Sunk Costs

If you want a good laugh, you should really listen to this.  It was on the radio the other day.  One of those bits where they call a guy up and offer to send roses for free on his behalf to see if he’ll send them to his girlfriend or the woman she suspects he’s cheating with.

(Note to men: Why do you still fall for this crap?  I’ve heard these types of shows in at least four or five radio markets, so it’s not exactly new.  If you’re cheating and a stranger calls you up and offers to send a woman free flowers on your behalf, say no.  Or send them to your mother.)

Anyway, this one is funny because it turns out the woman is absolutely crazy.  It’s worth listening to for that alone.

Somehow this woman failed to comprehend that it’s not okay to break into a guy’s house after he dumps you and leave him a note about how you can get to him anywhere.  And that it’s also not okay to then call a radio show to see if he’s “cheating” on you two months after he dumped you.

But that’s not why I’m linking to it here.  I’m linking to it because this woman’s rant reminded me about the concept of sunk costs.

Basically, it’s the idea that people make bad choices because they think about what they’ve already invested in a situation rather than looking at it as a new choice each time.In money terms:  Say you’d paid $500 to fix your car and now you’re told that it will cost another $500 to fix it.  You may be more likely to spend that $500 to fix it rather than selling the car and walking away because of what you’ve already spent on the car.  It’s not logical, but people do it all the time.  That first $500 is gone.  It’s spent.  Nothing you do now will get it back.  But, because you spent it you’re tempted to stick with the car and keep trying.

Well, let’s bring it back to relationships.  The woman on this call is talking about a guy who is supposedly cheating on her and has done so in the past and she explains why she’s staying with him by saying, “…he met my friends, he got the friends’ seal of approval, he’s been over to my house…I’ve let him meet my parents…”

She was focused on the wrong things.  On what had come before.  On all the time she’d spent on building this relationship.  She couldn’t let go of it.How could she possibly walk away from a guy who was cheating on her when she’d invested so much into the relationship already?  She’d put herself out there.  Let him meet her friends.  Let him meet her family.  Told him she loved him.  (An honor heretofore reserved for her dad and Jesus.)Problem with that approach to dating is that you can “but I’ve already…” your way right into a really shitty marriage.

Happened to a friend.  She knew she shouldn’t marry the guy.  But the wedding hall was booked and the guests were invited and everyone knew she was getting married.  So, against every instinct in her body, she married a drug-addicted abusive asshole.

Don’t do that.  If your gut is screaming at you that something is wrong in a relationship stop thinking about sunk costs.  Stop thinking about “but I’ve been with him for five years” or “but we have a house together” or “but we have kids together.”

Those things matter, but not in that way.  Not in an “if I stick with this a little longer it will finally be what I want it to be” sort of way.  They matter in the “we’ve built something together and have a special, shared connection unique to us” sort of way.

Does that make sense?

Don’t hang in there just because you’ve spent so much time and energy on it.  Hang in there because it’s worth hanging in there for.

 

There’s something to be said for persistence

I was reading this article the other day about Mickey Rooney’s many marriages.  Turns out the man was married eight times!

Eight.

But the reason I’m writing about it is because that last marriage lasted thirty-four years.

Thirty-four.

(Seems I’m repeating things a lot today.)

Now, he could’ve had that first failed marriage to Ava Gardner and said, “That’s it.  Relationships are just too hard.”

Or maybe after the fifth one when his soon-to-be-ex wife’s new boyfriend killed her.

But no.  He kept trying again and again and again.

Now, one could argue that maybe he could’ve skipped all the trips down the aisle, but I think that was more how things worked at that time.

My own grandma was married some ridiculous number of times.  She did the same thing as Rooney, though—kept trying until she got it right.  And her last marriage lasted fifteen plus years until she passed away.  So, she, too, found happiness in the end by continually being willing to try and try again.

I thoroughly believe in the million monkeys theory of dating.  (I just made that shit up.)  Basically, the idea is that if you keep trying, keep getting into relationships, eventually one will last.  Try enough times, one will work. (Just like if you put a million monkeys in front of typewriters, one will eventually manage to write something decent.)

Think of all the trainwreck people you know who spin from insane relationship situation to insane relationship situation.

I knew a girl who dated and married a co-worker, then dated her boss, then dated a partner at her law firm, and then finally ended up happily married to a former co-worker.  Now, some folks might have hesitated to go there.  (I would on all four counts.)  But, she made it happen by being willing to take the risk.

One thing is certain: You sit on the sidelines you don’t get anywhere.

I have another friend who just started online dating and has been on twenty dates in three weeks.  And the twentieth date is looking pretty promising.  Now, she could’ve given up when getting those twenty dates meant wading through a hundred plus inane e-mails.  Or she could’ve stopped after that first awkward as hell date.  Or the tenth.

But she didn’t.  She kept trying.

She didn’t settle.  You can’t settle.

But she didn’t quit trying either.

So, if you really want it, keep going.  It’ll suck sometimes.  But try enough, and someone just might stick.

You CAN Do Too Much

A recently-divorced friend of mine has started online dating recently.  And this weekend she went on a stereotypical “perfect” date.

The guy took her to a really nice restaurant, brought her nice flowers, took her to a movie after, held her hand, was a gentleman…

Checked all the boxes, right?

Sounds like he’s on the right track, doesn’t it?

Nope.

I expect my friend will blow this guy off in another couple of dates.  And, from something he said on his date with her, it wouldn’t be the first time that a woman walked away at the five to six date mark.

So, what’s this guy doing wrong?

He’s doing too much.  (Of the wrong things.)

Now, granted,  I was not on the date.

But I’ve been on those kinds of dates.

And what I’ve found is that certain guys try too hard to check the boxes and fail to date the woman in front of them.

For example, turns out my friend was pretty uncomfortable with this guy she doesn’t know that well insisting on holding her hand through the whole movie.  “Insisting.”  Her word.

Now, if you’re watching a movie with someone and you start to hold hands and it just naturally continues?  Fine.

But if you try to force intimacy by holding hands with someone.  No.

And, this is just me, but generally any man who brings me flowers on a first or second date is someone trying too hard and is generally someone who doesn’t read women that well.

Flowers are a shortcut.  They’re virtually meaningless at this point.  Unless we’ve had a conversation about a specific flower, they’re a throwaway gift.  A knee jerk reaction.  “I’m a guy, you’re a girl, so I give you a dozen roses.”

(Not to say that certain women don’t expect men to deliver on those clichéd expectations.  That’s the challenge of dating.  You’re always dating an individual not a gender.  So what doesn’t work for me, works perfectly for another woman.)

This guy probably does well on getting second and third dates.  He’s articulate, successful, has manners.  But at some point women probably start to feel a disconnect.  Because the more he gets to know them and the more he should start to tailor activities and conversations to them, the more he probably continues to follow a one-dimensional, standard approach.

(Like on The Bachelor when one of the final girls finally realized that the guy didn’t care about who she was or know her at all.  He wasn’t dating her, he was just dating a generic woman.)

So, if you feel like you’re this guy, what do you do?

Back off a bit.  Try to find out what interests her.  Don’t give everything at once.

You know how they say that men like the chase?  I think women do, too, to a certain extent.

So, treat her well.  Be a gentleman.  But if she expresses an interest in a cheap Asian restaurant, go there instead of the expensive Italian place.  Or do some completely random activity with her instead of your standard date/movie.

To me, the key takeaway is that there aren’t a set of boxes you check to succeed with a woman.  You have to go with the flow.  Read her and react to her.  That’s how all good relationship work.  Give and take.  Back and forth.