What Is the 80/20 Rule in Relationships?

No matter how well-suited you are to another person, they can’t possibly fulfill every need you have in life. You’re individuals, you’re fallible, and not even healthy relationships are perfect. 

So, what happens if you go into a relationship not expecting happiness 24/7? Enter the 80/20 rule.

The Pareto Principle

The 80/20 rule is not some new social media couples trend. In fact, the principle has been around for well over a century. As an initial concept, it had nothing to do with romance at all. In fact, the 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle, is used when speaking about good relationships in many different contexts, from business to criminal activity.

In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Federico Pareto noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced 80% of his harvested peas. He went on to apply his pea principle to the economics of his home country. 

What do peas, wealthy Italians, and love have in common? According to some present-day theorists, relationships share the same uneven distribution of cause and effect. So how can you use the 80/20 rule to enhance the success of your relationship?

Love and the 80/20 rule

While the rule is broadly interpreted as getting 80% of your results from 20% of your effort, in relationships, the 80/20 rule can be applied in several ways. 

For instance, you can expect to get 80% of your needs met by your partner in your relationship, but the other 20% is up to you. 

In another context, you can expect satisfaction from your relationship 80% of the time, while the other 20%, not so much. 

In another vein, 20% of your issues will cause 80% of your problems. 

How the 80/20 rule is helpful

Humans tend to put a lot of pressure on their relationships and partners for their personal happiness and well-being. But is this fair? According to the 80/20 rule of relationships, it’s not even sustainable. 

So, how can you use the 80/20 principle to benefit your relationship satisfaction? As it turns out, it’s effective in several ways.

You view relationships realistically

It may be time to lower your expectations about the overall happiness of your romantic relationship. Using the 80/20 rule, you can stop expecting your relationship to be happy 24/7. Eighty percent of the time, it will be happy and fulfilling. You will get along fine, and things will go according to plan. The other 20% of the time, you can count on some squabbles and adversity. 

Your relationship will hit speed bumps. It’s inevitable. But if you can wait it out, employing some heartfelt communication and patience in the meantime, you’ll be ready for when those happy times circle around again. 

You take responsibility for your own needs

While the ability to rely on your partner to be there for you as your staunchest supporter and cheerleader is essential, you can only presume that they will anticipate and fulfill all your needs about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, it’s on you. 

You and your spouse are not one two-headed person. You are each individuals with different needs, and neither of you can be everything to each other all the time. 

Partners develop more compassion for one another

We all make mistakes, and the 80/20 rule cautions us to fully expect them. When you can accept your relationship as the imperfect thing it is, it helps you and your partner appreciate and have more love and compassion for each other when mistakes happen. You learn to take extra care of each other during the slumps because you know they’re just part of a bigger and better whole. 

Even the best long-term relationships can be messy and imperfect at times. But what happens if your love life is more like 20/80, and you’re questioning whether it’s worth the effort to save it? In a situation like this, it can be helpful to get some couples therapy or other professional guidance before you give up. You’ve invested time and effort into each other, and it may not be too late. 

Read: Tips for Boosting Your Mental Health

At Hello Divorce, we pride ourselves on offering services, a la carte divorce plans, and resources to couples who are ready to address relationship problems or call it quits in a healthy, amicable, and affordable way. Set up your free 15-minute call to see how we may be able to help. 

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.