Disagree on Vasectomy

Question

I am a 36 year old mother of four children, ages 12, 8, 5 and 18 months. My husband and I have been married for nearly 15 years and have always used NFP. Now, however, my husband wants to have a vasectomy because he is adamant about not wanting more children (very real financial concerns which I, too, share), and sees the continued use of NFP as much too risky, especially since there is the possibilty that I have eight to ten more years of fertility. I have, since the birth of our last child, read a great deal about God’s plan for sex in marriage, what it means to fully embrace NFP, and have been meeting with a highly certified NFP practitioner, and want to continue to embrace this lifestyle, but he’s not on board. We are now at extreme odds and our discussions have included openly talking about divorce, whether this is grounds for annulment, if this is the end of the sexual aspect of our marriage, etc. I am deeply saddened, angry, hurt and wondering how we are going to proceed from here since neither of us is willing to change our minds. I have made it clear to him that a vasectomy will destroy our marriage and I don’t see how we could ever again be intimate. I have always been so proud how strong our marriage was and quoted the near zero divorce rate of NFP couples, but now I would like to know what a couple in our situation is supposed to do. We are aware of the possiblity of using only the post peak times of my cycle to avoid pregnancy, but then he is resentful of having to abstain so much–he wants the vasectomy so that there are no restrictions for us, and this mindset is counter to everything that I believe. I feel extremely alone in this and know of no one else to ask for advice. As a married couple, we are surrounded by people who use contraception, and so many men who have had vasectomies. Thank you for any advice and guidance you can offer.
A

Answer

When I was in my formative years I remember learning that one should anticipate periodic spiritual crises/challenges as one grows and matures in their faith and that this was one of the primary reasons one should cultivate a “habit” of prayer. “A” has just shared such a crisis with us that I would like to in turn share with you.

Thirty-six-year-old “A” and her husband have been married fifteen years, have always used NFP, and have four healthy children. Recently her husband has voiced his desire to be absolutely sure they have no additional children. He is very concerned about the weak economy and he is also a bit tired of the periodic abstinence that NFP requires. They are currently in a standoff and the “D” word has even come up. “A” is feeling very alone and distressed.

Let me say right from the outset that this couple needs a good Christian/Catholic counselor to help them work through this. This crisis has unearthed a multi-layered problem that must be gently probed and analyzed layer by layer to arrive at a solution that is mutually beneficial and acceptable. It defies easy answers. She cannot give her consent to something which she knows is evil and goes against her conscience—for her to consent would be to share in the culpability. She is in fact obligated to present her objections to her husband. Her husband should talk to a priest who can show him what he’s doing is wrong, and not truly loving his wife. I will say this, however: I believe that it is so important for children to grow up with both parents that if “A”’s husband continues down the path to self-mutilation (vasectomy) I think she should still hang in there with him and continue to pray for his conversion. Yes, I realize this will be a very difficult cross for her to bear as she will feel “used” when they have marital relations, but my experience tells me that this will be a rather transitory period. It will not take too long for her husband to feel deep within himself the negative effects sterilization is reeking upon his marital intimacy and then one of two things will typically happen: He will unilaterally opt for divorce because it is too difficult to live with the underlying hypocrisy of what he is doing or he will seek repentence and reconciliation. Continuing the status quo indefinitely is possible, but most couples do not survive such a disparate difference of opinion in the most intimate part of their relationship over the long term.

This is a very difficult world right now with a weak economy and grave instability internationally. This can effect a husband deeply and marital intercourse is a great stress reliever… So I understand “A”’s husband’s concern and his desire for frequent intercourse. Yet I wonder if there are additional factors going on in this husband’s life that have precipitated this crisis. Use of pornography? Some “temptress” out there? Etc. Again this is a problem best resolved by a mutually-acceptable MFCC. We should all pray for “A” and her family and the other families that are out there struggling with the same issue.

Blessings…

Greg Polito, MD, KM

Answered By:

Gregory Polito, MD
Gregory Polito,MD, KM, Past President of CANFP, retired from a urologic practice, with a sub-specialty in vasectomy reversal

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