Imagine you’ve met someone you really like. You talk to them, you feel there is a connection, you’ve somehow gotten their number and you’ve bravely broken the ice with a text you’ve spent the last hour composing.

It’s a scenario so many of us are painfully familiar with. But what may or may not come next, i.e. a satisfactory reply, is often the cause of much analysis and anxiety.

The staring at your phone, checking to see if said phone works, wondering if your love interest is on holiday somewhere remote or fallen down a man hole – or if they don’t reciprocate your strength of feeling . Waiting for a reply is one of those things we can’t control.

We place a lot of importance on texts, reply times and what we read between the lines of a text. But should we be reading into this?

Giving some insight into this matter is relationship psychologist Dr Max Blumberg, who has spoken to MirrorOnline about what it means when someone takes too long to reply – or replies very quickly.

The good news and the bad news

According to Dr Blumberg, there is indeed a correlation between the time it takes someone to text you, and their strength of feeling.

It almost makes you pine for the days when people would send love letters

“Messaging makes the inevitable happen more quickly. If someone fancies you, the chances are they will get back to you quickly”.

The rapidity with which people do reply is more of a modern phenomenon however, as Dr Blumberg explains.

“People get back to you quickly because we’re constantly dealing with incoming stimuli. We’re always ‘on’ and no longer live in age of delayed gratification.”

Unfortunately, the same applies if they do not feel the same way. “On the other hand, if another person does take their time, it does not bode well.”

And there’s nothing you can do about it

“The time it takes people to reply to respond to a request for a date; much of it relates to the invitees perceived ‘dating value’ relative to the ‘inviter.'”

The term ‘dating value’ may seem a little calculating, but it’s behaviour intrinsic to us, as Dr Blumberg explains.

Text meeting
Then there’s all that lovely text analysis

“What we do is we subconsciously rate people on metrics like attractiveness, wealth, personality, status, style, IQ, emotional intelligence, kindness and empathy, perceived attitudinal similarities and perceived social liabilities.

“When we first meet someone, we score them on these. Then you compare that score to the score you’ve given yourself.”

So if you score someone highly, and subconsciously feel you’re both a good match, score-wise, this will dictate your response time. The same applies if they subconsciously believe their score is higher than yours.

There are some factors, however, which mean this rule is not an absolute.

A person may have low self-esteem, or overly-inflated self-esteem, meaning there’ll be a disparity between their score and the score others would give them.

Close up of a man using a smart phone device at his desk
How we ‘rate’ someone can dictate how long it takes us to reply

“So,” Dr Blumberg continues, “if you see a much older man with a really young wife, you can bet it’s the money.

“It’s also why people with inflated opinions of themselves wind up single in middle and elderly age – no one has been good enough.”

But what if they ARE on holiday? Or really busy?

On this matter Dr Blumberg is clear. “Because people do get back to you quickly most of the time, if someone does drag their heels, there are a few reasons, none of them great.

“Yes, they could be on holiday, or they could be playing games, which are the best outcomes.

love letter
Should we revert to letters?

“The point is, in an age of instant messaging there is a reason why they’re choosing to not reply – and they’re not good.”

So is game-playing a bad thing?

People don’t tend to sit on the fence about game-playing. But if that’s why someone is withholding on the texting front, it’s not necessarily a sign of weakness on their part, or that they don’t like you.

In fact, in terms of heterosexual relationships, game-playing on a woman’s part is down to evolutionary psychology.

“Females play hard to get because it’s in their genes. Evolutionary psychology tells women ‘we’re carrying the babies, so this man needs to prove his worth.’

“So, game-playing is your genes’ way of delaying you moving forward with someone you see as a ‘long term’ partner.

Couple hugging along Seine River, Paris, France
Dating should be fun

“It’s an indication, from a female, that they might really like you.”

Keen beans

As for the other side of the coin, the scenario where someone gets back to you VERY quickly, Dr Blumberg says:

“You may be undervaluing yourself, or have overvalued them. So you’ll think ‘I can’t believe X got back to me so quickly’ – but it’s because you’re score is akin to theirs, you just don’t see it that way.

“And most men will get back quickly – because they are chancers!”

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Dating, relationships, sex and break-ups



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Zahra Mulroy

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