There are a million reasons why people stay in bad relationships. Sometimes, it just feels more convenient. Sometimes, you rationalize it by telling yourself that it’s better to face the devil you know than the devil you don’t to avoid an unknown future versus the known present. And sometimes you fall victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy in relationships. 

What is the Sunk Cost Fallacy?

The “Sunk Cost Fallacy” is actually an economic term used to describe the phenomenon where a person continues making less than ideal decisions based on how much they have already invested in those decisions. An easy example is when people continue gambling even after being on a losing streak. They feel like giving up would mean wasting all the money they lost, even if the odds aren’t in their favor. 

The Sunk Cost Fallacy can also be seen in relationships. The longer a relationship has lasted, the more reluctant people are to leave them. Even when that relationship negatively impacts them, it feels like all the time, effort, and emotional investment will have gone to waste if you leave now, so it’s just better to stick things out. 

It’s hard to accept that you’re no longer happy with someone you’ve been with for three years; it’s even harder to accept when you’ve been with them for five or even ten years. It feels like a betrayal of everything you’ve been through with them. All the moments you’ve shared, the questions you’ll have to answer, and the emotions between you will make it feel like your only option is to stay, or it will all have been a waste. 

While it may be naive to say so, I fully believe that no relationship is ever a waste, even when it ends badly.

Your Past Isn’t a Waste

In movies and TV, whenever someone gets caught cheating on their spouse, the cheater often gets told, “I can’t believe I wasted all those years on you!” Heat of the moment, I get it. No one wants to get cheated on, especially not by someone they invested so much time and emotion into. 

Even in relationships that don’t last, though, there is always a silver lining. Which is why it’s so important to take what you can from them and move forward. No matter how many years you’ve been with someone and no matter what they end up doing, it’s entirely possible to get some good out of your time together. And you can take that good with you into the future.

If you keep looking forward and doing what you can to create your desired future, no relationship will ever be a waste. This is exactly why you shouldn’t let your past with someone dictate your future with them. 

I’m not saying you should break up with your long-term partner the next time you get into an argument. I’m saying that things that have already happened shouldn’t be your excuse to avoid anything, even if you’ve been through 10 years of things with someone. 

Leaving them now does not make the time you spent together a waste. The only time you’re truly wasting regarding relationships is the time you spend trying to force yourself to be happy. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight for your relationship, though. It’s entirely possible that you and your partner can rekindle things and be happy going forward. I’m just saying you shouldn’t let the past be the only reason you stay together. 

Take Some Time to Evaluate

Avoiding the Sunk Cost Fallacy in relationships can be hard to do. It’s easy to give someone another chance for no other reason than “old time’s sake,” especially if those old times were really good and get even more enhanced in your memories with nostalgia. 

Giving yourself some time to think things over can be worth it. If you want to end things with a partner, some extra time can help you understand why you want to end them. It really never hurts to understand your feelings before you break things off. 

Some extra time may also help you realize that the reason you thought you were unhappy wasn’t the root of the problem. In this case, you can address it with your partner or seek couples counseling to move forward without breaking up. If you aren’t sure where to start with that, you can check out this great online tool from Psychology Today. It can help you find affordable therapists in your area. 

Extra time to process your feelings can also help you reaffirm your decision. If that’s how you decide to go, check out our Tips for a Mature Breakup article. Breakups are never easy, but that doesn’t mean they have to get ugly. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...