When Matt and Haylee Glassman, of Bridgeport, Conn., got married in 2010, they had big dreams. They wanted to prove the goodness and effectiveness of NFP to their families, who do not support Church teaching on marital sexuality. “We had grand plans for how we could change the sexual culture, change our families,” said Matt, 33, a doctoral student in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University.
They took a Billings NFP class seven months before their wedding. From the beginning, their charts didn’t make sense. “We don’t have readable indicators,” Matt said. “Temperature is crazy; mucus is crazy.”
“My cycles aren’t predictable or consistent,” added Haylee, 28, noting that her temperatures are frequently very low and her cycles range from 35 to 95 days.
Three months into marriage, they found out they were expecting.
Two moves and another unplanned pregnancy later, the Glassmans are still trying to make NFP work for them, despite strong family disapproval. “It’s played out exactly how they said it would,” Haylee said. “The pressure to contracept is more than you can imagine.”
Haylee scours websites and books in search of answers that never surface. Time after time, NFP teachers think the solution will be easy to find, but they soon admit, “I’ve never seen a chart like this.” Attempts to improve cycles through nutrition and lifestyle changes have failed, and medical tests come back normal.
Searching so long and so fruitlessly for answers is emotionally draining. “This is the biggest cross we carry,” said Matt. “I’m not very hopeful that this is ever going to be any better. It’s been an exercise in resigning myself to a cross. I love God and I love the Church and her moral teaching, but I hate NFP. It’s been a terrible experience. I wouldn’t even want to talk with other young Catholic couples about NFP because I feel they’d be scandalized by our experience. NFP has taxed our marriage.”
Extended abstinence is the obvious difficulty, but it’s not the only one. Haylee has struggled with severe anxiety over NFP. And Matt points out: “We’re almost never able to have sex. You can imagine, if there are any other problems lurking in that area of your marriage – there’s so much tension all the time, surrounding this, that it’s always an issue.”
The Glassmans remain committed to the Church’s teachings, but the attitude toward family and children is different – less friendly – in the Northeast than what they experienced growing up in the Midwest. Even within the NFP community, support can be hard to come by. “Whether anybody wants to admit this or not, NFP is competing against contraception,” Matt said. “They have to sell it in a world where most Catholics are essentially secular.”
Still, as difficult as NFP is, the Glassmans want people to know they’re sticking with it. “We’re not giving up,” Haylee said. “Regardless of how much trouble we’ve had, how much of a pain it is, we’re not just waving a white flag.”
Perhaps that, they hope, can inspire others who struggle.