Jon and Kate Gosselin's marriage cracked under the stress of raising eight kids and differing priorities, but fellow reality TV star — and father of 18 — Jim Bob Duggar wants people to understand there can still be happiness in a marriage no matter how many kids are around.
"One of our goals is to encourage other families and parents that their marriage can be strong even if they have kids," says Jim Bob, 44, whose wife, Michelle, 42, is pregnant with their 19th child.
The couple, who live in Tontitown, Ark., credit a few key relationship rules with keeping love in their marriage.
First priority: Making time for each other.
"We have a weekly date, even if it is just to take a walk in the park," says Jim Bob. "We will go out to lunch or dinner and talk together about the kids, upcoming events, what we have coming up."
While every couple has disagreements, he and Michelle try to look for the good in each other rather than being critical. "It is easy to think of the things that are bothering you more often than the things that are wonderful," Jim Bob says. "It's important to remember those things about your spouse and think about those things. A great rule of thumb is to say 10 nice things to every one critical thing."
Forgiveness, he says, is also essential.
"We asked an Amish couple we met who had been married 50 years what the most important thing to know about marriage was," says Jim Bob. "And, they told us, the most important thing to say is, 'I was wrong and will you please forgive me.' Each one of us tries to humble ourselves before the other and be willing to admit mistakes."
Of course, raising kids adds a separate set of challenges to a relationship. "I never had an anger problem until I had kids," Jim Bob says laughing, adding that staying level-headed is good for both the parents and the children. "Michelle has the best example of having a soft response and showing that to the kids," he says. "I ask them to point out to me if I'm losing my temper."
But as anyone who has seen the Duggars on "18 Kids and Counting"(Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on TLC) knows, their home is mostly filled with praise and encouragement for mom, dad, and all those kids.
"We have purposed to compliment our children — we do that on outward beauty and what is wonderful about them inside. And we do that with each other as well." The Duggars have written a book about their experiences with raising children, living debt free and homeschooling, "The Duggars: 20 and Counting!"