Give up… not communicating your wants, hurts, fears and joys with your spouse
We had been married for three whole months. Truth be told, I was so ready to be a mom, but Nick wasn’t quite ready to be a dad. It was a lot for him to take in, first a wife, now a kid. I had a habit of sending him emails during lulls at work to softly broach more intense subjects, so I typed up a quick little note, something to the effect of “hey, let’s think about having a kid, cause there really won’t ever be a good time to have one.”
Two weeks later, I found out that at the time I sent that email I was already pregnant. We had talked about having a baby after a year of marriage, and our daughter’s due date was two days before our first anniversary. God has a sense of humor!
After she was born, the conversation changed. We were both terrified of another baby. I had had a C section, and the experience left me somewhat shattered, and medically, the need to space another pregnancy was serious. Still, we would only use NFP – which was apparently the last thing my doctor wanted to hear at my six week check up.
“Emily, I’ve been married for twenty years, and I’ll just tell you, men have needs.” Translated: get on the pill so you can be sexually available to your husband or else your marriage will suffer.
I didn’t know what to say. I was so strung out on postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation that I ended up taking those words as gospel and projecting them on my husband. “I must understand what is going on in my cycle so that I can make sure we are having as much sex as possible.” And anyone who’s been postpartum knows that that’s virtually impossible. It was a tremendous amount of stress and pressure that Nick never would have wanted me to carry if he had known. I never shared my fears and concerns about what I needed or found out what was actually going on in his mind until months later. When I did, it turns out he isn’t the insatiable sex fiend my doctor told me all men are.
I learned a valuable lesson though. It’s essential to not just share my wants, joys and fears with my spouse, it’s equally as important for me to hear his as well. These conversations can be really awkward, but we have to get good at being open and honest with our spouses about the most intimate and beautiful part of our lives.
It is a huge challenge because it requires vulnerability, and in our fallen world, that’s a big a gamble. When we are vulnerable, we can be either deeply loved or deeply hurt, so we often avoid it altogether. But we have to dive in. As my dad once succinctly put it, being married is about being naked with someone else (and somehow, it was not weird in context hearing that from my dad haha).
If this is a tough conversation for you to have, I have a few tips on how to begin. First, set the space. Have a glass wine, beer or even a cocktail, and open the topic when you can both give it your full attention. If you’re a planner, you could even make notes. Second, feel free to front-load it with caveats. It can be clunky, but it helps to create an atmosphere that isn’t defensive. I’ve literally started these conversations with something like, “Babe, I need to tell you something, it’s not bad, but I may not say it exactly how I mean it at first, so bear with me.” Finally, set your expectations appropriately – you likely won’t reach a resolution in one conversation. You’ll have to accept sometimes that where you are in terms of family planning may not be where our spouse is, whether that be to add to the brood or postpone for a little longer.
Learning how to communicate with your spouse about a topic as multifaceted as sex and family planning requires time. You don’t start off marriage knowing how to do it, and sadly, the book “How to Talk to Your Spouse about Sex and Babies: Catholic Style” hasn’t been written yet. You will most likely learn over time through trial and error, which is one of the many reasons why marriage is for life. It takes that long to get halfway decent at it.
Week 5 Challenge Question:
What are you holding back from your spouse in the area of family planning, or even sex in general? What fears do you hold on to? What joys could you share more often? What are the wants or hurts that have been put on the communication back-burner? Pick one or two and plan a time this week to talk with your spouse. Booze and caveats are recommended if you’re nervous 🙂
Scripture and Prayer
A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife.
1 Corinthians 7: 4
Father, we come to you filled with gratitude. You made sex and you made it good, a powerful gift to unite me with my spouse, and to enable us to be co-creators with you should it be your will. You know we live in a fallen world, a world that has twisted this gift every which way, making it difficult for us to revel in it as you originally designed. Help us to never be afraid of being open and honest with our spouses about our wants, hurts, joys and fears surrounding sex and family planning. Grant us patience, kindness and grace as we work through this beautiful part of our marriage together, that we may deepen our love of each other and you.
Read this week’s Challenge Accepted from Jen and Logan
We’ve been using NFP for pretty much our whole marriage (this June will be 11 years)…despite not using it to avoid a pregnancy until our third son was born. Regardless of what you use it for, NFP still requires you to communicate honestly and openly with each other on a regular basis, because things can change!
We’ve been open to a baby for over a year now, and when it doesn’t happen, you start to think a lot of crazy thoughts. What if we don’t have another baby for several more years? What if this is it for our family? What if God is calling us adopt instead? What if we’re supposed to be discerning something else completely?
It’s been a great time to communicate our wants, hurts, fears, and joys with each other. And now with the virus craziness, we’ve had more thoughts to share with each other… Is now a good time to get pregnant considering our pregnancies are high risk? Are we open to whatever God might be asking of us during the time, whether it’s a baby or something else completely?
We’ve shared before that we tell each other everything (seriously, everything), and NFP has played an important role in that.
So this Lent, give up not communicating your wants, hurts, fears, and joys with your spouse. Let God work through your vulnerability so you can grow in intimacy with him and each other.