One of the things I hear people say (my wife and I being two of these people), is that married people who practice NFP have around a 2% divorce rate. Obviously, with a 98% marital success rate, we can put that national divorce rate to shame and kick it to the curb. But just because one uses Natural Family Planning in their marriage does not guarantee their success. There is a danger in believing that just because you practice NFP, you’re going to beat the odds and live happily ever after. NFP is not a magic wand or wonder cure. It doesn’t mean you communicate or love each other. NFP is a tool, an instrument to be used towards success; but a man and wife must still be a team and truly live out their marriage vows of for better and for worse, in sickness and health, for richer and for poor, until death do you part.
Just because I have a baseball bat doesn’t mean I’ll hit the ball. If I have a computer, it doesn’t mean I can write an iPhone app. And just because I have a gift card, doesn’t mean I’ll ever use it and benefit from the gift that it is. Natural Family Planning doesn’t make me a better husband, nor does it make me a bad one. It doesn’t make me a good listener, it doesn’t make me more patient, and it doesn’t make me do a better job of forgiving. I’m not more attentive to my wife’s needs, I’m not always on her best side, and she’s not always on mine just because we practice this Church teaching. We’re not God Almighty; we are very simple human beings who are prone to constantly repeating the same mistakes we’ve been making our whole lives and seem to find creative ways of interfering with God’s great Plan. We made mistakes and committed sin before we were married, and we’re still sinners who still make mistakes. As my friend Joe likes to say, he spent 4 years in college working on his bachelor degree and then completed a master’s in engineering to prepare himself for a career in engineering. Yet as important as a college degree is, most married people wouldn’t list a career as the most important thing in their marriage. The marriage itself is clearly much more important than a career. Yet we spend such little time preparing for marriage when compared to the time spent to prepare for marriage.
There is not enough marriage prep one can do to prepare themselves for marriage. If there is any truth to the 2% divorce rate statistic, I believe it is because most people who practice Natural Family Planning do so out of a desire to act on their obedience to God and to place things in His Hands. Practicing NFP doesn’t make me a better husband, but it does give me an opportunity to succeed as a husband. It gives my wife and I an opportunity to succeed. Our marriage is important to us both, we want to succeed, and we believe that practicing NFP improves our odds because it is an opportunity to act out what we believe. Christ gave of Himself freely, fully, faithfully, and fruitfully. He accepted the cross of His own free will. He didn’t make a small sacrifice by giving only a little bit of Himself; He gave of Himself fully by giving His whole body in the Eucharist and in Crucifixion. In doing these things He remains faithful to us and to the Father, thus fulfilling the Father’s Will and offering us salvation. And salvation is the fruit of this sacrifice.
Likewise, we believe that practicing NFP allows us to imitate these actions. In marriage we come together freely and without reservation. We give of ourselves fully in that we remain open to the unitive and procreative aspects of our sexuality. We promise to be faithful to each other and to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church, and we promise to be fruitful and to accept children lovingly and to bring them up according to the teachings of the Church.
Natural Family Planning doesn’t make me a better listener or mean I’m paying attention to my wife, that’s something any husband or wife should be doing regardless of whether they practice NFP or not. And NFP is not a substitute to making me more aware of my wife. It’s simply a tool, a natural tool. And with God as the Creator of all things natural, it is a truly amazing and wondrous tool, just like anything else He creates. Just like my wondrous wife.
NFP is not a magic wand that automatically makes your marriage succeed or makes one a “Super Spouse.” Marriage takes work, a lot of really hard work. But there is this amazing and wondrous tool called NFP, and it is amazing.
My name is James, and #iusenfp.