As a woman practicing Natural Family Planning it’s a frustrating reality that the one time when you are absolutely not fertile is the one time you are least likely to want to have sex. Biologically, it makes sense. Your body knows it can’t make a baby, so it knows there’s no need to push you to have sex. If you suffer from any level of pre-menstrual mood disorder, that makes you even less likely to want to have sex. Add in the fact that even if you do have sex, you’re likely to have significantly less natural lubrication than usual and it is one solid vote for another episode of Marvel’s Defenders over snuggles with your man.
Even if a wife muscles through for her husband’s sake, it’s generally not terribly satisfying. If that’s the situation long enough, a wife is going to end up resentful, and her husband will feel horribly not only inadequate but also unwanted. Instead of sex being a beautiful renewal of their vows, it is reduced to a begrudging duty owed to the man.
Contrast that with what you hear in NFP class: “Phases two and three are like a monthly engagement and honeymoon!” How do they get from the biological default of “get away from me” to “wedding night 2.0”? With a comprehensive understanding of the female arousal curve as it varies through the cycle.
We usually think of sex following a Danielle Steele-like script of a couple overcome with passion who deeply desire one another. That kind of sex is great, sure, but it’s not the only kind of great sex, and it’s not likely to happen much in Phase 3. The alternative isn’t just that “marital duty” sex, but a deliberate intimacy that may take more effort on both the part of the husband and the wife but is so worth it in the end.
Setting the Stage
Good Phase 3 sex begins in Phase 2. Remember hearing about SPICE? Most of the time, it’s used as a consolation prize during Phase 2. As if board games could be an acceptable substitute… But if you do use SPICE, it helps to avoid the mental gymnastics of switching from roommate to spouse post-peak.
Men, if you’re ignoring your wife when you can’t have sex, you’re sending her a message that you don’t care about the rest of her. She’s not going to forget that easily. So consciously spend some time together during Phase 2, and maybe throw some SPICE in there, if it doesn’t cause too much temptation. But don’t ignore each other because it’s easier that way.
How wives can make Phase 3 sex better
A lot of making Phase 3 sex good is going to depend just on your attitude. So much of our arousal is based on our mental state! The good news is that we can do a lot to control that! My guru Sheila suggests psyching yourself up throughout the day. Think about some really great sex you’ve had with your husband. Send him a flirty text. Put on something that makes you feel sexy.
Basically, be mentally open to the idea of sex throughout the day leading up to the event so you don’t have to try and flip a light switch when you really work more like an iron (as my youth leaders of yore were so frequently telling me). You’re married. You’re more than allowed to think about sex with your husband.
How husbands can make Phase 3 sex better
Clean the house.
Really. I’m dead serious here. At the risk of oversharing, the biggest mood killer for me is remembering all the housework I didn’t get done that day. Mental busyness is decidedly the most un-sexy thing I can think of. So guys, take whatever you can off her plate. Put the kids to bed for her. Help her clean up. Do whatever you can to help her calm her mind down. Do you know what her love language is? Speak it a lot. Again, not five minutes before sex, but throughout the day. Give her time to warm up.
There are definitely things both of you can do during sex too, but that’s more of on a case by case basis, so Imma just let y’all figure that one out for yourselves. My only two suggestions are: take it slower and engage more senses than usual. Add music, try aromatherapy (patchouli for my fellow hippie-leaning folks, rose for the more classic), light some candles– just add extra sensory cues that help you stay focused.
My last thought on this topic: sex is meant to be both procreative and unitive, but in Phase 3, the procreative part is out the window. So be intentional about focusing on that unitive part. Don’t just look at sex as something that you guys do that feels good and relieves stress. Remember that this is something that will strengthen your marriage, and will help each other to God. We should always be mindful of the sacramental character of sex, but especially here in Phase 3, pray for the grace of unity.
The jury’s still out on whether or not the “NFP honeymoon effect” is a thing or not. I think it’s going to depend very much on specific life circumstances during each cycle. Phase 3 sex can definitely be pretty awesome though. Like anything worth doing, it’s just going to take a little more effort.
Disclaimer: I’m making some sweeping generalizations here, but they are based on biological and psychological facts. There is a lot of deviation from this norm though, and there very well could be underlying biological reasons for an abnormally low libido. Don’t hesitate to talk to your GYN about hormonal issues if you think that might be a factor.
Check out the previous posts in the “NFP in the Trenches” series, and stay tuned for more to come!