Back in 2010, Brianna ran the Students for Life club at our university. I met her then-fiance the next year when we spent a lovely evening absolutely slaughtering the “Secular Students for Free Thought” in front of about a hundred or so people as we debated the morality of abortion. I’m not exaggerating. It was a great day. The clip really doesn’t do it justice.
A few years later, Brianna and RJ got married. RJ spent several years working for pro-life organizations and in youth outreach and Brianna worked as in ICU RN. RJ is currently finishing a law degree at Harvard, and Brianna is a SAHM to their two kids. Brianna is also currently training to be a Marquette Method NFP instructor.
What was your longest period of abstinence when TTA (trying to abstain)?
After Theodore was born and we had 2 kids 15 months apart in 28 months of marriage, we were seriously TTA. I was transitioning from Creighton method to Marquette method, and trying to understand my body. We probably went about 2-3 months at the longest of TTA. We frequently have 4 week periods of abstinence though due to wonky cycles and multiple ovulation attempts and stress.
Was there anything that helped you avoid temptation and frustration while TTA?
Our biggest help has been in looking at it as a period of individual growth. When we stopped trying so hard to force being connected during periods of abstinence, it helped us avoid more opportunities of temptation. This also helps greatly with our frustrations, instead of focusing on what we can’t do, we look at it as a time to do things that we don’t do during phase 1 or phase 3. We plan more girls nights/guys nights, I can curl up with chick flicks or go to the gym after the kids are in bed, he can study without feeling guilty, and play video games. It took a little time to find what we enjoy on our own but it helps us maintain our individual friendships, and provide alone time which we both thrive with.
What made you decide to keep charting instead of switching to artificial birth control or complete abstinence?
First and foremost we knew and accepted the Church’s teaching’s on birth control so that was never an option in our mind. I knew that if I took the time to learn about my body that I would probably be able to find something that worked. I know you’re not supposed to mix methods, so I followed the rules for Marquette only, but for several months I charted every possible sign. I was originally trained in Creighton, and my parent’s used sympto-thermal so I had a good base of knowledge for the different methods, and I charted my temps, mucus observations, cervix position, mood, ovulation pain, and the readings of the Clear Blue monitor. This intensive charting for those months helped me finally understand my body and how it worked in regards to ovulation. It has helped me so much in continuing to TTA for the last 3.5 years. We conservatively used days at the very beginning and end of my cycle, so it wasn’t complete abstinence.
Do you have any final advice for couples considering or using NFP?
I think that your frame of mind and open communication are the best things to help you while navigating NFP. Having open communication with RJ about, “I don’t know what the heck my body is doing, so you’re going to have to hang tight for a while longer”, helped me not stress as much about it and helped us be able to laugh (minimally at times) about it. I really feel with the proper instruction people will eventually navigate the murky waters of NFP, you just have to seek help and be willing to diligently chart.
Murky is a good word, but it’s encouraging to see the way Brianna and RJ navigate that murk. Brianna and RJ don’t follow the standard pattern of using NFP, but they worked together to find what works best for them. Their positive approach to abstinence, a time for working on themselves, is not anything taught in NFP methods, but I like the idea!
I don’t think it would work for everyone. But neither does the sympto-thermal method. Neither does Billings, Creighton, or Marquette. We’ve come a long way from the beginnings of NFP, there’s a lot of different options to use. If NFP isn’t working for you, if it’s causing too much aggravation, talk to your spouse about ways you can make it less stressful. Maybe that does mean working on your individual projects during abstinence. Maybe it means switching methods. Whatever it is, find what works for you and your spouse, not just what you read on a blog somewhere. 😉
Check out the previous posts in the “NFP in the Trenches” series, and stay tuned as I wrap up this round of NFP blogging next week