The story usually goes something like this: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. The word soulmate is often used. Vows are made to love one another completely as they are. Then it's happily ever after until...sometimes it is a conversion to Catholicism, sometimes simply a deepening of spiritual faith, but something changed in the story and now you are being asked to support something you don't think is necessary to prevent a sin you don't believe exists.
The truth is that many Catholics don't practice NFP. (I'm sure at this point you are wishing you were one of them.) Yet that doesn't make the Catholic Teaching suddenly disappear or become less important. The Catholic Church is very clear on the "why" of NFP, which you have probably heard of as being "open to life". NFP allows for that by not creating barriers in the form of hormonal manipulation of the body or artificial blocks that prevent the sperm from entering the vagina. Oh, and of course not purposefully letting those sperm get loose via any act other than vaginal intercourse.
Have I already ruined any and all interest you had in sex? Believe me, I get it.
Perhaps you feel like this teaching is ancient and the Church needs to modernize its views. Perhaps you are offended that God would judge you for enjoying marriage, when you've been a faithful spouse and upheld your marital duties. Perhaps you've had a chance to watch NFP in action--via your wife's stress and worry--and don't think this is worth it.
My guess is you are reading this because you haven't been able to convince your spouse to just give up Natural Family Planning or you're trying to figure out how to live in this world of NFP. The fact that you are reading this actually shows a level of character, commitment, and care for your marriage that any woman should be grateful to find in her husband. So, what can you do to support your wife, even if you don't necessarily agree with this method? Here are a few ideas...
1) Take a class with your spouse.
There are Natural Family Planning classes for every method out there. Most of them are taught in person, but if that doesn't suit your schedule then online classes are also readily available. There are many benefits of taking a class with your spouse.
- You will actually know what she is talking about.
- You will learn to understand the scientific aspects of NFP, not just the religious conviction behind it.
- You will be able to initiate sex again (because you'll finally be able to read a chart).
- You will show your wife that you love her completely--even the beliefs of hers that you may not agree with.
There are some forms of intimacy that don't require being naked, and standing by your spouse with an open mind is one of them.
2) Jump in completely and follow the rules 100%.
I understand the feeling of disagreement with some (or all) of Church teaching. It can be incredibly frustrating to initiate intimacy, complete it in a way that is against Catholic teaching (but left you, and maybe even wife, fulfilled), only to see the look of guilt linger in your spouse's eyes until her next visit to confession. I strongly urge you to try a different route then. Instead of getting angry at the Church for creating rules that you may feel are "unnatural" to follow, try offering yourself fully to the convictions of your wife. Even try to be MORE convicted than her! When she begins to act frustrated during a time when it's not advisable to be intimate, write her a love letter reminding her that you love her for all that she is and that she is worth waiting for. If you know you're in for a long bout of abstinence, come up with activities that encourage other forms of intimacy (trying something new together, taking a class, attending church, etc.). Remember that the more you show support, the more you can see what NFP is like at its best--its best being when spouses commit to it TOGETHER.
3) Talk to someone about your struggles with NFP (WHO IS NOT YOUR SPOUSE).
I know, I know. I just spent the last two ideas talking about the importance of communication with your wife. Here's the thing though: When your wife is facing the anxiety of deciphering charts and symptoms and your respond with frustration and resentment, it serves no one. If NFP a struggle sometimes? Yes. Does it mean we have to place our struggle on the shoulders of the person we love most? No. Talk to a priest (and argue with one if you need to...they went to school for that.) Talk to your NFP instructor. Join an online support group for those who practice NFP. Make friends at church or through your NFP classes who can hold you accountable or share in your trying times. It is ok not to like NFP at all times, as most couples struggle together at some point. It is just important that NFP doesn't become husband vs. wife, but instead is a daily journey of husband and wife walking together.
If you've made it this far, then I applaud you. Choosing to be there for your spouse takes unconditional love. Remember that the intimacy of marriage doesn't begin or end in the bedroom, but it can be found there--whether or not sex is involved at the end of any given day.
God bless you.
**NOTE: It is not always the husband who finds himself in a position of disagreement with NFP. These ideas could also work for a wife trying to support her husband's convictions toward NFP. This post is in no way trying to suggest that this is a problem only men face, and any spouse who is willing to try NFP to support his or her spouse's beliefs is a wonderful one.