Delayed Gratification: One Marshmallow or Two?

Katrina Goff

Delayed Gratification

According to Shauna Springer the secret to a happy marriage is as easy as two marshmallows (Springer, 2015). What psychology student has not heard about the “marshmallow test” by (e.g., Mischel, 1974; Ebbesen, & Zeiss, 1972)? Who knew that years later the subjects in this study would be followed up to see the results of self-control and the lack of self- control in their present day lives?

Delay gratification falls under self-control and is attributed with an ability to initiate and guide their actions toward the achievement of a desired future goal ( (Martin E. P. Seligman, 2002, p. 155). There are many examples that one could share about delay gratification, but we will look at Springer’s link to marriage in the article titled “Delay Gratification and Exceptional Marriage” in Psychology Today.

Having an exceptional marriage is a pretty enticing thought. Mischel found that the two marshmallow children grew into adults who continued to practice self-control were happier in marriage than the children who could not wait to devour the marshmallow in that test so many years prior? The self-control displayed to wait to receive two marshmallows later instead of one marshmallow now translated into adults who could worked well alone and were self-motivated. Online classes require a student to stay focused and pay attention to deadlines this is not difficult to the two marshmallow subjects.

How does self-control in the “marshmallow test” equate to an exceptional marriage? How important is self-control in marriage? Self-control and delay gratification is the ability to set boundaries for yourself and not stray. A building block of this concept is the simple fact that waiting for the right marriage partner is key on the path to a happy marriage. How do you know who to choose to marry when you are ready to make that commitment? Knowing what is important to you in a future spouse is important but getting to know them and what their idea of the perfect spouse (does not exist, no one is perfect) is equally important. Building the foundation of marriage with the cornerstone of friendship is delay gratification fully displayed.

In conclusion, when marriage is constructed by communication, common interests, and respect it stands firm. The contract is stronger than ones based on a fleeting physical attraction that all too often fades within a couple years at best. Many people turn our heads and cross our paths but those people who excel in delay gratification understand that two marshmallows are better than one even if they have to wait a while to get it.


Martin E. P. Seligman, P. (2002). Authentic Happiness . New York: Free Press.

Springer, S. H. (2015, April 30). Delay of Gratification and Exceptional Marriage. Retrieved from Psychology Today:


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