What is a 80/20 relationship?

457px-Pavel_Filonov_ManWoman copy

Somebody coined the idea of a “80/20” relationship. What does it mean? It means that a person in a couple is available 80% in the relationship while keeping someone else on the side for a 20% relationship. In other words, 80/20 describes what usually happens when there is cheating or infidelity in a committed relationship.

The 80% relationship is kept at 80% without any intention of decreasing or increasing that percentage. The 20% relationship is also kept at that percentage without any intention of increasing or decreasing it. Another way to describe this numerical description of a relationship is to simply call it a “triangle.”

In terms of health and satisfaction, triangles are notoriously painful and limited. A triangle exists because a marital or committed relationship is dysfunctional and has major problems that are unresolved. The person in the couple who actively procures the triangle has decided to deal with his or her dysfunctional commitment by adding a third person. Hence you have a triangle.

Whether it’s two men and a woman, or two women and a man, it is still a triangle. In terms of the psychology of this particular love life problem, basically triangles are best when kept short-term without attachment and/or love showing up between the unhappy committed person and the third person brought into the mix. Remember, in a triangle there are two committed persons, most likely unhappy but not dealing with it, and a third person, usually single and available, but not necessarily so.

As long as love does not show up between the unhappy committed person who procured the triangle and the third person, the triangle can be a painless temporary distraction. But if the third person getting the 20% wants a greater percentage than that, that’s when it starts to hurt. My suggestion is, if you are in a committed love relationship that hits the “rocks,” so to speak, do something to resolve the problem. The worst that could happen is a breakup, which can be healed, and people can move on from there.

Otherwise you are stuck in an unhappy commitment that never gets resolved without any progress or long-term satisfaction. If you are a third, available, single person and meet someone who is unhappy in his or her relationship and gives you an invitation to join a triangle, run for the hills! You are being invited into a situation that will limit and potentially hurt you without any advantages whatsoever.

Unfortunately, this advise will probably be taken by persons who have already suffered the situation I’m talking about. That’s OK, learning after the fact, is usually the most powerful learning that takes place in life anyway.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan

Posted in

Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

Leave a Comment