Ever been “stuck” in a negative relationship, or in a bad cycle in one? Ever feel like walking away, but just can’t bring yourself to take that first step? You aren’t weak or indecisive. You aren’t a glutton for punishment, and destiny won’t trap you there, unhappy, forever.

It turns out that there is a scientific reason and rationale for these types of relationship doldrums. It’s called the “sunk cost effect.”

What is it?

Basically, it’s a cost/benefit analysis. Once we’ve sunk time and effort in something, we’re reluctant to walk away, even if doing so might possibly improve our situation (or, at the very least, prevent further negativity related to it). In many ways, it’s a fallacy, because we actually have the ability to walk away at any time, even from such legal entanglements as those produced by a marriage.

We oftentimes resist, however, not being able to take the first step, not because we are weak, but because we have a psychological desire to get a return on our proverbial investment.

It’s much like the same theory that pushes a gambler on through a seemingly endless string of losing hands: instead of cashing in his chips and walking away, which would leave him with something at least, he will continue betting until he exhausts his funds, because he’s already spent so much time and effort, he figures he might as well see it through to the end.

If your relationship (particularly a marriage or a domestic partnership) has taken a downward turn, there’s no shame in walking away. An experienced family law attorney can help you end things in a productive and cooperative manner. Don’t get caught up in the “sunk cost effect” when so much of your happiness is on the line. Take the first step by calling a lawyer now.