Although living with one's (and one's spouse's) fertility through the practice of NFP can at times be a challenge, there are numerous benefits that result. These benefits include the important understanding of how the body works and the peace of knowing that there are no medical side effects. Other benefits are those that strengthen marital life, such as increased communication, increased intimacy, renewed sexual desire and being open to new life. NFP also helps to build a sense of aesthetics through the practice of periodic abstinence and, as a result, developing mastery over sexual urges rather than being controlled by them. NFP is morally and ethically accepted by most cultures and religions. Many couples that use NFP report an increase in spiritual well-being and a sense of being open to God's will in their lives.
Researchers from Marquette University College of Nursing have conducted a study to identify the effects of modern NFP methods on marital dynamics. Couples were asked by the researchers as to whether the use of NFP had been helpful or harmful to their marriages. The open-ended questions were part of a longer questionnaire mailed to 1,400 randomly selected couples known to use NFP and reside in the United States.
The researchers found that 74% of the total 2,287 responses were positive and only 26% were negative. There were four positive themes identified (enhanced relationships, improved knowledge, enriched spirituality and method successes) and three negative themes (strained sexual interactions, worsened relationships, and method problems).
Some example responses under the positive theme of "improved relationships" not reported in the published paper are as follows:
Improved communication: "Since we speak about our fertility on a daily basis (my husband charts and asks my observations daily) NFP has helped our level of communication remain very deep and intimate and always above-board, open and honest."
Appreciated sexuality: "Our sexual relationship is incredible. I have no complaints and truly believe the periodic abstinence of NFP causes us never to get in a rut sexually."
Understand cycles and bodies: "[NFP was] helpful to understand PMS symptoms for myself and my husband because of our awareness of my cycle. Thus, helped keep our moods/reactions/issues in balance/in perspective."
Self Control: "About the time when you are ovulating is when you're most susceptible to having sex, because it is a natural time to be having sex, but on the other hand it teaches us self-discipline and… priorities."
Enriched spirituality: "It has helped my relationship with God which has positively affected my relationship with my spouse….I've come to know and love God all the more for learning His beautiful truth about the real…meaning of human sexuality."
Difficulty with abstinence: "Abstinence is often difficult and can be prolonged. The 'honeymoon' phase often starts out great, but the full benefit is not obtained because she becomes less receptive and PMS kicks in."
Decreased spontaneity: "Our sex life has disintegrated quite a bit. All sense of spontaneity is gone. Therefore from a woman's perspective, it takes twice as long to achieve orgasm. The passion is dead, or at least is most often suppressed."
Unbalanced sex drives: "My sex drive is very low on infertile days when intercourse is okay. This causes trouble because my husband complains that I never want to have intercourse. I feel that my sex drive is about normal on fertile days, but then we can't have intercourse."
Other problems: "I wish the medical community were better educated, open-minded, and supportive of NFP. It is an integral part of my experience as a woman, and I would like to feel free to share more about it when I do have doctor visits."
The researchers concluded that the respondents were dramatically more positive about the use of NFP than negative. Although about one-fourth of the comments indicated that NFP presented challenges, the majority expressed that using NFP improved relationship dynamics, most often resulting in stronger bonds, better communication, and improved knowledge.
VandeVusse, L., Hanson, L., & Fehring, R.J., et al. Couples' views of the effects of natural family planning on marital dynamics. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 2003;35:171-176.