When Spouses Aren’t on the Same Page About Natural Family Planning

Welcome back! It’s Day 6 in our weeklong series on natural family planning (NFP). This post is linked up with NFP Link Week hosted at the blog NFP and Me.

DISCLAIMER: This series is meant to inform and spark conversation about the Church’s teaching on respect for human life. While these answers are in-line with Catholic Tradition, they are by no means exhaustive or comprehensive. We are not bioethicists nor moral theologians and do not claim to speak on behalf of the Church in answering them. For more information, dive into resources provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. **Special thanks to Fr. Albert Bruecken, Conception Seminary College, and Adam Storey, Director of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Des Moines, for sharing inspiration, ideas, and words for this series.


Source: U.S. News & World Report

Did you know devout Catholics have better sex? That was a recent headline in U.S. News and World Report so it must be true. Right? Now if you’re a devout Catholic, your response might be something on the order of, “Duh, I’ve been saying it for years!” If you’re not on board with all the Church’s teachings on human sexuality, your response might be something like, “Come on, this can’t be serious!”

Well, it is and it isn’t. U.S. News and World Report did actually publish a study by the Family Research Council, which reached that conclusion. Whether you believe the findings or not is up to you. If you’re up for it, Stacy Trasancos offers a critical analysis over at her site about the findings. The Cliff’s Notes version of that analysis: “[devout Catholics] have better “intimacy” precisely because we do not just focus on sex, the work of the body. Our relationships are about body and soul, united as one.”

So why do we bring this up today? We highlight a scenario making it difficult to practice natural family planning. And it’s going to take a whole lot more than simply slipping a copy of that news story or the Family Research Council report into a place where one spouse will find it.

Question: My spouse and I are not on the same page regarding natural family planning. Now what do I do?

There’s no denying this is an extraordinarily difficult situation. God can turn bad things to good. Conversions take place through loving and patient promptings, not through force or threats. Have hope that hearts will change. Here are a few thoughts.

  • Be patient and gentle — with your spouse AND yourself. When the lightbulb of conversion goes on for us, we sometimes struggle to understand why everyone else doesn’t see what we now see. It may take a great length of time for your spouse to come around. Remember, you’re in this for the long haul.
  • Find a good spiritual confidant, one who is patient and understands struggling with a sin, but someone who is also faithful to the Church in this teaching.
  • Pray hard for your spouse. A good place to start is 1 Corinthians 7:14-16, “For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother…God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband; or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (passage edited for relevance)
  • Embrace the idea that you may not be the one to convert your spouse. Pray for an “Ambrose” to enter your spouse’s life. Knowing that her efforts alone would not convert her son St. Augustine, St. Monica prayed for someone to come into Augustine’s life to do what she could not. That person was St. Ambrose.
  • Inform yourself on the issue and form your conscience. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput advises, “I especially encourage couples to examine their own consciences regarding contraception, and I ask them to remember that “conscience” is much more than a matter of personal preference. It requires us to search out and understand Church teaching, and to honestly strive to conform our hearts to it.” (Read: Humanae Vitae, Of Human Life)
  • Educate yourself on what no one may be telling you about the birth control pill. (Read: Oral Deception)
  • Love your spouse heroically. She or he needs to experience your radical love and see that you desire this because of love.
  • Pray for others in the same situation. You may feel alone; you’re not. More and more are wrestling with this same question. Unite yourself with them in prayer. Know that as you pray for them, they pray for you.

These are simply some suggestions. We welcome more in the comment box. There’s no one roadmap out of this predicament. And please know we’re praying for those struggling with this difficult situation.

Links to other posts in this NFP series:

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  1. says

    I would add one more thing: Sometimes a different approach may be necessary, especially if the wife is the one who isn’t interested in NFP.

    My wife found Catholic teaching completely unconvincing (and a bit horrifying) when she heard it. Some regressive, sexist, and judgmental attitudes of a few Catholic NFP promoters, combined with questionable or outdated science in the materials, really left a bad taste in both of our mouths.

    What convinced her was the secular NFP (FAM) book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It approaches the method from a feminist, women’s health perspective. The book lays out why contraception is bad for women’s health. It explains why NFP/FAM IS women’s empowerment in a straightforward, scientific, frank way that we both really appreciated.

    20somethingcatholic has a great article on promoting the method for women’s health and how that can get people interested in the theological side of things. http://20somethingcatholic.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/catholicism-nfp-and-the-golden-era-that-never-was/

    BillingsLife was founded by two married Catholic doctors and approached NFP from a non-sectarian medical perspective. They have a great website at http://www.thebillingsovulationmethod.org

  2. says

    No offence, but why do not people discuss NFP before marriage? I would not marry a person who expects to use contraception. I think marriage prep should help couple prepare to meet these challenges. And, sadly, too often, the spouse who wants to use contraception can become unpleasant.

    Something as basic as this should be part of courtship discussions.

      • Renee says

        I agree with both comments. I do know of a few dioceses (Washington is one) that require the topic be discussed and require the couple to attend an initial session with a NFP program of their choosing. Some priests then require that the couple follow-through with 2 or more follow-up sessions prior to signing off on that ‘requirement’. As for RCIA classes, parishes should discuss NFP. If NFP isn’t being discussed at your parish for Pre-Cana or RCIA, etc, then I would encourage people to talk with their priest.

    • says

      Scott and Kimberly Hahn wrote about their studies of contraception in their conversion story: Rome Sweet Home. Interestingly enough, it was Kimberly who discovered the Church’s teaching on birth control while taking a class on Christian morality. She became convinced of the teachings against contraception first and brought it to Scott. It was then that Scott began investigating the Catholic Church further almost leading to their divorce during his conversion.

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