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Break up With Your Boyfriend (Because of Sunk Cost Fallacy)

movie background Jakob Owens sunk cost fallacy in relationships

Some things are just better – Illy Café

Some things just don’t make sense – Me

One of those things is the sunk cost fallacy, and how often we make room for it in relationships.

Sunk cost fallacy happens when people continue a behavior, because of the resources they have invested in that endeavor. The behavior itself is irrational, but it aligns with earlier actions/decisions and so it goes…

Having watched Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive, I’d always thought Lady Diana was a role she just had to play. My parents loved her majesty, and when the movie about her came out, we couldn’t book tickets soon enough.

I don’t remember much about it besides that it was so disappointing that my dad left mid-movie. My mum and I weren’t liking the movie either. Lady Diana’s portrayal was terrible, our seats weren’t that good, but we were there, might as well power through, right?

In theory, we agreed with my dad’s decision to leave. However, most times, we don’t leave.

You think to yourself:

I already got ready… I already made time to see this… Drove to get here.. I already paid for the tickets.. Paid for the overpriced nachos.. I already felt uncomfortable saying “sorry” 15 times as I got to my seat.

Boom, sunk cost fallacy, and you stay. No one’s died because they powered through cringey movies, bad stand-ups, “funny” videos our friends showed us. It’s fine.

Until it’s not. *gasp*

The older you get, the easier it becomes to articulate your thoughts and beliefs thoroughly. So, here it is.

I believe breaking up should be more encouraged for people in long-term relationships than for new couples.

Of course, you might decide to end things early because of red flags, unhealthy boundaries, or because you’re just painfully incompatible.

In the early stages of getting to know someone, we’re quick to end things over misunderstandings, partly fueled by the sense of security social media and dating apps provide that someone else, someone way better, is readily available.

Misunderstandings are just that (read the first word of this sentence 😌), but with a partner who you’ve been with for years, though? Always getting in fights and seemingly being in completely different wavelengths aren’t misunderstandings.

If you didn’t know, I’m not a ride-or-die. Breakups? Love them!

You may be thinking, “This cynical, love-hating mess who will die alone without having ever known true love! Who does she think she is? Love is about sacrifice!!! My grandma did everything for my grandpa who treated her like shit and look at them. Yes, they never respected, appreciated or loved each other, but they’ve been together for 120 years!”

Good for them. Things were way different for our grandparents, parents even than they are for us right now. Thank God.

If you haven’t unfucked yourself and that’s what you want, so be it. If your idea of a good relationship goes beyond Mrs./Mr. Right One not being physically violent, read on.

So many times, people stay in relationships because of sunk cost fallacy. Because they’ve already invested so much, they can’t just up and go like my dad did in the movies.

Humans are creatures of habit, we usually resist change. Mark Manson’s Law of Avoidance states:

The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid doing it.

In long-term relationships, you spend a lot of your time with the person; you borrow their mannerisms, thought patterns, and clothes. You rest assured in the knowledge that someone out there gives a fuck about you. At least a little.

  • My dad leaving a movie he hated and waiting for us at the bar as he enjoyed a beer=not exactly identity threatening
  • Ending something that has been a prominent part of your everyday life for the past few years? Not knowing when you’re going to find comfort and love in another romantic partner, if ever? Yeah.

The less formed our sense of self is, the more we expect the other person to give us what we should be giving ourselves.

Security, reassurance, a confidence boost, love, comfort.

We find the prospect of ending a toxic relationship anxiety-inducing, even people with a clear and strong sense of self encounter difficulties because of how our brains work.

It’s irrational to eat food that sucks just because you ordered it. It’s illogical to keep watching a movie that makes you want to stab yourself in the eye just because you’re there. Sunk Cost Fallacy applies to bad relationships, friendships, food, jobs.

Things don’t get better as time goes by, people aren’t right for each other. Sometimes no one’s to blame, sometimes there is. Hey, I’m not pointing fingers. I’m just saying:

Unless you’ve been in abusive relationships or situationships that have majorly impacted your ability to tell if someone is treating you right

If someone is thinking of breaking up, that’s a pretty good sign that they should.

“I lead from the heart not the head… that’s got me into trouble in my work, I understand that, but someone’s got to go out there and love people and show it.”

Lady Diana

Ride or dies take pride in leading from the heart. In good relationships, you shouldn’t have to pick between your heart and brain. You shouldn’t have to tolerate mediocre love, being treated like shit, abuse of any kind in a relationship with someone you’re meant to be with. For however long you’re “meant” to be with them, be it a month or a lifetime. 

If the right relationship, there’s no need to force anything. You won’t get sad “for no reason,” you won’t doubt yourself or your partner’s feelings, and you definitely won’t be thinking of breaking up.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship

Searching for a book on the list of books I’ve read, lo and behold, literally the one book I forgot to include (I guess it wasn’t too good to leave 😏): Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship.

If my rose-colored “what’s meant to be, will be” talk isn’t your thing, or if you’re still unsure if what you read applies to you in any way, shape, or form, I highly recommend this book.

You’ll be able to tell if what you have is what you want and deserve or if you’re watering a dead plant.

You should be leading from the heart and the head.

It’s never too late to leave the movie.

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