A well-known phenomenon in business, the Sunk-Cost Bias is relevant in other areas as well.
First, a definition.
The sunk-cost bias is the tendency to continue to invest time, money or energy into something you know is a losing proposition simply because you have already incurred a cost that cannot be recouped.
The more time you put into it, the more determined you are to see it through.
Sunk cost is why you’ll keep sitting through a crappy movie.
And it’s why, before the advent of navigation systems, men would refuse to pull over for directions when lost.
Do you know where else the sunk-cost bias shows up?
That’s right – relationships.
It plays out all the time in dating.
You’ve invested time in someone. You’ve gotten to know her. You want it to work.
Yet, there are tons of problems.
And it’s pretty clear to everyone but you that you and your girl are not a match.
While there’s something to be said for working on the relationship and sticking it out, it’s also important to know, for yourself, when it’s time to move on.
Here’s a few tips if you find yourself in a situation like this:
- Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t in this relationship already, how hard would I work to get into it?”
- Consider whether you are forcing yourself to change in order to be with this person
- Phone a friend – get the opinion of someone you trust, someone who is not emotionally involved like you are.
The sunk-cost bias explains why so many people stay in relationships that don’t serve them.
If the relationship doesn’t bring out your best-self, it’s a strong indicator that your sinking time into someone who’s not a match.
Remember, it shouldn’t feel like work all the time. If it does, better to invest your time in someone else.