Marriage Matters

Natural Family Planning is tearing us apart

This article was posted on: May 2, 2016

He says: Natural family planning is tearing us apart

When we went to the training session for natural family planning (NFP), the couple touted how NFP brought couples closer. I feel as if it’s tearing us apart instead. Lisa seems to be interpreting the safe times in such a narrow framework that they’re almost nonexistent.

She says: I’m terrified of getting pregnant right now

Mike is right — this is tearing us apart. But I am terrified of getting pregnant again any time soon; I had complications in my last pregnancy and my doctor told me to wait at least two years to get pregnant. How can I be absolutely certain I won’t get pregnant right now?

What do they do?

This couple is experiencing a challenge in their marriage that lies in the different way Catholics understand the good of marriage. Marriage is not about self-gratification or self-fulfillment. It is about selfless love — and therefore to lead us to holiness. Marriage includes sacrifice because that’s how we learn selfless love. NFP doesn’t take that away. In fact, it brings this reality into the light.

That being said, no couple should “increase” their sacrifice needlessly. Mike and Lisa can take a few concrete steps that will likely alleviate some of the tension.

  1. Consult a certified NFP instructor who can increase the couples’ confidence in the use of NFP. Instructors help couples avoid charting errors and work through any interpretation issues – like over-reading your fertility signs or interpreting the rules too strictly. Since the various NFP methods have their own strengths and weaknesses, an instructor may be able to recommend another method that is better suited to the situation.
  2. Have Mike assist with both charting and interpretation so that he sees that part of the responsibility is his. A wife shouldn’t be labeled the “gatekeeper”. NFP is a couple method. Mike’s greater awareness may alleviate much of his stress and improve their ability to talk about fertility issues.
  3. Become masters at expressing love in non-sexual ways during the times of abstinence. (This is part of the apprenticeship in self-mastery that the Church calls us to.) Patiently learn to appreciate and enjoy that time together.
  4. Ask your doctor why it is necessary to wait two years before getting pregnant again. This may have been a “general” recommendation rather than a specific diagnosis that is based on a physical concern.
    If the physician is unable to provide a solid reason to wait, you may want to get a second opinion from an NFP-trained physician who has more insight into fertility challenges.

NFP is effective but not always easy. The benefits it brings to a marriage come from the struggle. Thankfully, you don’t have to face these struggles alone.


by JEFF ARROWOOD is a Natural Family Planning Educator for the Diocese of La Crosse.


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