Early-Stage Relationships: When to Quit. When to Persevere.Are you the kind of person who gives up on new relationships a little too early? Or do you find that you stick with a less-than-ideal guy a little too long?

Most of us tend to err on one side or the other. Which side do you lean toward?

Fair warning, though. We’re going to start by talking about a seemingly unrelated topic: Poker.

Even if you’ve never played, you’re likely familiar with the game. There are cards and people make bets. You don’t have to know any more than that. We’re going to talk about the betting.

Players take turns betting based on how strong they think their hand is . . . or based on how well they believe they can bluff. Sometimes a player will bet a lot and then have second thoughts.

They know they’re going to lose. But they stay in anyway. They even keep betting. Poker players call this being “pot committed.” It means they already have a lot of money in the pot (the total of all the bets for that round), so that they feel they can’t afford to just bail.

So they invest even more money into something that’s doomed to fail.

A recent study confirms the very same thing happens in romantic relationships.[1] The study’s authors refer to this as the “sunk cost effect.” The more time, money or effort we put into something, the harder it is to let go.

 It works the other way, too. The less you put into something, the less likely you are to stick with it.

And here’s the kicker. Putting too much OR too little into your relationship will mess with the balance of the connection you have with your guy.

Some of us stick around too long. Some of us bail too soon. Whichever situation you’re in, there’s a way to find balance so you have exactly  the kind of romantic connection you’re looking for.

It all comes down to one really important concept.

If you find yourself sticking with relationships too long . . .

If you’re sticking with relationships for longer than you should, you may be giving too much too soon.

I’m not advising you to run to the other extreme. Don’t be standoffish or cagey. But don’t accommodate him constantly, either.

If you feel like you’ve lost yourself in the relationship, you’re giving too much. That will make it really hard to let go if you need to in the future.

If you find yourself bailing on relationships too soon . . .

If you’re the kind to meet a new guy, enjoy a few dates, and then freak out, you may be guarding your heart more than you should.

The trick here is to give a little bit more. When you feel panic coming on, breathe. Remember that you’re not locked into anything. It’s okay to give the relationship a little of yourself. That’s the only way you’ll know if it has the potential to be a good one.

If you’ve been burned, this can be hard. Don’t push yourself to the point that you feel exposed, but don’t wall yourself off, either.

Finding lasting romantic bliss . . .

Really, there’s a word that sums up the goal for both situations. The key to finding and maintaining happiness is the right balance.

Let me put it this way. If you don’t miss him when he’s not around, you’re not giving enough. And if you feel like you can’t go on without him, you’re giving too much.

What you want is that sweet spot in the middle. The place where you still feel strong and independent, but you feel a genuine connection, too.

If you can get to that place, you’re set up for storybook level-romance.

[1] Rego, Sara, Joana Arantes, and Paula Magalhães. “Is There a Sunk Cost Effect in Committed Relationships?” Current Psychology (2016): n. pag. Web.

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