The Theology of the Body in a Nutshell


The Theology of the Body in a Nutshell

If we look at the four components of God’s love for us (free, total, faithful, fruitful) and compare God’s love to marital love, we can discover how to live the Sacrament of marriage as the ultimate expression of spousal love.

Free: We need to be able love our spouse freely.  If we ask for conditions, that’s not love.  If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love.  If we cannot control our passions, if we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free.  If we can’t say no, our yes means nothing.

Total: The love for our spouse must be total.  We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my arm.”  Total means total. (Re: CCC 1643).

Faithful: Obviously, faithfulness means we must only have intercourse with our spouse and no other.  If we want to be truly faithful to our spouse, we must be faithful in word, action and thought.

Fruitful: We must allow relations with our spouse to be fruitful, to be open to children, each and every time we have sex.  That doesn’t mean we will conceive (or want to conceive) a child with every marital embrace.  It just means we need to be open.

Birth control, in fact, destroys all four of the essential components of marital love (free, total, faithful, fruitful). Birth control violates not only God’s plan in fruitfulness, but it also encourages an “I can’t say no” mentality to sex. When a behavior, device, medication or operation is used to remove fertility, a couple cannot give themselves totally, no matter how much they love each other. Contraception says, “I give all of myself to my spouse – except my fertility.”

Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.  Couples using NFP chart the wife’s cycle and if avoiding pregnancy, they abstain in the fertile time. If they are planning a pregnancy, they engage in relations during the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are fully giving of themselves and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.

NFP allows us to love our spouse as God loves us: freely, with no reservation, faithfully and open to children. Marriage can be a holy vocation when a couple loves as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

Want to live the highest expression of your marital love?  Use NFP and be open to life.

For more information on the Theology of the Body:

For more information on NFP, check out the following websites:

Text copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach




About Author

Ellen and her husband, James, have been certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League since 1984. She’s also an award-winning, bestselling author of five books, an editor, a publisher and a self-publishing book coach. Her newest novel, A Subtle Grace, recently hit #1 in Christian Historical Romance. Ellen lives in Pakenham, Ontario with her husband and sons. Contact her at: fullquiverpublishing(at)


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  2. Lidia L Michael on

    Hi Ellen,
    I love the short to the point explanation of TOB. I just have one question. You seem to use the terms birth control and contraception interchangeably. What I have learned in my TOB studies is that they are not the same thing. I was taught that the church is actually ok with “birth control” , that is controlling the timing and the amount of kids one has, as long as it is for serious , non permanent reasons and as long as it means the method used is to abstain from the one flesh union during fertile times. Am I wrong about this?

  3. Ellen Gable Hrkach on

    Hello Lidia, thanks so much for your comment. The terms contraception and birth control are used interchangeably and for good reason. The phrase “birth control” was coined by Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. I’m sure that the Catholic Church does not want to use a term created by Sanger (I know I certainly don’t want to use that term). NFP teachers like my husband and I often use the term “birth regulation” to define what NFP is (not birth control). The Church is definitely not “OK” with birth control, but the Church does teach that NFP (periodic abstinence) can used morally to avoid pregnancy. I know…it sounds like semantics. I hope this helps. Feel free to email me fullquiverpublishing(at) if you have further questions! God bless…

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