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  • Writer's pictureDr. Andrea Liner

There is no "Right" Timeline You Should be Following

If I had a nickel for every time I heard some variation of

“Yet another friend of mine just got engaged!” or “I’m the only single person in my friend group!”

I’d have, well, quite a few nickels.

Many people seem to have an age in mind for when certain things should start happening, and if they start to approach that age without being where they want to be, some start to panic and are tempted either to retreat into helplessness and lament “never finding someone” or try to force new relationships and make relationships work that are no longer right for them.

While the former is common, I’ve seen the latter play out time and time again with my clients – almost never successfully.

In fact, a lot of the breakups I hear about stem from staying in a relationship the person knew wasn't right for them for fear of having wasted all the time and energy they had already invested. This is called "suck cost theory" and it's not the best way to think about our relationships!

In economics, the sunk cost theory (or fallacy) describes our natural human bias to continue investing in something that is no longer serving us or might even be detrimental to us because we have invested time, cost, and effort in it.⁠

We do this even though the continuous investment will not result in us recovering the sunk cost. It is often called a fallacy because we think we can gain something if we keep investing, but the cost is actually gone forever...⁠

If you find yourself saying things like “We’ve just been together for so long” or “I’ve invested so many years and we’ve worked so hard at it,” or “We just have so much history,” then you, too, may be a victim of the sunk cost fallacy.⁠

So you're already two years in and don't want that to go to waste (you're not getting any younger, after all!) you commit to another 40+ years with this person so as not to waste the past two? How does that math add up?!

Here's a secret: you as a single person are further ahead on the imaginary timeline than someone stuck in the wrong relationship. Seriously! You don't have to spend the time discerning if you should end it, mustering up the courage to end it, taking some time to heal, THEN finally getting back out there. So please don't discount where you are! And if that's a challenge, remember that the imaginary timeline is just that—imaginary.


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