Forget 50/50. Brené Brown says the ‘80/20 rule’ is the key to a successful relationship.


“Everyone says marriage should be 50/50; it’s the biggest crock of bull sh** I’ve ever heard. It’s never 50/50—ever.”

This is a quote from social scientist Brené Brown who says her 32-year relationship with her husband Steve, who she shares two kids with, is the hardest thing she’s ever done, hands down.

In fact, she credits its success (in part) to the 80/20 rule.

WATCH: Brené Brown: The Call To Courage on Netflix. Post continues after trailer. 

Video by Netflix

The idea of “80/20” comes from the business economic Pareto principle, which suggests 80 per cent of the effects in life, comes from 20 per cent of the causes. In other words, in a relationship that equates to the idea that you should be getting 80 per cent of what you want from your partner, and the remaining 20 per cent should be up for compromise.

Or, to quote another interpretation; you should get 80 per cent of your wants and needs from a healthy relationship and 20 per cent from yourself.

Brené has her own spin on the idea of “80/20”.


“What we do is we quantify where we are, so if Steve comes home and is like I’ve got 20 (in terms of energy, patience and kindness levels) I’ll pull the 80,” Brené explained in her chat with Tim Ferriss in his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show.

Another example might be Brené coming home from looking after her sick mum to tell her husband “I’ve got 10,” aka, 10 per cent energy, kindness and patience.

The idea is, if either of them report back as having less than a combined 100, they will know that’s a sign they need to sit down and figure out a plan of kindness towards each other.


“Marriage is not something that’s 50/50, a partnership works when you can carry their 20 or they can carry your 20,” Brené explained.

What about a worst-case scenario, say you’re both on 10 per cent?

Here’s what works in Brené’s household: “Put all of your groceries that are supposed to be healthy in the freezer, we’re ordering out, get the housekeeper in an extra day, and we’re cancelling anything with people that we really don’t like.”

Genius. Right?

Brene Brown TED
Brené Brown's TEDx talk on vulnerability is one of the top five most viewed. Image: Youtube.

Another relationship hack that Brené outlined in the podcast is her and her husband's approach to family. They decided very early on that they were a "family-focused family." Others might be pet-focused, children-focused or parent-focused, to give you an idea.

So, if Brené's son wants to do multiple activities after school - that decision is made by the family.

"What's going to keep the family healthy? You can pick two extra-curriculars, and I will have a two-week tour, not a four-week tour. We put the family as the system that we serve. It's not the kids at the parents' cost or the parents at the kids' cost," Brené told Tim Ferriss.


Brené adds that her theory on parenting is, "the best we can do is a loving course from compliance to commitment," and woah. Yes, bloody yes. Right?

If you're new to the Brené Brown craze, the now 54-year-old research professor was catapulted into celebrity when her 20-minute TEDx talk on the power of vulnerability went viral in 2010. It remains one of the most viewed TED Talks ever, with more than 45 million views.

She has spent more than a decade studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, empathy and shame, and is the author of five best-selling books The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring GreatlyRising StrongBraving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead.

As she explained in the Tim Ferriss podcast, "It's my ordinariness that makes me relatable."

But sometimes it's the simplicity of ordinary that we're all craving.

Feature image: Instagram.