Natural Family Planning and the Dignity of Women

(Here’s an advanced look at my next Family Foundations column).

The dignity of women is under assault like never before.  Thanks to the internet, pornography is more accessible than ever.  Young women, especially, are buying wholesale into the porn culture.  It’s become so pervasive that, surprisingly, many secular publications have recently been complaining about the negative effect pornography has had on relationships from a man’s perspective.  Men are beginning to report feeling put-off, intimidated, or even turned off by the behavior of women who have been “socialized” by porn.  One recent article in the London Telegraph decried the “striptease culture” we are living in and advocated measures that could encourage young women to discover their dignity.    According to a recent Reuters report, 30% of young adults have sent nude pictures of themselves to a boyfriend or girlfriend .  In fact, some studies show that among those who engage in sexting, women are almost as likely to ask for a nude picture of their boyfriend as they are to send a nude picture of themselves.


NFP:  Challenging the Culture of Use

In light of all this, is there any more prophetic way to engage the culture than to promote Natural Family Planning?   At the beginning of the sexual revolution, women were told that the key to overcoming male oppression and gaining power in relationships was to “embrace their sexuality.”    The problem is that this phrase is deceptive.  The secular vision of embracing one’s sexuality is allowing oneself to be viewed and used as an object and the more one does this, the less power one really has. The more one embraces this attitude, the more used, lonely, and powerless one is likely to feel.

But NFP promotes a vision of sexuality that is worthy of embracing; a vision where the body is a gift; a vision that believes men and women are first and foremost sons and daughters of God; a vision that understands that sex is not merely recreation, but a re-creation of the promises a couple makes on their wedding day to spend their lifetime together creating and celebrating a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful.

As with most things worth doing, NFP isn’t easy.  It requires sacrifice and struggle.  It can be helpful, though, to remember what we are sacrificing and struggling for.  I would never want my wife to think that she was anything less than my partner, my best friend and my equal.  In my mind, those things are worth fighting for.  If NFP is a struggle, it is only because I must sometimes struggle against those fallen aspects of myself that want to make me treat her as something less than my partner, my best friend, my equal.  The challenge of NFP is a challenge worth taking up because it asks me to consider whether or not I am truly approaching my wife in love.

Likewise, for the woman, the challenge of NFP asks her to embrace her dignity.  Charting her signs helps her get in touch with how wonderfully she is made (Ps 139:14).  It helps redeem the dignity of her body in her mind.  It helps her assert her dignity to herself and to her husband by giving her the vocabulary she needs to articulate her physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual needs to her husband in a way that is virtually impossible without NFP.  It gives her a way of embracing her sexuality in a manner that doesn’t objectify her, but rather, sets her free to be loved as a person.

The most famous line from the Theology of the Body is that “the body, and it alone,  is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it.”   NFP promotes the dignity of women by empowering them to know and respect their body and see that body as a sign of who they are–persons deserving of love.


Dr. Greg Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to providing marriage, family, and individual counseling services by telephone to Catholics around the world.  He can be reached at or by calling 740-266-6461 to make an appointment.

Manning Up Through NFP

Here’s a sneak peak at an article I have in the upcoming edition of Family Foundations magazine.  What?  You don’t subscribe?  Well, there’s a simple fix to that problem!

Regardless,  check it out.

Manning Up Through NFP. 

Dr. Greg Popcak


We hear a lot about the benefits of NFP and there are many.  But it’s also true that NFP requires a great deal of sacrifice and struggle that is neither fun nor easy.  Worth it? Sure.  Fun?  Not really.

That said, I think that NFP helps a man become more manly.  I’ve seen this in my own life and in the lives of the men I’ve supported through the struggle to make NFP the blessing it is supposed to be in their marriage.  When I say that NFP helps a man become more manly, I mean that, as Catholics, we believe that manliness is tied up with a man’s ability to work for the good of others and especially to work for his wife’s good.  Inevitably, that means putting her dignity above your own needs and wants.  Incidentally, that’s not the same thing as giving up on your needs and wants as some men do.  That’s not a man, that’s a martyr. The difference is this.

The Martyr says, “Honey, can we be together tonight?”

She says, “We’re still in phase two.”

He says (mostly to himself),  “Fine.  We can’t be together tonight.  Fine.  Just one more thing getting in the way.  FINE.  I’ll just let it go.”  We tell ourselves we’re making some huge sacrifice for the good of our spouse, but then we pout about it for the rest of the night as if to say, “See what a pain in the butt taking care of you is?  See how sacrificial I’m being?”

Nice, right?

In contrast to the martyr, here’s what a man does.  First, he doesn’t have to make his wife the sexual gatekeeper because he’s already taken the responsibility of either recording temps himself or has at least read the chart for himself and knows what it means.  Second, if they can’t be together, he realizes that its actually hard on her too and tries to be empathetic and sensitive about that.  Third, he makes as much of a gift of himself as he can.   He helps her with the kids.  He looks for ways to be emotionally present.       He seeks out ways to show her that she is important to him.  He initiates affection that’s not designed to “sneak” her into sex, but just about being loving together.  He is respectfully playful.  Fourth, when it does get too hard for him to bear his frustration alone, he’s honest about it in a non-blaming way. He invites his wife to share how she’s dealing with her frustration so that maybe they can support each other. They respectfully talk and pray through it together. Finally, he takes care of her and plans for when they can be intimate again.  He lets her know how desirable she is without pressuring her or trying to guilt her. He just loves her.  He desires her, but he doesn’t prey on her.

While all that seems like a tall order, channeling frustration in these directions is exactly what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was referring to when he wrote, “True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasytowards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification.”  When a man can channel the sexual longing he feels in a direction that creates connection between him and his wife, the pain of the longing decreases and is replaced by a purer desire that leads to transformation; the transformation that takes us from needy, hormonally driven adolescent to man of God.


Dr. Greg Popcak, the author of Holy Sex!, directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute which provides Catholic tele-counseling services to couples, families, and individuals.  Contact him at 740-266-6461 or