Thursday, July 27, 2017

N.F.P. is Good for Men, Too.



It's Natural Family Planning week! Cue the parades and trumpets! (Can we insert a slight pause for amusing and/or hysterical images of what would constitute NFP related parade floats? *snicker* Okay, unpause.)

A lot is said about how good fertility awareness and NFP methods are for women. And it's true. Fertility awareness respects our dignity and intelligence. It treats us as whole women and honors the natural design of our bodies. It helps us diagnose and treat any underlying medical conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, infertility, hormone imbalances, and more. It can literally help prevent a miscarriage and save a baby's life. It can help us have more informed and healthier births. The effectiveness rates are virtually on par with any chemical and unlike those, it can actually helps us get pregnant. It doesn't make the womb a hostile environment for pregnancy so that any baby that does get conceived has a chance of being passively aborted. It doesn't come with that pesky first class carcinogen tag, the risk of stroke, blood clots, depression, weight gain, infertility, death, or that annoying chance of ripping a hole in your uterus. 


But NFP is profoundly good for men, too.


NFP respects the dignity of women, yes, but it also respects the dignity of men. Men, too, deserve better than contraception. Our culture tells men that they can't control themselves, that every sexual desire must be indulged, that disordered sexuality should be rationalized and accepted, that women should be available for easy and spontaneous sex at any moment. The porn epidemic has created an entire generation of men used to seeing women treated as objects, her body a thing to be used, her will at the whim of his sexual desires. Even "good guys" are subject to this objectification in music, magazines, vulgar jokes at work, ads, and television. It's all around him. Men are raised in a world that believes they are little more than animals just biding time before the next sexual fix. And contraception encourages that. It demeans women and men.

Contraception validates the belief that women need to be sexually available at all times, consequence free (for him, at least). It quite literally changes her body to make that possible. It says that the ability to get pregnant is a liability, not the natural result and primary purpose of the sexual act. It tells women that their bodies are flawed and that men are so sex-hungry that they'd prefer you sterilized, unable to create life. We rightly decry rape culture yet fail to see the disrespect of her body happening countless times a day at the pharmaceutical counter that contributes to it.

NFP helps boys become men. Integral to its use is the realization that this woman's body is sacred ground. She is not an object to be used and she does not just exist in relation to your desire for her. She is a complete woman with her own dignity, the rhythms of her body intentionally designed by the Creator. She is wife and lover, yes, but also woman and potential mother. Fertility awareness reverences that design and requires that men acknowledge it. It says that not only can men exercise self control but they can reverence their wives as a person to be loved rather than an object to be used. Calling men to that higher standard respects the dignity of men. They are infinitely more than animals. Men are capable of virtue and sacrifice and they are called to love their wives completely, totally, faithfully. Contraception posits that such self-sacrifice is impossible. NFP says that he has what it takes.

With NFP fertility is a shared reality. HE is fertile, too. Making babies isn't a one-sided deal. In fact, he is fertile 100% of the time while her only a few days out of the month. Fertility awareness drives home that fact and respects the design of his body, too, allowing him a greater participation in his fertility and consequently, his fatherhood. The shared use of NFP prompts fathers to greater involvement in the lives of their children from the very beginning and even before the life of their child is created. They see more clearly their potential as fathers, something intimately connected to their sexual life. NFP respects both roles of father and mother, each of them necessary and integral to the life of the child. 

With cooperation in NFP, no longer is pregnancy (or its prevention) something that is solely the responsibility of the woman.  Provided they are doing it together, the happening of an unintended pregnancy can no longer be thrust on her alone as a "failure." He knows well that he had just as much to do with it as her (if not more...fertile 100% of the time and all) and temptation to blame, we hope, goes out the window. She didn't get pregnant. We did.

It is profoundly relieving to me as a wife that our fertility is not just my job. Marriage is hard enough without adding another stressor and possible source of bitterness into the mix. I can only imagine the resentment that would begin to brew if I were on chemical contraception, my body alone chemically altered and bearing the side effects and risks just so sex could be readily available at any moment. While NFP isn't easy, it allows our fertility to be an open discussion, a shared responsibility. (Before romanticizing that idea be aware that those discussions are less locked eyes, hand-holding on the couch deeply intense conversation and more sporadic questions about fertility observations and just-how-serious-are-our-reasons-for-this peppered over dishwashing and laundry.) Regardless, the weight (and joy!) of it is not solely mine to bear and the discernment falls to both of us. Each month we have to reexamine our goals and the health and state of our family. Each month we are reminded of the awe-inspiring and sobering reality of the power we possess between us - our choice to give ourselves to each other can result in a very real new person. Our choice has the potential to change eternity. 

NFP allows us to recognize the power each one of us has and respect each other more deeply for it. Fertility awareness creates an environment of awe for this profound reality and respect for the design of both our bodies. It's not always easy, of course. It's sometimes really really difficult. With it comes sacrifice and even frustration but those are the moments that prove us and refine us, helping us love one another better. That underlying respect for God's design deepens our respect and love for one another. As a wife I need to know that he loves me and wants all of me as I was designed to be. NFP allows him to step up and love the way He is called to do. Using NFP is good for me. But it's good for him, too.


2 comments:

  1. I'd never really thought about it this way before, Mary. Good points for me to ponder.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Really good reality check in your parentheses up there - glad mine is not the only marriage where important NFP discussions occur at trivial times!

    ReplyDelete

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