NFP (Natural Family Planning) ruins romance. No, seriously, I am not being sarcastic or cute…NFP ruins romance.
From the time I was little, I was given images of what it means to be in love and express that love romantically, and lemme tell you, I loved them! I love all things romantic. And, NFP destroys those things.
I am blessed because everyone in my immediate family enjoys the fruits and labors of practicing a sexual life without the barrier of artificial birth control, so we are known to have VERY honest conversations. The husband and I were sitting with my sister (who has four kids, three and under) and her husband (who isn’t Catholic, but goes along with this whole lifestyle thing for the love and respect of Theresa….winning!). We were discussing how ‘hard’ NFP was. And my brother-in-law said something insightful. He said, ‘we totally know how to not get pregnant, it’s just sometimes that’s really inconvenient’. Imma tell you blog readers…NFP ruins romance. BUT, there’s a silver lining.
NFP ruins romance, but here’s my question, ‘how’s romance working for us?’ And, NFP ruins romance, but increases intimacy. Confused? How about I take a hot second and explain…
First, how’s that ‘romance’ thing working for us?
Do you know, prior to marrying Aaron, more than one person sat me down and said that my expectations for our wedding night (we decided, with the Grace of God, to hold out till the ol’ union was witnessed by the Big Guy before we gave ourselves fully to each other) were way too high and I would probably be disappointed?
But you know what is?
This is something I have been a bit hesitant to write about in this blog, because I don’t want it to be taken the wrong way, but when I found out I was pregnant with my third child in three years, I was terrified. Not because I didn't know ‘how that happens’. Not because I didn't know that when we decided to make love, there was the slightest chance a child could be conceived. I was terrified because I cannot stand pregnancy. No, for real, I don’t like one damn thing about it. It’s 1:09 am, and I am up right now, writing a blog on NFP because pregnancy takes away my ability to sleep. BUT, what’s FAN FREAKIN-TASTIC is I still have to work a full day tomorrow, followed by coming home and caring for my two in diapers, just to probably face insomnia again tomorrow night. The thing is, I freaking hate pregnancy. So, when I sat up in bed in January after trying to fall asleep, mentally calculating dates and telling Aaron, ‘you have to go get a test right now’…I paced the house for twenty minutes while he went. When he got home, I went in the bathroom but Aaron asked if this time, he could be the one to read the results. I sat in the family room until he came out. With a smile on his face he said, ‘here we go again…’ and do you know what I did? I BURST into tears. Not cute, happy tears, but, "WTF, I can’t go through this again, my body isn’t ready for it, I have five more months of work, we were suppose to go on a cruise, I can’t be sick for nine more months, I have two babies to take care of…" sheer terror tears. Friends, I was hysterical. And, do you know what the husband did? He held me. He rubbed my back. He promised me we would get through it. He reminded me want a big family and I am a good mom. He swore he would put in 110% to make this work. He left a couple hours later and bought me two dozen roses and all my favorite foods. He said, ‘I can’t believe we are having another’. He loved me maybe as good as he has ever loved me before.
Each and every month (when I am not knocked up) we have to gauge where we are at as a family. Where we are at emotionally, financially, physically, and spiritually. During our fertile window, we have to talk about whether or not we can handle another child. We have to take inventory of our lives, our kids, our marriage. People pay tens of thousands of dollars to sit on counselor’s couches to figure out a way to discuss the things that NFP demands you discuss at least once every thirty days. And, for us, during those windows…sometimes we decided we weren’t ready (believe it or not). Sometimes we decided we were (lil' A and Joey). And sometimes, we decided that we’d trust that the act of loving each other was such a good and necessary thing, that we’d be open to having another (Baby #3).
Do you know what freaked me the freak out about nfp? Like, for real? Like, I needed to seek counsel from women who had been married longer than I? I could not figure out how to live chastity in marriage during times of abstinence. Check it! When Aaron and I decided that we didn't want to have sex until after the Sacrament of Marriage, we had to be careful about certain things. We didn't live together, we didn't change in front of one another, we didn't lay together every.single.freaking.night. Because, if we did, chances are, our ‘commitment’ to waiting wouldn't have been successful (and we had some issues mind you…). So after having lil’ A and getting our first taste of NFP, I completely didn't know how to live the virtue of chastity in the correct way in order to abstain during ‘fertile’ times. It freaked me the freak right out. Do you know we had to go to confession to discuss lines of chastity being crossed in our MARRIAGE?!?!!? Who knew!!! But, as we worked at it, we were given a gift. A gift of communication. A gift of cherishing each other and working on loving each other even during those darn ten days when sex isn't really an option (without getting pregnant). And that stuff is good my friends. FRUSTRATING!!! But, oh so good.
I have shared this story many times with teens, but about three months into dating Aaron I said, "Just so you know, at some point, I am going to want to sleep with you…and I need you to be the one that puts a stop to it". And, sure enough, sometime later, that is exactly what happened. I wish so desperately every teenage girl I work with who feels pressure to have sex could know what it feels like to have a man say, "I made you a promise, and your soul is the most important thing to me, so we, for right now, are going to shut down what we’d like to do and spend some time in prayer". It is awesome. I wish, so many married women I know, would be able to feel what it’s like to have a man put aside his desires (and trust me, maybe TMI, but I've got a guy full of desires) in order to selflessly love her. Now, albeit, the fact that I am on my third kid in three years shows that it doesn't happen often, but through the frustration of ‘times of abstinence’ there is a beauty when my husband has said, ‘Mary, we just have to wait a few more days’. You see, self control is not something that men are celebrated for and known for these days (with the porn industry, popular media, etc… telling them at every turn it isn't a value they need to perfect, it’s no wonder why), but it is so.darn.wonderful to see it acted out. And you know what that is?
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes it does suck. It sucks when living NFP you can’t just rip each other’s cloths off whenever you want. Sometimes, it really sucks you have to tell each other ‘no’ when all you really want to do is hold each other all night long. Sometimes, it does suck when you find yourself pregnant a bit earlier than you anticipated you would be because your silly husband is just too darn good looking. But you know what? I’d take the intimacy any day, over the romance that doesn't really seem to be working for people.
Right before I got married, I was giving a chastity talk for just girls. We were discussing how hard it is to not have sex before marriage. I was sharing that being an engaged woman, it was so much more difficult than I thought it would be. And this woman who had been married over twenty years shared something to this effect. She said that after 20 years of marriage, her and her husband still have a very active and beautiful sex life. She said out of all the friends she knew, not one of them could say the same thing. She shared that she credits that to the time they were dating, the decision to wait till marriage. For them, sex was never something they took for granted, but something that was always special.
That stuck with me and I have full confidence that 20 years down the line, because of the intimacy we live daily due to our decision to love each other through NFP, we will be a holier, more connected couple.
DISCLAIMER- Before er’body gets upset. I am not claiming that couples who do not use NFP cannot be intimate and have shallow relationships based on false romance. I am just sharing what works for us and why it does. To remind you, I’m not judgin’ you because, ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’… J