In the practice of using a method of Natural Family Planning, the couple relies on periodic abstinence during fertile times to avoid an undesired pregnancy. When any given sexual encounter requires you as a couple to talk about your fertility, a number of things happen:
- You Remain a Team
With NFP, you rely on an external factor (the chart) to guide your discussion about sex. Each cycle, there will be many day which offer you a clear green light. There will also be some which offer a clear red light. In marriage, rebuffed attempts at physical intimacy by one party can cause resentment or a waning of emotional intimacy. However, NFP keeps it objective with both parties understanding that their sacrifice is in service of their common family planning objectives.
- Improved Communication
Sometimes, whether you should have sex is a bit more ambiguous like when your chart suggests a very low possibility of conception and you are both pining for physical intimacy. This requires one or both spouses to verbalize their desires for physical intimacy, weighing them against the probability of conception. This frankness and openness about the degree to which one desires or is in “need” of physical intimacy is not common, even among married couples. However, it is quite common among users of NFP. The same can be said regarding making clear the degree to which a spouse may wish to have another child or to avoid having another pregnancy. This improvement in the quality of communication is not automatic when beginning to practice a fertility awareness based method, but in the Diocese of Green Bay, NFP instruction goes beyond the mechanics of charting. Instructors are equipped to help the couple navigate through difficulties with abstaining and intimacy as well.
- The Honeymoon Effect
There is a time of abstaining inherent in any cycle where the couple is avoiding pregnancy. Also present with NFP practicing couples is an emphasis on loving each other in non-sexual ways during those times of abstaining. This emphasis is important since loving each other in varied ways helps increase the emotional intimacy necessary to keep sexual desire alive. The level of communication is higher and sacrifices have been made during the recent fertile days which bonds the couple and certain emotional needs have been recognized and met. The result is that couples typically find that they take better advantage of those non fertile days. Many previously contracepting couples report maintaining or even increasing their frequency of sexual intercourse. When couples are given the green light by their chart, they often report feelings for each other which hearken back to their engagement or newlywed months. This phenomenon is common enough that it has been given a name, The Honeymoon Effect.
Read the study below about what NFP couples think of their frequency and quality of sexual intercourse:
Researcher Richard Fehring, NP of Marquette University reflected on the spiritual impact of NFP practice in a 1994 College of Nursing publication. Fehring first likened known spiritual benefits of fasting to those experienced by NFP practicing couples noting that practicing NFP is a form of fasting (from intercourse). Fasting of any kind helps a person control his or her bodily desires freeing them to focus more fully on God and on those around them. The married person disciplined in the practice of periodic abstinence is better able to empathize and relate to those called to be chaste such as the adolescent, those with same-sex attraction, etc. Further, NFP practicing couples outranked contracepting couples who formerly practiced NFP on a spiritual wellbeing index.