Holding out for the perfect relationship? You’ll be waiting a long time, says Emma Sayle, a keen advocate of the 80/20 relationship rule
When you wake from the post-coital early day trance and realise that your new partner is actually a mere mortal, the reality can be a little disheartening.
He’s moody in the mornings, messy in the evenings and – what’s this? – he’s online but hasn’t read your cute message yet?
The truth is that long-term relationships are a familiar mix of love, sex, and bickering with boring bits in between. And when you hit that stage you have to get smart to save your sanity.
The 80/20 rule
Step in the 80/20 rule, the current relationship commandment du jour that actually makes sense.
The 80/20 rule, often applied to food, finances, and fitness states that one person cannot meet 100 per cent of the others’ needs all of the time and as long as 80 per cent is sparkling, it’s OK for 20 per cent to be, you know, fine.
Whoever came up with the expression ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ actually meant don’t sweat the very specific 20 percent.
I’ve long applied this principle to my relationships and use it when advising friends who aren’t happy. If the bad starts rising from 20 percent then walk – but make sure you know what bad looks like.
A lot of the time, the bad is nothing more than peripheral white noise niggles that aren’t particularly important. For some, it may be more important stuff that they are going to have to have to swallow if they want to be with that individual. But if any of this seeps into 30 percent – and stays there – then your happiness is going to be undermined and no partner is worth that sacrifice. You can’t expect people’s fundamental personality traits to change and you certainly can’t change them.
Lines will, of course, become blurred and you may find the 20 stuff dropping to 70/30 occasionally. Having babies and running a business did that to me. I just wanted to hibernate in a cave on my own for six months but as soon as I pulled some order back into my life, I was back in my happy 80/20 space, which is a realistic equation for a modern world and all its woes.
Taking time apart
Many people see the‘20’ period as taking time apart, something I am all for.
My husband and I, who have been together for 5 years and have two children aged 2/1/2 and 7months, have an agreement that every month one of us can have a weekend away on our own. We alternate months and can do whatever we want during that weekend – a spa weekend, a jaunt abroad with friends or just some time alone.
During the week, we also take a 20 period for us. We have very separate professional lives and are both busy running our own businesses. I work in the office 3 days a week and it’s very much all-consuming Killing Kittens work so I make time at home for a chilled date night once a week. I cook and we can rant and gossip over dinner, and on weekends we have proper quality family time.
Some relationship experts have stated that the 20 period should allow you to ‘resume your individuality’. I don’t agree with this. There should be no percentage for retaining your own individuality.
Neither of us stop the other from being a true reflection of their own character even if it drives the other mad. It’s what makes us who we are and why we fell in love in the first place.
Because the thing is, the perfect person and the perfect relationship are pipe dreams. When you drop the fantasy, it doesn’t mean you’re giving up, it means you’re growing up and appreciating what you’ve got. When you do that, the pressure valve loosens a little and everything becomes easier.
And besides, a little imperfection is far more interesting than complete perfection, right?
Emma is one of the UK’s leading ‘sex-entrepreneurs’. She made her name launching the elite global adult-party brand Killing Kittens in 2005, which now has over 80,000 members having launched events across the US, Australia and Europe.