Friday, March 14, 2014

The Sinner's Guide to NFP - A Review

I recently bit the bullet and picked up a copy of Simcha Fisher's book, The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning.  My husband and I have managed to come to terms with the cross that we have to bear when we are abstaining during NFP, but I still found the honest and candid advice and support in this book to be very beneficial.

From what I understand, I live in one of, if not the most, secular state in the United States.  However, I am fortunate enough to have a really great support network for NFP here, mostly through a phenomenal teaching couple who are down to earth and kind.  I am also a member of the Couple to Couple League, so I receive their magazine, which is full of support and advice.  I've found through my contact with other Catholic couples who live in far more Catholic areas than I do that this support network isn't available to everyone.  For this very reason, I suggest that every Catholic couple planning to use NFP get this book.  The first chapter is, essentially, something very similar to what I read in my CCLI magazines regarding in what circumstances the Church allows NFP to be used.  The discussion of the individual circumstances of each couple's situation in this first chapter is really vital for every couple to read so that they know for certain that their sacrifice with abstinence isn't out of line with orthodoxy.  This confidence is really vital to having peace of mind when practicing NFP.  I can tell you that, when my husband and I were first struggling to figure out our marriage while using NFP, we were told we were using it with a contraceptive mindset by a random internet "theologian" because our circumstances and reasons for postponing pregnancy weren't life or death.  At the time, we were abstaining for approximately three weeks at a time and it was painful.  I cried to my husband that it would be so much easier to just throw caution to the wind and get pregnant despite our reasons to postpone pregnancy, and I sobbed over not understanding why on earth we would be making the sacrifice that we were making if it was putting us in mortal sin.  When I turned to our wonderful teaching couple regarding my sadness, she sent me a copy of the magazine we get that had precisely the same type of content as the first chapter of Simcha's book in it, and it helped us tremendously.  I suggest getting this book even if it is only to have a reminder that your sacrifice is not in vain and that there are people out there who support you.

Beyond that, the book is really honest about what it takes to have a healthy marriage, whether you are using NFP or not.  There is a lot of great advice on how to show love to one another without being physical.  Simcha is nonjudgmental and understanding.  She gives her advice with obviously nothing but the desire to help other couples with what she's learned.  NFP is wonderful, it brings many graces to a marriage, but, the honest truth is, you have to work for it.  This book is a great guide on how to do that work.

I also can attest to Simcha's advice to remember that couples who use contraception also have problems in their marriages and with their sex lives.  Why, I can even attest to this with first-hand knowledge because I have used contraception.  Simcha's descriptions of the pitfalls contraceptive sex brings with it are accurate and a great reminder as to why NFP is superior.

I did find the book a little disjointed, but, in fairness, that isn't necessarily bad.  It reads more like a conversation over coffee with your best friend about NFP than it does a theology textbook, which fits well with the content of the book.  Simcha feels like your friend when you read it.  I really did like that aspect of the book, so it was worth having it be a bit disjointed.

I have to warn women who have very supportive husbands that they might not want to read this while they are in their fertile phase.  A lot of Simcha's advice for men is about doing nice things for their wives and making sure they feel courted outside of the bedroom.  Since my husband does this, I kept reading Simcha's words and being reminded of all the nice things he does, and, well, I was very glad we weren't abstaining at the time I was reading it.  (I just wanted to point that out in the spirit of helping and supporting each other in the struggles that NFP does bring up.)

All in all, I'm really glad this book exists.  I do think there is a need to be honest with people regarding what practicing NFP is like.  There should be more books that dive into this subject matter.  I know that the rosy picture we generally paint about NFP tends to feed into the attitude that people use it in a contraceptive manner.  I mean, if it's so easy to do, it must be easy to do it with a contraceptive mentality, right?  The conversation about NFP needs to be honest and open without scaring people away.  I think Simcha's book does a good job in starting this.  I give the book 4/5 stars.

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