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Why the 80/20 Rule Might Be the Key to Successful Dating

You’ve likely heard of the 80/20 rule when it comes to diet (both Jillian Michaels and Miranda Kerr use it to guide their healthy eating habits), but there’s another area of your life that you should be applying the principle to: your dating life.

In this instance, the theory goes that in a healthy relationship, 80 percent of it should be amazing, and the other 20 percent should be … things you can live with. In other words, you’re never going to find a person who is 100 percent what you want all the time, but if you have a relationship that’s 80 percent great, then you can’t sweat the other 20 percent.

I used to think this was a weird rule, but as I’ve gotten older and better adjusted to reality, I’ve realized that it makes a lot more sense than I previously thought. In fact, it’s really smart: Instead of obsessing about finding the “perfect” relationship—which is unattainable, since nothing is perfect—and always coming up short, the 80/20 rule gives us permission to embrace our relationships, accepting our partners for who they are (and accepting ourselves, by extension).

Sounds great, but from a psychological standpoint, is it a good idea to practice such a rule, or should we all be holding out for the 90/10 relationship, or the 95/5 relationship, or whatever the magic formula may be? And what counts as being OK for the 20 percent imperfect part? I tapped Hannah Green, a Bay Area psychotherapist specializing in individual and couples therapy, to find out more. Here are eight reasons why you should put it into practice.

“I believe the 80/20 rule is a very consistent part of reality, and that bringing our expectations into alignment with reality is healthy,” says Green. Even if you do believe in the idea of a soulmate, not even your physical, mental, and spiritual ideal can possibly stand up to the stringent list of demands we all tally in our heads while dating.

Case in point: No one is tall, wears impossibly soft scarves, doesn’t bite their fingernails and loves to read in bed while classical music softly filters from upmarket speakers—and even if they are all of those things and more, there will inevitably be some other things you’ll find lacking as dating progresses. That’s just how we are, as humans: We dig for fault, the way pigs burrow for truffles. We, like the pigs, are trained to do it.

“Realistic expectations result in less stress, more self-esteem, and better relationships,” says Green. Relaxing into a mostly-good relationship is calmer and more realistic than searching endlessly for the Holy Grail of connection—and leaves you feeling better about yourself as a result.

Green doesn’t mince her words here: Holding out for the 100 percent relationship, or even the 95/5, “is a pipe dream that keeps us from growing up and enjoying sustainable relationships,” she says. Instead, accepting real life for what it is—and others for who they are, namely people who, like everyone else, have flaws—results in an all-around better life.

This doesn’t mean settling for someone who isn’t right for you, obviously. The 80/20 theory, in practice, is more about remembering that no one is perfect, and reveling in your imperfect relationship, which is lovely anyway, or perhaps lovely because of its imperfection. “It is quite brave and revolutionary when people drop the fantasy and start practicing acceptance and gratitude for where their problems are,” says Green.

“As our couples therapist once told us, ‘Yes, you are a pain in the ass, but you are his pain in the ass,” says Green. “The point being that human beings are a pain in the ass sometimes—we have quirks and sore spots, we get sick, grumpy and scared.” The first or tenth or hundredth time someone shows their “flaws,” or “weaknesses,” that ghost of doubt can rear its ugly sheen: Should I leave? Is this person, whom I thought was so insanely wonderful just last week, actually wrong for me?

Though those questions are totally valid—and often the answer to them is yes—if you’re in a mostly great relationship, someone getting hangry or overly clingy or distant isn’t cause to peace out. It’s just a reminder that you and your partner are both annoyingly human. To ignore or avoid this fact “is in essence to stay in childhood, nursing a fantasy and missing out on the real character of life and of our partners,” Green says.

“The trick is to actually enjoy where you and your partner have your problems,” says Green. “Think about it: Do you want someone else’s?” In the grand scheme, do the little details of life really matter? No, and the fact that I even get stuck on tiny things reflects negatively on me and my inner perfection-freak. The next step is to embrace it, notes Green: “Enjoying where you have your problems, rather than trying to eliminate problems altogether, is the key to great relationships.”

This seems important—maybe even vital, the long-sought cracked code to having fun in long-term relationships. As Green elaborated, I found myself nodding along with her insights. Hypothetically given the choice between your mate having “a crazy mother” or “an aversion to oral sex,” she says, or no longer “leaving his skinny jeans on the bedroom floor,” but “wearing smelly football jerseys every day,” would you trade one for the other? “No,” she points out. “You love his sexuality and his cute pants! Someone else can enjoy the football-loving partner with the Betty Crocker mom.”

So what counts as being OK for the 20 percent “imperfect” part? Green’s straightforward answer to this question surprised me, given that the “me” culture in which we live always tells us we should always put ourselves first (while being undying critics of ourselves and others). “I believe at least trying to practice acceptance and gratitude around anything that doesn’t endanger you or your core values is possible, and could be beneficial for you and your relationship,” she says.

It obviously “doesn’t benefit us to practice the 80/20 rule in regards to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse,” she adds. If you’re living in the gray area, unsure of whether a particular quirk or facet of your partner’s personality is OK, “couples therapy can help people be clear about what is sustainable and what is not,” notes Green.

“We tend to wait for the perfect relationship to avoid dealing with our own issues around intimacy and perfectionism,” says Green. “Once we take responsibility for this, we can start to practice relating to ourselves and our partner” in a healthier manner.

After taking stock of all this, and acknowledging that no one is perfect, and saying yes to imperfection, we’re left with … real life. “We can question our ideas of perfection, and start to redefine perfection altogether as reality rather than fantasy,” declares Green. “We can start cultivating a positive attitude, and we can choose not to believe the stinking thinking that tells us we should bail if something doesn’t fit our idea of perfection.”

Quite simply, “your life should be better as a result of staying in the relationship and working through issues rather than worse,” says Green. If you’re not sure, talk about it with someone, like “a therapist, or someone who you trust and has the kind of relationship you want,” suggests Green, which “can help you be clear on this point and to move forward with confidence.”

One thing to keep in mind: “Switching partners will not result in zero percent problems, but in a new 20 percent—and a new opportunity to practice acceptance and gratitude,” notes Green. If a different 20 percent sounds pretty good right now, it might be time to consider jumping ship. But if it’s just about your aversion to problems in general, and you’re happy with your mate, that’s another thing entirely. “If we want to have good and happy lives, putting energy into adjusting our attitude gives us much more bang for our buck” than trying to change everything we perceive to be “wrong,” explains Green.

“The 20 percent problems theory extends to all aspects of life,” says Green. “When the dishwasher gets fixed, the dog gets sick. The problems move, but are not transcended, no matter how much money and time we devote to stamping out problems all together.”

Instead of losing your mind every time something goes wrong, the 80/20 rule of relationships—and life—is about embracing the fact that nothing is ever perfect, but sitting in my cozy studio listening to Jeff Buckley, eating green chile chicken stew, while my boyfriend is at a coffee shop nearby writing a movie review is good enough. In fact, it’s great, because it’s reality—it’s my reality—and I wouldn’t trade it for any other iteration.

Reliable Pellet Stoves

Large Stove

While most dealers for their products do not provide much to consumers for service (other than selling or delivering the stove), the folks at Englander's factory in Virginia dish out advice and troubleshooting to thousands of consumers each month. If you're somewhat mechanically inclined and open to phone support, their support team can guide you through most issues.You can reach Technical Support at (800) 245-6489 or the parts order line at (800) 516-3636.

According to our repair data, of the 674 Englander stoves serviced (12% of our service volume), there was a 69% chance that only a cleaning was required to make a non-operational stove run again. There was a 3.59% chance of needing new parts within the first year of ownership (covered under warranty), a 78% chance of needing new parts within the first three years and a 37% chance of needing new parts in years 4-7. The most common replacement part was a lower auger motor ($140.00). Also to note, out of 674 stoves serviced we have only replaced two control boards. This is the best electronics record of any brand we have ever serviced.

This model of Englander has a tendency to burn through lower auger motors and toss out E1 feed error codes related to loss of negative pressure by the combustion motor air flow switch. related to loss of negative pressure by the combustion motor air flow switch.

  1. Auger Issue: The problem has to do with the carbon that builds on the lower lip of the lower feed tube, right above the burn grate. As the carbon builds over time, the tip of the auger gets pinched within the exit tube. This creates resistance on the motor and causes the coil of the motor to heat up, which in turn shortens the conductivity life of the coil. A burnt out motor or a motor almost gone is easily spotted though. When a coil is cooked, the cellophane tape used to protect the coil darkens from a clear-milky-white color to a yellowish-brownish-orange color.

All Enviro stoves are sold exclusively through dealerships supplied through regional distributors. Your new stove will come with a warranty which provides both parts and labor. Although Enviro provides a dealer service training program as well as technical manuals (to the public) for all of its products, they do not require certifications or minimum service standards for dealers. Consumers who need technical help are encouraged to contact the dealer that sold them the stove. Support calls which are directed back to Enviro are funneled back to the distributor.

According to our repair data; of 379 service calls for Enviro (6 % of our service volume) there is a 70% chance that the stove will only need a cleaning to make it operational if it is experiencing problems. Enviro has a 12% chance of needing new parts within the first year (covered under warranty), a 27% chance of needing new parts in the first three years and a 47% of needing a part years 4-7 with an average cost of parts per service call being $173.00. The most common part we replaced was the burn pot ($100.00) and the second most common was a combustion motor. Enviro is noted for having some of the highest prices going for OEM replacement parts.

Enviro had a long run of production where the control boards were bad. Most were covered under warranty. Control issues are a real inconvenience to consumers as service calls for electrical components are often misdiagnosed. The Empress, Milan, Meridian and Mini were most affected but not all of the units sold presented problems. Service technicians that are not experienced troubleshooters will often swap out parts under a warranty claim one, two or three times before the root of the problem is identified as a control board. Trust me, it's even difficult for an experienced service tech.

Harman Stoves is now part of the conglomerate Home and Hearth Technologies (HHT Brands: Heatilator, Quadrafire, Harman) and are distributed and sold exclusively through HHT dealers. Most of these dealers are independent and became HHT dealers because they carried the Harman or Quadrafire Brands. In some parts of the country HHT has started opening its own stores, Fireside Home and Hearth, which carry some or all of the HHT products.

According to our repair data of 897 service calls (12% of our service volume), Harman products will have a 62% chance of only needing a cleaning to make a non-operational stove operational. There is a 12% chance of needing new parts within the first year (covered under warranty,) a 17% chance of needing new parts in the first 3 years, and a 64% chance of needing new parts within seven years of ownership. An average cost of parts per service call was $147.00. The most common part we replaced was an igniter ($89.00).

The only real issue we have encountered with Harman products is with the igniters. Harman utilizes an air foil igniter, which is a horizontally mounted heater cartridge with metal fins to direct the air flow behind the burn pot. This igniter had 11 fins initially; it was changed to 13 fins and now has 15 fins. The 13-fin igniters in some, if not all product lines, have been recalled and a 15-fin igniter will be exchanged.

Like HHT Dealers, Travis maintains exclusivity to its brands through dealerships. Travis dealers exercise and probably coined the phrase for servicing what they sell. If you get a used Lopi or Avalon stove and need parts or service you might be in trouble. I have called dealers looking for parts and was told that they only stock parts for their existing customers and they want to know the serial number to see if they sold the stove. Other times I have been informed that they cannot service a stove if they cannot verify the installation.

With an attitude such as Travis toward service I would not recommend them. But here's the thing - they make awesome products. According to our repair data, of 433 service calls (7% of our service volume) Travis products as a whole will have a 71% chance of only needing a cleaning to make them operational again. There is a 6% chance of needing parts within the first year (covered under warranty), a 19% chance of needing parts in the first three years and a 15% chance of needing parts within years 4-7 with an average cost of parts per service call being $112.00. The most common part we replaced was an igniter ($67.00).

With older analog stoves we used to replace control boxes; with the advent of the digital control board the most common repair is an igniter or possibly one of the blowers. Gaskets for motor housings tend to shred away at first sight and we often replace them with a hand cut gasket of a studier material. To be honest, Travis products do not require much in the way of new parts nor do they present many "problems".

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