80/20 Rule Relationships: Benefits For Your Personal Life

Updated March 30, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

The 80/20 rule, first introduced in economics, can be adapted to help people develop better relationships. Here's how understanding and aiming for 80/20 rule relationships can benefit you both individually and as one half of an intimate couple.

Are you having challenges in your relationship?

What are 80/20 rule relationships?

Over a century ago, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto studied the distribution of wealth in his native country. He discovered that 20 percent of the population owned 80 percent of the land. The theory was later expanded to recognize that many things in life seem to follow the same percentages. The American Psychological Association Dictionary of Psychology gives the general definition of this Pareto principle as "the rule of thumb that 80% of any given output is produced by 20% of input."

80/20 rule relationships can also be described in a slightly different way. That is, you only need to focus 20 percent of your attention and time on your own needs to ensure that your needs are met. When you spend 80 percent of your time giving your loved ones kindness, caring, compassion, and affection, you may feel happier and more fulfilled in your relationships.

Benefits of 80/20 rule relationships for you as an individual

If you want to be happy as an individual and in your relationship, an 80/20 rule relationship can make a lot of sense. If you focus all your attention on your partner, you might not give enough attention to yourself. Giving yourself that 20 percent can be critical to your wellbeing. At the same time, giving 80 percent to your partner can truly make you a happier person.

It can maintain your individuality

Many people might find it easy to lose their sense of identity when they're in an intimate relationship. You may need to give time and attention to the ideas, beliefs, activities, and interests that matter to you as an individual. With 20 percent of your focus on yourself as an individual, you can stay in touch with who you are and what you want from life.

It can create personal space

Even in a close relationship, each partner may require personal space. If you're feeling smothered in your relationship, it may be because you aren't going anywhere or doing anything that doesn't involve the other person. By giving yourself that 20 percent, you can create personal space to think and do important things for yourself.

It can give you time for personal development

Taking 20 percent of your time for yourself can give you many opportunities to pursue your own goals and reach your most cherished dreams. If you spend 100 percent of your time and give 100 percent of your efforts to your partner's needs, you may never be able to take care of your own needs and desires. Whether you take classes, pursue a hobby, go to a gym, or just read extensively on a subject that interests you, you should allow yourself time away from the relationship to develop as an individual.

It can enhance self-fulfillment

Giving yourself 20 percent of your efforts can have another side effect beyond helping you develop as a person. When you take advantage of the opportunities you have as an individual, you can give yourself a chance to live a more fulfilled life. By conquering challenges yourself, you may become more confident and happier with what you have achieved in your life. You might feel the energy and joy that can come from your own accomplishments, knowing that your efforts have been the biggest key to your success.

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It can help you become more generous and giving

The other side of 80/20 rule relationships is that they can help you become a more loving person. When you are always focused on yourself and your own needs, you might become stingier, more self-absorbed, greedier, and ultimately, more alone. By focusing 80 percent of your effort on being kind and generous with your partner, you can develop a greater capacity to care for others.

It can bring personal joy

Joy can come from many sources. You might feel it when you're alone, enjoying a beautiful sunrise. Or, you may feel joyful when you hear your favorite song. You may feel joy when you ace a test or get a promotion. But you can also experience the personal joy that comes from having a healthy relationship. When you focus 80 percent on your partner, you may feel happy when you have helped them or given them something they need. When they are joyful, you might find yourself feeling happy, too, because you've developed your ability to care about their wellbeing.

It can also benefit your relationship

Beyond what this rule can do for you as an individual, it can improve your relationship. And, if your relationship is an important part of your life, you likely want it to be healthy and happy. Following the 80/20 rule in your relationship can help it grow stronger, more stable, and more satisfying in many ways.

It can eliminate feelings of resentment

You may feel resentment in your relationship if you are sacrificing everything for your partner. By devoting 20 percent of your attention to taking care of your own needs, you can avoid that feeling.

Another thing that can cause feelings of resentment could be focusing solely on yourself. If all your attention is on what you want and need, any failure to get it can become magnified in your mind. You may find it very hard to recognize the good things from both your 20 percent and the 80 percent you give your partner. But when you give more loving attention to your partner, rather than always thinking about everything you don't get, you are less likely to dwell on the negatives.

It can increase feelings of emotional intimacy

It can be equally difficult to achieve true emotional intimacy when you give your partner everything as it is when you give your partner nothing. The 80/20 rule says that you may need to give your partner much more attention than you give yourself. From there, the intimacy can grow and grow.

It can make settling differences easier

Have you ever been in a disagreement where both sides are focused solely on what they want and need? Such arguments can be very difficult to resolve. Both parties may vow to hold onto their view no matter what they hear because they may see their opinion as the only one that matters.

However, when two people disagree but practice the 80/20 rule, they may care what the other person has to say. Instead of just talking about what they want, they can listen closely to find out what others need. They may give them kindness and respect as they both work through the issue to find a resolution that can satisfy both of them. And, because they are not giving the other person 100 percent of their focus, they can stand up for their own opinions when it counts.

It can promote interdependence

The healthiest relationships can be interdependent. If you are too needy and dependent, the relationship may encounter challenges. On the other hand, if you are so independent that you don't even consider the other person's happiness, you likely can't develop a very close relationship. Interdependent relationships are balanced so that each person can feel strong as an individual and closely involved with their partner. 80/20 rule relationships can promote that healthy balance by giving both people a voice.

Improve your relationship with online therapy

If your relationship seems like a one-way street, you can improve it dramatically by adopting the 80/20 rule. It also helps if your partner follows the same principle. But how do you get to a healthy balance from where you are now? Going to couples counseling together can be a good way to begin.

Getty/Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa
Are you having challenges in your relationship?

A relationship counselor can help you learn how to master the 80/20 principle. In couples therapy, you can start by discovering both the positive aspects of your relationship and the areas where you could benefit from making changes. You can learn more about the benefits of taking care of your own needs and giving even more attention to your partner's needs. 

95% of couples who go to couples therapy say that therapy has been helpful to their relationship. Another thing to keep in mind is that studies show that there is a close tie between your mental health and self-esteem and the quality of your romantic relationships. This fact demonstrates the importance of caring for yourself and your own mental health and the effect that can have on your relationships as well. 


Building an 80/20 rule relationship can create a sincerely loving partnership that can weather the storms that can come up in any couple's life. You can be happier and more fulfilled as a person and develop a healthier relationship along the way.

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