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.

 

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