Pleasure can be unbearable without the right support system. No one should have to face pleasure alone. The best way to see this in clear light is to consider the opposite. Grief overwhelms people when they try to bear it alone. It is the web of close, abiding relationships and outward-focused responsibilities that enables one to handle grief without being handled by it. A web of love and friendship catches grief like a Kevlar vest catches a bullet. It still knocks the hell out of you, but it doesn’t go through.
But the same web that keeps grief from coming in to destroy pulls pleasure in to fortify with joy. Like food to the body, pleasure nourishes the soul. But, like uneaten fruit left rotting on the vine, pleasure is worthless without a soul to nourish. This being the case, experiencing pleasure in isolation from the whole process of character and relationship development will do to the soul what chewing food and spitting it out will do to the body.
Pleasures are meant to be taken in and absorbed into the self to enrich, enhance, enliven. It shouldn’t be too controversial to say that one does first need a life before it’s enlivened, so the crucial question is, what is the character of the life being enlivened?
And this is the problem when it comes to pleasure. Pleasure is the furniture but we treat it like the house. No one would want to live in a house without furniture, but if we tried for long to live on furniture without a house we would soon stop living altogether.
Love—deliberate, willful, sober-minded, love—love which manifests in abiding, life-long relationships, staying on course through all kinds of shifting emotional weather—this is what the human house is supposed to be made of. This is the support system that enables pleasure to be truly pleasurable.
It is the company of the cherished person on the other side of the table that gives the wine and salmon its savor. It is the hum of good will permeating the Christmas morning living room that makes a sweater in a wrapped box something much more than a sweater in a wrapped box. It is the definitive “I do—in sickness or health, poverty or wealth!” that makes sexual contact a transcendent welding of souls rather than a fifteen-minute lust quench. (No one ever said, “I’m going to hate myself in the morning” before sleeping with the person to whom they have committed their future.)
Denying this results in what theologian J. David Franks calls, “the consumerist contraction of the human spirit.” If that sounds fuzzy, just consider the simultaneous rise in STDS and the use of dating apps; the rate of syphilis infection in the state Utah increased 311% since 2008. Those numbers reflect contracted spirits.
Ironically, those most concerned with pleasure are the ones who experience it in its most shallow and diminishing form. As with happiness, those who know the deepest, richest pleasures are the ones who know that pleasure is a component of something far greater than itself.
 J. David Franks, “Tempered Desire,” in Philosophical Virtues and Psychological Strengths