My latest column over at Amazing Catechists answers the question: “Is NFP Really Natural?”
To discuss the answer to this question, first a brief explanation/review of Natural Family Planning: a couple together observe and chart the woman’s signs of fertility and infertility. If the couple is avoiding pregnancy, they abstain from relations in the fertile time and wait until they reach the infertile phase to engage in the marital embrace.
Since NFP involves abstinence during the fertile time, some complain that it isn’t really natural because we can’t follow our “natural” urges and engage in sexual activity whenever we want.
If a couple is avoiding pregnancy and they are not having sexual contact in the fertile time, it doesn’t mean they stop loving one another. Nor does it mean that they stop having the natural desire to become one.
Over the years, I have found this to be a challenging aspect of NFP since the fertile time has typically been when I most desire my husband. However, the time of abstinence has also been an opportunity to focus on other ways of loving such as walks, special dinners, talking and sharing. NFP can be a way to grow in virtue.
The question “Is NFP really natural” comes down to this: NFP is natural because there are no devices, chemicals or other surgical procedures used. It is natural because it allows the couple to be free to choose when to engage in relations and not be a slave to urges and passions. We are human precisely because we can say no and we can say yes. Humans can fast from food but animals cannot make the decision to stop eating because it is in their nature to eat when food is put in front of them. When husband and wife come together as one in the sexual embrace with no devices or chemicals, it is precisely because they can say no that the freely-chosen yes means something so beautiful and sacred.
Marriage does not justify lust. If a wife were merely a means of satisfying her husband’s urges, it could potentially cause the wife to feel used.
Abstaining (and not following the “natural urge” theory) can be an act of love. For example, if a wife or husband were ill, would it be natural to abstain and remain faithful or would it be natural to give in to urges to find pleasure with another person? The free choice to remain faithful is very natural, just as I believe that the choice to abstain in the fertile time is natural as well.
I can honestly state that with NFP, I have never felt used. And these times of abstinence have brought us closer.
NFP is definitely natural. Abstaining can be an act of love. Choosing to do the right thing is very natural when one is trying to grow in virtue.
Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach