Guest column: Making NFP a part of your marriage

Natural Family Planning can bring couples closer to each other and to God

By Megan Ulrich

When I was asked to write an article about Natural Family Planning (NFP), I knew that it needed to be positive, informative, personal and authentic. The article needs to grab the reader and shout, “God Loves You And Your Spouse! He Wants To Fulfill You In Such A Beautiful And Challenging Way.”

My job as the author of this article is to convince you that NFP is right for your marriage and your family.

I know how I’m supposed to say these things. But to be honest, all of these things have been said before. For instance, I could quote sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Catechism 2351) clarifying that sex within marriage needs to be unitive and procreative. I could show you my Facebook page that seems to be constantly blown up with horror stories of women having issues with IUDs, or fertility problems, or terrible boyfriends who have little respect for their girlfriend’s bodies.

I could point you to all of the fancy charts published by the Couple to Couple League (CCL) that are used to help convince you that NFP is effective, even more effective than traditional forms of contraception. Couple to Couple League is a Catholic nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and teaching fertility awareness as part of NFP to married and engaged couples.

I could tell you that NFP is hands down the best way to track your fertility and plan your family in a healthy (carcinogen free) way that demands respect for you and your spouse. I also could reassure you that couples who practice NFP have an incredibly low divorce rate. But this is not a pamphlet. The truth is that NFP is the hardest thing that my husband and I have ever done together. It is a cross. It is a sacrifice. It is my chance to be sanctified and to bring my husband and son closer to heaven. It is hard, but most importantly, it is worth it.

I first learned about Natural Family Planning in a book about chastity that I read when I was 14. At that age I obviously was not concerned about contraception. But six years later when my future husband and I got engaged, I remembered hearing about NFP, and I signed us up for a class just to see what this crazy thing was really all about.

Our first NFP class started just about as awkwardly as I assumed it would. Our instructors, Jared and Monica Kimutis, warmly greeted us in their matching khaki pants and collared shirts. There was uncomfortable small talk before the class began, but then Jared began his testimony and my whole world changed. I don’t remember much about how the rest of that class went, but I do remember how Jared looked at his wife. I remember the respect he showed her, his amazement at the beauty of her body. I remember thinking that I want my marriage to look like that. I couldn’t articulate it then, but I know now what I saw that day. I saw the love of Christ. I saw what it means to give yourself (fertility included) completely and totally to your spouse, and I wanted that in my marriage more than anything I had ever seen.

So we went forward, full throttle. We were inspired, young, cradle Catholics who could take on the world. Nothing could stand in our way, until something did when marriage, sex and life became much more challenging than the idealized version I dreamed up in my head.

We realized we were selfish, that abstaining during periods of fertility was not just a “chance to court your spouse all over again” like we had heard in our classes. Instead, we found ourselves arguing and fighting over something that was supposed to bring us closer. We still struggle with NFP, and I assume some small part of us always will, but as I have heard many times from a dear friend, there is a reason marriage takes a lifetime.

I have come to realize that my problem really isn’t with NFP; my problem is with selfishness, with putting my desires above anyone else’s. NFP is hard because there are still times (more than I would care to admit outside of a confessional) that I put my own desires above the needs of my husband. There are times when I am thinking about my own selfishness more than my husband’s salvation.

NFP is hard because we live in a fallen world that tells us “true love” is having common interests with an attractive person and that sex is a right as opposed to a gift from God. If our marriage is supposed to be an example of Christ’s love for humanity, then maybe it’s OK that sometimes marriage is a cross. Maybe that means I’m doing something right. No matter what happens in our marriage, no matter how many fights or arguments we have, I know that my husband always will strive to love me selflessly as Christ loves the Church.

NFP also has helped us to pray as a couple. My husband and I get together every month to talk and pray about God’s plan for our family. I am constantly amazed at my husband’s openness to life and to God’s will. If you don’t already pray with your spouse or your family then please start praying together. Please pray about this.

Pray about what God wants for your marriage and your family. Go to a class. Listen to someone’s testimony. God has beautiful things in store for us, but we need to have the courage to listen.

More information about Natural Family Planning can be found at: http://dioknox.org/marriage-preparation-and-enrichment/natural-family-planning-nfp/

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