But new research reveals a fascinating truth about what people actually do once they’re invested in a romantic relationship: Dubbed the “sunk cost effect,” psychologists have found that people are reluctant to give up the time, money, and effort they’ve invested.
According to a new study in Current Psychology, this effect causes a “continuous investment in that option, despite not being the best decision.” In other words, they’ll settle.
Psychologist Sara Rego and her colleagues at the University of Minho in Portugal conducted two experiments, one of which asked participants if they would stay in a sexless and increasingly hostile marriage based on different variables: time (a 1-year marriage instead of 10), effort (they had continuously tried to improve the relationship), and money (you purchased a house together, for example)—plus a control group with no variable.
The results? Roughly 25 percent in the control and time groups said they’d stay in the relationship, and 35 percent in the effort and money groups. Looks like your cash and energy are pretty valuable, as they should be—but maybe better spent elsewhere.
“[These] experiments confirmed the initial hypothesis that investments in terms of time, effort, and money make individuals more prone to stay and invest in a relationship in which they are unhappy,” wrote the authors of the study. It’s confirmed: Getting comfortable is a real thing.