Polyamory, Time-Sharing, and the 80/20 Principle

the number 20 painted in teal on a salmon background
Image by Andy Maguire / CC BY

“I could never share my partner,” she says. “I mean, if you really love someone, you want to spend all of your time with them.”

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Except it’s not really like that.

Most people can’t spend all of their time together.

It’s very common for monogamous couples to spend time apart.

Not all of them live together. And most of the ones who do split up every weekday morning to spend a full third of their day at work. Others travel regularly for professional reasons.

And that’s not including nights out with other friends. Hobbies.

But somehow we manage this. And we don’t think of working at separate offices as a big relationship killer.

In fact, I find that a lot of monogamous couples are a lot more autonomous than rom-coms would have us believe. Especially the happy couples. The ones who have a chance to miss each other.

Time-Sharing and the 80/20 Principle

The 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto principle, named after the 19th century Italian economist) states that 80% of what you get out of something comes from 20% of what you put into it. And as you put in more effort past that sweet spot, you won’t see a proportional increase in your yield. Instead, you’ll reap diminishing returns, where you might get a little bit more out of things, but your rate of return will become progressively less and less relative to what you’re putting in.

It’s one of the cornerstones of time management. The 80/20 rule suggests that you identify your 20%, those productive tasks that will give you the majority of your yield, and focus on that.

When applied to social relationships, it’s said that you can look at all the people you know and identify 20% of them that give you about 80% of the satisfaction and support you need in life.

And when it comes to polyamory and quality time, the 80/20 rule applies as well.

The time you spend with other lovers? Takes nothing away so long as you have that 20% locked down. It’s not even necessarily literally a fifth of the time. But instead it’s whatever works. Whatever you can do that gives you the most bang for your buck.

Make no mistake: I’m deeply in love with my anchor partner. Skyspook is a wonderful human being. We’re thick as thieves, and I love spending time with him. But I enjoy our time together just as much if I spend 2 nights a week with him as I do with 7.

If anything, the time we spend apart makes me appreciate the time we have together more. It gives me a chance to miss him and remember what he adds to my life.

 

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