“Ode to Instant Gratification” by Guerilla Haiku Movement, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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.

10 thoughts on “just add water

  1. 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.

    After thinking this over a bit, I started to say that all gratification is instant gratification. But that’s not really true. I kind of think that our awareness of having gratified our needs or desires happens all at once, but noticing that it’s happened isn’t the same thing as doing it, I guess. Example: it’s 3:30, and I need to go and start getting the baked chicken ready for supper tonight, so that when the time comes to gratify hunger, it’ll happen. The preparation for gratification will take a couple of hours. The experience of gratification will be close to instantaneous. Which of the two is the “real” gratification? Hmmmmm … damned if I know. Neither one means anything without the other; maybe there isn’t a real distinction.

    Meanwhile, I’ve got some mustard/honey/curry “stuff” to whip together. May all your gratifications be, if not instantaneous, at least prompt, anyway.

    1. Jim — Good point! Some needs we’re willing to have gratified over time, such as your dinner example or the example of a marriage. Others, we want a lot quicker, which is how McDonald’s has served billions of burgers. But even in the case of picking someone up in a bar for sex later that evening and parting ways — the gratification is still not “instant” (unless you start having sex in the bar after introducing yourself) and may not even happen that night.

      I think it’s a terrible phrase to use to condemn any type of relationship.

      PS: What about pet owners, especially those who have dogs? What is that if not instant emotional gratification every time you come through the door?

  2. I taught college English for several years and read few papers with such remarkable voice. Congrats on making Kinknote.com’s Top 10 Blog Posts of the Week!

  3. Amanda – delayed reaction, as usual, but I just wanted to thank you very much for this really nice and most insightful post. Not for the first time or last, it was very timely, and appreciated.

    Lee

  4. It is good to see a new post! And a thoughtful well-expressed mulling about words, as well! OK, with that acknowledged …

    First, I am glad you are in a relationship! Thanks to you, and to some other blogs, I know that professionals can find it difficult to meet people who are suitable. May it go well, for as long as it needs to.

    Second, I am sure that the criticism of “instant gratification” comes from Puritan-style ethics, and would apply to anything that might be gratifying. It is in the Puritan style to state that nothing has any true value if it does not result from work.

    Mind you, no client can obtain any “gratification” from a sex worker if he has not done the work needed to obtain the fee that the worker requires.

    So the notion that sex is shameful, per se, is the other element. Not limited only to Puritans though, of course.

    Best wishes!

    RSRD

    1. RSRD — Nice to see you here! But…this isn’t a new post. Sorry.

      Still with my boyfriend, such as it is. It’s now a long-distance relationship and that really sucks. The circumstances can’t allow it to be any other way. Yet another thing in my life that Pig has taken and that he’ll never have to answer for.

      Didn’t think about Puritan reward ethics. This relates to a lot of people’s views on winning the lotto, as well as the guilt a lot of lotto winners seem to experience. I was just thinking sexsexsex. 🙂

      Clients also don’t get any gratification if they’re not willing to let go of some hangups. Why some people are so willing to stifle themselves is beyond me. By “stifle” I guess I mean “repress to the point of misery.”

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