This summer Mimi and I went to a wedding where at the reception, a couple of 47 years of marriage gave advice to the newlyweds on the microphone in front of everyone. The man, in a very sincere manner, said, “You have to be best friends…” but before he could continue his wife, a petite, seemingly shy woman, took the mic and interjected, “…in bed!”
Now here’s the question I want to put out there: does great sex create great, long-lasting marriages or can great sex be a byproduct of a bonding marriage?
|Where will our love life be in 50 years?|
It seems like today in our culture we are pounded with the message that happiness equals sex and sex equals love and we need to do whatever we can to get that best experience. I scratch my head at Cosmo covers when I’m at the grocery store---how many “new” sex tricks can there possibly be? Some may be reading this and thinking, “OK, here he goes, he’s going to tell us that life is more than just about sex.” Actually, no. I believe we are not talking about sex enough…or at least the best way to experience it.
Yesterday, I foreshadowed how I wanted to give my two cents on contraception and contraceptive mentality. I ended yesterday’s post with this:
Now I know here on Catholic Fried Rice I write a lot about manhood, pornography, but I have yet to even scratch a topic that I am also very passionate about: contraception and contraceptive mentality. This is where I have to put my tact-goggles on because, if I’m quite honest, I have been afraid to write about it knowing that many people, even Catholics, even family, would disagree with me. I’ve been afraid to disrespect anyone’s opinions. People argue that women should be able to decide what to do with their bodies and who are old, non-married men in Rome to tell us what or what not to do in our bedrooms. Well, I will tell you that I am a man who used to use contraceptives all the time back in high school. I’m now married and experiencing the real thing without them, and I have A LOT to say about the subject.
Now, for anyone who reads this blog, you know that I’m a big believer in talking about what we have to say YES to, instead of the NO. For example, when it comes to pornography, I believe it’s about saying YES to the joy being free of guilt and wasted time to do the things we love to do and not necessarily the NO of watching porn. When it comes to abstinence, it’s about the YES to be able to share that awesome gift with no one else but the potential mother or father of your potential children, instead of the NO of sex before marriage. And now, when it comes to contraception, it’s about the YES of the blessing of Natural Family Planning and how it bonds couples, instead of the NO of don’t use condoms or the pill.
Now what’s Natural Family Planning? Here’s a definition from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies. These methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. Couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the fertile phase of the woman's cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy. NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife.
When Mimi and I went to our NFP class as part of our marriage preparation, I was blown away. It has opened my eyes on the beauty of making love, the women’s body, and babies as blessings. And it broke away some myths that I had about the process.
Myth #1: Natural Family Planning is totally a religious thing
Definitely not! The methods of NFP are all based on science and examining the women’s body and fertility cycle in a natural way.
Myth #2: Couples practicing Natural Family Planning have less sex
I definitely had this preconceived notion going into that class, but the statistics blew me away. A government-funded study done by the National Opinion Research Center surveyed a mix of 19,786 women who were either having sex with contraceptives or practicing NFP in their marriages. Across the board, NFP couples were having more sex than couples who used contraceptives. Also, out of the entire month, did you know that the woman is only fertile for about 100 hours of those 30 days? More and more women describe that after this time of abstinence, they can’t wait to have enthusiastic love making with their husbands. Men too have told me that their wives want them more. Win-win.
Myth #3: Natural Family Planning doesn’t work---couples who practice it have a lot of kids!
A friend of mine once told me a joke, “What do all NFP couples have---babies.” Actually, when I was a kid, I used to think that the number of times couples had sex was shown by the number of children they had. My parents had three children, OK, so they must’ve only done it three times. That couple with seven kids, though? Whew, they did it A LOT.
I think this is probably the biggest rub----the contraceptive mentality of babies as burdens versus the NFP mentality of babies as blessings. When Mimi and I went to our engagement retreat, we heard a lot of stories from couples who switched from contraceptive sex in their marriage to practicing NFP, and the number one thing they would talk about was how NFP allowed them to be more open to having children. Each and every one of them talked about the financial doubt they had to raise children, but each and everyone of them also talked about how God always provided in some way or another. Of course, NFP does not mean have a lot of babies, it just means having a different mentality towards having babies in general.
This element I will admit is difficult, as Mimi and I frequently talk about when’s the right time to have our first child. I will say this element does require help outside of ourselves---some faith. But in the end, I have to remember it’s always been better to put the control in God’s hands as He has always outdone me and us.
|Giving life in a marriage|
With all of this said, being someone who has experienced contraceptive sex before, I cannot begin to express how much more fulfilling the natural, I-want-all-of-you, including your fertility, love making is compared to what I used to experience. And don’t get me wrong, I thought what I had back then was great and enjoyable and pleasurable. It alone didn’t sustain me, however, and I didn't understand why until I got married.
If you live in the D.C area and want to find out more about NFP, I’d love to refer you to our great NFP instructor KC Shnitker at firstname.lastname@example.org. How she can explain it, especially the methods, gives the entire subject much more justice than I can.
Finally, Catholic speaker and author Christopher West once talked about the difference of NFP and contraceptive use. He said it’s like if driving on flat tires is all you have ever known and all we ever see are other people driving with flat tires, we won’t know that there’s anything better or different. It’s not until we actually see and especially experience driving in a car with full, inflated tires ourselves that we can tell the difference, and realize how much better it is. I continue to hear stories of couples who used contraceptives and switched to Natural Family Planning and are happy they did. Never yet have I heard the reverse.
Is love a byproduct of sex, or is it the other way around? Does great sex create great marriages or do great marriages create great sex?
This is not about the NO. It’s about the YES to something potentially much more fulfilling.