5 Reasons Joy-Anna Duggar And Austin Forsyth's Marriage Might Be On The Rocks

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Joy-Anna Duggar's wedding to Austin Forsyth was traditional in many ways: a church service, an emotional bride and groom, lots of friends and family in attendance. But this was no ordinary couple: Joy, of course, is one of the famous siblings of "19 Kids & Counting," and millions of people literally watched her grow from a tween into a young wife. Naturally, the wedding was captured on video and shown on "Counting On," the spinoff TLC show focusing on the married Duggar daughters.

But are Joy and Austin truly living their happily-ever-after? Though they'd known each other for years, they still married young; Joy was only 19, and Austin was 23. Their church group frowns on casual dating, so the timeline from their courtship to marriage was just six months. Most couples dating for that long aren't even thinking about a future together. Then, soon after their wedding, Joy became pregnant, leaving the Forsyths with almost no time just to enjoy being a married couple. In the six years of their marriage, they've welcomed three children, endured a devastating stillbirth of a daughter they named Annabell, moved to a new home, and seen Joy's family make headlines for reasons having nothing to do with reality TV — including the trial and prison sentence of her oldest brother, Josh.  

That's a lot for a young couple to cope with, and in recent months, followers have noticed signs of tension between them. Are these typical bumps in the marital road, or are there serious problems going on? It seems like there may be trouble in paradise.

Joy doesn't seem to be getting much support

The best marriages are a true partnership in which both spouses have each other's backs. While true equality is hard to achieve, a couple shouldn't feel that one partner is doing the bulk of the work. Could this be happening to the Forsyths? Joy's recent videos and Insta posts have seemed to show she's feeling the strain of being a mom. Austin's construction work often means coming home late or even staying overnight, leaving Joy to look after three young kids on her own. Her weekly vlog often shows her cooking, cleaning, or shuttling Gideon, Evelyn, and baby Gunner on various errands. 

In August 2022, Joy shared a brutally honest Instagram post in which she admitted to "feeling inadequate to be the mother of my two beautiful children." When she shared those relatable feelings with Austin, he dictated an inspirational message for her to write on her notes app. In part, it said, "It's not your job to create the perfect life for your kids... It is your job to be their mom ... Show up. Be firm. Love much. And mother well." In other words, Austin's response to his overwhelmed wife was to parrot a quote from a t-shirt you can get on Amazon. Sweet, yes, but perhaps a better reaction would have been, "Why don't you go take a day for yourself while I watch the kids?" If Joy isn't getting what she needs, that could be causing marital stress.

Austin's social media posts may send a message

Not every social media user is obsessed with posting new content on the regular. Some are content just to slap up an occasional "Star Wars" meme or a nice vacation shot of a sunset over a lake. In the Forsyths' case, Joy is a much more active presence on Instagram than Austin is, but Joy is both a more recognized name and an at-home mom who doesn't work outside the home. She and the other Duggar sisters connect with their fans through their Insta news and heartwarming photos, and she brings in extra income through sponsored posts for products she enjoys using often, 

Still, a person's social media can reveal a lot about their life and state of mind, especially over time. Joy's Instagram posts are almost entirely family-oriented. Pictures of the children dominate the feed, and there are also plenty of shots of her and Austin, with affectionate captions like "You always know how to make me laugh." She always remembers their May anniversary with a throwback photo and a loving message. Austin's page, on the other hand, has gradually moved away from couple-related posts and is mainly devoted to pics of the kids and of pastimes like hunting.

Of course, it's likely Austin is just too busy with work and family to spend much time online. But combined with his general attitude toward his wife, the lack of online validation is concerning.

Recent legal issues may be causing tension

In the six short years since Austin and Joy Forsyth exchanged their vows, they've dealt with stresses most young couples have never encountered. Topping the list, of course, is the trauma and humiliation of knowing Joy's oldest brother, Josh Duggar, was found guilty of the horrendous charge of possessing child sexual abuse material — and that he had confessed to other dark deeds in the past. Joy and Austin attended Josh's trial to hear the testimony and posted a response to the sentencing, saying, "We agree with the judicial system's verdict" (via People).

Nor has this been the first time the Forsyths have faced legal woes. Not long earlier, in the fall of 2019, Austin was sued by the owners of a home he had flipped. They alleged he hadn't gotten the proper septic permits and had installed the wrong type of septic system for their property, causing waste leakage and an unbearable living situation. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. This saved the Forsyths the embarrassment of having to testify, but it may have left a dent in their savings — and perhaps in their relationship. According to a SunTrust survey on money and marriage (as reported by CNBC), more than one-third of partnered respondents say finances are their main source of stress. What's more, a surprising 54% say divorce is a reasonable option in cases where one spouse is deeply in debt. Could Joy and Austin be having trouble coping with these multiple strains?

Are Austin and Joy really growing as a couple?

The real work of marriage starts after the honeymoon photos are uploaded to Instagram. A relationship is always evolving, and its success or failure depends on how much the spouses put into it. But as Psychology Today explains, studies show that marriages also thrive or falter depending on how much the partners grow together or separately. Shared experiences help keep the excitement going, as the spouses gain new skills and perspectives and find new interests in common. However, researchers have also found that "more chronic personal self-expansion was associated with lower romantic passion." In other words, when one spouse experiences more personal growth than the other over a period of time, it's more likely to lead to unhappiness and detachment in the marriage.

Could this be the case for the Forsyths? Judging by their social media, Austin seems to have more freedom to pursue his interests. His Instagram feed shows him taking skydiving lessons and going hunting with his friends. He's also a licensed pilot. By comparison, Joy's life revolves around her children and their needs. She has no job outside the home, other than paid online sponsorships. She doesn't appear to have a group of friends to hang with — usually a sanity saver for a young mom. Joy and Austin do occasionally get out for a date night or softball game, but there are no signs Joy is developing an identity other than as Austin's wife or her children's mother. If the lopsided dynamic continues, this could spell trouble.

Austin's attitude is a red flag

The most concerning issue in the Forsyths' marriage, though, is Austin's attitude toward Joy. On camera, he comes across as bored — or worse, condescending. Relationship expert John Gottman, Ph.D., has long noted that the biggest indicator of marriage failure is contempt — when one or both partners feel superior to the other and belittle each other because of it. Sadly, even devoted fans of the Duggars are noticing this sign in Austin.

The last scene of the August 11 "Follow the Forsyths" YouTube vlog shows the Forsyths coming home after a long church service. Baby Gunner is wailing to be fed, and Joy is clearly exhausted: "It was a long night," she narrates. Austin takes that moment to grill his wife about the three points the pastor made in his sermon. Joy struggles with the word "prerogative," and tries to explain it. "That's not what it's about," Austin says dismissively as he gets a drink from the fridge. Earlier in the video, Austin takes Gideon on an overnight camping trip, but only captures a few minutes of it on video because "you didn't give me a good enough camera."  Commenters on the video detected a tension between the couple. "I'm sorry you're married to someone who doesn't support you, Joy. You deserve better," wrote one. Another agreed, "The way he treats Joy is not ok! ...Dude, you should be happy she even knows your name with how exhausted she must be."

Will Joy and Austin actually call it quits? Their conservative Christian faith frowns on divorce, but the couple should at least consider seeking professional help to get their marriage on track.