SPICE up your marriage!
My husband, Tyler, and I recently celebrated 5 years of marriage! It’s crazy how it simultaneously feels like “our wedding was just yesterday!” and “that was forever ago!” - surreal to think back to coming home from our honeymoon owning nothing but a kitchen table and now to see the beautiful life we have built together since then. In our marriage so far we have used the Creighton Model of NFP in almost every application that it offers. When we were first married we struggled with infertility and used the combination of Creighton and NaProTechnology for me to be diagnosed with PCOS and for us to eventually conceive our first daughter Ellie. We have charted during seasons of breastfeeding and crazy frustrating postpartum cycles; we have used the system to naturally achieve our pregnancy with our second daughter Harlee; and most recently we have been using the system to avoid pregnancy to space out children.
I have found in my own marriage (and, as a FertilityCare Practitioner, observed in my client couples) that each season of marriage can come with unique challenges. When couples are trying to achieve pregnancy, sex can sometimes seem like a requirement, a job, something stressful or something you have to perform. When using a natural method to avoid pregnancy, long stretches of fertile window in the woman’s cycle can cause frustration, isolation and division.
SPICE is an acronym commonly talked about within the Creighton Model System that helps couples to build and strengthen their marriages in seasons of avoiding or achieving pregnancy! It refers to the different areas of intimacy between spouses and, broken down, it stands for S - spiritual, P - physical, I - intellectual, C - communication, E - emotional. I love to encourage the engaged and married couples that I teach to each make a list of ways that they feel bonded as a couple in each category and then share their list with each other. In harder seasons of marriage, frustrating/long/confusing fertile windows, seasons of grief, or months and years of negative pregnancy tests, pulling out that list and being intentional about building all types of intimacy in your marriage can really be a game changer! Let’s take a look at each element.
My husband Tyler and I met when we were both working as Catholic missionaries with an organization called FOCUS (Fellowship of Cathoic University Students), so you might be tempted to think this has been an easy intimacy for us to master and that we have a mystical prayer life together. Well this has been - and continues to be - a big area we are growing in! We love because God first loved us, so spiritual intimacy is the foundation which all other intimacies flow from. Venerable Fulton Sheen said: "If the human heart can so thrill me, what must be the heart of God; if the spark is so bright, what must be the flame?" Our faith is a gift. It is really easy for me to fall into the trap of believing an effort-based lie that you have to construct the perfect spiritual environment for your marriage in order to be bonded spiritually. However, we are already one in Christ: our job is to accept the gift and drink in the richness of the faith together. Here are some ideas to help you accept or enter into the spiritual communion you have already received in your baptism and in the sacrament of marriage.
Go to Mass and receive the Eucharist together.
Listen to praise and worship music together.
Pray night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours together
Say a rosary in the car together. If you’re not used to doing this, just start slow. Say one decade of the rosary or learn to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet.
Pray for your spouse.
Say the Our Father together slowly.
When you have needs or intentions, pray together for that specific intention.
Pray the novena for a happy and faithful marriage from St. Jose Maria Escriva together.
As men and women, we bring our sexuality into everything that we do. Our sexuality encompases so much more than just our reproductive organs! Even in a season of trying to avoid a pregnancy, FertilityCare Practitioners never encourage married couples to avoid sexual contact. However, the couple makes a decision together to avoid genital contact during the fertile window of the cycle. Distinguishing between gential contact and sexual contact is a really big thing I teach in the Creighton Model System! In our over-sexualized culture this can be a really new concept for people! Here are some ideas of ways to build physical intimacy, other than sex.
30-second kiss everyday challenge!
Hold hands in the car, in public, or on a walk.
Buy a massage gun and take turns giving back/body massages.
Have conversations outside of the bedroom about your desires and needs related to sex and about your joint decision to avoid or achieve a pregnancy.
Read the book Holy Sex by Gregory Popcak.
Read a book together! We read Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen when we were engaged and it was probably my favorite part of our engagement! We read two or three pages a day and talked about anything that stuck out to us on that page and it was such an awesome conversation starter!
Listen to the marriage-related episodes of the Restore the Glory podcast. It’s an amazing podcast by two Catholic marriage and family therapists. Have a discussion afterwards about what jumped out to you.
Take an online class together and learn something new!
Speak well about your spouse in public, in front of them, and to your friends.
Have a “planner date” on a set day each week to talk about what the upcoming week looks like for both of you.
Have a system of transparency about your finances.
Have the husband do the NFP recording on the chart, while the wife is in charge of making the observations.
Genuinely ask your spouse how they are doing and listen to their honest answer.
Plan a date night and put it on the calendar! Each make a list of fun dates you would like to go on and make them happen!
Buy your spouse’s favorite drink or snack at the gas station and leave it in their car with a cute post-it note message.
Bring your spouse coffee from their favorite shop or prep the coffee pot at home the night before just how they like it.
Do an activity that your spouse loves with them, and have them teach you more about it. Watch your husband’s favorite sports team with him, learn about that new car part he wants and how it’s installed, go out in the garage and spend time with him.
Do a house chore that your spouse typically takes care of for them.
Cook a fancy meal together.
Buy That Question Book: Marriage Edition - a book of 360 questions to ask your spouse to get to know them better. Plan an at-home date night with your spouse's favorite drinks and snacks and take turns asking questions.
Take the 5 Love Languages free online quiz, then discuss your primary love languages and how you can love each other better in the way you each best receive love.
We are still relatively young in our marriage so these ideas are just a tiny sample of some fun things you can do to grow in all areas of intimacy together in your marriage. Use them in seasons of trying to achieve a pregnancy when sex can easily become a pressure situation that seems like a duty or requirement, or use these in a season of avoiding when you want to feel especially bonded to your spouse but you’ve discerned now isn’t the best time for another child. We are not perfect and we are growing together in so many ways but I am so grateful for the gift that NFP has been in our marriage so far to cause us to grow in all levels of intimacy!
Laura Golden grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, the oldest of six kids! After graduating from University of Nebraska Medical Center with her Bachelors of Science in Nursing she served for two years as a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary, where she met her husband, Tyler. She now lives in Warren, Minnesota, with her husband and two daughters, Ellie and Harlee. She is passionate about educating and empowering women and couples with knowledge about their cycles as she works as a Creighton FertilityCare Practitioner during her kids’ naptime and after bedtime! You can follow Laura on Instagram at @holyfamilyfertilitycare