I talked about this a few days ago on my Facebook page and I was surprised that a lot of people didn’t realize that there was a word for this thing that we humans do.
Sunk cost fallacy.
A sunk cost is basically a cost that has been spent but can’t be refunded. The fallacy comes in when we keep investing.
It happens in small ways like when we continue reading a book we’re not enjoying but we justify that we spent the money on it.
Or finishing a meal you paid for even though you are full to the point of discomfort.
We’re sacrificing our time and our comfort because we’ve already spent the money.
But this often happens on a larger scale, particularly in abusive or toxic relationships.
I remember thinking that after three years with my ex (most of it unhappy and abusive) that I couldn’t leave because then that meant I wasted three years.
I could not come to terms with it. The thought of throwing it all away, putting up with so much only to walk away with nothing? It felt like the emotional equivalent of investing a million dollars and then having to walk away penniless.
I had to have it mean something.
And we come across situations like this all the time. With jobs that are draining us, and careers that we hate, and yes, relationships that hurt us.
We have to stop thinking of the money/time/resources/love we’ve already spent and start thinking about all of the things we’re missing out on in the future if we stay. There are better things ahead, from books to relationships.