What’s an 80/20 relationship, and would it work for you?


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    It follows that we would practice it in our relationships.

    An 80/20 relationship recognises that one person cannot meet 100% of the others’ needs.

    I am not the first to question what happens to the remaining 20%. Answers range from finding it in someone else (quite literally…) to making peace with the shortfall and keep on keeping on.

    Except, I can’t accept that, and the more I think about it, the more I wonder why anyone should.

    If your partner doesn’t give you everything you need then you should be at liberty find the rest by yourself.

    ‘open’ relationship, but one that does not permit on-going, extraneous relationships.

    What happens in your ‘20’, stays in your ‘20’.

    self-care. As a society we are increasingly aware of the link between self-fulfilment and happiness – ‘80/20’ puts an emphasis on the self.

    It makes me think of the advice given in the event of a plane crash: put on your oxygen mask before helping others.

    By meeting our own needs first, we have greater capacity to be there for those we love.

    For couples that are heading for a break up, ‘80/20’ may be a split worth making.

    Sophia (not her real name) has an 80/20 relationship with her husband of seven years. They live in London.

    ‘I was thrilled when my husband proposed but as I started to plan the wedding, I was struck by the size of the commitment we were making. Deep down, I worried about how I would stay loyal to one person for the rest of my life.

    ‘We started having trouble two years into our marriage. We were both working really hard and barely saw each other but we assumed that just ‘being married’ was enough and meant we didn’t need to try.

    ‘From there, things got worse. We tried counselling but realised that we were heading for divorce if we didn’t do something radical. We have always been quite independent as a couple so when I read about 80/20 relationships I suggested it as something we could try.

    ‘My husband quite quickly admitted that he had always wanted to do a ski season but had assumed that the opportunity had been and gone.

    ‘From my point of view, three friends had started doing trips together after their own break ups and I had really bad FOMO! I wanted to join them but prioritised trips as a couple instead.

    ‘Realising that 80/20 could work for us was incredibly energising. We both started to feel more excited about the future.

    ‘We have been doing our version of 80/20 for the last three years. It isn’t always easy – you have to communicate loads and it can be a logistical nightmare trying to work out who is going where and when.

    ‘We both agreed that extramarital sex is off the table but you have to be realistic about flirting. For me, having that extra freedom takes away the temptation to cheat.

    ‘We still argue, but knowing that we can have time apart takes the pressure off.

    ‘I am pretty sure it has saved our marriage. It made me remember my husband as he was when I first met him and I miss him when I’m on my own. Funnily enough, as soon as one of us has booked time away we’re on the phone planning a trip together!

    ‘I am grateful to my husband. He wants me to be myself.’

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