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Debating when to give up and cut your losses

Published October 08. 2016 09:02AM

It’s hard to know when it’s time to cut your losses and give up on something.

That’s what I’m thinking now as I struggle with a decision on whether to have my refrigerator repaired again. Or, should I give up the ghost and just shell out money for a new one?

I should tell you right here and now that my refrigerator is smart. I might not have had smart TV back then but I’ve had a smart refrigerator for seven years.

This is how I can tell. My refrigerator chugged along fairly well while it was under warranty. Since I took the extended warranty, I had four years of simply enjoying a problem-free refrigerator.

The week after the warranty expired, my smartrefrigerator knew it could act up. Like an unruly child, it has acted up so often since then that the repairmen and I are on a first-name basis.

At one point, he replaced some parts, gave me a bill for $360 and said it should work for a while.

It did. A short while.

Every time I think about replacing it I tell myself it’s only six years old. A refrigerator should last longer than that.

I’m back to singing that old Kenny Rogers song: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”

The refrigerator reminds me of a car we used to have. My husband kept pouring money into repairs because he said he didn’t want to take on car payments. So we put a lot of money into the car and had nothing to show for it except an old car that tended to overheat when we were on the highway far from home.

Well, it’s not just “things” that require knowing when it’s time to walk away.

Some relationships are like that, too. And that’s far more heartbreaking than car payments and shoddy appliances.

I have a close friend who chased after the girl of his dreams for several years before she finally agreed to marry him.

But there was no happily ever after. She spent more time with her mother than she did with him and seemed to want nothing to do with a traditional marriage.

My friend wanted children desperately. But she said she was still a child herself. And she was telling the truth.

He kept waiting for her to grow up, certain their marriage would get better if he was patient.

“I didn’t wait all this time to get married then give up,” he said. Believing that marriage was forever, he didn’t want to cut his losses and walk away.

Years later he finally made the decision to leave after he saw nothing was going to change.

Now, both of them are happy with other partners. But they wasted an entire decade of their lives trying not to admit they made a mistake, even though it was obvious to the rest of the world.

Another song asks the all-important question: “Should I stay or should I go?”

We’re told that’s the question Larry King asked himself after he learned his wife was cheating on him.

I’m sure plenty of couples ask themselves that question. I always thought the answer depended on your situation and your commitment to your marriage.

But if only one person in the marriage wants to stay, it doesn’t work and the marriage is doomed.

When it comes to their workplace, many people question whether they should find a new job or stay at the one they hate.

“I’m reluctant to leave,” says one friend who hates his job so much he dreads every workday. “But I might get a new job and hate it even more.”

Yes, he might. On the other hand, he might be like our friend Matthew, whose entire life changed for the better when he found the courage to leave his job.

For Matthew, whether to stay or to leave was a lot more complicated that most situations because it was his family’s business.

But it was a high pressure, seven-day-a-week position. Matthew was making a lot of money but he often complained he “had no life.”

He said he had high blood pressure and ulcers that he blamed on his pressure-cooker job.

When his doctor ordered him to get away from work for a while, he took his wife to Florida for their first vacation in many years. That’s when I met them at the beach.

When it was time to go home, Matthew made a decision that stunned us all, especially his wife. He decided he was only going home to pack up their things for their move to Florida.

He took a job here that pays a lot less than he used to make, but he has more time to enjoy life. He and his wife say they have never been happier.

“I only have one regret,” he told me. “I regret I didn’t do it years ago.”

Whether I should give up on my cranky refrigerator is a minor decision compared to debating a major life change.

But like the old song says, in all things big and small, “you gotta know when to walk away.”

Contact Pattie Mihalik at

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