Reading a self-help book that I unpacked (back when I was unpacking my stored stuff), I ran across the disparaging phrase “instant-gratification relationship,” which was lumped together with such things as drug abuse and alcoholism. Such relationships weren’t mentioned again in that book (which I have since donated). Looking online shows that some people use this phrase but not many.
What got me started was simply wondering what defines an instant-gratification relationship? Sex, apparently. There is no other definition, though there should be. Or maybe another euphemism should be chosen.
Of course this assumes the sole point to a “relationship” is sex. Naturally, one would expect my proud assertion that I’m in the professional instant-gratification business. That’s true…and not true. The relationships my clients (and those of many of my friends) yearn for are hardly instant, they require time to build.
Then I think about the traditional marriage, or even the traditional romantic relationship. Hardly instant-gratification by anyone’s standards. In fact, to hear the partners in these relationships speak about them — hardly any gratification at all. So what if I want instant-gratification from someone whom I’ve decided is going to be exactly that? They have every right to deny me gratification if it’s not for them and I have every right to find it elsewhere.
Since I’m currently in a relationship that started out with a little instant-gratification (though the searching process was as tedious as usual), I’m not looking elsewhere for that instant-gratification. I certainly expect it within the relationship. Sometimes we’re on the same wavelength as per our needs for gratification and sometimes not. Like the time he forgot an important event that I’d invited him to. I was most certainly not gratified by this. Nor was he gratified when I explained his error after the event was over and I was home. Oh wait, this instant-gratification thing is only supposed to be about sex, right?
What’s so wrong about wanting a little gratification in a romantic relationship? Or in any relationship? There is enough thwarting of desires and recriminations in day-to-day life, an intimate relationship is supposed to be the one place where deep-seated needs are met, maybe even exceeded. One could apply that metric to friendships and family ties as easily as romantic bonds. If it’s instant, so much the better. We humans are a greedy, impatient lot.
Instant-gratification can be unhealthy as the entire basis for a relationship because one isn’t prepared to weather the bumps of delayed or no -gratification. Instant-gratification can be unhealthy if one is accustomed to disposing of the gratifier as though they were tissue. As in all things in life: moderation.
Still, what major harm is done if I decide to eat dessert before my main course, or if I decide that dessert is all I’m going to have for dinner tonight? I could feel like indulging my whims (and someone else could feel like doing exactly the same thing). I could die tomorrow (or not — and then have to work out a bit more to make up for having dessert instead of dinner). I have to eat every day to live, might as well gratify some of my desires while I’m at it.
No, I don’t have to have sex every day to live, but it certainly makes life better when I do. Neither do I have to have any intimate relationship in order to live, but not having one at all makes life a much more barren place. Everyone has needs to be met and a healthy dose of gratification is required, not low or no -gratification. After all, synonyms for gratification include joy and fulfillment — part of being a whole and emotionally-healthy human.
This author seems to assume that instantly-gratifying sex is as harmful and soul-destroying as a substance-addiction (nor is he the only person like this out there). It could be, but does not have to be. Most people do not have compulsive sex; it’s something under their complete control, not to mention it usually requires consent from another human in order to happen. Unlike the diminishing returns of long-term substance abuse, long-term sexual experience usually grants better-quality experiences over time. Self-knowledge and carnal knowledge isn’t a terrible tradeoff for mere instant-gratification.
As anyone who has gone through those instant-gratification phases knows, the best gratification happens over time. It honestly doesn’t matter how things start, instant or not. If something is going to grow, it will grow. The only true thing is that gratification is required for the relationship to grow strong and healthy.