You may have to bear with me. The indescribably talented Emily Zanotti presented a wonderful case for adding some zip, jazz, and flare to the sign of contradiction that is our Beloved Church’s teaching on marital intimacy. Given that July is NFP Awareness (USCCB), or at least a week of July is, I thought I would add some thoughts from a masculine point of view.
Back in the heyday of NFP, the year 2000-1 when my wife and I began charting during our engagement as prep for marriage, we were introduced to so much about women. Mucus this, shiny that, temperature this, green day, “Do you have the time, to listen to me whine…”, dang it sorry that was Green Day, baby sticker here, where did I put the chart there, mom finds our chart here, newly married couple embarrassed when asked “What does all those “I’s” mean?” there. No really, the last one happened. Really. But not to me. A good friend told me about it one day and I almost choked on my beer just thinking about it. That experience is worthy of a catholicized Seinfeld episode.
But really, why can’t they make stickers that don’t smudge all over the place? Anyways, back on topic.
So NFP and men was seldom discussed. Men are basically given the sidekick role right? Sure I was told to be a good charter (which I failed to do miserably), be affectionate in infertile times, and spark the romance by holding hands. I am sure all those are wonderful things, but really, all those things should be happening throughout marriage right? I guess the only masculine thing I remember is that men are always fertile.
Considering NFP affects both sides of the marriage bed, I figured why not try to figure out more manly things about this lifestyle. So here it goes.
I figure most men kind of understand what goes on in those green days, so I am going to focus on the days that require control. Gaining control, via reason and will, of our innate drives and emotions is actually the meaning of responsible parenthood according to HV. (See para. 10). Gaining control, self-mastery, self- discipline, are all pretty much the same as growing in virtue. Later on in Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI goes into further detail:
“For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings. For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity.” (21)
Those periods of time in marriage that require husband and wife to practice continence is a time for a determined and focused pursuit of virtue. There are a lot of chats about a women’s cycle in NFP training, but little about a man’s cycle. Men have cycles? Of course. Our cycles are a little bit different. Our desire for marital intimacy is more physical. I am not saying women don’t have physical needs by any means.
Sure, men have emotional needs, intellectual needs, and spiritual needs as women to do. Without getting too raunchy and for lack of a better word, I am left with what this secular world calls “horny.” I wish there were a better word for it. Perhaps I should make something up because even this word’s strict definition is along the lines of “lustful.” I think the meaning of this term gets a bad rap though. As a man, it is sometimes easy to feel unmanly, cowardly, shameful, because our body is wanting a physical release of sexual energy. However, there is nothing wrong with this bodily desire, rather “The Creator himself . . . established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment.” So there must be a difference between a physical desire “in seeking this pleasure” and lustfulness. To have the desire or horniness (Gosh, people, can’t someone come up with a better word) is acknowledging that a male person recognizes a God given pleasure. The shame and guilt is appropriate for the free but wrong decision to lust after someone.
In this day and age, we don’t train young men how to control their passions and point or funnel them to higher goals. Chastity is a positive virtue which allows a person to give of himself more fully and in marriage those periods of continence are wonderful times for chastity boot camp.
So what are some manly ways to help control our passions with our reason and free will?
- Prayer. Offer up the struggle.
- Knowing is half the battle. In my early military days of playing guns in the backyard, GI Joe’s slogan was “Knowing is half the battle.” The first step is having a plan. Men’s sexual appetite does not come and go, it comes and stays until something is done about it. Having a strategy is important. In business, I would perform a SWOT analysis to help determine strategy. A man must know his strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Training. I have found that I can control my sexual passions much easier when I am training. Physical exercise, especially running, uses up energy but also requires mind over matter. I think running is good because it is cheap, easily accessible, competitive, and requires mental strength to push your physical body. Your body is saying stop, hit the recliner, snooze while you mind says, “One more mile and after that another mile.”
- Custody of the eyes. Of course this is a given for any person seeking purity, but being more conscientious of the struggle during these times is important.
- Cold showers. Sounds easy. But it ain’t.
- Proper sleep. To struggle with anything in life, sleep is important.
- Nutrition. The body needs proper feeding if you expect it to work properly. On the flip side, denying yourself certain foods also leads to greater strength in the other temptations within the battle of temperance.
Time for you to speak up. What has helped you gain more control over your passions in the times that require continence? And heck, I am going to throw it in for discussion too. What is another name for “horny” that has a positive recognition for sexual desire but not affiliated with lustfulness or libidinous?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/JTDTAT-Childrens-House-Copy-e1329964684276.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Jared Tomanek lives in the country of Texas with his wife Denise, a Southern Belle from Trinidad and Tobago, and his three children. He holds two graduate degrees from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, an MBA and Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Having taught for five years in Catholic education, he now works in the construction industry in Victoria, TX. He is a parishioner of Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Parish in the Diocese of Victoria. He also blogs at his local paper on just about everything cool.[/author_info] [/author]