NFP Preparations...Help!

Hello! I’m a twenty-year-old recent convert to the faith. My boyfriend and I have been together three and a half years. He graduated college this May and is in the military. I graduate college in two years, and if all goes well, we plan to marry then. We want to hold off on having children for a few years, until he is in the reserves (and not active duty, capable of deployment).

My boyfriend, a cradle Catholic, is on board with NFP, but he’s having difficulty with other aspects of married life. He is worried about all the “restrictions” and believes that we should be able to celebrate each other’s bodies in other ways during the periods of fertility, if you get my drift. I’ve had access to many resources on this topic, but I’m still having a hard time convincing him. He feels like we have enough restrictions during dating and that when we’re finally able to marry, we shouldn’t have to feel restricted. I know the issue stems from him feeling restricted (because marital chastity is not a “don’t” but a gift), but honestly I can understand to an extent how he so closely connects our love with the physical and wants to express that, even during period of fertility.

His formation was decent, but I must say after my year of RCIA, I probably am more aware of the Church’s teachings on many issues than he is after a whole lifetime of being Catholic. He’s not exactly willing to do his own research, which is why this is difficult for me. I know that marriage is still pretty far down the road, but I understand that this issue is extremely important. I’ve been praying a lot over this, and I know God has been slowly forming both of us for marriage, but if anyone has any advice or recommendations, I would truly appreciate it.

Thank you and God Bless!

Read Theology of the Body for Beginners and Good news about sex and marriage both by Christopher West together.

No specific advice, but congrats on waiting until marriage! Also, Living the Sacrament is a great resource for NFP and marriage support. It’s a women-only community, and the struggles with periodic abstinence are often discussed.

Generally, it’s important to keep in mind why other ways of “celebrating your love” are immoral. If he won’t do the research himself, then by all means do it when you have time and tell him what you find. Otherwise, IMHO, he needs to just suck it up and believe you, or at least respect what you believe. He shouldn’t be willing to make you uncomfortable just to satisfy himself. (Sorry if that’s harsh - my DH and I struggle with this a lot, so I’m a little sour on the topic.)

Also, this can be a fun return to courtship for couples who are willing to work through it together.

I’m a little confused about exactly what the issue is. You start out saying he’s on board with NFP…but it doesn’t really sound like that is the case. Being on board with NFP means you “get it” and you understand the value of periodic abstinence. Are you worried he might pressure you to use birth control at some point, or are you 100% confident that he is against it?

If he is definitely 100% against artificial birth control (as he should be, otherwise you need to reevaluate the relationship) and yet he doesn’t want to abstain during your fertile periods—well then I guess you’re going to get pregnant. Does he understand that those are the only options?

Honestly, it also sounds to me that he might have some unrealistic expectations of sex. It’s not going to be some fantastic, round-the-clock thing. It will ebb and flow like everything else in life, and it’s honestly not that hard to abstain for a week and a half each month (IMHO).

Maybe I shouldn’t speak for the OP, but I believe you are under some misconceptions. The OP stated:

He is worried about all the “restrictions” and believes that we should be able to celebrate each other’s bodies in other ways during the periods of fertility, if you get my drift.

I understood this to mean that her fiance doesn’t see anything wrong with other sexual acts that would not lead to pregnancy and are not in line with Church teaching, like oral sex to completion on the man. It’s a “middle road” that my DH, and I’m sure other men, thought of as perfectly reasonable and are surprised when the Church (and their wives) don’t agree.

So, while he agrees with not using ABC, it seems he doesn’t agree with all of the Church’s teachings about marital intimacy.

Thank you for clarifying, you are correct!

Also, thank you for the resources! I have read Good News, which was my first exposure to the church’s teachings on marriage and intimacy. I will look into the Living Sacrament and Theology of the Body for Beginner’s.

K8…since you have had the same issues, do you have any advice?

Thanks!

I said to read them together.

:blush: Sorry, not really. We’ve not really worked anything out, other than I put my foot down and don’t allow anything during my fertile time. I mean nothing. I don’t do anything that could remotely be an invitation, and we don’t talk about it, because everytime we do we end up fighting.

I guess the best thing I can tell you is to work it out before you get married. That would have solved many problems that DH and I have, but we didn’t really know what to talk about and I didn’t understand Church teaching myself at the time. Some things I recommend you talk about, beyond NFP and activities during your fertile time: when to have kids, how many, whether you will stay at home or not, what happens if you change your mind about wanting to stay at home (that happened to me and poof we have another problem/ongoing argument we don’t need), what kinds of discipline you want to use/don’t want to use, boundaries with in-laws on both sides, financial responsibilities, and whether it’s a requirement to put the toilet seat down and the dirty clothes in the hamper (seriously).

I know that’s a lot, but marriage takes a lot, and it’s better to hash out what you can now, before it gets complicated by sex and kids, with the understanding that things change and God’s Will is foremost. You have to decide what’s really important to you and what can bend or break. Because things can/do/will change, the best thing about talking about this stuff before marriage is to get into the habit of it. Practice makes perfect. :wink:

NFP while he is not in the reserves is going to be difficult. That means large periods of time of abstainence and then finally you get to see him and potentially your fertile while he’s around. I know even without my husband in the military, with us working opposite shifts and everything, its hard to find time to be together.

This can be very hard on a husband and on a marriage. My recommendation is to discern your reasons for avoiding. Its not just “oh we have grave reasons so we’re justified in avoiding.” Being married, I’ve learned that its weighing the consequences out. Its understanding that sex is important to a marriage. Its also important to grow in unity with each other and trust with each other. More and more I’m coming to understand that conjugal rights means that if my husband or I request sexual intimacy, I shouldn’t refuse him. That is a frightening then for how can I trust that he won’t put his short term desires for sex over my physical, emotional and mental well being? For me to be submissive to him, I have to trust that he will love me as Christ loves me. That’s hard. He’s a sinful human being. Overall, this is something that we grow in unity together. I can’t just do this by myself. This is a thing where we really have to act as one, where I have to be as concerned for his needs as much as he is concerned about my needs. Thus ideally the abstainence would come through a mutual unity, not through one person refusing the other sexually.

Overall the thing both of you need to understand is that you cannot approach NFP with a contraceptive mentality. You have to respect that children are a gift from God and an even greater fruit of the sexual union than a climax is. My husband and I had intended on waiting to get pregnant, but very quickly we mutually decided that it was more important to be together than to postpone pregnancy. Its been a tough year for us. I had a few emotional break downs during the pregnancy and financially we’re just trying to reach the end of the tunnel right now. But I look at my sweet little daughter and just feel deep within me “You are so worth it!” Because she is.

Now definitely right now I want to reach the end of this tunnel before I get pregnant again. If I got pregnant now I’d feel like "aahh when is it going to end? But I know my husband would feel the same way so we’re both motivated to abstain. Thankfully breastfeeding actually gives us a lot of go days. It can be different for different women. A lot of women also experience a reduced libido, but not me. It depends on the woman.

Ultimately something I have learned in my relationship with God is that He wants me to live in the present moment. He wants me thinking about what I am doing now, where I should go now, not what I should be doing in 5 or 10 years. I can have my own goals, but I have to be willing to be flexible and to allow God to take the reigns. He’s not going to tell me what His plans are for me in the next 5 years. He keeps me here in the present moment.

As such, I have no idea how many children God will give us and we have no plan on exactly when we’ll have the next baby. We just know its important to both our mental healths and to our baby that we are extra cautious with how we express our love sexually to one another.

And as a friend of mine told me, chastity in marriage isn’t strictly and either/or because in marriage you CAN have sex. Not every sexual expression is going to lead to a completed act of intercourse. Sometimes a crying baby interupts you. You can express your love more freely because you can change your mind and have intercourse. What you can’t do is substitute other acts in place of intercourse. You can’t make your act contraceptive. The line isn’t so clear because the expression of your love sexually is not merely kissing or making out. Its complimenting each other throughout the day, its hugging each other, its doing nice things together, sharing a sunset together, flirting with each other. When you’re dating, its simply immoral to have sex, so you set up boundaries. When you’re dating, you don’t sleep in the same bed and you avoid near occassions of sin. You refrain from giving yourselves the opportunities to have sex or to substitute other sexual practices for intercourse. But you still hold ons, watch sunsets together and express your love other ways.

The thing is, abstaining during the fertile period doesn’t mean kicking your husband out of the bedroom, refraining from seeing each other in your pjs, etc…because you both have conjugal rights. It is not immoral for one thing to lead to another and for you to have sex. Your choice to abstain is your own choice to give up sex for the sake of the family. It is sacrificing your rights and giving up something that is good.

The thing is to remember that you shouldn’t abstain unless you have to. Its like being in a State of grace and deciding to abstain from Communion. Ok, so maybe you missed the one hour fast before receiving. Maybe you’re sick and are more concerned about infecting everyone that you saw grave and justifiable reason to stay home from Mass. But NFP should not be a reason to be dismissive about the importance and benefit of sex in marriage. It should not be used to demean the sexual act into condemning our sexual urges along with our fertility. We need to see fertility as a part of our sexuality and need to see our sexuality in its fullness as a beautiful thing, something worthy of sacrifice.

Thanks for the link, I plan to check it out.

I would second the recommendation to read those two Chris West books, and to read them TOGETHER. My husband and I read “The Good News…” book together when we were engaged (and had already read the beginner book in a study group). The main thing is to understand the theology of marriage and the body and sexuality. I would emphasize that it’s NOT “Yay, now we’re married, now anything goes.” Chastity does exist within marriage. That being said, yes there is a certain amount of understanding, patience and self-control required (being married does not mean you are exempt from them when it comes to intimacy). Sometimes in a way it does feel like you’re back to “pre-marriage” behavior for a few days, but it’s not forever. Realistically, it’s not typically more than a week.
There is an NFP group on CAF. Here’s the link: forums.catholic.com/group.php?groupid=840

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