You may be one of the many Catholic couples finding yourselves in a difficult position this evening: You are using Natural Family Planning to avoid pregnancy, and Valentine’s Day has fallen during your fertile time. At best it’s exasperating; at worst it might feel like God is trying to wreck your marriage. What do you do?
It’s Not Your Imagination!
Let’s be honest here: If you are doing it right, sex should be something you and your spouse look forward to, long for, and thoroughly enjoy. God designed the marital embrace that way. We married people are not meant to be indifferent to sex. Not at all!
It is normal for the abstinence required when you have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy to be difficult.
So it’s not going to help to try to convince yourself that sex isn’t that great anyway. Married people of childbearing age who find abstinence unusually pleasant and easy may have serious underlying problems that need to be treated. Count your blessings if you aren’t in that category.
Review Your Reasons for Abstaining
Some of you travel in the most open-to-life circles in the Christian community. You only abstain if you have extreme, life-or-death, utterly unequivocal reasons to do so. If that’s you, acknowledge your reality. God has put you in a situation that requires heroic self-denial, and you are doing what you need to do.
Some of you are at the other extreme: You feel like “responsible parenthood” is “perfect parenthood.” You feel like if you don’t have your financial situation perfectly in order, if your pregnancy can’t be 100% risk-free, and if you can’t be sure another baby won’t strain your family life in any way whatsoever, you’d better hold off.
Is that you? I’m not saying that tonight you should let loose and go for it. I’m saying: Take a deep breath and consider whether it’s time for some fresh discernment.
If you and your spouse both agree that actually you don’t really have a serious reason to abstain anymore, great. There you are. But maybe you do? If so, it’s okay. You’re in a situation that requires heroic self-denial, and you are doing what you need to do.
Most of you, though, are somewhere in the middle. You’re not being hyper-controlling or fearful, you’re just dealing with the reality that your life is such that you truly do have serious reasons to avoid another pregnancy at this time.
Bringing those reasons to mind, today of all days, can help you remember why you’re practicing this miserable but necessary heroic self-denial. You’d rather be a different kind of hero, but this is the kind of heroism God in His infinite and aggravating Holy Wisdom has chosen for you.
Love ya anyway, Jesus!
Love Your Spouse So, So Much
Sex is a pretty darn good way to be romantic with your one true love, but it’s not the only way. You know what else says love?
- I care more about your physical health than about my sexual gratification.
- I care more about providing for you and our children than about my sexual gratification.
- I care more about your mental health, the well-being of our marriage, and a thousand other things weighing on us today than I do about my own sexual gratification.
That doesn’t make it easy. At best it makes it easier. But there are other ways to be romantic than hopping in the sack* and nothing says I Love You like heroic self-denial.
So be a hero.
Artwork: Detail of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, via Wikimedia, Public Domain.
*But yeah, first opportunity, relish that chance to hop in the sack and exult in your spouse in the marital embrace. That’s good for you too, when you get the chance.