Guest Post: The PHYSICAL Partnership of Natural Family Planning

This is part one of a three part series on the Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual aspects of the Partnership of NFP. Parts two and three can be found here: PART TWO & 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.

Sarah and John were a lovely engaged couple who came to my SymptoPro class, and I recall with delight one of our chart reviews during which I was helping them understand what they had observed and recorded since the last class.  As I was discussing certain charting items with John, I glanced at Sarah and just saw her beaming at him.  I had seen this before, and asked John if I could interrupt him a moment to look at Sarah.  While he sweetly smiled back at her (I just love working with engaged couples!), I pointed out how much it means to Sarah that he is showing such love by working together on this.  He looked puzzled and said, “But, I am just charting symbols.  This is easy.”  It is so common for men to underestimate the significance of their gift in the practice of NFP!  However, like Sarah, women rarely miss it.

One of the joys of being a SymptoPro instructor is watching couples discover the impact of holding the gift of fertility in their hands together.  Our culture views family planning through the narrow lens of contraception, and we are left with the unacknowledged loss of a tender partnership in one of the most special areas of marriage.   Natural Family Planning offers a uniquely powerful way to grow that partnership, and both the husband and wife each play a special part in the journey.  Since we are tracking her fertility and she is the only one who can observe her signs, how is he a significant partner in this journey?

When couples come to my class I explain that she will be learning to observe her cervical mucus signs. These signs may be confusing to categorize at first even though she has experienced them for years. Therefore, I show him how effective and important it is to support her by reading the descriptions of the tissue and sensation symptoms provided on the back of their chart at the end of the day, so she can more easily identify which was the most fertile thing she saw or felt.  Here, she has a partner to talk through any confusion, and his offering of the SytmptoPro language for symptoms eliminates her need to create words to describe what she saw.

As well, the husband will chart the symbols for whatever his wife observed, and I find men appreciate having the specific and useful tool of charting with which to contribute.   Beginning in class, I ask the gentlemen to do the chart work for any of our activities as the couple does the exercises together.  The men naturally take to the challenge of learning this new tool, and enjoy having an active role in class.   These activities are not just a way to practice learning the technical aspects of NFP; they also provide an opportunity for the couple to engage in the dynamic of her observing and him charting. 

As the couple continues these things at home, I find the men are unaware of the significance of their efforts.   However, in a culture that primarily expects her to take on the full responsibility for family planning with artificial hormones or devices, the NFP-husband says, “I am right here with you.  We share this.”  As well, the experience of women, sexually speaking, is so often that of being looked at and not seen.   My wish is that every NFP-husband could appreciate the depth of the gift offered in seeing his wife as a whole person, fertility and beauty together as one.  It is one of the most authentic affirmations she can receive. 

Through the daily commitment of a couple to observe and chart, an important partnership has formed, the basis of which is the shared responsibility for the gift of their sexuality.  While she offers her gift through observing the signs of fertility, as only she can, he reveals and offers his masculine genius in supporting her through the use of effective tools and a dying to himself at the service of honoring and respecting her. 

The partnership of NFP is beautiful.

Please note that client names have been changed to protect their privacy.