80/20 Relationship Rule: Does It Work?

How does the 80/20 rule apply to dating and maintaining a healthy relationship?
on May 07, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Who knew relationships were so focused on the figures?

According to the theories, every relationship should be 50/50 in order to be reciprocal, but how does the 80/20 relationship rule fit in? 

While we may have heard of this time division split is common when it comes to achieving a work/life balance (or a healthy exercise regime), it can also be applicable to modern relationships. While we all want to give 100% to our relationships, it turns out we should only be giving 80%... But why? 

And is there such thing as striking that perfect balance when it comes to real relationships? 

What is the 80-20 rule in relationships?

The 80/20 rule may be newer to the realms of dating, but this time split has been in practice for well over a century. 

In 1906 Italian economist Vilfredo Federico Pareto founded the Pareto principle, which centers on the idea that you can’t give 100% of your energy to something 100% of the time. You may have heard of this rule in relation to work or exercise, and it’s the same when applied to relationships! 

While there are different interpretations of this rule of relationships, it generally advises couples on how to dedicate their energy to their partner, as well as their own individual pursuits. When you’re in love, time management can kind of out the window, and soon you can find yourself spending 100% of your time with your loved one. 

This rule advises against that approach, leaving both partners the wiggle room they need to focus on other areas of life (that are equally as important!) 

How does the 80/20 rule apply to romantic relationships and dating?

Good relationships look like different things to different people, with some partners intent on prioritizing their partner above everything else. 

However, when you’re dating someone new, this can often lead to the abandonment of your own needs or other important tasks to achieve the ‘perfect relationship’. However, if you’re spending time with just your partner, it limits your social circles, as well as your ability to achieve in other areas. 

Not only that but it can lead to codependent tendencies to form, that can end up damaging your mental health and leaving you in a very precarious position if the relationship ends. 

The Pareto rule advises people to have a healthy dating life, while not letting other aspects of life slip to the wayside. While percentages might vary, it can help people keep that healthy balance and avoid relationship burnout. 

“I’ll tell a therapy client when they start dating someone new to remember, at some point this person needs to fit into your life, you want a life to bring them into,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

How does the 80/20 rule apply to marriage and long-term relationships?

When it comes to long-term relationships, couples can interpret the 80/20 rule in a similar way. However, it can also help to remember that no one can foster a perfect relationship 100% of the time. 

This is why married couples can sometimes use the Pareto analysis when it comes to letting go of the little things (or the 20%) and focusing on the bigger picture — the overall health of their relationship. 

“Secure relationships appreciate the differences in their partners, great to remember if you find yourself getting stuck on tiny differences in how you and your partner do things,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

While it might seem like a small takeaway, this alignment can really help when the going gets tough. 

Can the 80/20 rule in relationships improve your love life?

While this theory has blown up on TikTok and social media in recent months, it actually provides pretty sound advice (that many people often hear in couples therapy!) 

Even though we all might fancy the concept of dedicating 100% of ourselves to our partner 24/7, this doesn’t actually provide a healthy dynamic in reality. By opting for the 80/20 model, couples are encouraged to practice a more balanced approach to their relationship. 

Instead of spending every waking moment with their significant other from that first date, this gives both partners the opportunity to expand their own individual horizons. While it may not always be possible to maintain the 80/20 rule in relationships, having this concept in mind can help sidestep wider relationship problems. 

After all, life is all about balance! 

+50k reviews
Discover new ways to connect!
Download the #1 app for couples to guide you in the process!
our app
petal decoration

Enjoying this article?

A happier relationship starts here.

Question with locked answer