Summarized by Ben Page
Table of Contents
The Book in Three Sentences
Adopt the belief about marriage that when your spouse wins, you win, and proceed to treat them with radical generosity. Work with your spouse to create a shared vision, values, roles and structure within the marriage, to which each individual is subordinate. Finally, build daily habits of connection that involve sharing thoughts and feelings, making requests, and taking action to demonstrate your love in the way that will be best received by your spouse as an individual.
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Quotes and Popular Highlights
Over time, three major models of marriage have developed:
- The 80/20 marriage, which is the traditional model with roles assigned by gender
- The 50/50 marriage, which is the current model with two individuals coming together in a union governed by “fairness”
- The 80/80 marriage, which is the aspirational model where each spouse holds the relationship in higher regard than the individuals within it
In the 80/20 marriage, there is a focus on duty and specialization (work vs. home). In the 50/50 marriage, the focus on the individual can cause relationship dysfunction, because while we all need intimacy and connection, we tend to optimize for individual goals and results. This is why modern divorce statistics are so sobering.
However, in the 80/80 marriage, there is a shift in mindset to “radical generosity” which recognizes the marriage as a greater entity than either individual, and as such, decision making is made jointly and actions are prioritized for the good of the other and the relationship.
The core belief of the 80/80 marriage is “when you win, I win” and puts “we” before “I”.
After you’ve shifted your beliefs and mindset concerning the marriage, you can move on to re-orient the structure of the relationship. This is how you start to realize the beliefs in practice.
Starting with the radical generosity mindset, the first action is to understand your partner better. What is their “love language”? What do they value? What small, everyday actions could you do for them that would show that you care?
More importantly than what you do, the authors say, is why you’re doing it. The reason to go beyond fairness for your spouse is because you get joy and pleasure out of having a happy spouse, and because you have a unique way of contributing to them that makes them receive and feel loved. When you give, you get.
The 80/80 Marriage Structure
There are five structural pillars in an 80/80 marriage:
As you approach each area, think of it as a team sport. Ask: “what’s best for us?” which will help you both gain clarity about what needs to happen and think creatively about how to achieve it.
Exercises from the Book
Mindfulness: become aware of your self-talk related to your spouse. Which marriage model is it reflective of? When you catch yourself thinking 80/20 or 50/50, take a pause, inhale, and repeat to yourself: “radical generosity”.
Daily generous contribution: ordinary acts of kindness that have the power to alter the entire atmosphere of the marriage. Do them without expectation or seeking credit. Need ideas?
- You could watch the kids early in the morning so your partner can sleep in
- Restock the fridge
- Plan a surprise date night
- Leave a love letter
- Give a massage
- Give them time to see an old friend
- Give them words of appreciation and a toast at the beginning of dinner
Shared values of success: each spouse writes a list of their top 3-5 values that would represent a win in the marriage. Then, compare lists, and hash through each one to come up with your couples list. Need ideas?
- Quality couple time
- Family time
- Career accomplishments
- Spiritual or Faith Practice
- Community Involvement
When you get down to the shared “short list”, complete a prioritization exercise by going through each value and asking “would we rather have quality couple time, or would we rather prioritize our community involvement?”
Insights & Related Concepts
The 5-to-1 “magic ratio” of positive interactions to negative interactions, popularized by John Gottman’s research, characterizes healthy couples. The couples who rate highest in satisfaction get closer to a 10-to-1 or even 20-to-1. This is a skill that can be built, and appreciations can be small and ordinary.
Final Review & Recommendation
Although some material is borrowed from other popular authors in the category, the authors ultimately presented a fresh take on how to do marriage in the 21st century. A number of their anecdotes felt relatable and the way they made a lot of the insights in the book actionable was helpful and appreciated.
Coming in at 238 pages, the book is manageable and can be read over the course of several hours. I recommend it for individuals pondering marriage as well as those who are already married and need a field manual. Based on my other research in this field, the best time would be before any problems present themselves!
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