A Fresh New Perspective: Applying the 80/20 Principle
“Some days your mother and me loved each other. Other days we had to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album…But those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next.” — Ashton Kutcher’s dad in ‘Just Married.’
The couple in this photograph obviously looks happy– and we were! This was the night before Luke graduated from West Point, the culmination of four years of hard work and tons of effort on his part, and two years of an EXTREMELY long distance relationship from New York to Alabama that required tons of patience and committment on both of our parts. We were so hopeful that night, as we knew that one chapter of our lives was closing in the most bittersweet way (if you ask Luke it was just sweet. Very, very sweet haha).
However, despite the excited smiles in this picture, no one could say that our entire relationship has been a big bowl of peaches and cream with every single day filled with snapshots like this one. We’ve had our share of tough times too. Nights where we were both cranky from being so far apart and arguing over silly little things yet again, days when we were so stressed out with work and upcoming exams that we couldn’t think straight, and times when we honestly had no idea what the future would hold, which caused a lot of stress and anxiety for both of us. When we first started dating, we were preoccupied with trying to make our relationship work from hundreds of miles apart, and it took us a while to stop focusing on the negatives (of which there could be plenty if we searched for them– distance, an uncertain schedule with the military, expensive visits, etc.), and to start focusing on all of the POSITIVES that God has blessed us with. After all, we have each other to begin with, which is enough for each of us just to know that at the end of the day we will be there for one another no matter what.
On Sunday nights Luke and I do a Bible Study book entitled ‘The Love and Respect Experience’ by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It is technically a Bible Study book for married couples, but we take the weekly lessons and apply them to our relationship as it is today, and let me tell you, this book has some pretty inspirational lessons in it! It has really helped us to grow as a couple and to start focusing on what really matters: honoring the Lord first and foremost in every aspect of our lives, both as individuals and in our relationship.
We are about 1/3 of the way through the book, and one of my favorite lessons thus far (Chapter 5) talks about the 80/20 principle in a relationship. At least 80 percent of the time things are good. No, they are better than good! They are GREAT. FABULOUS. FANTASTIC. Couldn’t ask for more. As Meredith Grey would say on Grey’s Anatomy, “ I love you, in a really, really big ‘pretend to like your taste in music, let you eat the last piece of cheesecake, hold a radio over my head outside your window’, unfortunate way that makes me hate you, love you.”
Then, there is the other 20 percent (or less), where things are going kind of badly. You may be fighting, stressed out, tired, lonely, having problems at work or whatever, and those things are affecting your relationship in a negative way Dr. Eggerichs says that it is easy to focus too much on this 20 percent of the relationship, which leads to you forgetting about all of the positives and blessings in your lives. When you focus on that 20 percent, you tend to make inaccurate accusations and generalizations about your partner that make you feel even more unloved and disrespected. He says to LET GO of the negative snapshots in your relationship! You could probably pull out a million little annoying things about your significant other and put those together in a big album that makes your partner look terrible. But then again, couldn’tyour partner do the same thing about you? The Love and Respect Experience suggests incorporating a little bit of perspective into your relationship and remembering all of the things that you love about that person, even when you are most frustrated and upset. This way, you won’t build up resentment towards one another and unintentionally create a negative album filled with bad memories of the relationship that you cherish most in this world.
The example that hit close to home for me, was of a woman who constanly complained to and criticized her husband for walking on her clean kitchen floor in his muddy boots, day after day. She was always having to clean up after him and deeply resented this intrusion into her day. However, when her husband passed away, and the muddy boots sat empty outside on the porch day after day while her floor remained spotlessly clean, the woman wept and began to deeply regret the terrible way she had treated her husband over such a minor annoyance. She told Dr. Eggerichs that she really should have focused less attention on those stupid muddy boots and more attention on the wonderful man who wore them!
This lesson really made Luke and I think about the way that we treat each other when we are in a disagreeement over something so small that it won’t really matter in the long run anyway. We learned that it is more important to treat your partner with love and respect and focus on all of the positive things in your relationship than it is to gripe about the negatives.
Last night, we each made a list of 10 things we love about the other person, as part of a follow-up Bible Study lesson to the 80/20 principle. We found it was much easier to think of a million positive things about each other than it would be to think of even 10 negative things. As the quote from ‘Just Married’ points out, hard times WILL come between the happy snapshots in the photo album that you share with the outside world. In my opinion, the key to having a happy relationship (MORE than 80 percent of the time) is in the way that you handle those hard times and work to get through them together as a couple! It is all about throwing away the negative snapshots and cherishing the happy memories and good times that you share together.
I’m not saying that Luke and I have it all figured out, by any means. But we are working on applying this principle each and every day, and I think it really has given us a new outlook on our relationship and how much we mean to each other. I thought I would share so maybe it will help some other couple out there as well!
Hope everyone has a blessed Monday filled to the brim with that 80 percent today! :]