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Hey there, I’m new here and in need of some unique help. I hope this is the right spot to post this question. My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We met in our mid/late 20’s at our non-denominational christian church. Both raised Christian and chose to remain devoted Christian as adults. Shortly after we got married, my husband started to go on a journey, one that I encouraged and prayed for, of seeking some answers to some things that he was missing in his faith. Through reading and lectures and forums online, he’s really feeling called to Catholicism. I’m a very different processor than he is… I can’t read the catechism and see my way into this faith for our family and our life like he can. I need more details… I need to sit with someone and ask hard questions and open scripture and get answers and wrestle with things.

Currently we’ve found ourselves in a hard place because he feels called to stop using birth control. We’ve only ever used a barrier method as we both felt very convicted to be open to life from the beginning of our marriage and not use anything that could possibly prevent implantation if life should be created. However, after two very hard and dangerous pregnancies (and two beautiful daughters), I have been advised to stop having kids and I feel like this is the best course of action for my health. I would love to continue to grow our family through adoption and we plan to do that in the near future. The plan before all of this was to have my husband get a vasectomy.

It’s hard to be so forward with strangers about your sex life, but I am very frustrated and struggling with the logic of all this. I want to honor my husband and his convictions to lead our family. But…We waited for each other and have always enjoyed a healthy and active sex life. I am having the hardest time not becoming resentful and sad and angry.

While I understand the idea behind not separating pro-creation from sexual enjoyment, it just seems so harsh and dogmatic. I have a lot of issues with this specific belief and a lot of questions surrounding it, but I wasn’t sure how much I should ask in this forum.

Any advice on what to do, where to go, who to talk to, what to read… I would appreciate it!

Sign up for RICA at a Catholic Church and go through the process together as a couple. Through that process you will learn about the Church and have plenty of people to ask questions. At the end you can convert or not but the process will be very beneficial.

My recommendation is until you both have gone through RICA don’t make drastic changes and allow yourself time to work through this together.

Good luck and I pray you fall in love with Catholicism it is so wonderful.

I would second WT1’s recommendation that you learn about the church’s teachings on this issue from the source for the moral and theological reasons - I’m sure some other posters will bring up specific documents that address it, but also wanted to add a few other things.

I grew up completely secular. We were nominally Christian, but non-practicing. Most of my values I learned from “the world.” And a big part of that was “responsible” sexuality, which meant using contraception to “protect yourself” from diseases and “unintended” pregnancy. When I began to convert and truly understand Church teaching on this issue, it was HARD to switch to, instead, seeing sex as something that was really about being completely, 100% open and *vulnerable *to my spouse, and letting each act be as God intended. So I’m definitely sympathetic to your seeing the Church’s position as harsh and dogmatic, even though I disagree now - it is just so different from the way the rest of the world, even fellow Christians, think about sex.

That being said, how familiar are you with NFP (natural family planning)? If the first thing you think of is “rhythm” or “calendar” methods, then that’s a sign you probably need to learn a little bit more. :wink: God has designed female fertility to work cyclically. We are not fertile all of the time, though men are. Because God designed our fertility, there is nothing wrong with learning to observe when we are fertile and when we are not and choosing to only have relations when we know we are temporarily infertile. In that way, we are cooperating with God’s design for sexuality rather than deliberately thwarting it by changing ourselves or the sex act.

(That’s very, very brief, but just trying to give you a tiny intro to Church teaching on this matter and maybe an alternative way to think about it.)

It’s true that many practicing Catholic families seem to be larger, but there is no requirement that families have lots of children and a woman’s or family’s worth is not dependent on number of children (though that is actually the case in some religions including some small denominations of Christianity). There is a stereotype out there that we view women as baby factories and it is just so offensive and untrue. Mary only had one baby and as you probably know, Catholics are very fond of her for doing that for us. :wink:

So, as far as NFP goes, there are a lot of different methods you can learn to observe fertility symptoms, and some of that depends on ease of observing symptoms as well as how your health issues may affect observations. A very good secular book on this (where the method is called often FAM or fertility awareness method) is Taking Charge of Your Fertility. This was the book where I learned about NFP and actually got angry at all the things nobody ever bothered to teach me in health class about my body. :wink:

Sometimes the Church also has classes or at the very least will know about classes nearby that teach other methods.

Good luck to you! It sounds like you are being very supportive of your husband despite the changes in your marriage, and that must be so hard. God bless you for being open to learn. Take your time and make sure to ask somebody your questions when they come up! :slight_smile:

This is probably one of the toughest doctrines of the Church for a married couple of child-bearing age to tackle.

Especially if only one member of the couple is converting to the faith…and even more so…if that one member of the couple is the husband.

Your husband should be doing everything under the sun to research NFP, find classes, talk to priests and other spiritual advisors on what to do.
He should also be the first one to not just learn but help you out in every single way he can in this endeavor…if it’s something you choose to do.

Otherwise…it’s up to you to figure out what kind of contraception method you would want to go with…because it’s not sinful for him to engage in sexual relations with you if you are engaging in contraception.

But, understand that, as a practicing Catholic…he can no longer use condoms or get a vasectomy.

There is a lot of wisdom with what the Church teaches.
The marital act should always be both unitive and open to life. That is exactly how God designed it to be.
Man cannot and should not corrupt such an act. That is sinful because it goes against what God specifically designed sex to be.

You can’t “fix” something that isn’t actually broken.

I understand that this is exceptionally difficult…especially since you’ve been advised by a doctor that it would be safer for your health to not have any more children.

My husband and I are seriously looking at stopping the number of children we have at three. We just can’t cope with any more kids and I don’t want to be pregnant again.

But we understand and agree with the Church and what it teaches…as tough as it is…our last baby was a complete surprise…despite charting as well as I’ve been taught.
It was akin to taking the pill or using a condom and having it fail and resulting in a pregnancy…we were floored and totally taken aback.
But we soldered on and are planning on using a much more conservative method next time.

BTW…there are methods to look into that rely a little more heavily on objective ovulation signs…instead of subjective signs.
Using the a ovulation monitor…the monitor itself is a little expensive…but I can’t imagine buying the monthly strips being that much of a price difference then buying condoms.
Lady Comp is a good idea as well.

I second pensmama’s suggestion to take a look at Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
That book is secular…but it can give you a great understanding of what NFP is and how it can be implemented within a marriage.
I read the book when I first converted.

Also, I recommend listening to Janet Smith’s lecture…“Contraception: Why not?”
It’s a simple explanation as to why the Church teaches what it teaches…you can both listen to it…it will give you a better idea of what the Church teaches and where your husband is going to be in his faith journey.

Good luck and I will definitely say some prayers for you.

Thank you all very much for your kind replies and honest feedback and prayers!

I think what I am realizing is that I disagree with the actual teaching, so I think it would be helpful to try to learn more.

While I am aware of NFP or FAM, and use it loosely, I feel that my issues are more with the actual abstaining/not using a contraceptive measure during the fertile window.

SO, we shall see what happens. God has always been faithful to me, and I trust him with my marriage and my future. Hopefully we will be able to find a RCIA class that will be helpful and informative. We live in a city were it has been a challenge for us to find a welcoming and alive Catholic church to be apart of. It feels like walking into a foreign culture in many ways. We don’t have any Catholic friends to help or mentor us… so it’s a very alone feeling for me and my husband. Please pray that the Lord directs our path. Blessings.

There is truth to practicing chastity within marriage.

Saint Paul knew what he was talking about at the end of the day.

Yes, it’s hard and sometimes a big cross to carry to be chaste when you are most fertile and want intimacy the most.

It’s funny…when I first joined that Church (about 3 years ago) this was the teaching I had the easiest time accepting.
It made the most sense to me.

It still does but my husband and I are about to have our third baby in less then 4 years.
I’d love to be able to take the easy way out and find a permanent solution to my fertility. But I still agree with what the Church teaches and I feel torn at times.

It’s a cross to carry…that I know is true.

Even if we weren’t Catholic…both of us would be struggling because I hate using any kind of hormonal contraceptives and he hates condoms.
Also, neither of us like the idea of a permanent solution.
So, it would either be a cross or someone would be deeply unhappy.

It does feel like stepping into a foreign culture, doesn’t it. :wink:

I was a cradle Catholic with no exposure or, even, awareness of any other kind of Christian denomination…until I met my husband…he was raised AOG/non-denominational.

So, going into my first non-denominational Church was certainly a culture shock (I actually asked my husband and MIL where the hymnals were and why there wasn’t any pews).

Do be diligent with the RCIA class you pick out. Ask TONS and TONS of questions to both the religious director and the Priest who is running the class.

My husband and I were lucky enough to find a very good parish that was close to our house, had a parish school and was deeply Orthodox.
We went through RCIA together at this parish and have since found a wonderful home.

Try not to concentrate so much on this particular Church teaching…it’s easy to get tunnel vision and say that the Church is just dogmatic and harsh.
Read as much as you can about everything the Church teaches and you’ll see everything has a reason and a place.
It’s a good idea to do this even if you don’t convert…you’ll still be wise to have an understanding of your husband’s beliefs…just as he has an understanding of yours.

I really appreciate you admitting that it’s hard for those reasons… that level of realness is encouraging to me, so thank you for sharing. I think because I am a woman who enjoys intimacy with my husband more so than some, I am finding this hard. I feel like I have been in mourning almost. Last night I was finally able to put into words that since I struggled so much with purity when I was single and dating, but persevered knowing that I would finally be free in marriage to express myself fully to my spouse and share that side. In a way it feels like I can no longer be myself and I am being less valued because I am a woman. Now it feels like my options are bleak… for the next 20 years I have to chart and avoid intimacy when I want/need it most. I am no longer free, but in a similar state as then. It feels like I am the one who suffers cause I either keep having dangerous and emotionally hard pregnancy’s or I abstain during a natural phase of desire. While I can see the beauty in this idea for some, I also feel like there is wisdom and discernment that should lie within the individual marriage… but that’s very protestant of me isn’t it:).

I also find it hard to think outside of specific scriptures and commands found in the bible as mandatory. One of my main issues with Catholicism is that it’s all or nothing. In many protestant cultures there are hills you will die on and hills you won’t. Like, I would die on the hill that Jesus is the son of God and died on the cross for my sin, but I’m not going to die on the hill of predestination and election. Just an example. I am a purist and enjoy knowing my body, cycles and rhythms and have always opted for natural holistic ways of life. I would never use any form of hormone or devise that would cause my body potential harm or prevent life from flourishing in me should it begin. So to be told by a room full of celebate men that have not experience being a woman or being married that this is the case… feels a bit odd to me.

Anyway… obviously I am struggling. I just wanted to say thank you for your encouragement and dialogue. I hope to meet women like you soon in the Catholic church who I can sit and continue to learn from. I think having connections and a community would really help me.

Peace to you.

Welcome!

Take it one step at a time.

I’m a convert and there are still things that I struggle with because Catholicism is really a lifestyle and not just mere faith. (I, too, was nondenominational).

The best place to start is just keeping the lines of communication open with your spouse.

My husband is Catholic, but only nominally so. That brings a different set of issues to the table. He converted to the faith a few months before we met (around 12 years ago now). It took me a long time to consider conversion. Just be honest with each other about where you are. It took me years to consider conversion, but I’m glad I did. However, that changed the dynamic of our relationship.

Hi!

If you’re still interested in the theology and teaching of the Catholic Church regarding birth control, its discussed from Pope Paul VI’s papal encyclical called Humanae Vitae. It should clear a lot up! It talks about marriage and what marriage means and why it is that way using a biblical perspective and then goes deeper into this, including talking about artificial contraception. Nor is it too long!

Another thing you can read is Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology Of The Body by St. Pope John Paul II. It is… a very difficult read because he goes way in depth to the point that my poor head spins. It’s very thick, and I am not the brightest bulb in the box, I’m afraid. But, he discusses at length the bible and marriage and sexuality. So, if you’re up for a difficult read based thoroughly on biblical texts and commentary, have at it.

So, that’s my tips on the theology aspect… now, for practicality!

One thing they taught us in Engaged Encounter was there were a whole lot of other ways to be intimate other than sexual ways, such as physical, intellectual, emotional, religious, financial… etc. So, they suggested that if we needed to abstain, then we could use it as an opportunity to seek intimacy in some other way, such as deep (or playful) conversations, walking in a park, having a night on the town, cuddling, board games, tennis, and other things. So, kind of rekindle that fire and do things that you would have done before you got married, when you were still waiting to be with each other.

We have an infant, so our mobility is a bit limited right now, but, the other night, we played a late night Scrabble game when the baby was asleep… it was quite terrible. I totally trash-talked him beforehand and teased him that I was going to win with my superior intellect, and he totally beat me by a hundred points. It was embarrassing! How was I supposed to know that I was going to get only vowels? grumbles (I suppose Matthew 20:16 comes to mind?) So, intellectual sparring was definitely had then!

Also, sometimes we’ve added religious things to things that we do as Catholics that you may be interested in, if only to understand the faith a little more! For instance, there are daily scripture readings for every day of the week, thanks to the Roman Missal (you can see the daily scripture readings if you go here!) and we try to read them everyday. Then, there’s the rosary and other things you can do together. So, it’s a nice way to add prayer into our married life, and that helps draw us more intimately together.

We also like to scheme about the next big project… we bought a foreclosed house and there is always another project. So, it’s fun to gear up and say, “Okay… this is what we need to do… let’s do this!” And so we see how much we can do in between nap times and all that. Which… uh… now that I think about it doesn’t sound particularly romantic, but it’s unbelievably fun to come together at night and share war stories about the awesome things that we’ve done and reflect how far we’ve come to making this house our own. Especially considering that our house used to be inhabitable before we came along and fixed it up… (We constructed a shed together while we were dating, okay? We have an odd sense of fun. :p)

These might sound like terrible ideas to you, but the key is to just have fun and do something that you would enjoy together besides sex so that you look forward to these times instead of dread it, just like you did when you were just engaged. Then, as soon as your fertile time ends, have at it like it’s your honeymoon night. :wink:

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