National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Planned Giving

Family Matters

BY Tom and Caroline McDonald

October 21-27, 2007 Issue | Posted 10/16/07 at 1:21 PM


My husband has agreed to practice natural family planning, but he’s refusing to read the manual or attend a class.

On the one hand, you should be grateful that he sees the importance of following this beautiful yet challenging Church teaching. Tell him so.

On the other, it takes two to tango and two not to tango. His passive “Okay” isn’t going to cut it until it translates into a pro-active “Amen.” In the business world they call this “buy-in.”

We’ve been teaching natural family planning for years, and we see this dynamic play out all too often. The husband may see a class as just one more obligation he doesn’t have time for. He’ll say, “You just figure it all out and tell me when it’s safe.” He has the best of intentions. But good intentions are not enough.

Let’s assume that a couple has prayerfully discerned that they have a serious reason to postpone pregnancy for the time being. They agree to follow the NFP rules for avoiding pregnancy. The husband may romantically approach his wife one evening, hoping that it’s an infertile time. The wife knows from charting that it is a very fertile time, so she tells him, “Sorry, not tonight.” The husband feels disappointed. Maybe even rejected. The wife feels guilty.

After a few requests like this, wanting to please, she may think, “I’m close enough to the safe time, so it’s probably okay.” You can imagine what happens next.

We have friends who took three chances. Guess how many children they have? Of course they love their children and consider them gifts from God, but at the time they felt that God was calling them to wait. Naturally, some tense times followed the unexpected “expansions.”

Here’s the thing: If the husband knows absolutely nothing about his wife’s signs of fertility, he is put in the awkward position of always having to ask permission. He may then be shocked: “How can this be? You said we were infertile!” That’s not the reaction anyone wants to have about a pregnancy, least of all pro-life Catholics.

In contrast, consider the husband attending an NFP series with his wife and becoming an expert on her charts. He sets the alarm and, when it goes off the next morning, hands her the thermometer. Later he records the temperature on their chart. By doing this simple task, he becomes part of the process. His wife, seeing that she has his “buy-in,” feels united with him.

Knowing exactly where his wife is in her cycle, the husband will not pressure his wife. He can rent a DVD for them to enjoy that night. Later he can plan out a romantic evening, buy flowers and do the dishes when he knows from looking at the chart that they are now back in the infertile time.

It is worthwhile for him to attend a class with you. Don’t nag, but explain how important it is to you. Then invite him. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire him to go — and ask for the intercession of some of your favorite married saints.

The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.