By Derek Boylen
“So how do you think Natural Family Planning might help a couple to have a healthy, happy relationship?
How is it different?” I ask the couples. And they respond enthusiastically, “they have to communicate,” “they share the responsibility,” “they are looking after themselves and their bodies,” “they are respecting each other’s fertility.”
It’s hard to imagine that so many couples might respond that way when they learn about Natural Family Planning at their pre marriage course but it’s true. Couples want to know the truth.
It’s an interesting irony that in today’s sex-saturated culture couples preparing for marriage often have little access to good information.
Often they are completely unaware that society has ill equipped them for a healthy, lifelong sexual relationship.
Before becoming a marriage educator in sexuality and fertility I never would have guessed how fulfilling this work would be.
Teaching couples today about sexual intimacy and Natural Family Planning through pre marriage courses is challenging work. It involves a careful balance. A marriage educator needs to respect the varying degrees of knowledge that couples bring with them while at the same time sensitively trying to ensure that the knowledge they have is correct and adequate.
We need to respect that many couples have already made decisions about family planning while sensitively challenging them to consider a more life-giving way.
However, when you get things right it is amazing. You can see the couples sit up. They ask questions. They want to know more. In many ways Humane Vitae was a great gift to the Church. It meant that we needed to explore just what it was that makes a healthy loving sexual relationship.
It meant that, in the face of the sexual revolution, the Church needed to find positive and creative ways of engaging with couples.
Humane Vitae was also a fantastic challenge for marriage educators. While secular marriage educators abandoned couples with rhetoric about their right to “choose” the kind of sexual relationship they wanted, Catholic marriage educators were challenged to think about how we could help married couples embrace their right to a lifelong, healthy, sexual relationship. And they rose to the challenge.
Every weekend hundreds of marriage educators around Australia and the world talk to engaged couples about sex, sexuality and natural family planning. It is one of the most rewarding areas. Generally the feedback from our programs is very positive.
Young couples today are different from previous generations. They don’t necessarily come with preconceived ideas about the Church’s teaching; they want the truth. They want to make healthy, natural choices for their bodies.
And for many, who have experienced the effects of divorce, they want to equip themselves with whatever tools will help them to weather the years ahead in love.
What they get in their pre-marriage course are educators who are sincere; who care about the future of their relationship; who understand the sacramental nature of marriage and who want them to have wonderful intimate relationships that bring life to the world.
– Derek Boylen is the Director of Catholic Marriage Education Services in Perth and is a trained instructor in the Sympto-thermal method of natural family planning. He can be contacted on (08) 9325 1859.