Love or leave?

Do your math before Valentine’s Day


In September 2007, an anonymous self-described “spectacularly beautiful” 25-year-old woman made herself known on a forum that she wanted to snag a rich husband. Her proposal was soon answered by someone claiming to be the CEO of JP Morgan (never verified) using economic terms to prove that her beauty-for-money offer was a “crappy business deal”. (Source)

Personally, I find it fascinating that a relationship can be interpreted by economic terms such as “investment”, “capital” or “ROI”; but I can’t help but wonder: can the value of love really be calculated? Can our “relationship brains” use economics to help us survive a bad relationship?

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I want to introduce you to a hot, new term that I just learned about. This concept strives to bring order to the messy business of “overextended” relationships. Yes, I am talking about relationship sunk costs. (Source)

Let’s start with a definition: a sunk cost is an economic term meaning a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. A sunk cost in a relationship means that people consider investments (time, resources, finances) they have put into their partner when deciding whether they want to stay in that relationship going forward. Examples could include emotional investments such as your patience for your partner to become more mature or caregiving, or maybe material investments such as that new Porsche you just bought him or her. If you are staying too long in a bad relationship, arguing you’ve invested too much into the relationship to just let go — the concept of “relationship sunk costs” may be just for you.

So, ladies and gentlemen, to love or to leave? That is the question my GroupSolver™ study aims to answer.

Who invests more, you or your partner?

On average, 58% of participants answered that both parties invested about the same amount in their relationship, both emotionally and materially. 34% said that they invested more than their partners — that is more than twice as many as those admitting that they invest less than their partner. Interestingly, looking only at those who expressed having a negative relationship experience (32% of total respondents that described their relationship as “stressful”, “restrictive”, “imbalanced”, “disconnected” or “distant”), 38% said that they invested more than their partner. I would expect that rational people would be reluctant to invest more if they are in an unhappy relationship. However, over 1/3 our respondents would still hang in there and try to turn their relationship around. Brave.

Why you invest more?

On average, for both men and women who stated they invested more in their relationship, the top two answers to this question were “I put my needs last” (47% support) and “I tend to care more about certain things.” (34% support) However, men and women don’t always agree: some women said “He put his needs first” while some men answered “Because I work and I have the money”. Is there a correlation between these two answers? Is it because “being the man of the house” is the reason that men tend to put their needs first? It’s worth reiterating that we’re referring to any type of investment here and not just about the money in your pocket. This includes a partner’s sense of caring, bearing with them, and even their loving attitude toward their partner’s family are some of many things that can be considered investments.

When will a woman stop investing in a relationship?

Cheating is definitely the №1 deal breaker for women. While I found many sweet answers in the data, such as “I will never leave this relationship” or “He is my soulmate”, over 60% of women stated with no doubt that they will stop investing in their relationship if they catch their partners cheating. So boys, hint-hint, I know that your sneakers may say otherwise, but just don’t do it!


Is there an amount of money that you will accept to leave your current relationship?

Since we are discussing the investment and economics of a relationship, we asked this one other question: “How much money would someone have to offer you to leave your current relationship?” I’ll admit this is a brutal question… but my own first reaction was “How much are we talking about?” Then my colleague Alex’s look made me feel guilty as he said he would never trade a relationship with his wife for anything. Overall, and thankfully, 84% of respondents said their relationships are not for sale and would not leave their relationship for any amount of money. 10% said that if they were paid enough (answers ranged from $1000 to $3,000,000), they would leave their current partners. Three respondents even said they would love to pay someone to exit their current relationship. Shockingly, all of those answers came from men.

Rod Stewart once sang “my love for you is immeasurable, my respect for you immense”; he clearly dodged my question, but I nevertheless apologize if I created any unpleasant vibes for you on this Valentine’s Day. While some may say that love is all about impulse and chemistry, one can also argue that staying rational and assessing the future with realism shows respect to yourself and to your partner. With that said, it’s time to celebrate love again. On behalf of GroupSolver, I wish you a fun, magical, and real Valentine’s day!

Note: GroupSolver’s study was built on a sample size of 50 and the data should be considered directional rather than statistically significant.