When you’re resentful about NFP

Let me start off by saying that I am in no way minimizing anyone’s frustration with Natural Family Planning (NFP). I only hope to provide some insights and encouragement during those times of struggle. We’ve been there, so we get it!

Earlier this week, I wrote about 3 difficult truths regarding NFP and reasons why it’s still worth it. And I think a good follow-up to that is what to do when we’re becoming resentful about NFP. Because let’s be real, sometimes it’s really, really hard. I have some thoughts…

Sex is not everything in a marriage. 

It’s important, absolutely, but it’s not everything! And it’s really easy to forget that. The beauty of NFP is that it forces you (or it should) to be intimate in other ways – which is just as important. When Jesus said “the two become one flesh,” he meant it physically, but also emotionally, spiritually, and in every other kind of way. Those periods of abstinence give you the perfect opportunity to work on that. And contrary to what the world tell us, we don’t need sex. Just look at all of the awesome celibate priests and religious!

We will not find fulfillment in our spouse. 

This realization hit me during our most difficult period of using NFP last year. We should be seeking fulfillment in God. If we’re looking for our spouse to fulfill our needs, we will always be disappointed. God, on the other hand, does not disappoint. 

“To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not disappointed.” – Psalm 22:5 (RSV-2CE)

Reevaluate why you’re using NFP. 

This is going to be an unpopular thought, perhaps, but it is one of the biggest parts of NFP. We shouldn’t decide to use NFP to either avoid or achieve a pregnancy and then not discuss it with our spouse again until months later. NFP requires constant discernment! 

We’re using NFP because we are still open to another baby if God is asking that of us…or even be willing to wait to have a baby if that is what we’ve discerned is best. What may be a valid reason to avoid a pregnancy now may not be a valid reason in a year or two, and vice versa. Now that leads me to the most important part…

 

Prayer and NFP: the Forgotten Component

We cannot discern what God is asking of us without prayer. A couple should be constantly praying about this, individually and together. God may be asking us to be open to another baby. Or he may be asking us to wait. Or he might be asking us to bear fruit in other ways!

 

Our experience

There have been times when we’ve discerned that it is not a good time for me to get pregnant. But there have also been times where we felt God prompting us to be open even though we did not feel completely ready. Is it terrifying? Absolutely. I have difficult pregnancies, and the first year with a baby is also difficult for us.

But God knows what we can handle better than we do. A big part of NFP is trusting that God will plan our family better than we can ourselves. Even though Logan and I both don’t want to have a dozen kids (or even half that), we also know our circumstances could change. So we are open to change, and that’s only possible through prayer and God’s grace.

 

Ask yourself these questions

If you think your family is complete, ask yourself: Am I constantly praying about this? Are my spouse and I praying about it together? Do I see my fertility as a gift? Are we open to God’s will, even though we don’t necessarily understand it?

If you’re thinking about having another child, ask yourself: Is my marriage doing well? Am I giving enough to my spouse and children? Do we already feel stretched thin – emotionally, physically, and financially? Is God asking us to bear fruit in other ways?

It’s possible that God may be asking you to be open to a baby, despite less than ideal circumstances. It’s also possible that God may be asking you to wait, even though you don’t really understand why. Both scenarios are okay! The important thing is to bring it to prayer. 

 

Check your motivation

A big question that we should also ask ourselves: Are we being motivated by selfishness?

Many people assume that those couples avoiding pregnancy are being selfish. First of all, we can never assume to know what’s going on in another couple’s hearts or marriage. And trying to achieve a pregnancy can be selfish, depending on your circumstances. That’s why it’s so important to pray about it constantly!

If we are feeling resentment towards NFP, it may mean we have some more discerning to do. God doesn’t want us to be resentful – he wants us to be at peace. 

 

If NFP is your cross

For the couples who are using NFP to avoid pregnancy for extended periods or even indefinitely because of circumstances out of their control (i.e. pregnancy causing too much risk to the mother’s health and baby), pray for the grace to embrace your cross. Know that God sees you, loves you, and your suffering is not in vain.

But do know that prayer is still a vital component of using NFP. Even if God is not asking you to be open to a biological child, is he asking you to be fruitful in other ways? Adoption is one beautiful way, but there are plenty of other ways that your marriage can bear fruit. Bring it to prayer and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you both.

 

Contraception is not a solution

It’s also important to remember that the alternative – using contraceptives – would not make everything easier. Contraception is unhealthy for us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Separating the unitive aspect from the procreative aspect of the conjugal act impedes our marriage vows because God created sex to be both unitive and procreative.

”These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2363

Dietrich von Hildebrand also makes an excellent point “that we cannot tailor the will of God to human desires or permit a sin just because avoiding it entails great sacrifice” (from the intro of his book Love, Marriage, and the Catholic Conscience). NFP can be difficult because of abstinence, but you’re still being faithful to God’s design for married love.

Just like striving for holiness isn’t easy (remember the narrow gate?), NFP isn’t always easy. You also may not see the fruits right away. But trust that using NFP is the best option for your marriage and your family…because it is.

Pinterest graphics redesign (4).png

3 difficult truths about NFP (and why it’s still worth it)

When Logan and I learned Natural Family Planning (NFP) as an engaged couple, a lot of focus was put on the benefits of practicing NFP. And while people are thankfully being more open these days about the struggles of NFP, I wanted to share 3 difficult truths that Logan and I have realized over the years that weren’t discussed in our NFP classes. But make sure you keep reading to find out why we think it’s still worth it!

  1. There may be more abstaining than you think. People often say that you only have to abstain for about a week each month when you practice NFP. And for people with normal cycles, maybe that’s true! But I’m guessing many people don’t have completely normal cycles (*raises hand*). So during times we’re trying to avoid a pregnancy, we’re often abstaining for half of my cycle, and sometimes longer.
  2. You’re abstaining during the times you really want to have sex. Since one of the reasons sex exists is to procreate, it’s only natural that God created our bodies to want to unite during the times that baby-making is possible. Pheromones are real, y’all. Logan is more attracted to me when I’m ovulating! And the desire is greater for me during those times too. So the fact that we have to practice self-control during those times and abstain? Whew. Not easy.
  3. It’ll make you reconsider your reasons for postponing/avoiding pregnancy on a regular basis; pretty much every month, but usually more often than that. And depending on how crazy my cycle is being (which happens often, thanks to PCOS and other issues), we have to decide what kind of chances we want to take and really talk about why we’re choosing to abstain. It’s not really fun, if I’m being honest. (Because are we being selfish? Do we really have valid reasons to avoid? Am I truly being open to God’s will? All thoughts that cross my mind alllll the time.)

All of that being said…we love NFP! We appreciate this gift that the Church has given us. God wants us to discern what is best for our marriage and our family, and NFP plays a huge part in that. So it’s only fair to also share reasons why NFP is still worth it for us…and since we think the benefits outweigh the cons, we’re sharing even more reasons.

  1. It leads to more communication and prayer between us. This one particular night last year, we literally sat and talked and prayed for 20 minutes about whether or not we should have sex that night – because it was a potentially fertile day, and we were still not sure if we were ready for another pregnancy. 20 minutes! (In the end, we both discerned to go for it…and we were glad we did.)
  2. It helps us grow closer in other ways. During the times that we discern to abstain, we still want to connect in a special way. So we have to figure out other ways to do that! That’s led to some really fun moments playing games, working on projects together, reading a book together, or just enjoying each other’s company. Sex is a big part of marriage, yes, but it’s not everything.
  3. The waiting builds up anticipation. Call it a honeymoon effect, if you will. (Although I know some people disagree with this.) It’s really exciting to finally come together again after abstaining for a period of time! Of course abstaining is hard, but it does make sex even more special.
  4. There are numerous health benefits. NFP is completely natural, it helps you understand how your body works, and many women are able to identify health issues. Even if you’re not trying to achieve or avoid a pregnancy, using NFP is a great way to maintain health.
  5. We are constantly discerning God’s will because of NFP. It really has helped us continue to pray about what God is asking of us. NFP helps us plan our family, yes, but it also reminds us that we should be seeking God’s will in all things. Our fertility is just part of it!

So there you have it. Even though NFP is harder than we thought it would be, it’s still worth it for all of these reasons and more.

What’s a difficult truth you’ve learned about NFP? What’s a reason you think it’s still worth it?

click here (1)

Pinterest graphics redesign (3).png

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.

 

57618378_2890750094298776_5999262034754011136_n

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.

 

Pinterest graphics redesign.png

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

 

Want to get updates from us? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!

click here (1)

The biggest misconception of Natural Family Planning

A friend sent me an Instagram story the other day where someone was answering the question: “What is your opinion on NFP?”

The person’s answer was basically saying: NFP is often used as Catholic contraception and that you shouldn’t have sex if you don’t want kids.

I have thoughts.

Let me just first admit that I used to be that person who thought there was very, very rarely a reason to avoid pregnancy. When we first got married, we were very open to pregnancy, despite Logan making barely any money and me being temporarily unemployed. So I just figured that everyone else didn’t have any serious reasons to avoid either! (I know, I know.)

Thankfully, I’ve gotten way more perspective in the last 9 years and am truly grateful that the Catholic Church, in all Her wisdom and glory, gave us the gift of Natural Family Planning (NFP). Check out the Catechism, paragraphs 2368-2370. (It’s online here if you don’t have a copy, but I highly recommend getting one!) The main line, to assure that the Church does indeed say we can use NFP is from paragraph 2370: “Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.”

Sometimes the best thing for you, your spouse, and your children (and/or future children) is to wait a bit before you have a baby. And I won’t even go into the possible reasons, because the Church does not give a list of them for a reason. NFP is designed to make us discern for ourselves.

I’m so thankful we have an option other than birth control during those times, because when my husband and I give ourselves to each other, we want to give ourselves fully, fertility and all – as terrifying as it can be sometimes! Withholding the gift of fertility from each other – using birth control – is not conducive to a holy marriage. You cannot have a self-sacrificial love for your spouse when you are giving them everything except your fertility.

Please know I am in no way judging anyone who uses birth control. I’m simply telling you that there is a better way! God intended for every marital act to be open to life. NFP enables us to do just that! (I could go on about the effects that using birth control has on a marriage but that could be another post in itself and much more qualified people have written extensively on the subject.)

Now for my thoughts regarding NFP being a “Catholic contraceptive.”

NFP is not contraception. It’s not even close. Google’s definition of contraceptive is: “a device or drug serving to prevent pregnancy.” With contraception, you are having sex and withholding your fertility, using a device or drug (or the withdrawal method, which is not effective by the way).

With NFP, you are not using a device or drug. You don’t need those because you are not having sex. You are abstaining on fertile days because you have prayerfully discerned with your spouse that this particular month is not a good month to conceive a baby.

Some couples decide to not use NFP at all. God bless them. I truly wish we were one of them, but we are not. I think God knew I needed a bigger perspective and more humility. I just cringe thinking of my former judgmental self, because now I know the reasons for postponing a pregnancy are numerous, and nobody will completely understand those reasons except for the couple themselves.

What people who have never used NFP don’t realize is that NFP is hard. Sometimes you just really want to renew your wedding vows and be close to your spouse but life circumstances tell you that you need to wait. And the thing about NFP is that you’re having to abstain during the time that your body is telling you it wants to make a baby.

In a world that tells us we should have all the sex we want, whenever we want? ABSTAINING IS HARD. But it is still so much better than the alternative.

IMG_6002

Could a couple be selfish in their reasons for postponing a pregnancy? Perhaps. We are human, after all.

But the thing about NFP is that it makes you communicate and pray with your spouse about whether or not we have good reasons for abstaining. You’re not going to want to abstain unless you have serious reasons to do so!

In our experience, our “plan” ends up changing because our hearts change. Each month, we become more and more open to another pregnancy. Like I said, abstaining is hard, and NFP makes sure we’re doing it for the right reasons. We eventually find ourselves in a place where we are not sure whether our reasons for postponing a pregnancy are still valid. So we give it to God, as cliche as it sounds.

NFP is actually a gift, and one we should use wisely. Like the Catechism says, “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood” (CCC 2368). Nobody can discern that other than you and your spouse. It does require a lot of prayer and communication, and if you’re not doing that on a regular basis, you’re missing the point.

And perhaps that’s what the person on Instagram was referring to, but I still have to say…NFP is not a contraceptive. Each marital act is still open to life, which is what God intends.

Do read those paragraphs in the Catechism (2386-2370) to know why God and His Church has given us this gift. God has such a beautiful plan for and every one of our marriages, and NFP plays a big part in that for many of us.