Red light, green light.
It’s a game I’ve seen some couples play as their approach to using Natural Family Planning (NFP). The woman attends most or all of the teaching sessions for the chosen method of NFP, she diligently charts and asks her instructor questions, and then she tells her husband if it’s a “go day” or a “no day.”
Can this system work? Sure, but I don’t think anyone really likes to be the gatekeeper, especially when it comes to intercourse.
Marriage involves sharing life with another person and helping get each other to Heaven. Understanding and taking care of your fertility can be part of that sanctifying, shared work. Prayerfully planning your family is a big responsibility, and it is one that should be shared. If you’re thinking about using NFP as a couple and wonder what it looks like and if it’s worth it, let’s dive into the details!
Objections to Sharing the Responsibility of Natural Family Planning
There are some objections I’ve seen with sharing the work of NFP. Some couples think they don’t have time to learn the system together. If you are engaged, you’ve got a million things you’re planning for the wedding. When are you meeting with your mentor couple? Did you call your parish back home to get your Baptism certificate sent over? Then, there’s the cake and the flowers and the seating chart and….the list goes on.
Those things seem so big, and they do matter.
However, the investments you make in your marriage during engagement will have huge ripple effects.
It’s easier to learn a method while you’re engaged and can get a handle on it before you try to use it for achieving or avoiding pregnancy. If you learn the method together, you’ll both feel confident using it once you’re married.
If you’re already married, you might have kids and worry about learning the system with them around. There are multiple solutions for this. Maybe you have someone who can help out with childcare. Maybe you can schedule an online session for after bedtime. The investment is worth your time and some creative planning.
Is Natural Family Planning Too Complicated?
Some couples also object to getting into the nitty gritty of biomarkers. Different methods of NFP track different signs of fertility or a combination of them. There’s basal body temperature, LH strips, monitoring hormone levels in urine, cervical positioning, cervical mucus, etc. One or both spouses might be hesitant to discuss these intimate bodily functions and biomarkers. They’re not glamorous. However, I like to say if you can talk about mucus, you can talk about anything.
Marriage involves talking about a lot of difficult topics. It’s not easy to talk about finances, communication, boundaries, relationships with extended family, etc. It takes practice to get used to navigating difficult conversations with your spouse. NFP and the details of the tracking process are some of these conversations. And let’s be real, marriage and parenthood involve messy bodily functions. Cleaning up a potty-training accident or the aftermath of a stomach bug is not glamorous either.
How Can Men Help With NFP?
If you’re still on the fence about this whole shared use of NFP thing, I want to talk to the men specifically. You can help lead your family to holiness by sharing the everyday duties of NFP with your wife. Your role as a husband is to support your wife. You are partners on the road to Heaven. You are called to model for your children and those around you what it means to be a man of faith and a loving and supporting father and husband. As Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her.”
That’s a tall order. Remember that marriage is a Sacrament. God will pour his grace into your marriage to enable you to live this call. “So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church.” (Ephesians 28-29). What more beautiful way to live out this call than to cherish and deeply know your wife’s fertility?
Natural Family Planning is About Both of You
While NFP methods focus on the biomarkers of the woman’s fertility, they’re really about the couple’s fertility. Men, in general, are always fertile. Women’s fertility changes throughout their cycles and their lives. However, the only meaningful thing to discuss is the couple’s fertility. It is the couple who will together, as one family unit, one body, try to achieve or postpone a pregnancy. Look at charting as a way to understand your shared fertility as a couple.
If you’re now ready to take on NFP as a team, here are some practical tips. First, attend the teaching sessions together so you both have the knowledge to use NFP well. In some situations, the woman will have learned a method of charting prior to engagement. If this is the case, it would be wise to set up some meetings with the woman’s instructor during the engagement. This will be a refresher for the woman, get the man up to speed, and allow both to ask any questions. Both the man and woman should read any educational materials for learning their chosen method.
Can Men Do the Charting?
It’s also my personal recommendation that the man does the charting and recording. This works best after the wedding, and the couple can begin by doing the charting together. Two sets of eyes are better than one! After the wedding, the husband can transition into taking the lead on the charting. He can provide encouragement and reminders and ask his wife what her observations for that day were. He can encourage her and ask what he can do to support her when she feels overwhelmed with a difficult chart or is adjusting to charting during a new season of life.
By sharing the responsibilities of Natural Family Planning, couples can work as a team to care for and know their fertility.
1. Introductory Session to the Creighton Model FertilityCare System
NFP Life™ featuring Dr. Danielle & Kyle Koestner — This six-part video series is an overview, witness, and introduction to the beauty and science of Natural Family Planning. Watch the trailer below and have your couples register here.