You’ve already sent him three texts. He hasn’t replied.
You scroll back through your messages, wondering if you should send one more. Just something to jog his memory and remind him you’re still waiting for his reply—surely it couldn’t hurt?
Love is full of moments like this:
Where you’re really, really tempted to do something…
But you know it could backfire.
For example, maybe you went out with a new guy and had a wonderful time. The evening has come to a close, and he’s asked you to pop by his place “for a nightcap.”
You don’t want to move that fast. But you’re enjoying his company, and you don’t want the night to end.
What do you do? Give into temptation?
Or experience the short-term pain of turning him down in the hope of getting a long-term future with him?
When We Get Tempted
Temptations like these don’t just happen in love. They’re part of life.
Some people find it easier to resist temptation than others.
They’re able to put long-term goals ahead of short-term gratification.
This skill is associated with greater life success.
One of the most famous studies about temptation is known as the Marshmallow Test.
In the 1970s, Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel offered a marshmallow to 90 children enrolled in an on-campus preschool.
But the offer came with a twist.
If the children were able to wait 15 minutes without eating the marshmallow, they’d get another one.
Mischel followed up on these children years later. He found that the kids who managed to resist eating the first marshmallow had done better in life than the kids who hadn’t.
Although eating a marshmallow is slightly different from sending a text, we can learn something from those 4-year-olds.
When faced with temptation, you can’t rely on willpower alone to keep you from giving in.
You’ve got to have strategies in place.
Here are 3 strategies that can help you resist temptation, whether in the form of a marshmallow or a particularly alluring guy.
Strategy #1. Distraction
How does a 4-year-old resist a marshmallow?
Here’s what they don’t do. They don’t stare at it for 15 minutes, inhaling its sweet scent and envisioning the moment they’ll be able to stuff it in their mouths.
If you’re trying to keep yourself from sending a stream of texts to a guy who isn’t replying, then scrolling through past messages and staring at your phone isn’t going to help.
Instead, do what kids do. Distract yourself.
The kids tried all sorts of ways to take their mind off the marshmallow. They covered their eyes. They sat on their hands. One smushed the marshmallow into a ball and played with it.
You also have options. You could put your phone down and go for a walk. You could call a friend or watch a funny video.
Get your mind off him, so you don’t have to work so hard to resist temptation.
Strategy #2. Have Rules
With the Marshmallow Test, the benefit of delaying gratification is obvious. Two marshmallows are always going to be better than one (unless you don’t like marshmallows!).
But in love, the benefits of delaying gratification aren’t so clear.
Maybe he will reply to your next text, even if he hasn’t replied to the last five.
Maybe extending your evening at his house will result in such a magical, memorable night that he falls madly in love with you.
You don’t know for sure that waiting for him to text back or cutting your evening short are the right things to do.
In fact, the longer you think about it, the more reasons you can come up with for giving into temptation.
This is where having personal “love rules” can help.
Instead of deciding what to do on the spot—and allowing yourself to be tempted—decide what you’ll do in advance.
In circumstances like these, what’s your rule?
You might set a rule to stop texting a man after sending 3 texts in a row with no reply. You might set a rule that you won’t sleep with a man until you’re in a relationship.
You can create a rule for as many situations as you like.
You might set a rule to never accept a last-minute date request. You might set a rule not to date anyone who tells you that he’s not interested in relationships.
There are no universal dating rules. You make your own rules based on your values and preferences.
Once you have rules, decisions are easy. Even if you’re tempted, you do what is right for you.
Strategy #3. Have Faith
In 2018, researchers redid the Stanford marshmallow study, hoping to replicate its famous results.
Instead they discovered they’d got it wrong.
A kid’s ability to hold out for that second marshmallow had less to do with some special ability to delay gratification…
And everything to do with their socioeconomic background.
Kids from wealthier, more educated parents were better able to delay gratification—possibly because life had taught them that there would always be more marshmallows.
Kids from less privileged backgrounds tended to eat the marshmallow in front of them—possibly because they didn’t trust the adults to follow through on their promise.
In love, not all of us believe there will be more “marshmallows.”
We worry that this chance with this person is the only one we’ve got.
We don’t have faith that waiting will get us something better than seizing the moment.
There’s nothing wrong with eating the first marshmallow. If life has taught you that it’s the only one you’re likely to get, then take it.
But if you have a little faith, you can resist the easy choice. Your sights are set on a bigger reward…
And not all the temptation in the world can sway you from holding out for a true love.