In official articles on NFP, you often hear how wonderfully awesome it is. Go to the NFP Commiseration group, and you’ll hear some people say how horrible it is. So which is it?
It’s a bit of both, and it’s okay to admit that NFP sucks sometimes and yet is also a good thing. I’d argue that we need to be more upfront about the realities of NFP instead of painting it as all sunshine and roses, or as the worst thing ever. I think most couples will have times where NFP is nice, and times where it isn’t, just as they’ll have times where it’s easier to love each other and times where it isn’t. Just as fasting from food is a good, but hard, discipline, periodic abstinence is a good, but hard, discipline. Just as I don’t know anyone who really enjoys fasting from food, I don’t know couples who really enjoy the periodic abstinence. But, if you let it, it can bring benefits.
Sometimes the benefit, though, is simply endurance. This is where we need more realistic discussions on NFP. If someone were having a hard time dealing with fasting, we wouldn’t say, “you must be doing it wrong,” or “oh, but fasting is so wonderful!!!” No, we’d say, “I know it’s hard. Here are some ways that can help you get through it. And keep your eye on the big picture and the ways this can help you in your relationship with God if you let it.”
With NFP, though, the conversation tends to focus only on the potential benefits without any recognition of the difficulties, or else to focus only on the difficulties without talking about real ways to help through those times (and please don’t say SPICE). Ideally, both people in the relationship are on the same page when it comes to using NFP, but in reality that isn’t always the case, and this makes it more difficult for those couples. NFP can still bring benefits to such couples, but they also need strategies to help with the periodic abstinence. They need to know that, if one method requires long periods of abstinence, another method might be a better fit.
Thankfully, there are multiple good methods out there right now, and more being developed all the time. Now there are monitors and apps that can help take the guesswork out. Most of those are geared towards those who are seeking to conceive, but some, like Marquette, can use a monitor to achieve or postpone pregnancy. Many instructors, myself included, will work with couples online so they needn’t be reliant on whether there’s an instructor for their chosen method in their area.
So back to the point – NFP isn’t always wonderful, and it isn’t always horrible. It can be both, either, or neither of those. Real conversation about NFP acknowledges these facts, and seeks to offer real solutions, or at least real encouragement, for when it’s hard.