NFP Worked in Our Marriage In Ways We Did Not Anticipate

Summer 2023

When my husband and I first got married we had no idea of the richness of grace our marriage would provide for us as a couple. Being Catholics we had an understanding that contraception wasn’t the way to go in terms of planning our family and that a moral alternative was NFP. Since my husband is a chemical engineer who makes pharmaceuticals, he had a keen respect for chemicals and naturally thought using chemicals to alter our fertility was not a good use of them. As a scientist, he appreciated the science behind NFP. This was something we were going to try. We thought it might “work” but weren’t very confident in it “working” for us.

After a year of using NFP to avoid a pregnancy and not becoming pregnant, instead of believing it was “working,” we thought we might be infertile! The next cycle we decided to test out our days of fertility to see what would happen and we happily became pregnant. Ah ha! The method did “work” to avoid and achieve pregnancy. Little did we know that our NFP use would “work” in our marriage in a much more profound, significant way, yet to be discovered.

Early on in our marriage, we faced some very difficult times. For over five years, we struggled profoundly. It was the hardest long term struggle I have been through. We sought counseling, we talked to priests for spiritual guidance and we tried almost everything we knew to make things better. Nothing seemed to help. I can remember thinking at the time that the one thing that was great about who we were as a couple was our continuous use of NFP. Even in our difficult times, we never strayed from giving ourselves to each other in our giftedness of fertility, and for some reason which I didn’t understand then, it did bring me hope for us. Our lives fell apart though, and we ended up separating. It was so painful. At that point I had little hope anything could help us. I had previously heard about Retrouvaille and wondered what difference it could possibly make when all of our other efforts were unsuccessful. (Retrouvaille is a French word meaning rediscovery. It’s a program for couples who are hurting in their marriages. It’s Catholic in origin but it is open and helpful to people of all faiths.) Even though we were separated and so tired of persevering in what appeared to be a marriage beyond repair, in a last-ditch effort to do everything possible to help our marriage, we decided to attend a week end Retrouvaille retreat. That week end was a turning point for us. It was the beginning of building something better than we had ever had before. Fast forward fifteen years later. If I hadn’t lived through our marriage I wouldn’t have believed it possible to come from such a low and despairing point to such a high and wonderful one.

Over the years our understanding of our use of NFP and of our faith has grown. What was once thought of as an effective means of planning our family that fit the parameters of our faith now became the basis for the way God revealed to us who we were—as a couple and as individuals, and provided us an opportunity to live a grace-filled life. We never knew before that, when we love each other the way God loves, we are blessed by God with grace. This happens in a myriad of ways in our daily lives together. This happens too with family and friends. An active giving and receiving of love between people creates a communion of persons between them, and it is where God is. In using NFP as a married couple, we can actively participate in this grace-filled love even more deeply by bringing God’s love to our spouse in the conjugal union.

God’s love has four hallmarks:

It is given freely.
God gives us his love freely, even when we choose not to return that love.

It is faithful.
He will not abandon us.

It is total.
God gives completely, without holding back.

It is fruitful.
By the very nature of God, His love is always fruitful.

My younger self never knew that each time my husband and I give ourselves to each other in conjugal union, we are renewing the marriage vows we made on our wedding day. We never knew that when we say “yes” to loving each other this way and come together freely (without reservation), faithfully (only each other), fruitfully (being open to children in every act of intercourse, in our case using NFP) and totally (surrendering ourselves completely to each other without holding anything back—especially, but not limited to, the natural fruitfulness of the very act we are engaging in), it is then that we more fully image God than at any other time in our vocation. Incredible!

It is within the conjugal act that as a couple we most image God. It is within the carefully held back but then final release of the man and the slowly- acquired complete surrender of the women, that communion of persons within the marital act, that we most ultimately enter into His image as a couple and into His divine life.

Giving ourselves this way, as a total self gift from one to the other over many years, has been awesome. Let’s not overlook the fact that we very literally give our whole selves to the other, including the very biological essence of ourselves—our DNA and the full potential of it. Total self gift! When you give yourself away like this, you discover who you are. And when done over years and years I have discovered a certain dignity in my husband that gives me pause. And I have come to know God intimately. It is that important. How powerful! How holy! How beautiful! How grateful am I to have discovered another, and for us an even more important, way that NFP “works”!

Every time we come together with our bodies in the conjugal union, in light of the four hallmarks of God’s love, we are brought into the divine life of God. We are blessed with grace to help us in the specific needs within our marriage and with our children. It is the sheer act of two becoming one that draws us into the life of God. What a treasure for all married couples! What a wonderful plan for our family!

Through using NFP and thereby being open to life we actively choose to live a grace-filled life in our marriage. And remember that hope I felt in our use of NFP when things were so difficult in our marriage? We think the grace we received through our use of NFP was cause for that hope and is primarily why we survived those years of the cross in our marriage and why we are currently enjoying years of resurrection. A lifestyle of intentionally seeking a grace-filled life has made an eternal difference in our marriage! Praise God! We wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Loree and brian 2023
Loree and brian 2023

About The Author

Loree Lippsmeyer
Loree Lippsmeyer and Brian, her husband of 32 years, live with their four children in Roseville, CA, where she taught the Creighton Model of NFP. A Professional Member of CANFP, she is a psychotherapist and enjoys speaking to groups about marriage and the beauty of the Catholic faith, loves working to build a culture of life, especially with the aid of Theology of the Body—and is currently seeking to publish her TOB themed children’s book. She is launching offering a myriad of programs and services for people to come to better know who God uniquely created them to be

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