The 80/20 Rule – The Secret to a Successful Relationship?
Written by Lisa Montanaro | September 21, 2009

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule. Little did I know at that time that the 80/20 Rule would surface in the most unlikely of places a few days later – during a wedding ceremony.

My brother’s wedding was this past Friday evening. Friends and family were all gathered in a lovely setting for the ceremony. The minister started talking about what makes a good marriage. He then proceeded to introduce the 80/20 Rule, and described how it applies to marriage.

He said that when we fall in love, we fall in love with 80% of our partner’s personality, and that the other 20% makes up the flaws and personality quirks that we would like to change. He then advised that the most successful relationships are ones in which the partners focus on the 80% they love about each other, and consciously try to ignore, or at least tolerate, the 20% they don’t.

As the minister was giving his sermon, I couldn’t help thinking how this is just another way that the 80/20 Rule manifests itself in our daily lives. It truly pops up in the most interesting ways and situations. I also started to realize that if the 80/20 Rule can be applied to marriage in this way — focus on the positive and ignore the negative — then, by extension, it applies to relationships of all kinds.

Think about it. In every relationship — romantic couples, family, friends, co-workers, business associates, etc. — there exists some form of the 80/20 ratio. There are always going to be aspects of the relationship that are better than others. In good relationships, the positive aspects clearly outweigh the negative ones. And, perhaps, the best relationships are the ones in which the parties make a conscious effort to try to avoid focusing on the 20% that is negative.  It’s sort of like applying the “glass is half full” attitude to relationships. 

So, whether in marriage or any other relationship, think 80/20 and chances are, it will be a more fulfilling partnership!

Meet the Author

Helping others be the best versions of themselves gets me jazzed!

I’ve worn many hats in my lifetime—often at the same time—while enjoying fulfilling careers. I’ve been a performer, teacher, sign language instructor, lawyer, career counselor, law professor, coach, consultant, mediator, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer, writer, and author. 

I’m an eternal optimist and life-long learner, constantly researching ways to improve personal and professional effectiveness. And it brings me great joy to then pass on the results of that persistent curiosity to my clients and audiences. 

Of all the career hats I’ve been privileged to wear, my favorite is owner of this business since 2002. Why? Because it provides me the opportunity to work with wonderful organizational and individual clients. On any given day, I get to connect deeply with audiences, work with dedicated teams, improve workplaces, watch clients have a-ha moments, and know I’ve made a difference in their lives and careers. And that is very satisfying.