Conversations with Dr. Meyer on Healing Marriages (III)

Anthony Zimmerman
June 8, 1985
Edited by Fr. Anthony Zimmerman
Reproduced with Permission


An abiding determination to protect the wholeness of the marriage for both, which is central to the successful practice of NFP tends strongly to make the spouses content with each other, to make their love exclusive, and to insulate them against tendencies to graze in other pastures. The very practice of observing the signs together and of communicating intimately renders tendencies to stray to be less enticing, even repulsive. The exercises of continence which they perform together give them more than needed strength to be faithful. Partners who collaborate in NFP really have little inclination for adultery. The simple fact that they use no other means to protect themselves against pregnancy except self-denial diminishes any tendency for adultery.

An adulterous partner, on the other hand, is rarely willing to collaborate willingly in an NFP style partnership, to observe carefully the signs of fertility and to abstain when indicated. The dynamism of love and respect which supports partners to practice NFP successfully and with tolerable effort, is simply missing from a union which is compromised by adultery. The practice of adultery therefore tends to exclude NFP; and the other way around, the practice of NFP tends to exclude adultery. Wives who wish to keep their husbands exclusively faithful for themselves should know this. By helping husbands to practice NFP they strengthen their exclusive love, and give them more satisfaction in being faithful.

The added quality of those relations which NFP couples perceive is the main reason why the incidence of adultery is so very low among NFP populations. Sexual contentment enjoyed in the context of a warm and collaborative marriage is the usual experience among such, even though individual sex acts may not always be perfect. Their personal contentment brings harmony into their lives, harmony with the other, peace with self. In turn, this readies the subconscious to be in a state which awaits satisfactory sexual joy with the other. Jealousy to guard mutual exclusiveness then seals their union against outside intrusions.

For the achievement and maintenance of satisfactory marital sex experience, it is vitally important that the man and woman maintain in their subconscious a strong sense of identity as male and female, and that their corresponding roles remain intact. When they, for valid reasons, by-pass reluctantly the fertile time out of respect for their miraculous and sacred couple-fertility, thereby preserving the wholeness of the personhood, of their inseparable body-psyche humanness, they maintain and sharpen this advantageous subconscious awareness of identity as male and female.

In addition, as said before, it is better for them that they are not always available to each other for sex, but that they find it necessary occasionally to observe a period of mutual rest. Sexual boredom induced by its constant availability can spawn tendencies to seek better experiences elsewhere, that is, through adultery.

The fact that NFP couples fast periodically from intercourse becomes for them a protection against sexual ennui. The NFP couple need not be afraid of experiencing this boredom with sex, this feeling of changeless routine. After each time of periodic sexual fasting, sex is always new; it is a first honeymoon each time again. Their contentment radiates into their daily lives and rubs off on their children.

Because they value their relationship with each other above all else, their sexual act does not become a contest in performance, a competition to outdo the other. They can be truly themselves in each other's arms, without endeavoring to appear as superman or superwoman. Scoring is of little interest since they have each other, and trust themselves.

We may say, therefore, that the NFP couple is also growing together psycho-sexually. She is not over-saturated with sex, is not slithering down the road as so many others towards a growing dislike of sex, repudiation of the penis, dissatisfaction with the man and finally with the marriage. A sense of self-control and of being in command of their marriage, makes it unnecessary to dread a union for fear of another child. He learns to accept her characteristically more slow arousal, to pace himself as a gift to her. The exercise of loving each other in non-genital ways during the abstinence time develops a greater tenderness of their person-to-person relationship, helps them to accept self and each other with understanding "for better and for worse" and to live comfortably with this life-style.

The very fact that there is so little divorce among the NFP population should tell us that these couples are more content and satisfied with things as they are than in the case of the contracepting and divorcing population. Since adultery is frequently a prelude to divorce, we can assume that, statistically, there is less adultery among NFP users than among contraceptors. Contraception is not bringing that much touted liberation from fear of pregnancy and of sex to women, not making them more happy; and on the other side, NFP practice is not straining their marriage as false prophets had warned. With NFP instead of contraception, men feel more manly, women taste more tenderness and esteem, and divorce is as far away from them as it has been in all times of healthy family life.

Examples of NFP at grass roots level

Woman, after two years on the Pill, learns NFP: "I had gotten the impression from the media that menstruation and virginity are things to be ashamed of. NFP shows the opposite: that God has created a perfect machine which functions according to a pre-conceived plan. The design and functioning of the reproductive systems, male and female, are fascinating." Women learn to be proud of their God-given endowments; men grow to appreciate what they had hardly dared to investigate before. The study and practice of NFP unlocks treasures unknown to a couple during their pre-NFP times.

Another couple: "From what I had read earlier I concluded that in past generations having sex was used as a lever in marriages, an exchange for favors. And it used to be the women who did the calculations to space, who had the power when to say "No." NFP, on the contrary, tends strongly to promote recognition of equality by spouses."

Mr. and Mrs. _____ in their first year of marriage: "Hello again. Here is our latest report to you: we have just passed our 8th cycle using NFP, with no difficulties whatsoever. Everything goes smoothly now, almost routine, with only rare complaints from either of us about you-know-what." [Abstinence.] And later: "The first anniversary of our marriage, and no difficulties whatsoever. It's fascinating to see how that works out - I wonder whether there is a correlation with the NFP life-pattern. I must say, however, that our married life is far from routine, and we shall strive to keep it that way."

A common-law couple, non-Catholics, she after one divorce: "What I liked especially about NFP study was the knowledge it gave me about myself and couple fertility. I discovered emotions I hadn't known before about certain aspects of my sexuality. I feel tremendously confident about using this method to avoid conception. We are getting to appreciate the charting done each day which helps us to communicate well about our fertility as well as many related topics. This method is far superior to other forms of birth control." [The couple are preparing to have a church-wedding soon.]

Mr. and Mrs. _____after 15 years of marriage:"What we as a couple liked about the NFP program is learning more about our bodies. What we regretted was that we hadn't learned this 15 years earlier before having our children. We would have made more time for each other and appreciated each other more had we known earlier. Our relationship has become more relaxed now. We are building up confidence in NFP, experience more understanding for each other, find more respect, compassion and a more meaningful relationship.

"Suggestion: I strongly suggest that the Chief Doctor of Obstetrics advise all the other doctors to attend the NFP course. If Family Doctors learn more about the female body and how it functions - it would avoid any form of sterilization on male or female for life!"

From a woman whose marriage had broken up after first using contraceptives and then being sterilized, showing how these practices empty and kill love: "For me, if we had received these instructions years ago, maybe my life and the lives of others would have been quite different. Too late did I begin to realize what purpose I have in this life. For me, contraceptives led to utter misery. By using them we live like animals because we have lost our precious gift of dignity.

"We must stop being hypocrites! We are being watched by our teenagers who look to us for guidance. How on God's earth can we tell them to stay away from contraceptives when we use them ourselves? "For me one big joy derived from NFP study was that I can talk to my daughter about the beauty of a woman's body. For many years I had thought that mucus was a sign of infection, and it frightened me. How I laughed when I found out finally that it is a natural product of a healthy and functioning body, given for my benefit. We are indeed a foolish people ..."

NFP charts yield precious information

Doctors, in most instances, have learned nothing or very little about natural birth regulation in medical school, but they can learn much today from women clients who bring NFP charts. Even doctors who are inclined to be skeptical about the body's signs and the ability of women to observe and chart them accurately, should be favorably impressed when they see that all three charted signs coincide the temperature low during mucus and rising with its drying up, while the cervix opens and closes in parallel. Secondary signs - inter-menstrual pain, breast tenderness - support the three main signs.

If the temperature remains low the doctor knows there is no pregnancy even when menstruation is delayed. But a persistent elevated temperature after a curettage has been performed may warn about an ectopic pregnancy. The temperature pattern can also inform the doctor that a bleeding is not caused by a spontaneous abortion, or that it is not true menstruation. He can monitor the effect of medication on the woman's body by watching the temperature chart, observe the effects of disease, and effects of stress on hormonal balance. And he can find, on occasion, indications of an early spontaneous abortion on NFP charts.

By comparing charts of women on the Pill with charts of natural family planning users, physicians can picture graphically what they are doing against their Pill clients. The NFP woman depicts on her chart the results of the body's finely tuned cycling which is under the control of the clockwork of the Pituitary (master gland) and the Hypothalamus of the Central Nervous System in the Midbrain. These organize the subtle functioning of the ovaries and simultaneously and reciprocally of all the hormonal glands of the woman's body in a fine-tuned feedback relationship, with its resonance effects upon the woman's femininity and her entire physical being, her mineral and water balance included. The doctor can visualize all this and more when examining the chart of the NFP user, with its marks of the body's finely tuned cycling - the bi-phasic temperature curve, the entrance and exit of the mucus sign, the opening and closing of the cervix and its other changes. (The cervix sign is now becoming, for quite a number of earnest women, their lead sign, most impressive, awe-striking, so clear that it can be learned during two cycles; palpation is performed once daily, in the evening. Of course, women are free to use or not to use this sign.)

Now when the doctor compares this record of balance and counter-balance, of action and life, with the chart of his Pill client , he can visualize more clearly what he does with his Pill client. With the Pill he fouls up the hormonal sequences and feedback mechanisms, de-feminizing his client. With this chemical agent he defoliates what was a cycle. Now she has only a flat temperature, sans mucus and minus cervical changes. What the doctor does not see but the woman feels is that her femininity is also flattened like the temperature curve, and her moods and vivacity are as suppressed as her hormonal functions.

Teenagers, cycles, pills

NFP Charts: Charts of teenage girls indicate how their cycles become regular only in the course of time, during 5 - 8 years after menarche (the first period). Gradually the bi-phasic pattern becomes more frequent, and the number of cycle days becomes less erratic. It is a mistake to prescribe the Pill to treat irregularity of a girl's cycles; far from regularizing their cycles, Pill treatment only delays the time when the girl achieves regularity through natural development. If the Pill is used so early this is a blow to the girl's complex hormonal clockwork, inducing artificial inactivity of the maturing ovaries and also of the developing brain.

Girls who are still in the stage of growth and development, will pay for it later if they now use the Pill to become prematurely free for sexual activity. These Pills may indeed injure their health (cancer of the cervix, for example) or malignant melanoma of the skin; and their cycles can remain disturbed later on; the mucus sign may be difficult to interpret, the high temperature phase may be short. This means that to practice NFP successfully later on, they may have to abstain on more days when they first start the practice, and they may damage their capacity to become mothers.

I wish that all doctors would become more sensitive to the harm which is done to women through the Pill, and through contraception in general. They should listen to the women carefully to learn from them how it affects their health and their marital relations. PRIMUM NON NOCERE - "The basic rule is: "First, don't harm the patient." That must remain our guiding principle.

Healing marriage after early break-up

Young men and women feel themselves caught in a great rage, in a violent turmoil of hurt feelings, when their marriage fails, especially if they are people of high ideals. Contraceptive practice played its part in most cases, since it is contradictory to their natural tendency to find true love in each other. Pain erupting from their disappointment can be so acute that parents feel psychiatric therapy is indicated. But the traumatized person, raging blindly, may resist this, wanting only one thing: mutual love restored, yet believing that it will never be possible.

For such I recommend two things: participation in a Retrouvaille (Rediscovery) Weekend, and attendance at NFP classes.

Of the 600 couples who attended a Retrouvaille during 1982 in Toronto, 60% restored their union successfully. These were cases so far gone that parents, priests, physicians had given up, judging that separation was the only option left for the mortally ill or dead marriage. Under professional guidance couples learn to face realities and to dialogue about them, being in the company of others in the same condition.

While attending NFP classes, whether with the spouse or alone, they may gain insight into the mechanism by which contraception blocks real love-making; how this drives a wedge between the spouses; how all their wishful attempts to bridge over the gap of contraception by sheer contrived love gestures fall short of their goal; instead of crossing the gap, each only drops deeper into the chasm of frustration. The simple truth that their practice of contraception disunited them instead of bringing desired unity may be the light by which they find their way back to each other.

Healing broken marriages

Even though they may not wish to live together at first, they can attend NFP classes together. Their absolute pessimism and despair may soften only gradually. In the course of time the truth may dawn on both that contraception drove them apart, whereas they really belong to each other. If they come that far, and give up contraception, they marriage can heal.

Unwed mothers, abortion, healing

When we show disrespect for the life of another, we lose our own joy of living. After an abortion a woman's body - into which her psyche is locked - is numb to sexual joys and climax. Abortion, which is for so many today "back-up contraception" takes the fun out of sex for the exploited woman, who loses strong identity as a female human being. She may participate in some physical exercise of strenuous clitoral stimulation, but in reality she has lost much interest in sex, as she is alienated from self in her subconscious, as well from the man who should complement her. She is in a post-exploited condition, far distant now from a condition of equality in dignity with men.

Their men are also numbed, cold, never satisfied sexually. Usually they suffer in silence, or they hide self behind a smoke screen of joking and talkativeness, always skirting around the truth. This fact is rarely understood by a couple in an uncommitted union. Genuine communication is foreign to such couples.

The unwed almost always drift apart after an abortion, perhaps after some time of attempting sex which is un-fulfilling, or even after trying to live together without sexual intercourse. The child is lost to them, and they are alienated from each other, male and female being lonely as never before. Each new attempt at transient sex is another disappointing yearning to achieve integrity, to find fulfilling heterosexual complementation. We cannot have fulfilling sex if we reject its fruit, and discard its fruit.

Recuperation and healing becomes possible when both truly regret that they truncated each other so thoroughly in their total selves, and then accept conversion to a life of respect for human life and the design for human living which harmonizes with human realities.

A good confession is the starting point, and then perseverance in a life of self-respect. Learning NFP and abstaining on indicated days when there is ample reason can help couples to heal themselves and their union.

Unwed mothers who have their babies in an institution should by all means learn the signs of the cycle. This arms them with knowledge and increases self-respect. With community support and follow-up services which help them to keep out of a rut of repeatedly breeding new problems for themselves and for fly-by-night boyfriends, they can eventually re-enter society as dignified women who require recognition of this dignity from others.

Healing after masturbation and pre-marital sex

There is the case of a girl who was seduced to masturbate by a boy friend whom she did not marry. When she eventually married she continued to "need masturbation." Marriage turned out to be a miserable experience. She divorced after ten years, without children. A gentle and well-liked person though she is, she pays the price for her habit.

Parents, priests, and other educators can understand that it is necessary to provide firm guidance to the teenager to overcome the physical urge to self-satisfaction. As sex is addictive once begun, habitual self-satisfaction leads the boy or girl, the man or woman to rushed and self-related sex performance. That problem is brought into the marriage.

Parents who themselves practice NFP will want to foster a strong determination in their children to strive daily to preserve sexual satisfaction for future purposes within marriage. But encouragement to indulge rather than to renounce has become the practice of many adults in regard to masturbation on the part of the young. Little do they realize what damage they are doing to the new generation.

Stable and self-respecting adults do not develop through habits of permissiveness, of indulgence in this momentary pleasure. A person tends to loath self if one does not even try to become a self-preserving and other-directed person. A healthy marital relationship demands that the newlywed start without any fixation or addiction to a faulty, self-centered bodily sex pattern, a psycho-sexual fixation to rushed pattern of sex. The indulgent boy also develops subconscious feelings of masculine superiority over the female as a consequence of unopposed masturbatory indulgence with its withdrawal from social and family consequences.

Uninformed or guilt-laden adults nowadays promote every kind of sexual indulgence, including self-satisfaction by girls. This results in grave problems later on, because girls become so fixated to their faulty habit, which almost regularly deteriorates into a compulsion, that they cannot rid themselves of the compulsion and fall into the pattern of a regular marital response. Marriages break up with much suffering because not even the couple's mutual love can overcome the persistent pattern induced by the previous mistakes.

This does not mean that the couple who started their marriage after faulty and selfish experience can never come to restful marital fulfillment. However, this takes tremendous commitment to their marital promise, strong and rugged enough to overcome the self-inflicted burdens. But how many children today receive this strength from parents who are themselves strongly committed to obedience to the laws of God and nature?

Educators call masturbation wrong because the practice is self-related, a "pleasure-first" act and attitude, which lays the foundation of ineptitude, self-loathing, immaturity, which may be hidden behind a facade of superiority feelings in the case of boys or men. Although everybody knows that sexual self-satisfaction is wrong because sex is a language which should be spoken between man and woman in marriage, nevertheless many treat it as a very minor evil, a little bit of nastiness without lasting consequences. A boy, almost everyone assumes, will grow up and mature, will easily change to heterosexual life in marriage to become a selfless spouse and father; the teenage and premarital masturbation is left behind and extinguished. Right?

Wrong! Previous indulgence in sexual self -gratification towards orgasm is a primary reason for later sexual difficulties for dysparenuia, difficult or painful coitus.

The masturbation-patterned husband cheats, rushes through the marital act without the possibility of waiting in his own performance to respond to his wife's needs; his act is a solo-impromptu, a one-man exercise on a medium, another body. Only over years or even decades with much commitment and patience, and in an atmosphere of complete obedience to nuptial vows on both sides, can he learn to come to rest in his wife's embrace, in a manner which also brings fulfillment to her.

The tendency of-achieving the sexual climax quickly by the man, but slowly on part of the woman, is a normal condition of marriage. There is no real problem when man and woman are accustomed to delay sexual gratification while living a pattern of NFP with periodic abstinence. The man has control, and has a strongly person-centered relationship to his spouse which is exercised especially during the days of genital abstinence. During this time of abstinence the wife begins to yearn for her husband as much as he does for her. This mutual desire, together with the husband's training in sexual delay results in the ideal situation for their sexual fulfillment. Even if orgasm is not always achieved by the woman, or if it is not achieved at the same time by both, certainly there is no problem of frigidity on her part after she finds herself so highly respected and loved during the days of abstinence.

In utter contrast to this pattern of waiting for the partner is masturbation; and much like it is premarital sex, which is superficial, rushed, clitoral, masturbatory kind, being uncommitted bodily sex only, and usually with a contraceptive. Mutual acceptance as male and female committed to each other for life is not there.

And it all hangs together: contraception and sterilization within marriage have now spilt over into masturbation and fornication before marriage; in all cases the child is avoided. And then comes the avalanche of divorces. The solution must go to the heart of the matter: exclude contraception, heal the broken families by the gentle way of natural family planning, God's gift to our modern age.

Parents, looking up again, will educate their children in chastity, according to God's design. The Church and mankind will have found the way to cope, and family life will become meaningful and stable again, enjoying the peace and joy which God intends for them, also in our modern age.