Thursday, June 26, 2014

“The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning” – An Honest Review by Theresa Martin

Let me begin by saying how much a appreciate Simcha Fisher’s style. Her writing style is nothing like mine. She is sarcastic, shocking, has a dry sense of humor and - *whispering* - she even curses. (Gasp!) shocking, I know. ;-) And while I do enjoy letting the rant loose every now and then, I just can never write the curse words into my posts. I don’t say them normally, so it’s just not natural for me. But Simcha can pull it off. She does all that and – the best part – she is so faithful to the Catholic Church and the Church’s teaching. So, while I would never pick her writing style as my choice of writing, I can definitely appreciate it and see the gift she has.

Another great gift of hers, she can make me laugh. I smile a lot, smirk, maybe even give the simultaneous package of a smile and head nod, but besides my husband, not many can make me really chuckle. Simcha can. I believe it is because she has a way of not making regular life “showy” or glamourized, but just as it is. She laughs at and mocks herself, and you can’t help but laugh with her.

I have to admit I was very reluctant to read this book. (Apparently, I am in the minority that actually like nfp! Shhh – don’t tell anyone! Especially not Simcha!) I have experienced the benefits and see the challenges as just that – a challenge. For me, it is more like the struggle of exercise, that can be hard, but you know there is reward for doing it. So, nfp wasn’t a burden, but that strength-building that a marriage needs. From the title and the introduction, it felt a lot like an “I know NFP sucks right? Darn it, but it’s the best way of all sucky ways, so here’s my take” attitude.

yep, see? Me and the book. proof that I do indeed recommend it. :-)
So, I couldn’t quite get into that attitude, and she dissed on me often! Well, okay, not me specifically, but the dreamy-nfp-loving people who tell you it’s so great and apparently you want to tell them where to go … I’m that dreamy gal! So, that was a little unnerving, because it made me nervous as to where her conclusions would go. I almost put the book down … but because she makes me laugh and I trusted her, I cautiously kept reading.

And what I read – was lovely. It was all Simcha, but lovely Simcha. It’s almost more of a ‘how do you discern family size?’, ‘please stop judging others,’ and ‘how do you have a better marriage?’ book than an nfp book. I really liked that aspect. I am not a judgmental person and it just breaks my heart when people get all snippy at each other, accusing each other of not using nfp the right way or why someone shouldn’t be using it at all. I LOVED – LOVED – her campaign for sympathy in the book. It is so needed among women and I hope women who read this book truly hear that part!

I thoroughly enjoyed her sharing of married life and the struggles of relationship, especially the intimate sexual relationship struggles. When she got into the trenches of nfp, there were some ways of saying it that rubbed me the wrong way, but again, that’s not my style. I bet it would be really helpful to those who are having difficulty with nfp. One of my favorite parts of the book, after all the bashing and playful nfp roasting, is when she profound speaks about what prudence meant for her and her husband, it almost brought me to tears. They discerned to postpone more babies for a while and, well, I'll let her talk: 
“You can do it wrong. You can exercise self-control with a mean heart, with bitterness of restraint, or with fear. But that's not true prudence, anymore than it's true fortitude to sit dozing in the back of a bus while someone else steers it through a storm. I did not know how much warmth and love were at the heart of this misunderstood virtue.
When my husband and I realized that God was calling us to work at prudence, I wasn't expecting any emotion at all. I was expecting something utterly dry and mechanical, something contrary to my nature, something foreign to my relationship with my husband.
“Instead? It's like one of those dreams where you're wandering around on the top floor of your house, looking for something that will satisfy you, something that you need---and what is this? A whole other room. You open the door, and step inside---and there you find what you were looking for: a new kind of satisfaction, a new kind of joy, a while new vocabulary for expressing love.” pp.37-38 

And reading that, I was like – thank you! – finally. THAT's what I love about NFP!

And then she did something really beautiful, she painted the picture of what a marriage is like beyond that struggle. And maybe I should give a *SPOILER ALERT* here!

“NFP first gave me and my husband several years of incredible pain, and then several years of a strange and unexpected joy. We've finally learned that NFP can take a nascent impulse towards love and magnify it into something profound and joyful, something that will make your heart overflow, something new. The system hasn't changed, of course. we have changed.
“We thought we needed to bend the method, twist that lens to suit our needs. But it turned out that it wasn't the lens that needed to change shape. In order to make it work---not only help us plan pregnancies, but to help us to turn small gestures of affection into strong abiding love---we needed to leave that lens where it was, but stand in a different spot. Both of us.” p.75

**END SPOILER :-) **

And of course that's what I will quote, because I am the happy NFP user. Yes, it can be challenging but I've seen the great benefits of love from it! (I'm going to get of my "Yay NFP!" soapbox now before I get hit in the head by Simcha's spitballs flying up here from the back of the room...) :-)  Don't worry, there is a lot more of the suckiness about nfp than the pretty parts in this book - you'll love it.

All in all, here is my final take:
In “The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning”, Simcha Fisher combines sarcasm, wit, and love to bring you a very unique explanation of Catholic married life. Not that what she explains is unique, for that is her gift – being able reflect the truth of the real life of others, of which they might not even be aware. It is actually how she says it that is so unique. She is raw, real and inspiring. I think this book would be a good read for anyone using nfp. But it is especially good to have on hand if you love nfp and can’t figure out why someone else doesn’t – just give them Simcha’s book. If you struggle with nfp, you are really going to love this book. She has a way of exposing the flabby underbelly of married life in a loving and real way, but using that exposure to bring the reader to understand what they can work more on in their own lives, their marriage and their relationship with God.
                                    - Theresa Martin, author of Woman, How Great Thou Art


  1. Your final summary is great. I am curious about why you seemed to be speaking about NFP in past tense

  2. :-) ha, ha - no reason! We still use it. Maybe it was subconsciously done because in the first four years of our marriage we had to wait to have children. Those were went NFP was put to the test for us. And it worked! Now, there's not as much severity to our use of NFP, do maybe that's why?? Good eye ;-)

  3. Wow!!! Great article and it seems that it would be a great help for the sake of all of us. And I think this makes sense to stay sexually active.

    Visit our blog -