A man is standing before you, gazing into your eyes. He’s beginning to fall in love with you and you with him. He thinks he knows you well enough to be ready to make the jump. He’s asking you for commitment. But there’s just one little thing you might not have mentioned to him yet… It’s not much… just three little letters: N. F. P.
But those three little letters can make a big difference. When two people love each other and choose to commit to each other, they both know that this will eventually lead to the next step: intimacy. Navigating intimacy can be a bit of a problem for those of us who use Natural Family Planning. Of course, you might be lucky enough to end up with a guy who is on the same page as you. Unfortunately, though, in our day and age that’s filled to the brim with contraceptive tactics, that is highly unlikely. So, where do you start? How do you tell the guy who’s interested in you that, if you do choose to be together, lovemaking might be different than he expects? And when you do broach the subject, how will he respond?
Well, here are a few helpful hints before beginning that conversation:
He is probably going to be a little freaked out. Men want to be responsible parents too, and sometimes being responsible means saying no to having kids for a little while for many different reasons including being laid-off work, not having insurance, or struggling with the health issues of a previous child. The list of what-ifs is endless. Most likely he will not trust that the method you’re proposing will be as effective as the other methods with which he is more familiar. As a result, he will most likely be afraid of two extremes: either you two will have to be overly-cautious and abstain all the time to prevent a pregnancy… or, no matter how hard you try, you will end up with ten or more kids. These are valid initial feelings. However, his questions need to be answered and his fears alleviated by clear scientific data and rational explanations. This is where you come in.
He will likely challenge your understanding of NFP. It is highly likely that he will have lots of questions – detailed, nitty-gritty questions about the tangible processes and repercussions of NFP. Is there scientific evidence with reliable data proving that the method is effective? How does NFP measure up against other family planning methods? How does it work? What does using NFP on a regular basis look like for you? What would his role be? How often can you two have sex? There are a lot of questions and you need to be prepared with answers. You need to have data proving NFP’s success rates. You need to understand how NFP compares to the Pill, an IUD, or other methods. You need to understand your cycle so that you can already have a fairly accurate answer to that all-important question: how often can we have sex? It seems like a lot, but, let’s be honest: we should know this stuff already. We should already be taking care of our bodies this way and be keeping track of our fertility. We need to be able to answer these questions not only for him, but for ourselves.
You’re probably going to feel some misplaced guilt. As you’re answering his questions and he’s gaining a better understanding of the general NFP picture, you’re likely going to start to feel “bleh”. It might suddenly seem that, at least with other methods, you can just “deal with it” by yourself instead of having awkward conversations like this. And anyway, who are you to impose your abnormal, restrictive desires on this man? You may even feel like a jerk. You will think that you are telling him: “Hey, I have this principle and I’m not going to change my mind or compromise, so you’re going to have to be the one to change.” That doesn’t seem fair, does it? But this guilt is based on a misconception. You’re not just asking him to compromise. This decision, if you both choose it together, is a team effort. My old college professor said: “There are eleven systems in the human body, and each one of those systems is independent, functioning to its full extent by itself… except for your reproductive system. You only have half of a reproductive system and it’s only complete when joined with someone else’s.” This is why it is important to realize that any guilt felt when asking a potential mate to commit to NFP is misplaced. You are not asking them to help you deal with your “situation.” The “situation” belongs to both of you equally. That is because it is both of you; two halves of one complete reproductive system, coming together with the potential to create new life.
You will need to be firm in your reasons for using NFP. While you answer all of his questions and concerns about NFP, you may begin to doubt yourself and your own commitment to your choice. This conversation is not an easy one and, when the man you love and respect is questioning your decisions, it can be very easy to begin questioning them yourself. But don’t listen to that voice in your head. You need to be convicted in your choice. Whether you chose NFP for religious, philosophical, cultural, health, or environmental reasons, hold on tight to them. These reasons should come from the core of who you are and be something that you are convinced is important. Most likely, this conviction will mean much more to the man who loves you than all of the data and explanations in the world.
Remember, it’s all worth it! In the thick of this conversation, there might be a moment when you wonder if it’s worth it. But, it totally is. Practicing NFP with the man you love is a rewarding experience that can enrich your relationship in a very special way. Not only will he intimately know and love the inner-workings of your personality, your mind, and your heart, now he will also understand your body better! On top of that, learning to communicate with each other through the NFP process is a tangible, day-to-day medium to grow in your understanding, respect, and appreciation of each other and how you relate and communicate with each other. Because of the continuous dialogue, you will also be more in-tune with each other regarding your goals for the future and how a family fits into those plans.
Yes, that first conversation can be rough and awkward. But in the end, you will leave that conversation feeling more sure in your own beliefs and knowledge of NFP. You will also walk away from that conversation more certain in your relationship with this man who challenges you, asks you questions, and, ultimately, loves you for who you are.
To learn more about using natural or fertility awareness based methods of natural planning, check out FACTS, Natural Womanhood and Body Language Life. These sites are great resources that will provide you with information and science based research about NFP.
This past year I traveled to different middle schools and high schools speaking about human dignity, healthy relationships, and sexual integrity. Naturally, when I had a room with only girls the topic of periods would come up. I was blown away by how many young girls knew nothing about their