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The science behind bad relationships

Many people stay in unpleasant work environments, stick with losing battles or remain in bad relationships. There is actually a term for this: "the sunk cost effect". The rationale is that people invest so much energy money or time into something that we are hesitant to give up on it. This can even apply to closets full of clothes we do not wear or basements full of stuff we do not use.

Regret is a powerful emotion

There is now a new paper in the Psychological Science that explores this tendency to stick with things that do not work or no longer work. According to researchers, we hate the feeling of regret or admitting that we made mistake. We will stick with a plan even after it becomes clear that the plan is not working. Scientists believe that this is how humans avoid cognitive dissonance, which is the mental disconnect of getting something, but not getting what we were expecting.

Commitments to bad relationships

This explains the difficulty some couples have in arriving at the realization that the marriage or relationship is not working out. The investment in the unhappy relationship seems to them to outweigh the return, but they refuse to acknowledge that it is not working and face that feeling of failure. "The longer they've been together, the harder it is to break up," says one researcher. Apparently, this tendency is not uniquely human because scientists have found similar traits in mice and rats.

Not admitting defeat

The "sunk cost effect" is a self-defense mechanism, but not a particularly good one. Recognizing that truth or acknowledging that a marriage is not working out is first step to a solution. Contacting a knowledgable Collin County or Dallas County, Board-Certified Family Law expert lawyer with years of experience handling divorce and other family law matters is another step that a miserably-married spouse may choose to take, with an eye on the future rather than the past.

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