the experience — and relative peace and quiet — of raising just one child at a time. Their shared Instagram is jam-packed with photos of cozy family outings, including weekend air shows, trips to the beach, and berry-picking adventures. There's been no news of a second baby as of this writing — perhaps there are enough nieces, nephews, and siblings between them to tamper down the baby fever.

They aren't social media-crazy

Unlike some of the other Duggar couples, Abbie and John David Duggar don't appear to be too concerned with their social media stats. In fact, John David didn't even have a public Instagram page before he began courting his future wife, per Romper. His first was a joint account with Abbie, and it isn't an endless barrage of baby pics and lasagna recipes. Instead, the couple shares just a few pics a month of their extended family, air shows, and their daughter, Grace Duggar.

Compare that to the accounts of, say, Jessa Seewald (née Duggar) or Jinger Vuolo (née Duggar), who appear to have fully launched themselves into the influencer lifestyle, complete with promotional posts for smart vacuums and children's clothing. Abbie's frequent posts — 56 of them, to be exact — on her family's defunct 10Burnetts blog shows us she's not afraid of sharing her life with the world. So by eschewing social media, she and John David appear to be making a conscious effort to minimize their exposure to the public eye. Can't say we blame them — for a couple of shy homebodies, the constant expectation to share intimate details with the camera was probably more than enough.

John David and Abbie Duggar were raised with fundamentalist beliefs

Abbie and John David Duggar's hesitancy to share more information about their home lives is particularly odd considering that they both came from families known for publicizing their association with their religion. Both Abbie and John David grew up in the Institute for Basic Life Principles, or IBLP. IBLP is an extreme subsect of conservative evangelical Christianity that prescribes strict — and some would say regressive — guidelines for its followers. An exposé published by Chicago claims that IBLP adherents are encouraged to homeschool their children using a series of pamphlets produced by the church, in which every school subject is integrated with passages from the Bible and subjects are explained "through the prism of male superiority and female obedience." For IBLP followers, women exist to serve the needs of men and children, and are "discouraged from attaining higher education of any kind."

Some might find IBLP teachings rather questionable — according to the organization, Cabbage Patch Kids are symbols of evil, jeans are "ungodly," and a woman's wink is "immoral." The ultimate goal of the church is to evangelize by integrating disgraced founder Bill Gothard's extremely conservative interpretation of the Bible into every aspect of public and private life.

How they're doing things differently from John David Duggar's parents

Despite their upbringing, Abbie and John David Duggar appear to be taking a less conservative approach to religion than Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. For example, Abbie went to school to get a nursing degree and worked outside of the home before she was married — something that the IBLP discourages. Abbie also frequently wears pants (a Michelle Duggar fashion don't), as evidenced by several Instagram posts. And unlike some of the other Duggar siblings, Abbie and John David don't seem to be in a rush to grow their little family.

The couple has remained mostly silent amidst the news of TLC's cancellation of "Counting On," and they left on a family trip to an air show shortly after the news broke. Perhaps they're relieved that the cameras will no longer be on them — while it doesn't seem like they're headed for a full-on rebellion against the IBLP, Abbie and John David appear to have a desire to negotiate their own relationship with their Christian faith. So as Grace Duggar grows up, fans will be watching to see just how much her upbringing differs from her parents'.