Natural Family Planning: A Man’s Perspective

We have our first guest post! Fellow Catholics Online member, Tim Lucchesi, of Chaste Love was gracious enough to share his thoughts about Natural Family Planning. It’s not too often you hear a man’s perspective, and we love what he has to say on the topic…

 

Natural Family Planning: A Man’s Perspective

Approximately four years ago, I attended Holy Mass with my girlfriend, took her on a brief walk through a park, got down on one knee and asked her to be my bride. She nodded and quickly said, “uh yeah!” And after the whirlwind of excitement, the chaos began!

We had to find a date that worked for both her parish and our busy schedules, we had to create an invite list, a back up invite list, and a registry. We had to discuss fonts and budgets and of course create a Pinterest-inspired announcement for social media.

And we had to learn about Natural Family Planning.

 

The journey begins

Like most people, I knew very little about Natural Family Planning prior to getting engaged. Both my experience as a youth minister and my personal commitment to the virtue of chastity had helped me know a little bit, but not enough.

On the other hand, my bride-to-be had nearly eight years of experience in learning the Creighton Model method while charting her cycle. Plus, she had nearly as many years as a high-risk obstetric nurse. Not to mention the fact that her mother had been an NFP instructor for nearly 30 years.

We went to our required engagement retreat and heard a wonderful couple share their personal witness of having used NFP in their marriage. We sat there as couples around us moaned and mumbled impolite things about the Church’s teaching. Then we attended a slightly awkward “intro session” to learn about the method we had chosen.

It quickly became clear to me that Natural Family Planning was very much centered on the woman and her reproductive system. So as an engaged man, and now as a husband and father, I was left asking a question, “Where do I fit in?”

 

Common concerns about NFP

Many people have concerns about using NFP for family planning. The birth-control pill just seems so simple. But putting aside all the moral and relationship-based reasons to not use contraception, the pill is poison. I will not put my wife’s mental and physical health at risk so I can have a feeling of control over my fertility. She deserves better! All women deserve better.

Perhaps the most common, and yet often unspoken reason why people decide not to use NFP is because of the fear of failure. This failure could be user error or method ineffectiveness, but regardless the fear remains. And if avoiding pregnancy is your goal, you can be just as successful at avoiding pregnancy by using NFP as you would by using contraception. But with NFP, you avoid all the risky side effects.

Many people want to achieve a pregnancy only at the precise time of their choosing. And I completely understand that instinct! Pregnancy can be difficult! And raising children, while rewarding, is the most difficult task I will ever undertake. But using contraception leads to a false sense of control and certainty. And when contraception fails, that sense of control is shattered, leading to higher stress in an already challenging situation. A key part of using NFP is remaining open to life. So no matter what happens, you are better prepared to receive new life. Even in the most unexpected of times.

 

NFP and charting…not the same thing

Looking back over the years, I realize that I was wrong about something that is key to successfully using NFP. Charting a woman’s cycle is primarily about the woman’s health and fertility. But Natural Family Planning is about the husband, the wife, the children, and God. It’s about bonding with my bride; spiritually, physically, intellectually, communicatively, and emotionally (aka SPICE).

NFP assists me in loving my wife. More importantly, NFP allows God to love my wife through me. And simply put, the more I can love my wife, the better I can love our children.

As a man, I am not called to love part of my wife, but every aspect of her very being. It’s my duty to share my whole self with my bride. And I desire to share my good days, my bad days, my hopes, my fears, my joys, and even my fertility. Anything less would be selfish. Anything less would not be selfless love.

 

The gift of fertility, NFP, and the Church’s teachings

I desire to do God’s will. And it isn’t easy. But NFP is a tool that helps me to do so. With my whole heart, I believe that God desires us to have children. And I believe that God won’t give us more children than we can handle.

I refuse to see fertility as a burden. By giving me reproductive abilities and blessing me with children, God has shared with my bride and me the very essence and power of His love and creation. A power, with which, God created all the planets in all the galaxies throughout the universe. But even more significantly, God has trusted us with the spiritual growth and guidance of unique souls.

So with that in mind, I am immensely thankful for the gift of my fertility, the Church’s teachings on sexuality, and for the science behind Natural Family Planning. All of these have made me a better husband, a better father, and a better man.

 

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Tim Lucchesi is Director of Chaste Love Ministry. But more importantly, he is a beloved son of God, a husband to an amazing woman and the father of two children: the most beautiful little girl and his precious baby son. Tim loves cheesecake and sees every superhero movie that he can. After six years in parish and regional youth ministry, Tim felt called to create Chaste Love, because everyone deserves healthy relationships. Check out his work at chastelove.org or @thechastelove on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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If you want to hear some of our thoughts about NFP, check out our video:

 

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The enemy wants to destroy your marriage

We recently went on our 4th marriage retreat! As always, it was the perfect time to reconnect and reevaluate our marriage, our family life, and our prayer life together. By now, we’ve realized that the enemy likes to attack us in the days and weeks after we return from a marriage retreat. Last year, when we got in a huge fight on the way home! Thankfully, God made sure to remind us early on in this retreat that the enemy can be sneaky…

Throughout the weekend, there are several periods of “couple reflection time” – we spend about an hour or so with just the two of us, praying together, answering reflection questions, and talking about how life is going and what we can do to improve.

During the very first couple reflection time of the weekend, we were sitting on a bench in front of a pond, filled with fish and turtles. The weather was beautiful, so we were enjoying the outdoors while having a great conversation – bringing up struggles in our marriage and how to grow together. That short time together was so fruitful, and we were feeling pretty good about it while excited about the rest of the weekend. We knew God was with us and could feel the Holy Spirit moving!

As we closed that time together in prayer, we both opened our eyes at the same time and realized there was a snake in the water, swimming across right in front of us. From then on, we were both distracted in our prayer and couldn’t take our eyes off the snake. (With good reason – snakes are the worst!)

Afterwards, we couldn’t help but think of what a great metaphor that was in married life (and life in general). There are times where we are doing really well in our relationship with God and with each other, and that’s exactly when the enemy is going to try to distract us. A lot of times we won’t even realize our focus is being drawn away from what’s important.

We all know that the enemy is going to attack us when we’re weak, but we tend to forget that he can be sneaky and distract us when we’re strong too.

That’s why it’s important to come together on a regular basis, to share our hearts with each other. We need to make sure we’re keeping our focus on God and not being drawn away by the enemy.

A marriage retreat is a great time for us to do that – and why we try to go on one every year – but sometimes life circumstances don’t allow for us to go away for a weekend. That’s okay, though! We can still set aside time together – whether it’s a few hours one day, or an overnight date, or any other scenario – where we reevaluate all areas of life and where we have intentional conversation together.

“To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them. Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them ‘in the beginning.’”  -The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1608

Here’s our video after our last marriage retreat, where we share our takeaway and why we go on retreats often:

And here’s the video we did after our retreat last year, when we got in a fight on the way home:

 

Intentional conversation between spouses

It’s easy to forget that we should constantly be learning about our spouse. Even though we became friends in high school (15 years ago!!) and have been married for almost 10 years, there’s still a lot we don’t know about each other. And we actually talk to each other a lot!

Last year, we decided to each pick 10 questions to ask each other (scroll to the bottom of the post to see that video). And it was really interesting to see how much we learned from each other just in those few minutes. The crazy thing is, we didn’t even talk about spiritual matters! Most of the questions were kind of silly, like, “Whom would you most want as a dinner guest?”

It’s important to talk about the hard stuff too, though. Husband and wife are meant to be “one flesh” – not only in the physical sense, but emotionally and spiritually too. So that means praying together and sharing everything with each other.

Although we do talk a lot and share a lot with each other, we realized that we don’t set time aside specifically to talk without distractions (kids, TV, phones, etc.) – except for marriage retreats and the occasional date night. Conversation usually just happens whenever and often we get frustrated at the distractions that pop up (or when one of us decides to bring up a tough subject right before bed when the other is ready to sleep…oops). So one thing we are doing is prioritizing distraction-free conversation. Once or twice a month, we will put it on the calendar, maybe pick a special snack or drink to share, and talk about our hopes, dreams, and struggles with each other.

That being said, we also want to be more intentional about our conversation daily and weekly too. We decided not to watch TV at all last week and realized doing so opens up enough time to just sit and talk with each other, which is so important to do on a regular basis.

In case you need some ideas on what to talk about, here are a few to get you started!

 

Questions to ask each other daily:

-What was the highlight of your day today?

-Did you spend time in prayer today?

-How can I pray for you?

-What is one thing I can do to help you today?

 

Questions to ask each other weekly:

-Which compliment/gesture/act of kindness did I say/do for you this week that you appreciated the most?

-Did I do anything to hurt you this week? How could I have handled it differently?

-Are you struggling with anything right now? How can I support you in that?

 

Questions to ask each other monthly:

-How are our priorities right now? Are we putting prayer first and our marriage second?

-How is our family life? Do we need to make any changes?

-Which spending area do we need to cut back on?

-What goal can we set for the upcoming month?

 

You can also google “conversation starters” and find so many different questions to ask each other. Make it a monthly occurrence at least. Or you can download our list of conversation starters by clicking here or the image below!

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Do you set aside time to talk periodically? What does that look like for you and your spouse?