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Is a sunk cost fallacy keeping you in an unhappy marriage?

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2021 | Divorce |

Has divorce been on your mind for a while now? Do you find your thoughts constantly drifting to what life would be like without your spouse underfoot? Would you rather be alone than spend time with your spouse?

Why, then, are you still married?

It isn’t unusual for unhappy couples to stick together long after a marriage sours. When freedom from one’s marital bonds is so easy to obtain in the era of no-fault divorces, what could possibly hold unhappily married couples?

It could be the sunk cost fallacy in action.

What’s the sunk cost fallacy?

Essentially, the sunk cost fallacy describes a tendency in human behavior to trudge ahead with a plan or a course of action long after it becomes apparent that the cost of doing so is outweighing the visible or known benefits. Why? Because you’ve already invested a lot of time, money or effort into the action already.

You often hear this term applied to poor financial decisions. Gamblers, for example, will sometimes wage one losing bet after another because they’ve already lost so much money that they are convinced their luck will change — or desperately hope it will, at least.

But the sunk cost fallacy also plays into the way humans approach relationships. As one researcher put it, “Romantic relationships are a classic one. The longer you’ve been together, the harder it is to break up.”

The sunk cost fallacy is a way of creating cognitive dissonance: If you don’t acknowledge that you’re wasting money or energy or time by continuing a course of action, you don’t have to reckon with the idea that all the money, energy and time you’ve already invested in a situation is wasted — so you end up wasting more.

Is it time to break out of your pattern?

The only way to avoid “digging a deeper hole,” according to the experts, is to acknowledge that you can’t recapture whatever you’ve already spent or lost and make your peace with that idea. That can help you break the cycle and say, “I’m done.”

If you’re ready to invest your emotional and physical resources into yourself for a change, it may be time to find out more about the divorce process.

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