Jill Duggar Dillard is opening up about how her family’s reality shows, “19 Kids and Counting” and its spin-off “Counting On”, nearly destroyed her marriage.
In their new memoir, Counting the Cost, Jill Duggar Dillard and Derick Dillard are sharing how they handled being a part of “TV’s favorite mega-family.”
Jill, 32, told PEOPLE that the experience of being on camera 20 hours a week quickly became a “burden” and nearly ruined their marriage.
“It caused a lot of frustration in our marriage,” she shared. “Especially early on, where (Derick) would feel a certain way about filming something. I’d be like, ‘I hear you, I feel you, I also don’t want to do whatever it is they’re asking us to do either. But we have to.'”
After the couple married in 2014, they didn’t want to be a part of the series, but Jill felt a lot of pressure to comply with the demands of her family and the show’s producers.
She felt compelled based on erroneous teaching she had been subjected to as a child. While the Bible teaches that married couples should “leave and cleave” – “leave” your family of origin and “cleave” to your spouse instead – her extended family had some conflicting beliefs.
“No matter your age, you are to obey your parent’s wishes and you even have to ask them for their blessing for any major moment in your life,” she was taught. “That could be buying a house, moving to a different state, where to go to school. We were dealing with this a lot when we were trying to make decisions for our family, and we were really wrestling back and forth with it.”
As CBN News reported, in a four-part series that premiered on Amazon Prime in June, Jill exposed the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and how their teachings shaped her beliefs and family dynamics
The Arkansas family relished values like traditional gender roles, discipline, and respecting parents, but the Amazon Prime series examined how the IBLP, founded by pastor Bill Gothard, was off-base and a contributing factor to the family’s theological imbalances and scandals.
Jill claims those teachings shaped her relationship with her father and that trickled down into her marriage – often creating tension with her husband.
“Whenever we were at odds with what her dad thought we should be doing with filming, he would say things that would be very damaging,” Derick told PEOPLE. “He would weaponize the relationship and say, ‘Is this you Jill, or is this you, Derek? Are you leading your wife astray and doing things that are not supportive of marriage?’ And I think that was a red flag.”
Jill shares that she often felt forced to choose sides.
“When I saw how it was affecting our marriage, I think that was another wake-up call for me,” she explained. “It was like, okay, we need to either fight this battle together, or it’s going to rip us apart. So yeah, we had to join forces at that point.”
Although Jill is not bashing her famous family or Christianity, she wants to shine a light on what she sees as some harmful unbiblical beliefs that were taught in their community.
In a recent interview with Kirk Cameron on TBN, her sister, Jinger Duggar Vuolo, said it took years to separate the false teachings by Gothard from the truth of God’s Word.
“My parents always told us about Jesus and that salvation is a free gift of God. It’s a beautiful thing to have that foundation for life and sadly, we had this other teaching coming in from the side that was kinda confusing. So we would have good character that you could learn from this program, but at the same time the further in you got, you realized this is not all based in the Bible. So you had elements of truth mixed with error.”
For example, she shared, “We are all under the authority of God, but there was a twisted authority of what this teacher would say was authority, and you would have to be under certain umbrellas to be protected from harm. So if you moved outside the home before you are married – as a woman – then you’re directly open to Satan’s attacks.”
“So some of those fears really gripped me,” Jinger added.
Jinger went on a journey to “unravel” principles she learned and realized some of it was “not based in the Bible”.
In her new book, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear, Jinger takes readers on her journey of how she learned to embrace true freedom in Christ. The Duggars’ sixth child says she recognizes that there will be pushback from the tight-knit community that she came from but feels it is necessary to share the truth.
“I had promoted these principles for so many years and now I see them as harmful,” she explained. “Many of my friends have walked away from the faith because they were so confused about their view of who God is… they couldn’t see Him as a loving heavenly Father because they thought they were trying to do all these things to gain his favor. I felt it necessary to share this regardless of the outcome.”
Jill, the fourth of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s 19 children, shared with PEOPLE that she anticipates there will be some backlash with the release of the couple’s memoir on September 12.
“I know there will be nay-sayers, but I feel called to do this,” she said. “We really wanted to tell our story for my siblings, because some of them are going to face similar challenges, if they haven’t already, to what I’ve faced.”