I promised yesterday to talk about whether NFP is marriage-building, and whether it fosters respect for female bodies and fertility, but reading the com-box has reminded me that there’s some important groundwork that should be laid before I start to talk the vulnerable emotional and psychological aspects of NFP. This is to talk about why it is uncharitable to assume that people’s frustrations come down to personal moral failure, lust and an unwillingness to abstain.
There are a lot of factors that can influence how onerous NFP is for any given couple, and whether it is practically feasible at all. Before judging those who fail or give up, it’s a good idea to be aware of the factors that might make NFP easier for you than it is for most. So, here’s a handy tool to help you rate your NFP Privilege Index out of 100. Simply locate your approximate position on each of the continuums below from 0 to 10 and add up the results.
NFP manuals and teachers routinely emphasize how important it is for spouses to work together to make NFP work. In some discussions, it’s almost assumed that spousal support is a given. It’s not. There are a lot of very frustrated Catholics who don’t know what to do because their spouse either refuses to practice NFP or only grudgingly tolerates it.
0 – My spouse is an atheist who goes to prostitutes during the fertile period.
10 – I am married to Christopher West.
Fertility varies radically from woman to woman, and it makes a huge difference to how easy it is to avoid pregnancy. Most people using NFP will slip up occasionally. Those with low to average fertility probably won’t get pregnant, or even notice that they made a mistake. For a couple with very high fertility, on the other hand, every minor error in charting is likely to be a baby.
0 – My spouse and I were both sterilized and we still got pregnant. Thrice.
10 – We thought NFP was working great — until we tried using it to conceive.
Money effects NFP use in numerous ways, from whether you can afford to hire a babysitter on your monthly “honeymoon” to whether you can actually physically house and feed another child. Some couples can afford technologies that make charting easier, others cannot. Money also influences a couple’s ability to withstand repeated NFP failures while trying to find a method that works for them.
0 – If I have another child, we will have to resort to cannibalism
10 – Honey, do you remember what pocket I left that million in?
I’ve heard a lot of folks on-line say that if a couple faces serious health risks, and NFP isn’t working, the couple should simply abstain indefinitely. My husband and I considered this seriously when my health was bad, and we tried to find other couples who were doing it so that we could learn how they made it work. We couldn’t find any. Health doesn’t only affect the gravity of the need to avoid conception. Poor health can also make charting much more difficult.
0 – Even my NFP instructor agrees that getting pregnant will almost certainly kill me.
10 – Being pregnant is great. In fact, my doctor tells me I will die unless I’m pregnant all the time.
Having kids ramps up the stress of married life. When you’re constantly dealing unscheduled teen emo drama, spilled porridge, flooded bathrooms and head injuries, it becomes much more difficult to chart every day – particularly at the same time every day. The stress relief provided by love-making becomes more important as your family grows – and sexual frustration can be an unmanageable added burden.
0 – I am the Catholic woman from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.
10 – I’m really looking forward to practicing NFP once I find a husband
There are absolutely huge natural variations in sex drive. These can be influenced a little bit by behaviour, but mostly it’s not an area where people have much control. It’s not uncommon for Catholics who are borderline asexual to look with absolute disgust on folks who find chastity difficult – or for those who find it easy to go without sex to congratulate themselves for being virtuous and pure.
0 – I’ve been diagnosed with satyriosis. I’m taking testosterone blockers to keep my libido down. They’re not helping.
10 – When I was young, an angel descended and bound my loins with a girdle of chastity. I know no desire.
Community and Support
Raising a large family without help is extremely difficult. People who live in strong Catholic communities are often ignorant of how isolated and unsupported most Catholic parents are. We also need to be aware that many people don’t realistically have a choice of NFP methods or support. In my area, there is one instructor. She teaches Billings, lives 45 minutes away, and is retired.
0 – My husband and I live on a remote desert island where we were shipwrecked years ago.
10 – I live in Steubenville. There are 4 NFP clinics within walking distance.
A lot of people today are getting married late, often after their most fertile years are over. If a couple marries at 35 and the woman took the Pill starting when she was 20 this will seriously effect their likelihood of getting pregnant. Even if they do have repeated NFP failures, they’re only going to end up with a brood of 3 or 4 kids.
0 – When I got married at 18 I already had 3 children.
10 – We’re hoping to squeeze out a baby before menopause.
Don’t underestimate the importance of family support and early formation. Coming from a large family, I came to marriage knowing how to scrimp, save, and care for children. A lot of young parents have no idea. They honestly believe that it is necessary to helicopter parent, and to follow parenting fads that seem to have been designed by sadists who like to watch women go insane. It’s also really draining and stressful for couples when every pregnancy is seen as a disaster by the extended clan.
0 – My step-father is threatening to call CPS if I get pregnant again.
10 – We both come from large Catholic families and my mom watches my 16 kids 3 afternoons a week.
Having a lot of control over your time makes it much easier to chart reliably and to make sure that you can actually take advantage of infertile days. Couples who are frequently separated by business trips, who do shift work or work very long shifts, or who are going through major life upheavals may find that it’s impossible to establish an NFP routine, or to find any times when they are able to be together on a safe day.
0 – I was wrongly incarcerated. The warden who schedules conjugal visits is not interested in my wife’s fertility.
10 – We consider NFP to be a lifestyle and celebrate my fertility by building our life around my chart.
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