Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

8. The Myth of Spontaneity: Fr. Gilberto Gomez B.

In my pastoral work with many couples, I often find that they seek advice to solve the problems of conscience they have when they need to space their children or when they cannot have any more children for health reasons, financial constraints or other motives. When I tell them about natural fertility regulation they raise many objections, but I also hear many answers. This pastoral dialogue allows me to learn a lot about the couples' lives. Perhaps I learn more than I can teach them. And I use what I learn to help other couples discover better ways to conduct their marriage in accordance with God's plan.

One of the most frequent objections, especially from young couples, when talking to them about natural fertility regulation, stems from their fear that periodic continence will suppress the "spontaneity" of sexual relations. They feel that periodic continence will force them to "plan" their sexual activity. And they don't want to lead a "planned" sex life, because they would have to give up the charm of "spontaneity". When they refer to the "spontaneity" that should exist in sex, I have tried to figure out what they mean when they use this word. When they feel that periodic continence impoverishes their relationship, because it deprives sex of "spontaneity", I realize that they consider something to be "spontaneous" when it isn't planned, when it is immediate. They believe that something "spontaneous" is more sincere. And by "planning" intercourse, the act loses freshness, sincerity and naturalness.

I have been able to discuss this concept of "spontaneity" with other couples. And I have been able to discover that, in contrast to the immediacy involved in the idea for some couples, others find that it provides for free and conscious choice. "Spontaneous" is not only what I do at a given time, guided by the impulse of desire, but "spontaneous"and more humanly "spontaneous "- is also what I don't do and leave for later, for a better occasion, when circumstances are more suitable.

This other way of understanding "spontaneity" comes from couples who seem to understand their sexuality in a new way, more as a language than as a function. They understand then that this language has many expressions, and that the more expressions it has, the richer is their relationship.

They understand that "continence" does not stand in the way of "spontaneity" but quite to the contrary, continence challenges them to develop other expressions for that language, where the physical relationship is but one expression. And that this relationship will be all he richer when they experience it within a context of frequent expressions of tenderness, both verbal and non-verbal.

Thus continence assumes the sense of silence, of the silence needed o make room for dialogue and to transcend the spoken word. In fact, here can be different types of silence in a relationship. Silence can be:

Thus periodic continence must be experienced like the listening silence and, eventually, as the silence of plenitude, when affection and love find in the partner a language so rich and so constant that the genital relationship is not necessarily required.

The couple is aware of its many bonds and strives to consolidate them through many channels - verbal, non-verbal, internal and external. And the genital relationship occupies a position of honor, but not of exclusiveness.

Couples then understand that the sexual relationship is much richer than the genital relationship, and that it cannot be ruled by immediacy, but that, like all human actions, especially if they have to do with interpersonal relationships, must take into account time and circumstances. In a certain way it has to be planned; in other words, it is necessary to foresee the best time, the best conditions of environment and privacy. And one of these conditions, for a couple who presently are not in a position to procreate, is that fertilization must be impossible at that time.

A couple told me, "Do you think it's a lack of spontaneity when we plan our family birthday parties? Not at all!" To prepare for a couple's union is not depriving the relationship of spontaneity. Quite o the contrary - it is making the sexual relationship a truly free choice or both partners.

Fr. Gomez is engaged in pastoral work in Latin America

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