I have talked about 80%'ers in relationships for years. I mean all he way back to the 90s. I observed (and dated) a great many 80%'ers. Men that had 80% of what I wanted and needed. Perhaps we got along well, had fun together, didn’t fight unfairly or often, my friends and family liked him, hell I even liked him, but we just had no passion or chemistry. We worked on every single level except that one.
Or perhaps that area, the sexual attraction thing, was on fire. So good and we got along, but my friends and family couldn’t stand him or he was unemployable. Or something, at least 20%, was missing.
It is easy to mistake 80% as being good enough. Lord knows I have repeatedly. And I know many people who are in long term relationships with 80%'ers. And they are making it work. Secretly they long for the missing 20%. And sometimes it only seems like a secret...in reality, everyone, to include those people in the relationship know that that 20% is a glaring hole in the otherwise lovely union.
We are a society that wants it all and often gets it. I mean we do way more than any other generation. I have been able to have relationships, a career, be a mother and it was not blasphemy. (A big huge thank you to my mom’s generation for making that possible for my generation of women). Now having it all is not easy or all that fun sometimes. The work involved in having it all feels overwhelming at times and sometimes we all wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to have less.
But in our relationships we want it all but so often tell ourselves that we can settle or make do with less. And we can, but for how long? And why would we ever settle for less than 100% of what we want?
Well we get impatient, we lie to ourselves and we believe on some very fundamental level that who are we to ask for the sun, the moon AND the stars? We accept the 80%'ers because we are too keyed up to wait, we convince ourselves that we don’t need that other 20% or we believe, incorrectly, that 80% is good enough.
My experience is that if you are the kind of person who really can’t settle for less, in most areas in your life, you aren’t going to be able to do it in your love relationship either. Some of us are quite demanding and that is a good thing.
We all want that big love. The kind that has launched movies, and poems and universes all their own. We all want that but time has a way of shaping us into those people who settle for less because we fear that which we want, isn’t meant for us, or isn’t possible, or that to even admit you need more, makes you a greedy pig.
But in the love department, this settling for 80% is what takes us to divorce town all too often. I will tell you that it is always the 20% that is missing that I hear mentioned over and over again when I meet a new client. It is this 20% that they insisted wasn’t all that important that usually drives them into an attorney’s office, or mine.
I am not calling anyone out for settling. I have done way too much of that myself to have any negative opinion about those who do and still I marvel at those that don’t. I think I have found the whole dating and waiting game to be a bit tedious. I have historically preferred to be with someone than not, even if I know they don’t have staying power. At least that is what my dating trajectory has looked like upon review.
The hardest part about holding out for someone who meets 100% of your needs is believing that they exist at all. It is this idea that wanting someone who fits with you 100% is not possible that causes and drives us all into these 80% relationships...or worse. Believe me when I say I have seen some pretty horrible unions that have lasted longer than they should have...like they started with 10% and it never, ever got any better. I have divorced many of these couples over the years.
No one is perfect and you are not ever going to find a partner with whom you will not disagree, be disappointed by, anger at, fight with and at some time, question their presence in your life. This is how relationships go. But what sets the 100%'ers out from the 80%'ers is that while going through all of the above, you are sure that the person you are mad at, frustrated with, disappointed by and with, or fighting with is the only person that you want to be doing all that hard shit with...
Life is bumpy. Life can be very hard for all of us at times. And so having a partner that is 100% right for us is a game changer since we are all less than 100% perfect all of the damn time.
In this dynamic, that missing 20% drives the relationship. People spend inordinate amounts of time, energy and love on trying to add what is missing. They spend thousand of dollars on therapy and counseling. But in reality, there is nothing you can do to add back that 20% that is missing. Perhaps the other person can if they are really motivated, but so often, we don’t even tell them that we need something else, we are too caught up in our own stories that 80% is good enough that we can’t even begin to share how much we long for that missing 20.
I am not suggesting that settling is a bad thing. Some of us would have never gotten married at all or had children if we waited for the universe to bring along Mr. or Ms. 100%'er. And we wanted those things, to be married, to have kids. So the deal we cut is that 80% is good enough...until it isn’t. And while this isn’t a strategy that works over a lifetime, it does work in the interim. I think the pain comes when we try to live with ourselves, making a lifetime commitment to a relationship that is never going to be able to go the distance with us. We settle, but we really don’t.
That 20% becomes like this phantom limb that we are searching for on every day of our lives, while we are busy trying to tell ourselves that we do not need it, it is arrogant or crazy to demand it or that it, like Leprechauns, don’t even exist. And yet we crave it, we need it on some fundamental level that is just beyond our recognition and awareness. We feel it with the kind of ache of a limb that once was attached to us, but has since been amputated.
The only solution to this dilemma is to get free of the 80%'er and then make a commitment to only commit to someone who is 100% right for you. The problem is that you have spend a great deal of time dating before you actually know the percentage...I have seen and actually have done it myself, prayed and prayed that this 20%'er would morph into a 100%'er. And I have done a very good con job on myself until it blew up in my face.
We settle because it is easier than holding out for what we really desire. We take the low hanging fruit and tell ourselves that we are content with what we have, when it is easy to see, but harder to feel, that we are not even close to what we want or need.
I think I might have mentioned before that one of the hardest things I have ever done is be honest with myself, about myself, with myself. It is an ongoing endeavor that I am often surprised by how little progress I seem to have made. Sometimes I am convinced that I am really living the life, and then I get some new realization that proves up the fallacy of my former thinking.
No one is going to be everything we need all the time. But if you are with an 80%'er, I would hazard a guess that you know it on some very basic and painful level. And no one will be free until you do the one thing that everyone must do to find that missing 20%...you have get ridiculously honest with yourself and then risk it all. You may never get the payoff you seek, but at least you walked a truer path in your life. And the possibility is open for you to actually find someone who really gets you, and you them. Instead of numbing out your life, waiting, cursing and being discontented with good old 80%'er sleeping next to you.