Human Dignity · Marriage · MIscarriage · New Feminism · Pro-Life · Relationships · sexual assault

Healing My Marriage Through Natural Family Planning

photo credit: Coram Deo “Living Before The Face of God” Emptying Myself via photopin (license)

Having overcome a promiscuous past and knowing that I would soon be intimate with my husband for the very first time on our wedding night, I felt like I had attained success over sexual sin in my life. For the first time since becoming sexually active at the age of 13, I felt like I was entering a physical relationship that God would approve of. However, it wasn’t until we started practicing Natural Family Planning (NFP), eight years into our marriage, that I really understood that the beginning of our marriage was still tainted by lust. Marriage does not cure sexual sin!

We became an instant blended family so it was important to us to ensure that our children did not feel like we were replacing them with each other. We knew that we wanted at least one child between us but we wanted to wait a year to allow time for our little patchwork family to adjust. Leading up to our engagement a friend recommended that I get on the pill so that if a proposal came sooner than later, the pill would have time to take effect in my body before our wedding as we knew we wanted a short engagement. It made sense to me so I made an appointment and started taking a low dose contraceptive. I made sure to ask my doctor all kinds of questions to ensure that I was on a pill that wouldn’t harm a baby if ‘one snuck through’ but at this point in my life I was so ignorant as to how contraceptives worked and I was completely oblivious on how they can make one’s womb a ‘hostile environment’ until I found myself experiencing a miscarriage just four months into my marriage. With adjusting to the unique circumstances of our instant family as well as entering into a difficult season of deep personal healing from my past of trauma and abuse, I just stuffed this experience down and kept on moving through life. Two months shy of our first anniversary, I was informed for the first time that contraceptives have abortifacient qualities so I shared this information with my husband and we decided together that we would never again place another one of our children in harm’s way through contraceptives.

photo credit: Robert Moores Wedding via photopin (license)

We went on to have our first and only child together and after a very difficult pregnancy I had a tubal ligation that I regretted soon after. The combination of ignorance and fear can lead us into some very poor choices and my husband and I didn’t understand the physical and spiritual consequences we would soon face. After my surgery, there was no longer a ‘fear’ of pregnancy but what I couldn’t see was that my marriage was damaged and flawed. We took our most private moments together for granted and we didn’t prioritize the limited time we had to connect in deeper ways. I’ve chalked this type of damage up to what I call ‘Marital Fornication’, that is, sexual relations in a marriage that are driven by lust, lacking self-control, and which exclude God. These types of relations are simply physical. They lack intimacy, disrespect our fertility, and can even mask serious health issues in women. Our fertility is the road map to our health and if we can’t track our ovulation (or lack thereof) then how do we really know if we are healthy?

Before we get married it seems there is often so much emphasis placed upon chastity and self-control, then suddenly when we get married that all goes out the window! That’s how it was in my marriage and in my specific instance, I was the aggressor. I had spent ten years of my life giving my body away to uncommitted men who used and abused me, and I had no idea what true intimacy was. After experiencing my second unplanned pregnancy from a second father, I chose abstinence. Abortion would never be an option for me and having more children from uncommitted men was no longer an option either so I had to change my lifestyle. It proved to be all surface changes though once I got married because I immediately resumed the same type of behavior as I had before since it was now ‘allowed’. I wasn’t sinning anymore, or so I thought. Even though our first time was on our wedding night, our most private moments together as a husband and wife were no different than when I had hooked up with random guys; it was simply lust driven monogamous sex. There were times when my husband expressed that he just wanted to hold me and I would feel rejected and unwanted but what my husband was trying to experience with me was intimacy and closeness and I had no idea what that looked or felt like. All I had ever known was lust so all I could give him was marital fornication.

photo credit: liveoncelivewild Wildflowers Field Live Once (free CC usage with credit link to LiveOnceLiveWild) via photopin (license)

As I became more involved in the Prolife Movement I learned more about NFP and I began to share my own experiences of losing my son to miscarriage while on the pill and how I had destroyed my fertility through surgery out of fear and ignorance. Even though I knew I was sharing the truth, I felt like a hypocrite. Who was I to point people toward NFP when I didn’t even practice it myself? My heart began to feel more conflicted as I could no longer play the ignorance card. I got it, it made so much sense but it was too late for me!

Or was it?

One day I decided that I wanted to become an NFP instructor so that I could help other women avoid my past regrets. I had also read a book by Christopher West called, ‘Theology of the Body for Beginners’ and my eyes and heart were opened to see the truth about what intimacy is and is not. I found so much healing through those pages. About two weeks before my NFP course I was lying in bed and felt God whisper in my ear that I would find peace with my past if I practiced NFP as though my fertility was intact and we were postponing pregnancy. It didn’t make sense to me but I told my husband and he readily agreed. I went on to become an NFP instructor and learned so much but after we started practicing NFP by the official rules it was like a heavy weight was lifted from our marriage. There was no more pressure or assumptions for either of us. My chart tells us if intimacy is an option on any given night and it is now anticipated and longed for in ways it never was before NFP and I can tell you what, we get the kids in bed on time and put our phones and projects down early when we have a green light! On nights when we know it’s not an option, neither of us feel guilty for staying up late in the other room working on projects. Even on nights when we have a green light, we still don’t place an expectation on each other. We would rather wait till we are both able to unplug and totally focus on each other than settle for just a physical encounter. NFP has healed our marriage in ways that we didn’t even know were damaged for all those years and our ability to communicate has drastically improved as well.

We no longer engage with one another in a lustful manner and our intimate life has grown so deep through self-control, respect for one another’s fertility, and a desire to please God above our own physical gratification. Although we spent many years missing out on the blessings that NFP had to offer our marriage, I know that my husband and I will never again settle for lust and temporal fulfillment when we know the lasting fulfillment that is available through intentional and unitive intimacy. I hope that sharing our experience with NFP will inspire others to give it a chance, it’s not simply about planning or postponing pregnancies, it is a pro-health lifestyle that also embraces the beauty of intimacy that God desires us to have in our marriages.

 

Meagan

Meagan Weber lives on the Southern Oregon Coast and is a wife, mother of four, and works for Abby Johnson’s ministry And Then There Were None Prolife Outreach. She also blogs and shares her testimony of Ashes to Beauty in Christ both online and at prolife events.

Email: meaganweber@gmail.com

Follow Meagan on FB: https://www.facebook.com/MegWeberFromtheAshes/

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10 thoughts on “Healing My Marriage Through Natural Family Planning

  1. I think it’s different for every marriage honestly. I’ve been NFP for 4 years(with a planned baby two years in). We don’t “follow” the abstinence during fertility rule in a traditional sense. I’m not being lustful or treating my husband selfishly when I ask for sex and likewise when he asks me. Avoiding pregnancy in any way is not in the Bible so it is left to prayerful consideration. There are times when I don’t feel like it but I still agree because I love him and know his motives; there’s nothing wrong with that in my eyes ( husbands submit to your wives wives submit to your husbands ). Hes not looking to devour me, dominate, or disrespect me he just wants to be intimate with me. After 9 years of marriage we were in an argument many couples have where i said “you just want my body” and his response ( and the incredibly hurt look on his face ) was something I will never forget. He said “making love with you is my expression of love, closeness, and intimacy with you (not just some quick orgasm)” I just guess I always assumed through culture that’s what ALL men have sex for–orgasm–I wrongfully judged him and ever since have looked at his advances towards me and our times together in completely different light. As for the fertility week…that is when my hormones are so spiked, we have fun(the other three weeks are a drastic drop in hormones and I’m not really “in the mood” as easy. And there are times we do it when I didn’t feel like it at first but it turned out to still be a good time. How is scheduling it any different than those who are happy with a spontaneous plan? I see no sin in that and don’t think it’s fair to tell people something that’s not considered a sin in the Bible is a sin. It is all about each spouses’ heart behind the advance. For intimacy or for that quick high; for togetherness wanting the other to enjoy the time together too or to use the other for your own pleasure alone.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Toniko! The difference between you and I is that your fertility is still in tact and you can remain physically open to life during your fertile phase, I cannot, so for me to engage on fertile days is a slap in the face to God and sending a disinvitation. My tubes will not allow for speed to make contact with an ovum so I can’t rightly say I’m open to life in the same way as you! By abstaining when I do it is living out an act of repentance for destroying my fertility! As you said, it is actually more pleasurable during fertile times, that is a sacrifice that I make to be obedient to what God has called me to do!

      I hope that makes sense and that you know my post is not about pointing fingers but simply sharing my own experience of healing from things that it sounds like you cannot relate to, and I would say you are blessed in that!

      1. Thanks for replying! I think the part that has always been lost on me is this(sincerely asking) how is me knowing my fertility(through abstaining for a week, ‘pulling out’, condom, etc) and actively avoiding pregnancy different than my tubes being tied? I understand it would only take me one month to change my mind and be pregnant(I’m really fertile; yes many say they are jealous BUT…I have to say “no” to pregnancy every single month; you can repent of something in the past but I’m rechoosing it every month-also my cycle is very predictable so I know just when it is) tubal ligation is more permanent with a lower “failure rate” and difficult to reverse but the underlying concept is the same; avoiding pregnancy. My husband and I consider ourselves “done” having kids but a fourth is always going to be something I think of despite knowing it is not very realistic for our family. I hope that this comes across right through text; it is a though I battle with from time to time 😦 and really just think since you’ve had training( I learned NFP just through the internet) you could speak to this more spiritual aspect of it to help me understand. ❤

  2. The way I see it, is with NFP we are cooperating with and respecting God’s design of our bodies. God has designed women with cyclic fertility. We have seasons of fertility and seasons of infertility. If God wanted every act of intercourse to result in new life, I feel He would have created women like men, who are always fertile. But God has not done this. We have seasons and the ability to understand those seasons. And so with prayer and discernment, we try to live responsible parenthood, but we do so in a way that cooperates with God’s design. He gives us a time of fertility to use if we discern we may have another child, but then after the fertile time, the door is closed by God Himself. I do not choose to try to circumvent God’s design through condoms, surgeries, or other means, but I live according to the natural rhythms. Christopher West once said something to the effect of using NFP to space pregnancies and using contraception to avoid pregnancy (and this would include contraceptive behaviors like “pulling out” or mutual masturbation) is the difference between a person passing a church, but because they don’t have time or whatever, they walk on by, and the person who enters the church and desecrates it. Of course it is a very good thing if we enter a church and spend some time in prayer there, but there is nothing wrong with simply passing by if we are not able to do so. But if we enter, we must do so with the proper respect and reverence that is its due.

    Intercourse is meant to be a renewal of the couple’s wedding vows, a re-committal to each other, saying with their bodies that they choose one another again. Again, they would choose to give each other everything. The Catholic Church has taught that seeking an orgasm but circumventing conception through human means is using each other because the language of sex is saying they give everything, but contraception says that in fact, they will withhold parts of themselves. Of course, a couple might not just be seeking orgasm but maybe the feelings of connection and closeness that comes with sex, but it is still the same. They can not use each other but must respect and reverence the totality of one another. Love equals sacrifice and you always know how much someone loves you (and conversely the measure of your own love) by their willingness to sacrifice themselves for your good. Also, I feel like there is something in the act of sacrificing that increases our capacity to love. It’s the difference between the item we bought at a store on a whim and the item that we scrounged and sacrificed and saved up months to buy. We appreciate what we sacrifice for. If we willingly embrace the sacrifice of abstinence, we grow in selflessness and in self-mastery.

    Plus, we are challenged to connect with one another in other ways. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my husband have happened during the fertile time when we were abstaining. It seems if we can’t come together physically then we tend to do so emotionally and relationally.

    Whoops! Didn’t mean to write a book! I hope this is helpful. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. It’s a lot of philosophy to wrap my head around with 3 littles buzzing around me lol! I guess I’m thinking with this line of thought isn’t anytime you have sex when you know your not fertile sort of not ” giving each other everything ” idk

      Your description could be called fasting from sex; and I see where you’re going with that, fasting from anything can cause you to respect it more, but it seems like a punishment to women to say ‘well only when you are MOST in the mood you are red lighted’…whereas a man is always fertile and in general arouses MUCH easier at any time of month. If it’s ok to say “no thanks” to fertility I still don’t see why some see other non-aborting methods as sinful I guess…you are saying “no thanks” either way(I feel like the “decimating a church” or saying someone is not welcome at your wedding happens just the same with the absitnence version you’re saying the same thing– “no” )..I don’t feel we are “using each other” at any time of month, it is a mutual desire and mutual connection imo. I may never get to a point of fully understanding your views on this concept I guess but thank you for your comments ladies! I really appreciate it.

      1. I guess if a couple has intercourse when the woman is not fertile, they are not withholding anything from each other. She is still fully giving herself, because it is just the nature of our cyclic fertility; she is giving all of herself at that time, if that makes sense.

        I’ve also thought a lot about the fact that yes, the time when we most desire sex is when we are fertile and except for the handful of times when we wish to conceive, we are otherwise limiting sex to the infertile times. For myself, having had sex with my husband both when I was fertile and when I was not this is what I’ve come to think about it. Firstly, it is not just the woman who sacrifices by abstaining during the fertile time. She is emitting pheromones that make her husband the most attracted to her. Women know this, men are just enraptured by us when we are fertile. 🙂 So the sacrifice of abstinence is a sacrifice they are both making for one another. It is not one-sided. Secondly, I don’t think it follows that fertile sex is necessarily the best quality sex. Likely the woman needs little to no preparation to have sex when she is fertile whereas the rest of the time she will. But I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that a man have to learn her body. During the non-fertile phases of her cycle, she will not just be “ready to go”, he’ll have to make sure that mentally she feels loved, cared for, and respected, and physically too he will have to take his time to help her build up to the point she is ready for intercourse. But this is very tender and loving and I don’t think it’s necessarily inferior to the times when all that preparation isn’t needed. I don’t want to speak for everyone because maybe this isn’t everyone’s experience, but I find the best quality of sex tends to be after we have been abstaining — that first time after the fertile time ends. Conversely, the worst quality has been when my husband and I were actively trying to conceive. If we’ve just been trying to whatever, that’s okay, but when we were actively timing intercourse to the days and frequency to give us the highest chances of conception, it seemed so mechanical. My body I guess was ready but it felt like going through the motions. That experience gave me a little glimpse of how insensitive it is to say to infertile couples “At least you can have lots of fun trying!” It is not fun trying unless a couple doesn’t really have to “try” but can conceive by simply not avoiding anymore.

        Loving this conversation and being able to think though all these things together!

  3. The difference you ask about is that if one slips through you could still become pregnant, if I allow sperm near or inside of my body during my fertile times, I still won’t get pregnant! In this, you can remain open to life even on days where you are chancing it but because I have destroyed my fertility, I cannot in good conscious say that I am open to life!

    I can’t add much to what April said but to say you’ve been using NFP for four years and then say you use condoms and the pull out method, those are two very different statements. Condoms are not natural and as April stated, pulling out is not part of the natural gift of sex that God gave us, it is withholding a part of yourself during an act intended and created to give of your whole self!

    There is nothing wrong with deciding not to invite someone to your wedding but it is rude to send a notice saying ‘you are not welcome here’. Not inviting someone to your wedding is like only having sex when you’re not fertile and having se when you are fertile with a barrier in place is saying ‘you’re not welcome here’.

    Now having sex at anytime and being like, they can show up or not, doesn’t mater, that’s fine too, that’s being open to life!

    I hope that makes sense!

  4. I guess if you get a chance just pray for me. We would love to have a little number four in our heart of hearts, but so many different (non fertility related)elements of life are making it impossible. It’s more like I am saying to God “I’m so sorry we just can’t 😥” not “your not invited, get out!!”

    1. I will absolutely pray for you! I see our fertility as a profound gift. We have a time of fertility — single women, religious women, and married woman who have discerned now is not the time to have another child. I feel that in all those cases God is asking us to be fruitful. If He is not asking us to conceive a child, He is inviting us to be fruitful in another way, and so we must carefully discern how God is asking us to use our gifts for the benefit of the world. During these times I find it helpful to pray with the Virgin Mary. During one of her earliest fertile cycles, the Angel Gabriel asked her to conceive God’s Son, but every fertile cycle after that, she gave of herself in other ways, and during perhaps her last fertile cycle of her life, as she was likely nearing menopause, she gave birth to the Church, again through the power of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost.

      Peace.

  5. You certainly have my prayers as well. I just have to second what April said about mutual sacrifice though because yes, it’s a huge sacrifice on his part to. Especially for my husband who could literally say ‘it’s not like you will get pregnant anyways’. The fact that he is willing to walk this NFP journey with me has made me fall even more in love with him!

    Also, I agree with April in that men have to work a little harder to make pleasure mutual for us when we are not fertile, yes yes yes to everything you said in that area!!

    Toniko, I think it is admirable to avoid using contraceptives that can harm a baby, that is an amazing act of faith and respect to your family and God. For me it was a slow process I’ve rmany years that brought me to this blog post. My feelings on condoms, pulling out, and permanent sterilization didn’t change overnight. It took many years and painful consequences so please know that I have no fingers pointed at you. Your marriage is your marriage, not mine! My whole reason behind this post is to get people thinking of the benefits of NFP as it’s intended to be practiced and to help prevent others from learning the hard way like I did!

    Many prayers and blessings for your family and marriage and if you ever want to email me, feel free! meaganweber@gmail.com

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