How FABMs Improve Couple Communication In An Age When We Especially Need It
Did you know the use of Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs) is associated with an enormous statistical difference in marriage success? Couples using FABMs are perhaps as much as 50 times less likely to divorce than those who don’t. Study after study shows that around 50% of marriages in the United States (the vast majority of which involve contraception) end in divorce, whereas divorce rates among couples using FABMs range from only 0.2% to 3%. One factor in this colossal difference is that FABMs can promote better communication between spouses.
It’s fair to say that contraception can have different effects on the spouses. From a husband’s perspective, contraception might imply that sex should be constantly available. For the wife taking chemical contraception, on the other hand, her interest in sex is often diminished by its tampering with her hormones, so that kind of expectation can feel like an unfair demand.
If the couple engaged in sex before marriage, she may have been more willing at that time to concede to his wishes from fear of losing him. Perhaps not worrying as much once they’re married, she may feel more comfortable expressing her lack of interest; meanwhile, he may interpret her disinterest to mean that her love for him is waning.
Additionally, chemical contraception messes with women on multiple levels. It messes with her feelings—causing her to be irritable or down; this in turn messes with her thoughts. All this can make her think and say things she wouldn’t otherwise—negative things that disrupt communication with her husband.
In these ways, contraception can lead to mutual annoyance and feelings of offense and hurt on the part of both spouses. All these things can build barriers between them and shut down communication.
Fertility Awareness Based Methods Can Bolster Communication.
FABMs, on the other hand, are not only free of these negative effects of contraception but can actually promote communication and be relationship-building.
Using a FABM to avoid pregnancy makes it much more likely that a couple will revisit the question of having another child—not only revisit the question at all but more often. For one thing, fertility increases libido, so the wife’s interest in marital intimacy is likely to increase when she’s fertile, while the libido of the husband tends to be high all the time, since he’s usually fertile all the time. So during her fertile times, there’s much more likely to be increased mutual interest. Unless there is a major reason to avoid pregnancy, such as danger to her health, it is only natural that the question will arise: Do we really still need to abstain?
The couple might explore this in some detail. Perhaps their finances are better now than when they first decided to avoid pregnancy, or things have things gotten easier in another arena, and they realize they could handle having a(nother) child in nine months. Such a discussion naturally leads to a deeper relating of what’s going in each spouse’s life, a more in-depth sharing of mind and heart. This is always a plus for communication (and one that is hard to manage in our busy, busy culture).
These discussions might be a revelation to the other spouse. Perhaps one will realize a hardship of the other that they didn’t understand before, and be prompted to ask, “How could I make things easier for you?”—not only so they could perhaps stop abstaining, but also just out of love and compassion.
Another (multi-faceted) reason that using FABMs promotes better communication is that it can help retain the courtship and honeymoon elements of a relationship, whereas contraception can snuff them out. They can turn the abstinence phase into a return to courtship. If the couple deems that they really do need to avoid pregnancy now, then during the fertile times they need to find other ways of expressing love, and often these involve more talking.
In addition, abstaining during the fertile time can make the infertile phase like a honeymoon. Sex is less likely to become hum-drum than when it’s constantly available and less likely to be taken for granted. Rather, periodic abstinence often revitalizes interest in the other; just as whenever we deny ourselves a pleasure we relish it all the more when we can enjoy it again. A monthly honeymoon then also can renew the couple’s love, revitalize the romance, and strengthen their bond.
Further, if one spouse has a higher libido (for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say the husband—although that’s not always the case) but is willing to abstain for his wife’s sake or wellbeing (pregnancy affecting her more immediately and profoundly), it will likely increase her love and appreciation for him. This is likely to increase her desire to show that love and appreciation to him in turn. Together these can strengthen their bond of love and friendship. It also often increases trust between them, which of course improves communication.
Just as sharing a joy can be bonding, so also can sharing a difficulty. Going through something difficult together can build and strengthen a relationship, but it’s not automatic. It requires making a decision to sympathize with and lean on each other rather than blaming or taking out frustrations on one another.
For instance, if the wife experiences a significantly greater interest in marital intimacy during her fertile times, it can help her better understand and sympathize with what her husband may be feeling the rest of the month. The couple may talk about this, and it could cause her to be more willing to be intimate with him at times when she’s not usually as interested.
A Conscious Choice
You might notice my frequent use of the word “can” here. These potential benefits are not guaranteed, but they are far more likely to blossom with FABMs than with contraception.
Let’s be frank: abstinence is usually difficult. But it’s also an opportunity to grow in self-mastery, which is helpful in all aspects of marriage—indeed, all aspects of life. In any marriage there will arise situations (postpartum recovery, business trips, and so on.) where sexual abstinence is required. Practice helps make it easier. Real love always involves putting aside selfish impulses; it always involves some self-sacrifice. The difficulty of abstinence then is an opportunity for growth in love.
FABMs then can be a great boost to communication—not only the sharing of thoughts and feelings in verbal communication, but also enriching a couple’s sexual intimacy as a means of communicating love.