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Elaine Sinnott shares her personal difficulties as well as the wonderful spiritual benefits of practicing Natural Family Planning in her marriage.

Natural Family Planning: A Blessing or a Curse?

“I HATE this, LORD!” I yelled at Him in my mind. Yet another month had come and yet another time I desired to love my husband in a way only his wife could.

And I could do nothing.

I lay there in bed, so angry. “How is this fair, Lord? Why is this asked of us? Why does this have to be Church teaching? I have to do this for the next twenty years? We’re going to have fifteen children!”

My husband even shared his frustrations with me: “The time we desire each other the most is when we cannot be with each other.”

As parents of six in our early thirties, it’s important to us that we abstain when fertile. We’ve been blessed with six healthy children – what a huge blessing from God! But the thought of seven children greatly overwhelms both of us. This is even in Scripture:

Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5)


We agree that we must be “apart” for a time, our fertile period, and come together again when that fertile period ends.




Why Does the Church Teach Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the Church-approved method of family planning because it never takes away from the holiness of the marital act between husband and wife.

When a husband and wife said their vows to each other on their wedding day, they vowed to take each other wholly and completely, without reserve. And to accept children lovingly from God in a sacramental marriage.

Sex is the physical form of those vows. With each other's bodies in the marital act, husband and wife are saying, “I give you all of me and I receive all of you, without reserve.” It’s a renewal of those beautiful wedding vows in the flesh, every time husband and wife come together.

But when a couple adds in any form of contraception or prevention methods, they are now saying, “I give you all of me and I receive all of you, except my fertility and yours. I don’t want that. I don’t love you enough to receive that part of you or give that part of myself.” Ouch!

Obviously, this is not what a person wants to tell their spouse every time they come together in the marital act! A husband and wife can easily use their spouse when the sexual act is separated from the procreative act.

It can quickly turn selfish instead of selfless.


Scripture on NFP

Natural Family planning is backed by Scripture, as well.

God tells Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth." He also tells Noah and his family after the flood to do the same (Genesis 9:1).

God also punished Onan for separating the sexual act from the procreative act: 

Onan, however, knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid giving offspring to his brother. What he did greatly offended the Lord, and the Lord took his life too. (Genesis 38:9-10)




NFP Protects a Marriage

NFP never takes away from the holiness of the sexual act. Every time husband and wife come together, they are open to life.

A wife (and it’s recommended the husband follows, too) charts her cycles and when she is fertile, the couple abstains if they are not willing to have more children at that time. Then they can come together again when her fertile time ends, and still be open to life, but the chances for pregnancy are very low. There is never any lying with their bodies to each other.


The Healing Properties of NFP

Natural Family Planning is a MASSIVE sacrifice. And it’s not just once or twice, but often a monthly sacrifice.

Recently though, I realized that some of the most beautiful, intimate conversations I have with my husband are in a time of abstaining. That time away from each other so we can respect each other as the gifts we are has only deepened our marriage.

It has only brought about healing after healing!

I know I desire my husband so intensely around ovulation time, so I try to search for other ways to be intimate with him.

Like reaching for his hand in the car.

Kissing him in passing when there are kids screaming all around us.

Some good old-fashioned flirting. (Sometimes it feels as though we’re dating again, but better!)

Acts of service. (I think I keep up with his laundry better around ovulation time, too.)

And very often, a deep conversation. Difficult ones.

We’re so in tune to each other during that time that often, many issues are solved, and conflicts are finally talked through.




NFP: A Sacrifice for the World

Because NFP is such a heavy, regular sacrifice, I know it can be used for good, though, too. Jesus made reparation for many of our sins in many ways, like being humiliated during the crowning with thorns for our sins of pride. NFP is a beautiful way to unite a marriage to the Cross! It’s a small offering we can give back to our Lord.

Especially when very frustrated with the wait of abstinence, I often ask God to use our sacrifice in reparation for the sins of the flesh in the world – to counteract them with respect and honor of each others’ bodies. That has helped me tremendously, actually. I know it’s not going to waste.

God designed us. And he designed the Church. On the surface, sacrifices are very unattractive to us because humanity is born selfish due to Original Sin.

But humans are more than the surface. We are spirits, too. And God designed things in the Church that are good for our spirits, that we may be holy, “… that [we] may have life, and have it abundantly,” John 10:10.


Click to tweet:
Because NFP is such a heavy, regular sacrifice, I know it can be used for good. #catholicmom




Life-Changing Resources on Natural Family Planning

The following books are just a few I’ve read that have explained Church teaching on sex so well to me. The first one I was gifted before I was married, and even though my husband and I had a long way to go, it planted the seed of a beautiful foundation to build for our marriage: Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Dr. Edward Sri.

The second one I recommend is a fantastic yet simple resource by Christopher West that is set up in a question-and-answer format to some of your most personal questions on sex and what the Church teaches about it: Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West.

And a few more I recommend are:

Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West

Life-Giving Love: Embracing God’s Beautiful Design for Marriage by Kimberly Hahn

Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (Saint Pope John Paull II)

Copyright 2022 Elaine Sinnott
Images: Canva