I love learning about how our brains operate and how they often fool us. We tend to think of ourselves as rational creatures when the reality is often anything but. There are many fallacies that we fall prey to, but there is one in particular that plays a dominant role in relationships.
The sunk cost fallacy.
This fallacy relates to costs (financial, time, energy) that have already been invested and cannot be recovered. What has occurred is done. Over. It should not have any bearing on our decision going forward.
And yet it often does.
A non-relationship example of the sunk cost fallacy would be the money paid up front for a monthly membership to a class. You go to two classes and decide you hate the course and find the instructor particularly grating. If you were paying per class, you obviously would simply stop going. However, because you paid up front, you view the money as wasted if you do not attend, so you continue to show up, hating every minute.
Pretty silly, huh? I mean, the money is gone regardless of if you turn up at the class or use that time to perfect your soap whittling skills (something which I assume is preferable to the class in question). You would be best served by writing off the money spent and using your time for something beneficial. It may not feel like money well spent, but at least it would be time well spent. And both have value.
In a relationship, the sunk cost fallacy can keep people together even when they may be better apart. The years (or even weeks or months) of time and emotional investment have already occurred and cannot be recovered. As such, they should not be considered in the decision of whether or not to continue the relationship. Moving forward because of sunk costs won’t make you happier. Energy invested in the past doesn’t promise a return in the future. When deciding if a relationship should continue, look at the value it brings to the present and the predicted value in the future, not the investments already made. Those costs are already sunk. Sinking more ships won’t make the first ones rise.
What has passed, is past.
And the past shouldn’t dictate your future.
So, if the relationship still has an intact hull, let it sail on its own merits.
If the hull is breached beyond repair, let it sink.
And then whittle that block of soap into a sculpture:)