Category Archives for "Sex & Family Planning"

Nov 25

I am Thankful for Sexuality

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

Gotta Love Sexuality

It seems that blog posts describing all the things we are thankful for are all the rage right now.  ‘Tis the season to reflect on how blessed we really are and to share our appreciation with others.  So, I took some time today to think about it for myself.

I am thankful for sexuality.  Yes, sexuality.  Now, please don’t confuse this with sex.  I’m certainly thankful for that too (!), but that’s not where I’m going here.

So What Exactly Do You Mean, Then?

I am thankful for the gift of unique sexuality that we are all blessed to possess.  I’m talking masculinity and femininity here.  Male and female.  Man and woman.

After all, it’s the inherent attraction between masculinity and femininity that has brought us together in marriage.  It is the basis for sexual attraction, and it is what makes us fit together and complement our spouses both physically and emotionally.  Sexuality is the reason we are able to leave our individual families and become “one” as a married couple.

Sounds a lot Like Sex to Me…

Well, yes, sex itself is obviously based in sexuality and the attraction we feel to the opposite sex.  That’s the way we are used to thinking about it within the context of marriage.  But it goes way beyond that….bear with me for a moment.

Think about what you admire(d) about your grandfather if you were fortunate enough to see him grow into old age.  For me, it was the strong paternal spirit that remained until he passed away.  It was the fact that he liked fishing and playing cards with the guys, and he could fix my bike.  And it was the way he still provided for my grandmother and looked over her with a protective spirit.  It was his enduring masculinity.

My grandma loved to cook and give hugs.  She was a petite lady that supported my grandfather in a caring way even when he didn’t deserve it.  And she retained a strong, but feminine, spirit until the day that she died.  You could see her femininity in the glow of her eyes.

I see it in our children as well.  Our son is all boy, and our little girl is beautifully feminine.  The roughhouser and the princess.  Mama’s boy and Daddy’s girl.  He loves his baby niece and she is crazy for her grandpa.

The attraction between males and females is there even when the relationship is not “sexual” at all.

OK, I Get It.  Why Should I Care?

You ask such great questions. 🙂  You should care because when you realize the power of sexuality in your life, you see your relationships, your tendencies, your thoughts, your concerns, your strengths, your weaknesses and so much more in a new and healthy way.[quote]

Men and women are different.  They just are. It’s built into our brain structures, our physical build and our hormones.

Men prefer to communicate their emotions through action (sex, building stuff, punching inanimate objects).  Women prefer to talk and be held close.  Men inherently have shorter attention spans and are quicker to jump to action with decisiveness.  Women like to ask for directions first.  Men tend to make decisions based on facts and previous experience.  Women rely more heavily on emotional responses and empathy.

Does any of this sound familiar in your marriage? Obviously, there are exceptions because all men have a limited number of feminine traits, and the same holds true for the ladies.  But, in general, guys are masculine and women are feminine no matter how much society would like try convince us otherwise.

The sooner you realize that this is just the nature of things and affirm those sexual traits in your spouse rather than fight against them, the sooner you can start to build an extraordinary marriage.

I Am Thankful for This Knowledge

This is obviously not rocket science.  You knew this stuff before you read this post.  But did you realize the depth to which our masculine and feminine traits influence our marriage and really our entire world?

I only came to this realization lately.  And I am thankful for the knowledge.  I look at my wife as a beautifully feminine mate, and I understand why she doesn’t always think and react the same way that I do (thank God).  And she can forgive my shortcomings a lot easier when she realizes that I am not being obstinate or difficult…I just have inherent differences in the way that I see the world.

After all, I’m just a boy at heart.

Photo by Mo Kaiwen 莫楷文

Nov 20

How Does Natural Family Planning Benefit Marriage?

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

Natural Family Planning Benefits Marriage

As you know if you have read my previous post describing what Natural Family Planning is and watched the NFP Informational Video, my wife and I are big proponents of Natural Family Planning.  I often cite NFP as one of the best things that has happened to our marriage, so I thought it would be helpful to provide a summary of the marriage benefits of Natural Family Planning to give you more insight into why we feel this way.

First of all, I need to let you know that some of the best benefits that NFP has provided for our relationship have really been intangible.  My wife and I have a great deal of peace about our sex life both from an intimacy standpoint and on the moral/religious/spiritual front.  And trust me, that’s saying a lot for a young Catholic couple trying to do the right thing. 🙂

When we found Natural Family Planning and started using it, we no longer had any of the lingering, often back-of-mind, worries about whether we were harming her health, marginalizing our intimacy, or reducing our sex life to something less than it should be.  From the outside, especially from a guy’s perspective, NFP can seem daunting and quite confining.  After all, it does require some periods of abstinence and we men aren’t the biggest fans of that idea.  Well, I’m here to tell you that after five years of using it, Natural Family Planning represents incredible freedom for our relationship.

Now for some of the more tangible benefits.

Five Benefits of Natural Family Planning for Marriage

1. A Stronger Bond. My wife and I have always been close and shared a special bond.  After all, we got married and have been a happy couple for many years.  However, when we started learning about Natural Family Planning and then started to put it into practice together, we grew closer on a level that I never knew was there previously.

When you can talk about the intricacies of your wife’s fertility signs (because you’ve bothered to learn them) and interpret those signs by her side (because you really care), you have a good bond.  And when you do this day-after-day and month-after-month through challenging times and in the face of cynical friends (and even family), you have an incredibly close bond that only you can share.  And when you come to the realization that sex truly is intended to be a religious experience (and you have experienced that way), you have formed a bond that you actually didn’t know was possible.  You just don’t get that from a condom.

2. Open Communication.  Listen, I have talked to my wife routinely about basal body temperatures and cervical mucus.  And not in the super sexy, erotic way that you must be thinking (that was a joke, just to be clear).  No, I am confident that I have more knowledge of the female fertility cycle than five generations of my forefathers combined.

Who cares?  My wife.  She knows that I care about her body, her sexuality and her soul because we routinely communicate about it.  You cannot effectively practice Natural Family Planning without improving the level of communication in your marriage.  It’s part and parcel, and it is one of the sweetest benefits of the process.

I simply cannot imagine a more intimate and sacred topic of conversation than that of fertility and the willingness to accept children (or not).  My wife and I have these discussions on a regular basis, and it has made us excellent communicators in all aspects of our marriage.

3. Mutual Decision Making.  When we decide if we are going to have sex during the “transitional” times between fertility phases, it is a complete and total mutual decision.  It really cannot be one-sided and it requires open communication.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times throughout each month where total spontaneity are possible…and fantastic.  But there are those times where we have to think together and reach important mutual decisions.  For us, this ability to make decisions together has enhanced everything from our finances to our parenting skills.

4. Raises Appreciation of Intimacy.  This one rocks.  We used birth control for the first four years of our marriage, and we thought we were getting all that we could out of our sex life.  We were wrong.

With the introduction of Natural Family Planning, the intimacy in our marriage (both inside and outside of the bedroom) achieved entirely new levels.  It wasn’t that things were all that different physically, but they were worlds better emotionally and spiritually.  Through our decision to try NFP, our NFP training and especially in our daily use of Natural Family Planning, we have definitely learned an entirely different appreciation for sex and intimacy.

Oh, and the “honeymoon effect” after the brief periods of abstinence each month is pretty sweet, too.

5. Marriage Insurance.  I think this term really sums up the value of all the other benefits in a very real and tangible way.  I’ll let the statistics speak for themselves:

The divorce rate for couples practicing Natural Family Planning is less than 5%. For the general population, it is nearly 50%.

‘Nuff said.

I hope this post helps to provide some insight into why I am so comfortable telling others that Natural Family Planning is the best thing that has happened to our marriage.  There is much more to this story, and we’ll get there with time.

For now, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  Do you practice NFP?  Have you even heard of it before this post (or before finding Engaged Marriage)?  What problems/challenges do you think you would have if you tried it?  This topic is a passion of mine, and I really want to hear from you.

Photo by pedrosimoes7

Oct 15

Green Sex, Anyone?

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

Healthy Sex for a Healthy Planet

When I read an article on Natural Family Planning today in the online edition of Time Magazine, I knew I had to respond with a post here at Engaged Marriage.

First of all, I was delighted to see NFP discussed in a national magazine!  With the creation of this site and the obvious interest I have witnessed about Natural Family Planning, my antenna is probably a bit more in tune to the coverage of the topic online.  However, I see an article like this (however flawed it may be in some respects) as a breakthrough in spreading the message that Natural Family Planning exists as a responsible option.

The article actually does a pretty good job of describing NFP at a high level and letting the Average Joe or Jane know the basic premise behind the method (for more info check out a previous post here at EM).  And I am sure the author’s experience in the Pre-Cana program is a common reaction to an initial introduction to the topic.  My wife and I have heard similar reactions in the marriage preparation courses we have taught.

Green Sex?

I am also very pleased to hear Natural Family Planning discussed as a legitimate means of expressing environmental responsibility.  Hence, my tongue-cheek-title to this post: Green Sex!

Truth be told, NFP is, well, natural.  There is no doubt that the artificial hormones found in birth control pills are excreted and find their way into our environment; hence, the growing stories about three-eyed frogs and deformed fish in our waters.  And the chemicals used in spermicides, condoms, IUD’s and the like are anything but natural and harmless to the ecosystem.  This is not to mention the harmful effects to women’s health, but that’s a topic for another day.

Some “Fuzzy” Assertions

I do take exception with a few assertions made in this article.  Natural Family Planning is 99% effective (the same or better than artificial birth control), so to state that “it” results in larger families is false.  On average, NFP couples probably do have more children, but this is related to their openness to life and love of family.  Plenty of one and two-child NFP couples abound, my wife and I included (at least for the time being).

And the article’s final, and weak, statement that widespread adoption of Natural Family Planning is harmful to our planet because we’ll have a higher population, and therefore more greenhouse gases, is a bit of a stretch.  If the intentions for limited family size are left intact, NFP is not going to result in more babies.  Of course, I do not see more babies as a negative thing.  Following this line of thinking would also suggest that less abortions is a bad thing–after all that would also increase the world population.

Sensationalism about the need for population control has been around for a long time.  If you believed the hype of the population “experts” of the 1970’s, you would think the world would be in state of total chaos at this point due to the lack of food and natural resources.  Our world and our country have their problems, but overpopulation and an oversupply of babies is not one of them.

The Bottom Line

In closing, I would just like to say “hooray” for some national coverage of Natural Family Planning.  I welcome with an open heart those that may practice NFP for the environment, for Mother Nature, for health, or for liberation.  I do not expect everyone to share my moral beliefs, but I do sincerely hope that everyone will become aware that Natural Family Planning exists as a viable option for improving our marriages, our lives and our world.

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Oct 11

Natural Family Planning Informational Video

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

I recently discovered a great six-minute video that highlights the benefits of Natural Family Planning and addresses some of the primary misconceptions about NFP.  This video was produced by the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.  Obviously, it includes some Catholic beliefs and teachings, but I think that you will find it informational even if you do not share the Catholic faith.

I really think there is a lack of this type of information/promotion for Natural Family Planning available in social media circles, so maybe we can do something about that!  In the meantime, please enjoy the video and check out my previous post entitled “What is Natural Family Planning?” for more information.

Oct 01

What is Natural Family Planning?

By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

What is Natural Family Planning?

If you read my introductory post on Sex & Family Planning, you already know that my wife and I practice Natural Family Planning.  We are passionate about this topic and actually feel like it is one of the best things that has happened to our marriage.

One of the inspirations behind starting this website was a desire to spread the word about NFP and let other couples know about it.

While I would be happy to actually motivate others to try it in their marriage and ecstatic to hear from even one couple that becomes regular users of this method as a result of this site, my primary goal is simply to inform others about Natural Family Planning so they become aware of it as an option.

So, let’s use this post to just start with the basics.

So, Just What is Natural Family Planning?

Simply put, Natural Family Planning is fertility awareness; the knowledge of when a woman is fertile and when she is infertile.  We will discuss the specifics in later posts, but basically a woman is only fertile for a few days during each menstrual cycle.  If you can reliably identify those days, you can either avoid or achieve pregnancy…naturally.

Let’s use some easy-to-follow bullet points to better define NFP:

– It’s a natural method that uses no forms of artificial birth control.

  • That’s right, no birth control pills, no condoms, no IUDs, no shots, no nothin.’

– The couple uses proven signs to track the woman’s fertility cycle.

– Couples generally use a “Sympto-Thermal” method for tracking.

  • “Thermal” is a fancy way of saying the gal takes her temperature each morning before she gets out of bed (called her basal body temperature).
  • “Sympto” just means that there are obvious signs a woman’s body gives indicating where she is in the fertility cycle.
  • These signs are related primarily to her mucus (yes, down there) and her cervix (though those observations are optional).

– Using well-documented and exhaustively researched guidance, you can accurately determine when a woman is fertile and when she is not.

– If you want to avoid pregnancy during a given month, you simply abstain from sex during the fertile times (this is only a small portion of the cycle, so don’t worry too much).

– If you want to get pregnant, you’ll know the days that you really don’t want to miss!

– NFP is 99% effective.  Really.

    There you have it.  You now have a solid understanding of what it means to practice Natural Family Planning.

    And I’m sure you have many more questions about the specifics of NFP, the benefits, the challenges.  Maybe you are curious how my wife and I discovered NFP and why we are so fired up about it.  And just why haven’t you heard more about Natural Family Planning before?  Is this stuff only for hardcore religious freaks or what?

    For a bit more insight, please check out this cool video about NFP and how it fits into a healthy marriage.

    Stay tuned and I promise you will become well informed!  In the meantime, please post a comment with your own thoughts, questions or experiences with NFP.

    Photo by jonrawlinson
    Aug 28

    Marriage, Sex and Family Planning

    By Dustin | Sex & Family Planning

    Family Planning and Children

    If there is one subject related to marriage that I love to talk about, it’s sex! 🙂 Don’t worry (or be disappointed depending on how warped your mind may be), I am not referring to anything dirty or inappropriate here.  Instead, I am talking about how healthy sexuality should play a key role in a vibrant and successful marriage.

    Of course, it is difficult to talk about sexuality and marriage without also discussing the issue of family planning and decisions related to bringing children into this world.  Good news!  I also have a passion for this subject and feel like I can offer a great deal of practical and hopefully comforting advice on this topic.

    It just so happens that my wife and I are regular presenters on the topic of Sexuality and Family Planning in the marriage preparation class offered by our church. In fact, it was our involvement in this program, along with our interaction with many engaged and married couples, that inspired the creation of the Engaged Marriage blog and website.

    You will find a lot of valuable resources related to having a healthy sexual relationship and finding the right family planning approach for your marriage in this category.  In particular, I hope to shed some light and spread the word about the family planning method that my wife and I have chosen: Natural Family Planning (NFP).

    Whether for practical, moral, health, religious, financial or other reasons, many couples are not comfortable with their current forms of family planning.  This was an issue that we struggled with for the first four years of our marriage until we were blessed to discover (through a rather interesting journey) the practice of Natural Family Planning. I can hardly wait to share both the benefits and challenges of NFP, especially the fantastic positive effect it was had on our marriage and our overall relationship.  However, I am told that blog posts are best left shorter and sweeter, so I will save that for another day (but soon).

    Before I wrap up this introductory post on Marriage, Sex and Family Planning, I did want to alert you to keep an eye out for what I feel will be a unique review of a product we have decided to use, the Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor.  While we have successfully used Natural Family Planning for more than four years now to both quickly conceive and effectively space-out our two children, we feel like adding this monitor to our “toolbox” may help add another level of quality and effectiveness (especially since we are thinking of trying for Baby #3 soon).

    I plan to purchase one of these from Amazon (based on their price and shipping offers) in the next few days, so we can start trying it out so stay tuned for updates.  If you are interested in reading more about this monitor or possibly purchasing one, you can click on the links for the MonitorClearblue Easy Fertility Monitor, the SticksClearblue Easy Fertility Monitor Sticks or the Monitor and Test Sticks Combo Package.

    Photo courtesy of christine [cbszeto]

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