Sonya Thomas lcsw

The 70/20/10 Rule of Thumb for Relationships

I read an interesting concept recently referred to as the 70/20/10 rule of thumb for long term committed relationship.  It implies the following:

  • You need to like and/or appreciate 70% of your partner and what they bring to the table. Otherwise, why put up with their company? It would be boring, irritating, lonely and no fun.
  • The 20% represents your partner’s growth edges.  Often the things we find annoying or hurtful in our partner is exactly what he or she needs to grow and polish to make them a better human being.   The same applies to us.  There are things for which our partners’ have legitimate complaints regarding us, and their complaints can be a blueprint for our own personal growth.  Often the complaints that one partner has of another is something that, if we are being honest, would create some kind of personal improvement in our lives if we actually worked on them with fidelity.  Hopefully, you admit and work on your stuff and your partner does the same.
  • And sadly, the remaining 10% represents things you’re never gonna like and are never gonna change in your partner. She likes sushi. He has this annoying eye twitch. She is a night owl and you are a morning person. He baby talks to the dog.  She loves 80’s pop.  He adores baseball.  These are the more banal things that may drive us a little crazy.  There are things that fall into the 10% category that will be more problematic that we are called to accept without being a martyr.  She may get anxious for no apparent reason.  He needs more alone time than you.  She will always want to to talk to her mom on the phone daily.  His sex drive does not match yours.  In order to have a satisfying and secure relationship, we must grieve and let go of the annoying 10%. My partner is not me. They have idiosyncrasies that make them separate from me. This will never change.
  • So, if you are within that ballpark range – 70/20/10 – you might have a winning ticket. The key is to like your person most of the time, mutually work on some things that are legitimate problems in the relationship and are amenable to change and  accept that there are things that simply will not change.  Commit to someone who knows their shit and works on it. And the rest? Well, their daily phone call to mom  will not kill you.
  • It should go without saying that there are “bottom line” issues that one should not have to endure in any relationship.  These include untreated mental illness and addictions, physical or emotional abuse and chronic deceit.  Insist on your partner getting help and hold a “bottom line” position for them to actively engage in a process of healing and growth if these things are present.  Otherwise, feel confident in making a choice to end a relationship rather than endure bottom lines being crossed relentlessly.
Until next time, peace.