play at your own risk sign

As feedback starts coming through about my new ebook The No Contact Rule, one of the things that seems to have resonated most with readers is realising that when a relationship ends, it’s not about you being someone to reject, or that you’re a failure and that you should beat yourself up; it’s recognising that sometimes, we make bad investments. When we continue to pursue someone who isn’t interested, or a relationship that causes us more pain than good, we’re continuing to try to make the bad investment come good so that we don’t have to recognise and deal with the fact that we made a bad investment in the first place.

I’ve talked about this a lot in my post on return on investment in relationships. But we also need to remind ourselves to see beyond whether we get a return on emotional investment, to looking at the wider picture of being able to recognise whether we should be sticking or folding.

Whilst I appreciate that emotions are involved, there is something to be said for considering our actions from an investing on the stock market or gambling at the casino perspective.

When we find ourselves with someone who not only doesn’t reciprocate our interest but then persists in crossing our boundaries whilst we try to get them to be better than what they are, until we get wise, they hold the ‘powerbase’, the position of power in the relationship, and until we do get wise, the ‘house’ always wins.

If there is a severe tip in the balance of power in a relationship, the house (the person who holds the powerbase) always wins.

This means that when you bet at the emotional casino, when they’re blowing hot, they throw you out a couple of ‘wins’ and lure you into a false sense of security. In a relationship, this creates the promise of things getting better and so you end up investing even more of yourself. It’s only when their hot turns to cold or you realise that the rewards of investing are not actually coming to fruition (actions not matching words, them not meeting your expectations etc), that it suddenly occurs to you that things are not going the way that you expected. Again. You’re no longer ‘up’ and may have gone past ‘breaking even’ to being ‘down’.

At this point, you can step back and ask yourself: Instead of thinking about what they want, their problems, their needs etc, what is it that I want? Are my needs getting met? Is this how I want to feel? Am I being authentic? Or am I losing myself in my attempts to hold onto something that isn’t working?

Whilst you will still hurt, if you weigh up what has been happening and ask yourself how this is truly working for you, you can choose to fold at this point. This means that whilst you have ‘lost’ a little, or even a lot on your emotional investment, you can stem the damage and the sense of loss before it crosses into that territory where your self-esteem goes into free fall and you lose all sense of perspective.

Or you can stick and keep hoping, willing, waiting, talking, discussing, pushing, and whatever else you need to, to try to get the emotional investment to ‘come good’. When we stick to a bad emotional investment, we hold on and refuse to accept and this actually causes more hurt and we can end up feeling as though we’ve lost our dignity, and even potentially put ourselves in the position of doing things that we later see as embarrassing or even downright humiliating.

Now, if you imagine making a bad financial investment: Would you continue to invest money? Or would you cut your losses before you do yourself any further financial damage?

But in relationships, a lot of people have a casino mentality: they gamble with big stakes (themselves) because they perceive the reward to be so great that it will cancel out any pain that occurs en route.

But, whilst it is a good thing to take risks in life, the reason why certain people are very good at taking risks is because they take calculated risks by doing their homework and having a sense of trust in themselves that helps them to recognise where there is a good opportunity for risk.

This is very different to taking risks on people with no real basis for placing so much trust and love in them.

This is a bit like betting on a three legged horse and wondering why it doesn’t run like a four legged one and win the race.

If you emotionally invest in people who offer the least likely prospect for you to be treated with love, care, trust, and respect, the odds are stacked against you, much like they would be if you put a three legged horse in a race and expected it to win just because you loved it and invested time and energy in it.

Over the years on this blog, I’ve regularly referred to The Justifying Zone – this is that place that people go to after they sexually and/or emotionally invest and then feel like they have to continue to invest because they don’t want to feel that they made a poor judgement. This is why people stick when they really should fold.

– You either went in with a reasonable level of awareness and then discovered that they’re not what you thought they were and are trying to get back to ‘the way things were’ because you hate feeling like you’ve been played and don’t want to accept.

Or you went in blindly, ignoring red flags or seeing them and assuming you could make them be different because this is more familiar territory for you. You’re very illusions driven.

When we stick when we should fold, it’s failure to see the bigger picture.

Fear will be a primary driver behind all of this and yet we’re not recognising that if we do make a poor judgement, we can go along way to restoring our faith and confidence by making a good judgement. The answer is not to stick with the illusions and keep heaping bad judgement upon bad judgement.

We’re looking at the good points instead of the whole person, we’re looking at the inconsistent stuff instead of the consistent actions, we’re chasing a feeling and trying to recreate and extend the highs, we’re listening to words instead of seeing if the words match, and we’re not considering what the wider implications are of what is happening and asking ourselves if this really works for us.

Even though many of you may be taking ‘risks’ by getting involved with dubious partners and trying to get the relationship you want, they’re safe risks.

If you step out into oncoming traffic tomorrow, there is a high risk that you’re going to get run down. Also, if you keep buying three legged horses, there’s a high likelihood that they won’t get past the starting line.

Likewise, if you keeping taking ‘risks’ with the same type of relationship partners, it’s a safe risk because you actually know the outcome. Part of this is about relationship insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The other part is about self-sabotage, fear of change, and sometimes emotional laziness.

Many of us prefer the familiarity of the uncomfortable, to the discomfort of the comfortable unknown.

We’d rather take a punt on a safe risk and believe that the reward is worth it, than take a punt on ourselves and go through change to experience the unknown. We end up doing things that are out of sync with ourselves and end up generating false results that are often painful.

Pain is not love; it’s pain.

When we finally do decide to fold, it’s in recognition of the bigger picture. The bigger picture means that we realise we’d rather put ourselves through some pain to get happier sooner than hang around someone hoping to be happy one day whilst being miserable in the meantime. The bigger picture is youare you doing things that let you be authentic? Are you being involved with people that enrich your life? Are you able to have boundaries and values or do you have to shelve them in order to ‘stick’? Can we know when we feel good because we now understand when we feel bad? Are we in charge of our own lives instead of being dragged along by someone else?

If you have to justify, excuse, rationalise, ignore, and effectively bury you in order to accommodate someone else or your vision of a relationship, it’s time to look at the bigger picture and realise that you will never be happy or anything close to it, if you have to ignore yourself.

We are human and make mistakes and that means that sometimes we make poor judgements about where to invest our emotional energy, but if we have an opt out moment, we can limit the damage to ourselves so that we can heal, move forward, and invest ourselves in healthier opportunities where we can reap the rewards.

We also have to know when something is good, rather than distrust it and recognise that there are some relationships that just won’t work.

We can spend our lifetime trying to make a relationship work and get a person to ‘see’ us and ‘value’ us and be in a constant cycle of misery, or we can get wise about healthy relationships and ‘see’ the bigger picture and ‘value’ ourselves so that we recognise unhealthy situations that we need to opt of.

Your thoughts?

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