We have all been in the situation where we have been exchanging messages back and forth with someone, only to find they have either stopped replying or their responses come through some time after we have sent the message. The question that has arisen since technology became such a huge part of our romantic lives is what is this person's intent? Do they take a while to respond because they are busy? Do they take a while to respond because they want to execute certain rules or is it simply that they are only mildly interested, if at all?
There is no clear cut answer nor an objective view but research and years of individual's insights make the most likely case for someone taking their time to reply is because they are just not that into you. The only way to demonstrate an interest in someone is to communicate with them and build a connection with them. Nobody wants to date a game player nor someone who is unavailable. There may be moments that we enjoy the chase, but the fundamental elements that we are all looking for in a relationship is equality, honesty, respect, friendship and to a certain degree control.
Discussing some of these factors may help us address why we may try to elongate our communication with someone, despite them not doing the same. When we speak about equality in romantic relationships it means that a relationship has a better chance of working if both individuals put in similar amounts of effort, quality of time and feel as if they are getting a fair exchange of these features. This follows the Social Exchange theory. According to the social exchange theory; a person who feels that the cost of his or her romantic relationship outweighs its benefits will most likely leave the relationship . Thibaut and Kelley (1959) outlined this premise through a number of stages in the development of relationships. This includes the first stage of a sampling, through to bargaining what you want, to commitment and finally institutionalisation. It is in the second and third stages where attraction to the other person will increase if the costs of being in a relationship are reduced.
Honesty is also a contributing factor. We need to be honest not only with those we are communicating with but also with ourselves. Sometimes we may know that someone is uninterested but as they reply every now and then we use this as evidence to support the fantasy relationship we have created. This is where most of the confusion occurs as often others supply us with signals of their interest or disinterest and it is down to us to identify them. Essentially we need to be honest with ourselves and in most cases this will prevent us wasting time on unfulfilling relationships. In regards to control, it is a basic human trait related to survival and in relation to successful relationships it is a necessity as both partners need to feel secure and as if both of their needs are being met.
Furthermore, any successful romantic relationship has at least an element of friendship and there lies the question; would you want your friend to feel ignored, undervalued or unappreciated? The answer should be no and therefore if someone is taking a while to respond without any specific reason e.g. travel, work commitments, then you can assume that person does not value your time or see a potential future with you. The initial chase may ignite an interest but the consequent exchanges will speak volumes in regards to someone's attitude towards you. So to answer the question how long is too long to wait for a reply, it depends on whether you feel the elements aforementioned are being met and you are honest with yourself. Ask yourself, are your needs being met, are there other external factors effecting their ability to communicate or are they just uninterested?
Thibaut, J. W. & Kelley, H. H. (1959). The Social Psychology of Groups. New York, USA: Wiley.