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How the Sunk Cost Fallacy Causes People to Stay in Bad Relationships

DiPietro Law Group, PLLC

Humans are stubborn. We hate to admit, even to ourselves, when we've erred. We especially hate when such an admission necessitates action. Hence, millions of people stay stuck in dead-end relationships they know should end but are unwilling to make the final call.  

A 2015 TransWise study revealed that six out of ten adults remain in bad relationships because they're so accustomed to compromise that they're unwilling to walk away. A chief factor in this tendency? The sunk cost fallacy. Although typically associated with gambling, this concept also applies to romance, as you'll discover below.

What Is the Sunk Cost Fallacy?

The sunk cost fallacy occurs when somebody continues to engage in a behavior, even if it clearly prompts adverse results. Why continue doing something if you know the outcome will be negative? Simple: already invested resources.

In gambling, this means continuing with slot machines after major losses — because you've already invested a lot of time and money into your gambling session. In business, this fallacy might mean investing more money into a failed venture because you're so determined to see it through. This concept appears in all areas of life and strikes everybody at least once — it's human nature.

How Does the Sunk Cost Fallacy Apply to Relationships?

We tend to grade relationships by how long they last — not how happy they make us. Hence, huge celebrations when a couple reaches a major wedding anniversary. Sure, it's cause for celebration, but how many people remain in bad relationships purely due to inertia? Many assume that because they've been dating or married for one, five, or fifty years, they should remain together to see out their “investment.” Why sacrifice something if you've already devoted years of your life to it?

Those who ditch this fallacy, however, find a richer life when they stop letting a timeline hold them back. While the sunk cost fallacy's logic is compelling for couples mourning the loss of their once-happy relationship, it's also toxic. It prevents far too many people from pursuing the happiness they deserve, simply because they've hit a particular anniversary. Whether you've been married six months or sixty years, you deserve quality representation from an attorney who has your back.

DiPietro Law Group, PLLC can assist you with all aspects of your divorce or separation; contact us today at (888) 530-4374 to learn more.

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