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Dear Anthony: Natural Family Planning

couple-fieldDear Anthony,

I’m getting married soon and I wanted to find out exactly how NFP works, since that’s what the Church recommends.  I have saved myself for my husband and remained pure.  I want to enjoy sex without the worries of getting pregnant right away.  I want my husband to enjoy sex too, so NFP allows him to go all the way.  If we use the method where we monitor my cycle, we can’t enjoy sex anytime we are interested, and we will both be frustrated.  From what I’ve learned so far, using NFP also means we can make love when the mood strikes but have the frustration of having to halt or forgo it since we don’t want to conceive yet. Please advise me on the different methods and how they can be used without feeling limited, restricted or guilty.  Isn’t there a method that allows us to have sex whenever we want and not worry about conceiving?

First, let me say how wonderful it is that you have successfully maintained your virginity and how admirable it is that you saved yourself for your future husband.  In this day and age, there are so many forces at work to ensure no one enters marriage as a virgin, even if they sincerely intended to.  Those like yourself who were steadfast are truly heroes of purity.

In all my years of providing advice for singles and couples, I’ve never had anyone just come out with this concern so blatantly as you have here.  It’s refreshing and I appreciate it.  As you can imagine, so many Catholics have thought this very same thing but typically will beat around the bush around the core motive.  Plus, they don’t want to admit that this is their main concern, because it sounds too worldly or impure or shallow, etc.

 

It’s important to first recognize that one aspect of your motive for your concerns is completely understandable and makes sense.  You are attracted to your spouse and want to have physical intimacy, but get frustrated by having to stop that natural and beautiful inspiration to consider if you might get pregnant.  You’d be surprised how many Catholic marriages have problems because of this particular frustration.  So there is nothing wrong with your concern, nor with your hope in finding a way to be intimate at will without worrying about pregnancy.

Now the bad news.  There is no way around having to deal with this concern. Like all actions, there is responsibility involved.  Anyone trying to take the responsibility out of sexual activity is deceiving themselves and playing with fire. Sexual intimacy is the most natural thing in the world, but so is having children. They really and truly are not separate things.

There is no sure fire way to have it both ways without going outside of the Church.  All the birth control methods available are contraception.  These birth control methods do not have a certainty at preventing pregnancy (many have learned that the hard way). They might have a high success rate, but not 100%. The pill has the added sinful result of actually chemically aborting a newly conceived child.

NFP (Natural Family Planning), though approved by the Church, is not meant to be a contraceptive method.  In other words, if a married couple is going to use NFP in order to share their love for each other in intercourse but prevent conception, it can be considered a form of contraception. There are many ways contraception is defined, but the most important part is “the deliberate use of artificial methods or other techniques to prevent pregnancy as a consequence of sexual intercourse.”  To deliberately prevent pregnancy is what the Church teaches to be gravely sinful.

I think you can see where I am going with all this.  No one faults you for your desire to share your love for your spouse as physically and intimately as possible. But marriage is a call to responsibility. And at the top of the priority list is the responsibility to be a family.  The main purpose of the love you have for each other that brings you together in marriage is to bring forth new life.

I have told countless couples to postpone getting married if they are not ready to have children. The strong pull toward each other in love is to foster a mutual commitment for life in marriage.  And that intimacy desired is designed to bring forth new life.

This notion of needing time as couple to get to know each other is hogwash. That is merely two people making an excuse to be selfish.  There is no room for selfishness in the commitment to marriage.  When you marry, you agree to start a family.  And you are a family.  Your new responsibilities are for your spouse, and any children that God blesses you with.  Your life is one of sacrifice, not self-indulgence.

So why get married if you are not ready for the gift of children?  And they are a gift.  A precious gift – and a visible sign of your love for each other.  Children force the couple to get out of themselves and raise these new persons entrusted to them.  It’s a big responsibility.  So my advice is to not get married until you’re ready to have children.

And when you do marry, be completely open to life and start having your family. However, be responsible.  NFP can help you to conceive.  It can also help you to space children as necessary.  Work closely with a trusted priest or spiritual director to assist you with important decisions like how many children to have and when.  That is tricky as you go along in your marriage.

But at the time of getting married, there is no good reason to immediately prevent conception.  You don’t want to stunt God’s purpose in bringing you together.  And you will definitely get to know each other more as you go through having a baby.  It will bring you closer than ever.


Anthony Buono is the author of Would You Date You? and founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com


  • fishman

    ” To deliberately prevent pregnancy is what the Church teaches to be gravely sinful.”

    I don’t think this means what the author meant to say.
    I suspect the church teaching is something more like
    ” To unjustly prevent pregnancy is what the Church teaches to be gravely sinful.”

    Because using NFP is a VERY deliberate action and it can be used to prevent pregnancy for any reason the couple considers to be ‘grave’, which so far as I know means not too much more then ‘important’ or ‘big’. How big? Big enough that you are will to go through periods of abstinence and suffering to accomplish at the very least.

    It is supposed to be something ‘big enough’ that even when you take the sincere desire that you should have to have more children , that you recognize that is not what God is calling you too at this moment in your marriage.

    Is taking some time to stabilize your life and financial situation after you get married a ‘grave’ reason. I can think of many combinations of things that might get it there. Many of them might indicate you should delay the marriage, but that isn’t always possible either. I think that is why this is left the judgement of the couple.

    Still, part of the point is ‘IF’ you have have grave enough reasons to delay pregnancy the ‘burden’of abstinence helps you keep that in perspective. It also promote finding other ways to be intimate and romantic, which is not bad.