NFP as spiritual warfare?


On another thread, one of the million or so about NFP, some people recommended the book Open Embrace. Then someone else said that the authors were no longer advocates of NFP and that the book should not be recommended.

I was curious, so I checked into it. They have put a statement on their website about the evolution of their thinking and why they changed their minds about NFP.

There was one statement in particular that caught my attention.

Cyclical periods of realistic abstinence can be great for deepening communication and creating a honeymoon effect. But it’s a theological attack on women to always require that abstinence during the time of the wife’s peak sexual desire (ovulation) for the entire duration of her fertile life, except for the handful of times when she conceives.

Now, as a self-confessed struggler with this whole topic, and I should really be more honest and call myself pretty much a complete failure on it, I have to say this statement really resonated with me. I completely relate to what they are saying here.

So, I thought it would be interesting to bring it here for discussion. I am aware that there are several arguments that will come up, so let me get them out of the way first:

**“They are Protestant, so their theology is flawed.”

“Anyone who thinks this does not have the right spirit about self-sacrifice in the service of God.”**

and finally…

“Oh, give me a break. Sex is not necessary to a happy life or a happy marriage!”

There, now that that’s done… What is your first, gut reaction when you read that? I have to be honest… I found a lot of personal truth there.


Gut reaction…
I guess I have a higher sexual drive than most women? :shrug:

I’ve never had a problem with sexual desire outside of the fertile time… ever.
Maybe I’m the oddball? :confused:
In many ways, when we were trying to avoid conception, that fertile phase was a welcome break for my DH!

Also… most women’s sexual desire usually improves with age (at least I read that somewhere???)…
So if that’s the case… then DH is in BIG TROUBLE! :stuck_out_tongue:


I have mixed feeling on this. My gut reaction is,“Yeah! It’s not fair!” but then I pause for a minute and go, “but wait a second, when I was on BC it KILLLED my sex drive so, asking me to be on it for the rest of my life isn’t exactly fair either.”

I guess the thing to do is not use any form of bc or NFP and trust God. That’s what we’re leaning towards in my upcoming marriage, but we’ll learn NFP as well. I’ll be starting late (getting married at 31) but I come from VERY fertile people.


No you’re not the oddball because I am the same way. I always thought the same thing, that I must just have a higher sex drive than most women:) This is why I love NFP because then I feel that my dh and I aren’t reducing sex to something it shouldn’t be.


NFP, hate it!


I read that and think YES, but what is God telling me with that? Maybe we should desire more children. Think how many people wouldn’t exist if their parents had not had that urge.


Not to derail the thread :o but I often find my drive is highest during the time of the month having relations would be least desirable…catch my drift? :blush: Why is that?

To answer the original question, I guess at first it might seem a little “unfair” to have to abstain during those fertile times, but I guess it’s a small sacrifice God asks us to make. He certainly endured much more for us.


Exactly… in many ways using NFP “forced” us to not just have sex for the sake of sex (because I would, given my sexual drive!)

It allows us to stop and refocus on each other for a little while…


I also find some truth that expecting abstinance for a married woman at her peak fertile time is not “normal” or even “natural.” However, the wording you quoted calling it a “theological attack” on woman, which seemed odd and I need clarification on what the author meant.

My understanding of Church teachings is that the “normal” state of marriage shouldn’t be avoiding pregnancy–children are blessings. The Church allows NFP for “just”/“licit”/“grave” reasons–and it leaves it up to couples to determine if their reasons for avoiding pregnancy meet that criteria. I am not a fan of NFP, but I respect the Church teachings and those who use it.

I wouldn’t call avoiding relations during a woman’s fertile time a “theological attack on women”, but I would say it’s probably difficult for most married women with normal, healthy sex drives during their fertile time. The sex drive often corresponds to the fertility cycle–which might explain some of the difference between men and woman. :wink: Most married men wouldn’t want to abstain during *their *fertile times, but that is another way to avoid pregnancy.


I am so glad you posted such a thread! I would agrew about my sex drive being higher during ovulation–and to me, it indicates that God’s intent would be for us to have sex during the fertile times, and not ‘waste’ it. haha Not saying we waste it, but it seems that those who possibly struggle with NFP, might be due to the fact that they are abstaining during when a woman AND man would have the most pleasure during the marital embrace. And thus they are trying to force something, that is naturally there during a woman’s ovulation. Just my gut feeling.


There is something to think about there. I was not allowed to use NFP at all when I was married…so I have no perspective for you there. I’ve been abstaining since leaving my marriage and for me this has been the first time in my adult life that I have gone without for long enough to become aware of the cyclical nature of that desire, how intense it is during the fertile times. I understand a whole lot better now what a true sacrifice it is for women to have to abstain at that time in their cycle when using NFP, and I have wondered at times during my own fertile days if what I am feeling is an intense spiritual attack.

I really can’t see though how the right way to fight off a spiritual attack is to give in to sin, which is what this couple is doing if they are now advocating contraception. I mean how does committing sin fight the devil? It doesn’t.

Seems to me the answer, if a woman is feeling a spiritual attack during her fertile time, is to turn to God and find a way to take her focus off of her own feelings, either through prayer and fasting or through doing something for someone else. How nice it would be to be married to a supportive husband where you could help each other get through that time.


I was confused by the ‘theological attack’ comment the authors made as well…I wonder though why we would call something that we are purposely modifying–a spiritual attack? I suppose there are good reasons to use NFP–and abstain from having sex during the fertile times–so is that what the author might mean by a spiritual attack? I don’t see natural hormonal feelings as being ‘attacks,’ though…so I’m a little confused there. I think if someone has an addiction to sex, porn, drugs, etc…that can be seen as a spiritual attack, but if God ‘built’ women this way–why would we feel we are being ‘attacked’ during our fertile times?:confused:


Really good points and you tied this back to the thread topic well: spritual warfare. The devil knows his enemy–us. He fights hardest when we are either vulnerable or powerful against him. In the Christian life, we are often the strongest when we are our weakest and vice versa. I read or heard it somewhere that if we aren’t experiencing temptation and spiritual warfare, then we aren’t bothering the devil by how we live. He fights those he fears or those who aren’t yet his.


My thought is that the fertile days are a time that we are vulnerable for a spiritual attack if we are abstaining. I haven’t read what the authors are saying in detail, but I suspect that they are saying that NFP leaves women open for a spiritual attack during this time by asking them to abstain. I don’t know if the are advocating contraception as a solution, but that does not seem logical to me.


Is this the link you posted from?

It might help the discussion to see what this couple is currently thinking…I’d also like to mention that they needed a different form of NFP if they were having to abstain so much!!!

I know that most women are more “receptive” during their fertile time, however, since we are more than the sum of our hormones, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to wait a week and THEN be in the mood. Does it take more effort, probably, for most women it does. But, so what? It should be worth it, right? :wink: These feelings also allow us to really think about whether we need to abstain or not. :smiley:


It wouldn’t seem that advocating contraception would make sense, true–because then we wouldn’t even be concerned with NFP. Perhaps they are implying that a woman should not be expected to abstain during fertile times–just a general statement…and thus the preceding statement about it being good for us, to have reasonable periods of abstinence…in other words, the authors don’t feel that it’s reasonable to abstain during a woman’s cyclical peak.

Can we have more of the text, OP?:stuck_out_tongue:


You might have made this a little clearer to me. We haven’t always lived chaste in our married life, and when using NFP the temptation to return to using contraception or “other” practices hit the hardest during my fertile times when we abstained. Trying to avoid relations during NFP can place a couple at risk to other unchaste behavior-either alone or together.

We still struggle at times with “fear” of pregancy, “fear” of more children than we can handled, etc. etc. But if the authors are advocating “open embrace”-as in not contracepting, not abstaining, instead accepting any pregnancy and all chidren or complications that may result, yes, I have found that overcoming the “fears” effective in overcoming sexual temptations.


I posted the link to the text above, but they seem to be promoting Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility–so that would be barrier methods.


Here is the complete statement from their website. I think they do now advocate contraception.

Five years down the road from writing Open Embrace, we’ve inevitably changed somewhat. Since we still get letters from people assuming that we haven’t changed at all, we wanted to give a brief update.

We’ve become parents of three children, and experienced many joys and struggles (from postpartum depression to whooping cough). While we still believe in the importance of family, we’re more mellow about encouraging others to have more children.

Our personal experience in the past five years has shown that we had a lot to learn about NFP, and that there is a dark side we weren’t aware of. Though Open Embrace said that it only involves a short period of abstinence, we didn’t know that during breastfeeding cycles it often involves month-long periods of abstinence and dehabilitating stress. During such times (as well as during menopause and stressful life seasons), strict NFP reaches a point where it is more harmful for a marriage than good. We think that Jesus’ words in Luke 11:46 apply: “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry.”

Many Christians believe that the “self” is totally depraved or fundamentally evil. Shades of this influenced our perspective in Open Embrace and our attraction to NFP. We now fully believe in the power of the Resurrection and we no longer live our lives constantly on the alert for “selfishness.” Yes, we are marred by sin, but God has given us new hearts with his image strongly growing in them – which means our deepest desires are true and good (see Waking the Dead by John Eldredge). One example: wanting to make love to your spouse often is a good thing, but NFP often lays an unfair burden of guilt on men for feeling this.

We still believe in the “language of the body”–which informs our rejection of some aspects of NFP. How is it that spouses are saying “yes” to the gift of each other when they end up abstaining for much of their married lives (from the aforementioned breastfeeding cycles, pregnancy exhaustion, or energy being diverted into raising kids)? We also see honest congruity with the language of the body by saying “no” to conception with our bodies (via barrier methods or sensual massage) when our minds and hearts are also saying “no” to conception.

Because of all this, we want to promote simply the concept of fertility awareness (a la Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler). We have hope that the science of fertility tracking can be improved in accuracy and simplicity in the future, especially through ovulation-predicting technology. Cyclical periods of realistic abstinence can be great for deepening communication and creating a honeymoon effect. But it’s a theological attack on women to always require that abstinence during the time of the wife’s peak sexual desire (ovulation) for the entire duration of her fertile life, except for the handful of times when she conceives.

The motive behind Open Embrace was to help foster strong and joyful marriages, and that’s still our goal in writing this. We are still concerned about the Pill and hormonal contraceptives for their effects on women. We still agree with everything we wrote about the goodness of sex, marriage, the body, and the beauty of children. Thanks to those who were interested in the book and asked for an update.

—Bethany Torode
May 2006

And here is a link to an article her husband wrote about the ECF and their writings on sex:


They are Catholic…or no?

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