As for Natural Family Planning, which involves complete abstinence during the fertile period, there are some things I really like about it.

I agree with the philosophy behind natural family planning. No, it’s not because I am afraid of going to hell for using a condom or think that the best sex advice comes from a celibate man.

I agree with this philosophy because it speaks about the nature of sex. Sex is designed to be unitive and procreative. It is designed for making love and making babies. Not every sex act leads to conception, in fact, frequently conception is impossible. The problem is with actively removing the procreative element from sex. Because when you remove the procreative element, you change sex, meaning that also lose much of the unitive element as well.

In cases of natural infertility, such as during pregnancy and postpartum, after menopause, and during the infertile part of the cycle, sex is as it is: Nothing is removed from sex and nothing is changed.

Which is right?

"Wait, why do YOU care?! You're a guy! This has nothing to do with you!"

And that thinking is exactly the reason why I'm researching this as in-depth as I am, why I'm writing about this, why I'm putting it out there. The teachings of the Church don't really say much -- that I'm finding so far -- about the man's role in this other than "abstaining from sex."

But the toll that takes on both people in the marriage, even ones who have been Catholic all their lives (unlike I, a soon-to-be convert), is great. And further, there's some serious misconceptions out there about it what the Church says vs. reality.

All of this reading, all of this research has led me to one conclusion so far: there's not enough discussion or education on this prior to marriage for men. That's an issue because, from what I'd reading (and what I can speak of due to accounts given to me by others), NFP does have detrimental effects on the marriage -- specifically the relationship between husband and wife -- that are going unaddressed, at least in a real way, by the teachings of the Church.

Wives feel guilty about preventing their husbands from making love to them because it's during their fertile period. Husbands feel guilty asking their wives to make love when they're not in the mood. Schedules don't align, pressure builds up, physical intimacy evaporates and is replaced by terror at an unplanned pregnancy.

That is absolutely not how marriage is intended to be. It can't be. Nothing I've read on the subject -- which is admittedly not as much as many -- says that marriage is supposed to be like that. The Church holds up marriage as a vocation of great joy, but one with many crosses to bear.

"This must be one of those, right?"

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that there will be times when the husband and wife must abstain from sex in marriage. No, in the sense that living in fear of something, instilling guilt and hatred into the relationship between husband and wife, breeding resentment, is not the way marriage is.

It is a vocation. It is tough. But it's not meant to be filled with so many negative things, to drown a marriage in misery because a husband and wife can't be physically together.

The teachings of the Church gloss over or over-simplify too much of this. The large majority of the work is placed on the women, which is simply wrong. But what's the solution? Where's the answer?

I have a few thoughts.

1. Natural Family Planning should be taught much sooner than Pre-Cana.

As great a thing as it can be, in practice is seems to result in far more misery than it does in holiness. If it is the solution to the problem of contraceptives, than it shouldn't just be taught in Pre-Cana. It needs to have it's own classes geared not towards just people preparing for marriage (or already married) but towards the younger -- teenagers entering puberty, probably, and to both boys and girls.

There's a severe lack of understanding from the view of the males with NFP. From everything I'm getting, it seems to them like a denial. It's "No" when they want "Yes" and though some may understand at first, I'd wager the repeated denials build resentment -- towards NFP, the Church, and then the wife.

Knowledge is power. If males are taught about NFP earlier on, helping to understand why it's so important, some of these issues will be prevented. Not all, for sure, but some.

Yes, that's asking a lot of the teachers -- it's daunting to teach teenage boys anything, let alone how a woman's body works. But if you want to weed out who's going into the vocation of marriage or the priesthood, this would do it I think.

2. The Church needs to have a serious discussion about this across the board.

This should not be limited to the corners of the internet. This shouldn't be something women/men feel ashamed of talking about. An open discussion needs to be had by all parties -- from the congregation, to the priests, to the bishops, to the cardinals, and to the Pope. This is being ignored -- the Church is pushing NFP with all these pretty ads and great stats, but it's ignoring the REAL accounts of the people who follow it.

Ignorance isn't bless. Trust me, I know, it only leads to a hard fall.

3. Married couples should be able to decide for themselves what to do. 

This last one I'm most conflicted about, but it's happening anyway. The Church should allow each couple to decide for themselves what is right for them. The picture below is my main point:

There seems to be a double-standard on this very simple thing. The Church says that God will provide for the needs of married couple, even if they have a large family, if they trust in God.

But what if they trust in God and, through prayer, discern that NFP isn't for them? That it'll simply put too much strain on the marriage for either of them to be anything other than miserable? What's their option?

The only option would be contraception, of some form. Whether that be a vasectomy, condoms, or something else, those would be the immediate options. And those options are condemned by the Catholic Church. What then?

It leaves married couples in a very tough place, one that the Catholic Church is failing to address from all accounts on the matter. I simply don't know how they'd address it, but at least an attempt is required.

I don't know if NFP will be the way to go for me and my theoretical-hypothetical-future wife. By Church teaching, it must be. By practical reality, will it be possible? Will she have the type of fertility cycle that's easy to chart? Will the measurements be accurate?

All of this leaves me feeling powerless. No matter how much knowledge I have, no matter how much I study the Church's teachings, there doesn't seem to be much I can do.

But I can bring awareness. I can ask questions. I can learn. I don't think that's even remotely enough, but it's a start.

Thanks for reading everyone. God Bless.