What Is The 80/20 Rule In Relationships And Why Is It So Beneficial?


When you’re coupled up, the hope is that things will be smooth sailing in your relationship. However, if you’re with someone long-term, you’ll need to do the work to keep your connection happy and healthy. That’s where the 80/20 relationship rule comes into play. By understanding what it is and how to utilize it, you can give yourself a solid chance at making it last. Here’s what you need to know about this principle and how it can help your love life.

What is the 80/20 rule in relationships?

The 80/20 rule in relationships, also known as the Pareto principle, suggests that 80% of the outcomes or results in a relationship come from 20% of the causes or efforts. In other words, 80% of your happiness and satisfaction in your relationship comes from 20% of your partner’s actions or qualities, and vice-versa. For instance, if your partner is generally super loving and attentive most of the time but has an annoying habit of not putting their dirty clothes in the hamper, you’re likely still going to be happy with them because the latter issue is minor and not all that important.

Many people also translate the 80/20 rule in relationships to relationship satisfaction. In this case, the idea is that your partner can’t and shouldn’t fulfill 100% of your needs. They may take care of 80% of them, but the remaining 20% is down to you. However you interpret the rule, it all comes down to the same general principle: Your happiness in a relationship isn’t all down to your partner — it’s your responsibility too.

Of course, it’s important to note that the 80/20 rule is far from a strict scientific principle, and how it works can vary from relationship to relationship. Also, relationships require effort and communication from both partners, and the rule should not be used as an excuse for one partner to neglect their responsibilities or behaviors.

Why is the Pareto principle so beneficial?

  1. It helps you focus on what actually matters. The 80/20 rule helps you focus on the key aspects of their relationship that contribute to your overall happiness and satisfaction. This can help you prioritize your efforts and invest more time and energy into the things that matter. You can also put less attention on the stuff that doesn’t.
  2. You’ll be much happier in your relationship. By focusing on the 20% of the things you love about your partner and how they are with you that bring the most joy and fulfillment, you’ll be so much happier with them. You’ll realize just how much they care about you and all the things they do to make your life a better place.
  3. Your communication skills will go through the roof. The 80/20 rule can also help couples communicate more effectively by identifying what is most important to each partner and how you can better support each other in those areas. The more you talk openly and honestly with each other, the more likely you are to be on the same page. Now that’s a win-win.
  4. Your relationship will be a lot less stressful. By prioritizing the most important aspects of the relationship, you can reduce stress and avoid wasting time and energy on less meaningful activities or behaviors. When you get caught up in all the minor annoying stuff they do or don’t do), it can cause a lot of anxiety and tension. Taking a deep breath and letting that go reduces that tension.
  5. You’ll get better at problem-solving. When you start fighting about something or have differences with your partner, you can use the 80/20 rule to identify the underlying issues in your relationship. From there, you can focus on finding solutions to the problem. This helps you avoid dragging things out unnecessarily and prevents you from making a mountain out of what’s very likely a molehill.

How to put the 80/20 rule to work in your relationship

  1. Identify the 20% in your relationship. Take time to reflect on the qualities your partner has or the things they do that make you happiest and most satisfied in your relationship. Maybe it’s their killer sense of humor or their thoughtfulness or the way they give the best advice when you need it. The 80/20 rule in relationships is more about the 20% than the 80%, so focus on that smaller fraction and its very big effects. 
  2. Show your partner how much you appreciate them. Once you’ve figured out the things that matter to you most, talk to your partner about it. Let them know the things they do that make you feel happy and fulfilled. Show appreciation for these things and show and tell them how much they mean to you. After all, no one wants to feel taken for granted.
  3. Prioritize your efforts. Focus your time and energy on the 20% that brings the most value to your relationship. This may mean spending more quality time with your partner, nitpicking less on their minor flaws, or finding other ways to support them. Knowing what a big effect these very small efforts can have should be enough motivation.
  4. Avoid neglecting the 80%. While it’s important to focus on the 20%, don’t neglect the other 80% of your relationship. Make sure to address any areas where improvement is needed and communicate with your partner about how you can work together to strengthen those areas. After all, no relationship is perfect. There will be times when you have serious issues to work on and work through. Make sure you do it. Otherwise, the 20% won’t be nearly as effective.
  5. Regularly reassess. Relationships are dynamic. That means that what brings you happiness might change over time. Regularly reassess the 80/20 rule in your relationship and adjust your priorities accordingly. The most important thing is being willing and able to grow together as a couple. That takes an open mind and some flexibility. As long as you continue to be open and honest with each other, it’ll be hard to go wrong.
Bolde has been a source of dating and relationship advice for single women around the world since 2014. We combine scientific data, experiential wisdom, and personal anecdotes to provide help and encouragement to those frustrated by the journey to find love. Follow us on Instagram @bolde_media or on Facebook @BoldeMedia