How The 80/20 Rule Can Help You Manage Your Expectations For Happier Relationships

Perfectionists, listen up: Unrealistically high expectations might be holding you back more than you think. Perfectionism can be a major threat to your mental health and well-being — according to Healthline, striving for perfection can result in anxiety, depression, and other health conditions. And besides impacting you, it can also harm your relationships.

When you expect flawlessness in your love life, you may feel blindsided when a partner has different needs or when you can't seem to agree on an important issue. You might assume the relationship has no future and decide to break things off, only to enter a new partnership and struggle with a different set of issues. This can lead to a cycle of starting and ending relationships, feeling unsatisfied and frustrated each time.

The truth is that all relationships have their bumps and stumbling blocks. But how do you know how much is too much when it comes to relationship troubles? The 80/20 rule may have the answer for overcoming perfectionism without settling.

How the 80/20 rule works in relationships

Concepts using the 80/20 ratio are nothing new, from the Pareto Principle of economics to the 80/20 diet plan, and the fraction can be applied to romance too. According to the 80/20 rule, you can expect 80% of your relationship needs and wishes to be fulfilled, while you won't get what you want the other 20% of the time.

The rule echoes what relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman calls "good enough" relationships. These relationships aren't perfect, though they're still healthy and loving. There may be arguments and even unresolvable conflicts at times, but these issues don't get in the way of building a long-lasting, thriving life together as a couple.

Following an 80/20 ratio can bring a healthy balance to perfectionistic idealism and make way for "good enough" love. "I believe the 80/20 rule is a very consistent part of reality, and that bringing our expectations into alignment with reality is healthy," Hannah Green, a psychotherapist who works with couples, told StyleCaster, adding, "Realistic expectations result in less stress, more self-esteem, and better relationships."

How to handle the tricky 20%

Expecting 20% of your relationship to be not-so-ideal can make it easier to accept your and your partner's differences and choose your battles wisely. Still, how do you ensure your needs get met? Relationship expert Esther Perel says that modern couples often expect each other "to provide the emotional and physical resources that a village or community used to provide." A healthier approach is to turn to friends, family, social groups, and self-care to get certain needs met.

Sloan Sheridan Williams, a life coach and celebrity relationship expert, notes that looking for fulfillment beyond your relationship comes with its own benefits. "Variety is one of the Six Human Needs. By effectively not getting your own way 20% of the time you potentially open yourself up to new experiences and might perhaps find something new you love," she explained to Glamour.

However, it's important to watch when 20% climbs to 30%, 40%, or higher — remember, the 80/20 rule is about managing expectations, not settling for an unsatisfying love life. Additionally, accepting less than perfection never means allowing abuse or other dealbreakers in relationships. Take notice if major issues arise or if constant disagreements are driving you and your significant other apart.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.