This was the year Josh Duggar’s misdeeds caught up with him. He admitted to molesting multiple underage girls, including four of his sisters. His secret account on Ashley Madison, the dating website for cheaters, was exposed. He’s been accused of assaulting a porn actress during sex. Through it all, his wife, Anna Duggar, 28, has kept quiet.
Leave it to TLC to turn her year of humiliation into prime-time television. In a three-part Sunday-night miniseries called Jill & Jessa: Counting On, the network is tracking the post-scandal lives of Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald, two of Josh Duggar’s sisters and abuse victims. On this Sunday’s episode, Anna showed up to talk about how it felt to learn, alongside the rest of the country, that her husband had cheated on her. “It felt like a bad dream,” she said. But her religion kept her committed to the marriage:
I think it is such a betrayal for a spouse to go through what we’re walking through. And it was hard to realize that it was such a public thing, and so not only was it a betrayal against me, but it was also a betrayal for those who call themselves Christian because here we were as a Christian couple. Everyone was able to see us get married and to vow before God to be loyal to each other. And that loyalty was broken. So for my heart it was just like, how could this happen in our marriage? Josh was my first love, he’s my one and only. But I knew that my only hope was to cling to my faith because I know if I went off what I was feeling, I would turn a mess into a disaster.
The Duggar siblings have rallied behind Anna, who says she has no plans to file for divorce. “Anna is amazing. She displays to each one of us what it means to have unconditional love,” says Jinger Duggar in one of the series’ interviews. Joy-Anna Duggar says she’s "amazed by the strength that God has given Anna and just how she's going through all of this and having a good attitude about it all even though it's so hard and you know it hurts really bad."
The Duggars’ radical sect of patriarchal Christianity, to which Anna also subscribes, teaches that wives are meant to submit to their husbands’ command, and it doesn’t look kindly upon divorce. Anna certainly sets an example of unconditional love and the sanctity of certain marital vows (stick-to-it-iveness) at the expense of others (fidelity), but divorce wasn’t a viable option for her to begin with. The younger Duggars are witnessing the proper behavior that they’re expected to mimic if they ever end up with cheating liars for husbands.
But in the first episode of the TLC series, a few of the Duggars spoke more strongly against their brother than they have before. “Knowing now what Joshua was hiding, I feel like it wasn't right for him to let us speak our words without having the full knowledge of what he was hiding," said Dillard, who’d previously defended her brother in a Megyn Kelly interview. “One of the toughest things I ever had to tell my older brother was, 'I don't want to be like you anymore,’” said 25-year-old John David Duggar. Let’s hope the Duggar girls don’t want to be like Anna—publically shamed, blaming herself, stuck in a black hole of a marriage—either.