Here’s a sneak peak at an article I have in the upcoming edition of Family Foundations magazine. What? You don’t subscribe? Well, there’s a simple fix to that problem!
Regardless, check it out.
Manning Up Through NFP.
Dr. Greg Popcak
We hear a lot about the benefits of NFP and there are many. But it’s also true that NFP requires a great deal of sacrifice and struggle that is neither fun nor easy. Worth it? Sure. Fun? Not really.
That said, I think that NFP helps a man become more manly. I’ve seen this in my own life and in the lives of the men I’ve supported through the struggle to make NFP the blessing it is supposed to be in their marriage. When I say that NFP helps a man become more manly, I mean that, as Catholics, we believe that manliness is tied up with a man’s ability to work for the good of others and especially to work for his wife’s good. Inevitably, that means putting her dignity above your own needs and wants. Incidentally, that’s not the same thing as giving up on your needs and wants as some men do. That’s not a man, that’s a martyr. The difference is this.
The Martyr says, “Honey, can we be together tonight?”
She says, “We’re still in phase two.”
He says (mostly to himself), ”Fine. We can’t be together tonight. Fine. Just one more thing getting in the way. FINE. I’ll just let it go.” We tell ourselves we’re making some huge sacrifice for the good of our spouse, but then we pout about it for the rest of the night as if to say, “See what a pain in the butt taking care of you is? See how sacrificial I’m being?”
In contrast to the martyr, here’s what a man does. First, he doesn’t have to make his wife the sexual gatekeeper because he’s already taken the responsibility of either recording temps himself or has at least read the chart for himself and knows what it means. Second, if they can’t be together, he realizes that its actually hard on her too and tries to be empathetic and sensitive about that. Third, he makes as much of a gift of himself as he can. He helps her with the kids. He looks for ways to be emotionally present. He seeks out ways to show her that she is important to him. He initiates affection that’s not designed to “sneak” her into sex, but just about being loving together. He is respectfully playful. Fourth, when it does get too hard for him to bear his frustration alone, he’s honest about it in a non-blaming way. He invites his wife to share how she’s dealing with her frustration so that maybe they can support each other. They respectfully talk and pray through it together. Finally, he takes care of her and plans for when they can be intimate again. He lets her know how desirable she is without pressuring her or trying to guilt her. He just loves her. He desires her, but he doesn’t prey on her.
While all that seems like a tall order, channeling frustration in these directions is exactly what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was referring to when he wrote, “True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification.” When a man can channel the sexual longing he feels in a direction that creates connection between him and his wife, the pain of the longing decreases and is replaced by a purer desire that leads to transformation; the transformation that takes us from needy, hormonally driven adolescent to man of God.
Dr. Greg Popcak, the author of Holy Sex!, directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute which provides Catholic tele-counseling services to couples, families, and individuals. Contact him at 740-266-6461 or CatholicCounselors.com