So another week has passed and I’m back to the blog. So far I’ve been so happy to have this time and to see the progress. I can’t wait to reveal this to people in July! This is the best I’ve done with a project to date 🙂 Well, that may not be fair, but whatever. To the point: NFP, the journey continues.
Part 2–Day to day NFP
So In this section I’m going to just offer up a perspective on how day to day NFP presents a struggle for couples who have previously enjoyed secular vs. holy sex. Basically, my hope is to offer you kids, as I said in the previous post, some solidarity if you need it OR some Truth (with the capital T) if you have unfortunately started your own journey toward secular sex (herein abbreviated to SS).
When thinking about how to frame this part of the discussion, I wanted to be more systematic. I also don’t just want to list problems without positing the benefits or solutions, so basically, I’m going to choose a few aspects of day to day NFP and do a brief discussion of the struggle, how SS is no better but actually worse, and why this struggle is worthwhile. Here forgive my formatting problems, I’m new to this 🙂
- You can’t have sex whenever you want without consequence. Wow! Even typing that had me reeling over the fact that, though our society purports to use sex in this way, it couldn’t be further from the Truth. The struggle: So with NFP, you’re generally looking at your fertility in order to make a conscious decision about pregnancy. Whether you are avoiding or achieving, for optimal use of the method (and there are several methods–click here if you want to get an overview/get started), you need to sometimes either avoid intercourse for a time or time intercourse to particular days or even times of day. This means, for practical purposes, you can’t just have morning sex because it’s convenient if it’s a day your method says won’t be green (meaning go) until the end of the day. How SS is no better, but worse: Our society tells us you can have sex, or a version of it, anytime, anywhere, without consequence. Duh. No you can’t. The failure rates of ALL methods of avoiding pregnancy exist. Some are quite high. So right there, assuming you may not want to become pregnant, you ought to understand the initial lie involved in the anytime, anywhere mentality. But I, and fellow NFPers will posit that the mentality is much more destructive than that. When you fall for the lie of anytime, anywhere, even in a monogamous, committed relationship, you start to treat sex as a commodity. And as anyone who has ever dealt with stocks knows, commodities can be traded or bartered, or gotten from other vendors. To put it another way, if sex is just a thing, it’s not respected. This leads to a disrespect of the partner. I could go on, but I want to keep this post shorter. I’m sure I’ll be back to this point another day. Why the struggle is worth it: Who wants to be told when they can and can’t have sex? Especially in a committed marriage? How can saying no to your spouse possibly be a good thing? This is harder to see for a new-to-NFPer like myself, but I’ve been seeing it lately. When I have to say no to my impulses or my desires, I have to be patient. I have to turn elsewhere to satisfy my urges. This can go awry, if you goal is not to follow the Church, but if you’re in it to win it, this means you turn toward God in prayer or you put your time into your kiddos, or you hold hands with your spouse over dinner and just talk about life. No, none of these things have quite the same feeling as sex, but then, they’re not supposed to. When we don’t get sex every time we want it, we start to see it as the incredibly special gift it is. Remember from the last post: sex is not just an end unto itself, it is a complete and total gift of yourself to your spouse. Can you really do that anytime and anywhere?
- You have to change your lifestyle. I am sure there are lifestyle changes for men and women here, but I can only speak to those of the woman. The struggle: In our society, we’ve grown used to comfort and convenience. As an American, I have really done this. It is said that our homeless have more bounty than the richest poor person in other countries. While I don’t know about that, I do know I live a pretty cush life. My peers and society at large are quick to tell me I don’t need to settle or compromise my wants and desires in any way. To this end, I am told I can do what I want, when I want, how I want. With NFP, freedom is compromised. Though I would say with all family planning techniques freedom is compromised, the purpose of this post is to discuss the specific ways NFP does so. These, as I seem them, would be it changes the way I have to use the restroom, the types of medicines I am allowed to take, and the types of conversations my husband and I regularly revisit. For example, using NFP’s Creighton method has me monitor my fertility through checking my mucus. Well, if I have allergies, which I do, and they flair, I used to take Benedryl. Benedryl works by drying up mucus in your sinus cavities, thus giving you relief from sniffly runniness. But it doesn’t just dry up nasal mucus. So if I want accurate readings of my fertility, I don’t take Benedryl and I have to find a new way to abate my allergy suffering. Lifestyle change. How SS is no better, but worse: So if I practiced SS I could take Benedryl and my life would be imminently better. I could run to the restroom without having to wipe before and after. I could wad my tp and forget about those folded flat layers. True. I got nothing. There is no way that SS is worse on this point. See–we Catholics will be honest about our methods! Why the struggle is still worth it: So why NFP again? Well I feel a bit repetitive, but when you are forced to change your lifestyle, you start to evaluate what’s important. To this end, I’m now using much less toilet paper. I’m also really thinking about my attitude when I’m sick and I’m working harder to keep everyone healthier. This makes me seek outside myself. Sense the theme? SS focuses the lens on you and NFP focuses it onto a larger picture. It operates on something called “self-donative love” and if you haven’t heard of this concept, check it out because it is pretty powerful stuff!
- You have to talk about the future. The struggle: NFP is a day to day process. Maybe last week your spouse and you decided there was NO WAY you were ready for a baby, but today he’s feeling differently and you’re not. The chart says you’re fertile so you have to talk. How SS is no better, but worse: Here I can positively speak to this. This is why your dad and I fought so heavily in the early years of our marriage–no talk about the tough stuff! With SS and artificial means of birth control, there is no day to day discussion. This is easy, but it’s not good. So if I am on the pill (much less long-range than say an IUD) and my spouse is starting to think, “let’s have a baby” and I’m not, no problem, we can still have SS as much as we want until we eventually decide to talk about the issue. Seems fine, but trust me, resentment builds and fear builds and one of the partners starts to feel used. I’m good enough to be “intimate” with, but not enough to talk intimately to. When you delay those big conversations of the heart, you develop much bigger problems. Why the struggle is worth it: Here it is hard to say, “regular conversations about our shared pregnancy intentions are fun.” They still aren’t. Sometimes, they’re down-right awkward. But this is the part that IS good: they happen and we don’t lock ourselves into anything forever. We can pray about things and discern just what God has in mind for us. Often these conversations lead to more and deeper ones. They take us back to that courtship time when we cared about and talked about our hopes and dreams, not just, “how was work” or “what do you want for dinner” or “you have got to do something about…” Truly, NFP aids conversation and makes you more comfortable talking about everything.
And that’s what I’ve got. I know there’s much more. The more I learn and follow NFP, the more I realize it is a huge topic. There are books and books written on it. Check them out! But these are some of the biggies as I see it and the things Dad and I are currently working on.