In the old days before cell phones (I realize one shows his age just by starting a sentence with, “In the old days…”), couples had to wait to share good news, or any news for that matter, with their spouse/partner. No surprise, this sharing usually took place at the end of the work day, when couples would finally see each other. For those of you who remember these prehistoric times (of having to delay gratification and actually wait to tell your partner about so and so and such and such), the wait could sometimes feel unbearable, depending on how exciting or important the information was to you.
Obviously, cell phones and texting have made the “wait” obsolete. Within seconds of wanting to contact your spouse/partner, the contact literally happens. The speed and pervasiveness of sharing has become the new norm, and our expectations about communicating and giving/receiving information are changing as a result.
Is Waiting Bad for Your Relationship?
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ~ Aristotle
I recently observed the following conversation:
A young wife (probably in her mid-twenties) shared with her girlfriend, “I sent Steve [her husband] a text about 15 minutes ago, and he still hasn’t replied. He’s definitely mad at me about something…” This woman spent the remainder of her time with her friend frantically checking her cell phone. It turned out that Steve was just busy at work.
In the above example, a fifteen-minute delay is considered too long—out of the norm for this couple’s pattern of sharing, and the only logical conclusion for the delayed reply is that something must be wrong, specifically, there must be trouble in paradise.
As the experience of immediacy replaces the experience of delay and waiting, couples need to become mindful of a potential fallout of expecting instant gratification: impatience.
The idea that “good things come to those who wait” is quickly becoming a relic of a past that doesn’t apply to today’s fast-changing reality—these changes have important implications for our relationships, not all good.
Unbeknownst to couples, the negative energy of impatience can creep into a relationship and create an atmosphere of frustration and tension—interactions that become tinged with impatience can slowly grow into more pervasive cycles of chronic frustration and hostility.
Impatience is likely to arise whenever your expectations of how something “should be” doesn’t come to fruition. And the growing expectation that our spouses/partners should be available to offer us instant responsiveness places an undue burden of stress on a marriage/relationship. When instant (or near instant) access and availability do not occur, we have no other choice but to conclude that something is wrong or broken—and our feelings of frustration and impatience are the evidence, convincing us that something is clearly off-kilter.
As more rapid forms of gratification become a reality, so do experiences of increased impatience, annoyance, intolerance and irritability—there is no way around this dilemma; you cannot expect immediacy and then feel fine when you are left waiting.
In my next article, we will examine the potential and often hidden gifts that come with waiting.
Dr. Rich Nicastro