The Secret to a Happy Relationship

All good couples fight.

Well, they at least disagree. They get irritated with each other now and again.

But the question is: How often do serious clashes happen? How frequently do you find yourselves getting annoyed and getting in a bad mood with one another?


The 80/20 Theory

Last month, Glamour Magazine published an article about the 80/20 rule – and no, it wasn’t about dieting – it’s all about the happiness/argument ratio in great relationships.

They spoke to life coach, Sloan Sheridan Williams, who introduced the notion, and explained how managing expectations using it, is the key to a successful partnership.

If you find yourself arguing or unhappy more than 20% of the time, something is probably wrong.

The article explained the theory:

“The 80/20 rule is about thinking of your relationship in a particular way and managing expectations around it. It’s about realising you need to be in a relationship that most of time is pretty damn great (80%) but 20% of the time, it may just feel good. You may occasionally be irritated, you may have the odd tiff but you can let this slide because for the most part your relationship is solid.”

In other words, it’s realistic to expect our relationship to be great most of the time.

But because this is the real world, 20% of the time it might be a bit crap.

20% of the time (or 10%, or 5% if you’re lucky), either you or they might be stressed, bored, lazy, a little jealous, or indulging that annoying habit of leaving their clothes and stuff lying around.

Nowadays we tend to expect a lot from our relationships. But it should come down to fairly basic questions:  “Do they make me feel loved, desired, and appreciated 80% of the time?” “Does this person come through for me 80% of the time?”

Because let’s face it, it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows. But in small enough doses, we can swallow a few flaws.

It’s when they rise beyond that 20% threshold that we start to feel emotionally drained, stifled, and suffocated.


Being Aware of Your Needs

It’s not good enough to be amazing 20% of the time and difficult or negative 80% of the time. It has to be the other way around for a relationship to work.

What really matters is: How tolerable is our partner when they’re at their worst?

A study reported by the app Happify found that the happiest couples experience a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.

Simply put, for every one bad interaction they had five positive interactions – where a positive interaction is anything from having a good conversation, to loving gestures like giving a hug or a compliment, or showing concern for a partner’s needs, to expressing physical intimacy.

Therefore, for long-term satisfaction, it’s the frequency of positive interactions (and infrequency of negative ones) that really sustains a great relationship.


Of course, as human beings we are all different. So the million-dollar question then becomes: which flaws are you willing to put up with?

You really hate big arguments? Choose a calm, equanimous partner who hardly ever raises their voice in anger.

You have no time for jealousy? Find someone who’s extremely comfortable with themselves and limits jealousy to cute protectiveness when you’re talking to another handsome human.


This also works for the positive traits you want in a partner. What are the things you need them to have 80% of the time?

You love compliments and kindness? Find someone who always has a big heart and loves to spoil you with praise.

You need space to work on your career? Find that independent person who isn’t clingy and is happy to give you that space.


Not everyone has the same needs, which is why before entering a relationship, the best trait to have is self-awareness. Knowing what you need, not what you think you should need.

I suppose what I’m saying is: Choosing right in the first place is half the battle in love. But it leads to all the happiness.

Well, happiness 80% of the time. Which isn’t a bad ratio for anyone to live with.





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