"Is NFP hard to use?" Part 2

In Part 1, I listed situations in which NFP would be difficult to practice.  While learning about fertility awareness itself is possible for any person of any education level and background, life circumstances such as level of support or the state of one's marriage could present possible road bumps. 

Today, I will speak on how to overcome such road bumps, either by preventing them from happening, or dealing with them head on. 

How can these NFP difficulties be prevented or dealt with?

There are many ways to handle the hard parts of using NFP.  It depends on the support you have, are willing to find, and knowing how to resolve any issues that come up.  Of course there will be times where life will be hard no matter what you do to prevent it in the first place, or how you deal with it in the moment, but hopefully knowing how to deal with them with charity can prevent total meltdowns!

  • Initially learning the method

Learn NFP ASAP!!! If you recently got engaged, sign up NOW.  Do not wait until a few months before the wedding night: do it a full year (or at least six months) before the settled wedding date.  This will give the man and woman ample time to figure out their method, switch methods if they have to, and be comfortable with charting rules once the time comes to use it.  Also, they won’t have to face as much abstinence at the beginning of marriage.  This is because the more you chart, the more information you garner on your menstrual patterns; the information gathered from cycles’ worth of data can offer the option of other rules that shorten the fertile window.

Even if you are single, at the very least just get yourself an NFP book if you don't want to pay for a class.  Charting now gives you more confidence and information for the future.  And once you get a partner: you can teach them a thing or two yourself. ;)  Your confidence will rub off on them eventually, and they will grow to accept it once they see your comfort in charting.

If you are already married, then the sooner you learn the better.  Find an instructor and get started asap.  While learning, never be afraid to ask for help or clarification on anything that confuses you. Instructors will be more than happy to help! And trust me, we don't want you to abstain more than you have to either, we will do anything we can to help how we can.

If you feel that your instructor is not doing what they can to help you, or is disrespectful in anyway, you can find another instructor or even a new method.  It will be hard at first, but in the long run: it's worth it.  You and your spouse deserve professional help.

Also be sure to include both spouses in learning, as learning NFP is less of a burden when it is a team effort.  All NFP organizations offer special payment packages for learning couples and will be cheaper than learning alone anyway. 

Lastly, do your kids a favor: teach them about charting as teenagers, so they will already be knowledgeable and confident in the effectiveness of fertility awareness.  They won’t walk into class as skeptical, worried adults, but educated and ready to learn the rules. By no means should teenagers learn how to use charting as a method of birth control, but when they learn how to chart for health reasons, it can ease transition into using it as a method of family planning.

  • Implementing NFP into one’s lifestyle

If you are the only couple you know that uses NFP, or even if your spouse is hostile towards NFP, it can be pretty lonely being an NFP user.  No one is supporting you; listening to your worries and concerns without ridicule; high-fiving you when you figure out a tricky cycle; no one.

It can be rough: but thanks to social media, it can be at least a little easier to go through.  There are numerous forums and facebook groups for women/men who use NFP.  Some may have a specific audience, such as those who are struggling to conceive, those who use a specific NFP method, or those who are religiously motivated to use NFP.  There, questions are posted and answered, charts shared, and even some instructors are there to voice their opinion on a concern you have.  You can search for them and see which ones seem to fit you best.

With a stubborn spouse, you will have to go beyond trying to find a supportive NFP community (though it does help).  Depending on the reason for their hostility towards NFP and its severity, helping them turn around could mean simply taking them to an NFP instructor to ask questions, or going straight to a marriage counselor to work out communication issues that are impairing efforts to use NFP together.

Most loving, open spouses are willing to at least hear out your reasoning for using NFP.  Many are skeptical out of genuine concern about effectiveness, and clearing up their misconceptions, along with involving them in charting, is enough to settle most concerns.  This can be done by speaking with a certified instructor, giving them NFP materials to read, or even sharing a list of studies supporting the method’s effectiveness.

However, sometimes hostility towards NFP is related to marital troubles outside the bedroom.  This relates mainly to communication problems: especially if they do not like the idea of abstaining.  If trying to talk about NFP or anything else only leads to fights and arguments, then seek out counseling.  Hopefully, using NFP can open an opportunity for the two spouses to finally practice and utilize communication skills that can help them forge a stronger relationship.

  • Practicing NFP faithfully/Charting consistently

As I have said before: it takes only minutes of your day to observe your signs and note them down on your chart by the end of it.  However, to overcome some practical charting nuances, you can check out a previous post of mine about the topic: When Charting becomes a Drag: Making NFP Easier to Chart.

Easier charting does not guarantee all your problems are resolved: but it can help with lightening the burden at least a little.

  • Accepting NFP as a Catholic

This is something that, no matter how well read you make someone on Catholic beliefs, will not guarantee that someone will accept it (You can lead a horse to water...).  It is, after all, a matter of the heart and soul, not necessarily the mind.

Prayer and living by example are called into place.  If your spouse is outright hostile towards NFP and the "Catholic-ness" behind it, then you pray for your patience and their understanding.  And, of course, if needed, seek counseling to address other marital issues that could be contributing to the strain.

If you yourself struggle with NFP, then challenge yourself: use NFP, and nothing but NFP, and pray, pray pray!  Read up on all the NFP resources you can.  Find NFP communities for support.  Find an instructor to help you with charting.  Find God in a quiet place, tell Him you are trying, and truly, without hesitation: use nothing but NFP.

Of course, not all couples who use NFP are Catholic, or even religiously motivated or pressured to use it.  That doesn't mean non-Catholic users are without moral or philosophical reasons to practice NFP.  Perhaps you are committed to being eco-friendly, or have serious health reasons that restrict your options in birth control.  Some advocate for fertility awareness in general, and see using NFP as part of a revolution to improve women's health care. 

If this or other reasons are what encourage you to use NFP, whether you are Catholic or not, then remind yourself of them everyday.  Write up a list of them if you have to, and put it up where you can read it!  Surround yourself with the positive aspects of NFP, and stand up for them when it is questioned.  You have every right to be passionate/supportive of your method.

  • Using NFP when dealing with a serious reason to avoid pregnancy and Pressure from oneself, their partner, or others to fear NFP as unreliable

Some couples are confident with NFP's effectiveness, and are careful to strictly follow the rules for avoiding pregnancy.  They could have the most serious reason in the world to avoid pregnancy, but they do not fear it.  They mutually agree with using NFP and accept it's effectiveness: such a unity in family planning gives them the confidence and respect needed to use NFP without fear or anxiety.

But there are other couples who have that anxiety-ridden fear of becoming pregnant.  Perhaps they struggled with NFP before, or they face incredible pressure from their doctor and others to get sterilized.  They are constantly bombarded with pressure from within and without to fear pregnancy and to avoid it at all costs.  Other times pressure comes from the spouse themselves, because of a previous failure, dissatisfaction with the NFP lifestyle, or other reasons.

When you live in a culture that constantly misrepresents NFP's effectiveness and doubts your ability to use it, especially when you have a serious reason to avoid -- it builds up.  This is doubly so for those who experienced surprise pregnancies with NFP.  In order to protect your marriage relationship, and your trust in using NFP, there are ways to ease up on the fear: contact your instructor to guide you through every cycle if necessary! They know what will work for you, and will want to help you as much as they can.

In the future, I will post about how to utilize NFP in such a scenario in greater detail, and your choices involved. However, when dealing with actual anxiety over pregnancy, you will have to take it a step further.  Counseling will possibly be needed if it truly interferes with your everyday life and relationships: especially if your spouse is hostile towards NFP as well.

Also, if pestering from family/friends and doctors do not help with this anxiety, then step up to the plate and bluntly tell them, "I am using NFP, and that's that. I have made my educated decision. You can either support my spouse and I, or keep your opinions to yourselves." If it continues otherwise, simply change the subject when it is brought up or even walk out of the situation. Make it clear that their fear-mongering is not tolerated by refusing to take part in it.

Is that all?

No, it isn't. Sometimes, even with these tips in mind, life circumstances can bring you five steps back after three steps forward. Using NFP is practically a lifestyle, and one that is challenging to maintain if you receive roadblocks that stop you from enjoying its benefits. I do not pretend that this post along will solve all your problems!

But it needs to be shared in order to get couples off to the right start. Overtime, the both of you will discover what works for you and what doesn't, and perhaps it leads you to do more research elsewhere. Whatever the case, you CAN overcome these obstacles!  It may be hard and long, but it can be done.

Never hesitate to reach out for help. NFP may be straightforward, but it is not always easy. Hopefully what I share here can help someone somewhere and lead them to a better experience.