There are three key ingredients for a successful marriage:
Respect for each other fosters good communication. Good communication in turn deepens respect and encourage couples towards a profound intimacy. When all three of these ingredients are strong, a beautiful marriage results. Natural Family Planning requires and and can also strengthen all three.
Natural Family Planning is a tool
You've probably heard it been said that you need many “tools in your toolbox” to handle different situations. Often it can be heard in parenting situations: “He needs a different tool to handle meltdowns with”. Or in job training: “We learned several communication tools in that seminar yesterday”. Natural Family Planning is a tool in your marriage toolbox. It can be used to encourage respect, broaden communication, and deepen intimacy. Truly, once you're willing to talk with your partner about cervical mucus, there's pretty much no topic that can't be handled anymore.
Natural Family Planning requires respect not only for each other, but also for sex itself. Couples who use NFP recognize the life-changing potential that sex has and choose to work with that potential, whether that means abstaining from sex in order to postpone pregnancy, or embracing the potential to create a new life.
NFP is about the couple's fertility, not just the woman's. All too often, family planning or more specifically pregnancy prevention, is only one partner's responsibility – usually the woman's. One person is responsible for
ensuring that the couple doesn't have a baby. That can't be how it works with Natural Family Planning. Even if the woman were to do all of the charting (and yes, there is a way to share that responsibility!), it takes respect from and for both parties to recognize that they cannot responsibly and intentionally welcome a child into their family at that time and therefore abstain from sex. Everyone knows abstinence is hard. It simply can't happen without respect. Just as each spouse would lovingly care for the other in times of sickness, so too must they care for each other in times of abstinence.
Natural Family Planning requires couples to be honest with each other about their wants, needs, dreams, and reality. These types of discussions happen not just every few months or years, but every cycle. Instead of coasting along assuming they agree with each other only to find that one or both have changed their minds, Natural Family Planning asks couples to reevaluate their decisions and desires with each new cycle. A lot can change in 23-40 days! Perhaps last month there was no reason to avoid a pregnancy on purpose, but this month circumstances have changed. Maybe only one partner feels like the change was big enough to affect your family planning intention, but the other doesn't. This can be a serious problem if it's not talked about.
Intimacy is not just sex. Dr. Hilgers, the developer of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System of NFP coined a term he called “SPICE”. SPICE stands for the Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Communicative/Creative, and Emotional areas of intimacy in a couple's relationship. NFP, in a unique way calls couples to deepen all five areas of intimacy in their relationship. This is due to the times of periodic abstinence. Long or short, when a couple knows that they cannot connect sexually for a period of time it is very important to develop other ways of becoming intimate while respecting their current situation. Marriage cannot survive on sex alone!
It's important to remember that Natural Family Planning is not just about sex and regulating births. NFP is self-knowledge. It is a tool that can help strengthen marriages, provide better healthcare and encourage spiritual well-being.