Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 65(2) May 2015
Practical Medical Ethics
Men and Natural Family Planning
Many women fear that Natural Family Planning (NFP) will be something that their husband cannot cope with. Indeed in General Practice, many women say that they would like to use it but that their husbands could not cope. Women may, for example, say that intercourse in fertile times will be unavoidable without torturing him. This is rarely the case. NFP allows the husband to understand his wife's fertility and as a result to know a lot more about his wife and her feelings. By becoming aware of signs such as breast enlargement some husbands can tell, for example, that their wife's period is coming even before she has noticed any changes herself. This will in itself provide increased understanding of any tension or emotional changes that occur before her period. Although this may not seem world shattering in its usefulness it can help men to understand mood and attitude changes associated with a woman's cycle better. Rather than being angry at such mood changes men may then be able to love and cherish mood changes because they represent part of the beauty of a healthy woman with healthy menstrual cycles.
Avoidance of intercourse can be hard at times, but husbands find it much easier if there is an awareness that their wife is fertile and that intercourse may result in a baby. Indeed because the responsibility for fertility is shared between husband and wife, it is quite possible for the husband to be the one who exercises caution and restraint, so helping his wife to stick to the rules of NFP. Such restraint is, after all, only a sign of deep respect and love for a woman.
The sacrifice of intercourse allows and may demand the expression of affection in other ways;- cuddles, talking, perhaps just a cup of tea or even an extra willing attitude towards the washing up or some other chore that is usually less than shared. The sacrifice of avoiding intercourse can heighten the sense of love of either partner. This in turn can encourage many activities of sharing and practical loving in marriage, which we all know that we neglect at our peril. Therefore any broadening of the ways in which we show one another love will, if it is carried out with the right attitude, foster love.
A simple example might be that knowing his wife is fertile but wanting to express his love in a positive way, the husband buys flowers on the way home and cooks a special meal for his wife. They both know that intercourse will not happen at the end of the evening, so there is no hurry to finish the meal, no rush to end the chat, nothing to do but enjoy each other.
Natural Family Planning focuses couples on the true, complete nature of intercourse. Marriage vows entail a complete, unconditional 100% giving of one another's life for an unlimited time. NFP ensures that there are no chemical or physical barriers at the time of intercourse and, therefore, it strongly fosters communication and shared responsibility. This makes NFP something that many of those who use it would never discontinue.
The degree of mutual self knowledge which NFP gives along with the deep riches of the love and understanding it fosters are huge treasurers and benefits. Viewed from the fullness of NFP use, artificial methods seem to erode so much of what is at the core of a relationship. With artificial contraception the woman is made always ‘available’, with the man “wanting”. Human beings need variety and change. NFP helps this and so enriches the lives of men and women who use it.