Guest Post: The EMOTIONAL Partnership of Natural Family Planning

This post is part two of a three part series on the Physical, Emotional, and Spritual partnerships of NFP. Parts one and three can be found here: PART ONE & PART THREE.

Jill Cherrey, the author of this post, is a SymptoPro Instructor from New Jersey.  She also coordinates the NFP program for the Archdiocese of Newark and teams up with her husband to teach Theology of the Body classes to engaged couples.  In her off time, she enjoys driving her Mom Taxi, cooking healthy meals, and reading non-fiction.  She and Jim have been married 27 years, and are the grateful parents of three wonderful teens.

A wonderful memory I have from early in our marriage is of the day Jim and I chose to forgo a fun weekend getaway to respond to the local florist’s ad seeking delivery drivers for Mother’s Day.  We were saving every penny for a down payment on our first home, and here we found a way to satisfy the real desire we had (which was to spend time together), and actually make $50 while doing it!  Admittedly, the choice did not feel great initially, but it really was a fun day as we drove all over, and saw faces of joy behind door after door as we delivered flowers.  I think a weekend getaway would have been a faded memory by now, while our sacrifice and creativity at the service of saving for future home created an emotional partnership that never ceases to bring a smile to my face. 

While we have had other meaningful moments like that, it is Natural Family Planning that stands out to me as the foundational lifestyle choice we have made in our marriage that shares that experience of forming a close emotional partnership.   Within the most sacred space of marriage, the couple who uses NFP rejects the notion that sexual intimacy is a form of recreation, and gives their heart and soul to something bigger; here, a free, total, faithful, and fruitful gift of their bodies is given to renew the vows that were the center of their day.  A beautiful partnership is needed to learn and practice the method, but it is an emotional partnership that must be fostered for a couple to take on this choice with joy, discipline, playfulness, and success.

Natural Family Planning involves self-denial for the couple postponing pregnancy, for they need to abstain during the fertile phase of the cycle.  This is an important opportunity to grow in other forms of intimacy beginning with that of being honest about any struggle they are experiencing, and supporting each other through it.  Perhaps one of the greatest emotional skills in marriage is to learn how to share frustrations rather than deny them or express them inappropriately.   Avoiding each other or saying hurtful things during NFP challenges doesn’t end well, and a couple grows when they use the challenge as a stepping stone to deeper sharing and skills to help one another. 

Beyond sharing the struggles, a couple shares an emotional partnership as they take a journey of renewal and discovery during their time of abstinence.  Sexual intimacy is so powerful because two become one in a union and communion.  The acronym S.P.I.C.E. is helpful to remember that we also can “become one” spiritually, psychologically, intellectually, communicatively, and emotionally, and that overusing sexual oneness can inhibit the development of these more subtly and gradually formed attachments.  Exploring ways to deepen other forms of union through books like The Seven Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly or exploring new ways to share time is one of the greatest gifts of NFP and the discipline of periodic abstinence.  Even a simple shared routine during this phase that is neither intellectually deep nor worthy of a Facebook post is always more than enough when it fosters love.

This shared vision and mutual sacrifice brings a couple to the joy and meaning of the honeymoon phase when a couple enters back into a time of expressing love through sexual intimacy.  Having faced the challenges and deepened intimacy, a couple is in the very place God hoped to bring them:  joyful union formed on the foundation of sacrifice and meaning.

The vision we had many years ago to see our financial resources as about so much more than recreation, led us to form an emotional partnership to travel through challenges and joys so we could purchase a home.  We continue to enjoy the fruits of that partnership to this day in that home in which we continue to live, love, and raise our family.  Likewise, the vision the God gave us for Natural Family Planning and an intimate life about so much more than recreation, has led us to devote ourselves to forming an emotional partnership within our marriage that feels like a home in and of itself.