Saturday, July 9, 2011

The 80 Percent Rule

When I was in my 20's I was always in search of the perfect guy. But he never seemed to materialize. I would find someone who was a great listener, but I wasn't that attracted to him. Then I would move on to someone who I was really attracted to, but he wasn't very attentive. I am not sure where I first heard of the 80 percent rule, but it made perfect sense at the time and I adopted it as one of my theories on relationships.

Basically, it says that in any relationship you will find someone who gives you 80 percent of what you want or need. Inevitably, when you break up with that person and find someone new, you are just going to get a different 80 percent.

Even if we all enter into romantic relationships expecting that only 80 percent of our needs will be met, I wonder if I can ever truly be satisfied with the 80 percent. Or is there something in me that will always be wondering about the other 20 percent that I am missing.

A lot of people believe that when you fall in love with someone or get married, you promise to love each other unconditionally. I have certainly experienced unconditional love with my family and even some of my close friends. But I would argue that all romantic relationships are conditional. Their success depends on the other person's behavior.

When you fall in love with someone, it is based on the qualities that they display at the time. If those qualities significantly change, then the basis on which you fell in love with that person goes away, so why wouldn't your feelings start to dissipate as well?

Let's just take the Boy as an example. On Friday, we were supposed to go out in the evening after work. I was working at home all day and I texted him around 4:30 to make plans for dinner. By 6:30, I still hadn't heard back from him and I was going to hop into the shower, so I called him to see what our plans were. No answer. Pretty soon it was 7:00 and I was sitting on my couch all dressed up with no place to go.

The Boy finally called me just after 7:00. "Hey Baby," he breezed along as if nothing was wrong. "So, what's the plan?"

"Where are you?" I asked impatiently.

"Well, I am on my way home now," he said.

"Oh, did you work late?" I asked, already knowing the answer to my question. If he had been working late, he would have answered my text and my phone call because it would have been a welcome distraction from whatever was on his computer screen.

"I worked a little late. And then went to drinks with some co-workers out on the lake," he said.

"Maybe I would have liked to go to happy hour, but no one invited me." I told him. "I am all dressed up and ready for dinner. And I have been sitting here waiting for you to call and make plans while you were out drinking with your friends."

"Sorry, baby. I didn't know that you were waiting for me," he said.

"No, you didn't because you never called me!" I snapped at him. The Boy and I generally have an easiness and fluidity to our weekend planning, but this time I was really irritated. It would be different if he had called to tell me he was going to Happy Hour. Then maybe I would have gone for a run or done something else before I got in the shower. But he chose not to respond to my text or my call. I should have heard from him before 7:00 PM on a Friday night when he knew we had made plans.

The main reasons that I date the Boy are because he is reliable, available and I enjoy spending time with him. Those are the conditions of our relationship. And if he does not live up to those conditions, then our relationship will end. I am not saying that I would break up with the Boy because he went to Happy Hour one Friday night and did not call me. But there is some undefined amount of time after which, if this pattern of behavior continued, I would walk away from this relationship with him and never look back.

Last week I had dinner with my Mr. Big. He is probably the only exception to the 80 percent rule. I would say that our relationship was closer to 95 percent of what I needed. My only complaint about him was that he really liked it when I wore short skirts. I kept reminding him that someday when I was 40 years old, I could not keep wearing short skirts for him. He seemed to think I could keep wearing them - I just needed to get slightly longer ones. When you get to the point where the only argument you have is about the length of your hemline, that is a pretty solid relationship.

Whenever we go out to dinner, my Mr. Big and I eventually end up talking about our old life together. There are lots of places and events that he doesn't remember after his stroke. But the one thing he never forgets is how he felt about me. And every time I see him, those feelings are still the same.

As we walked out of the restaurant that night, he instinctively reached for my hand. And I held his proudly as we walked out to my car. There were two guys sitting on the patio who were probably about my age. I could feel their eyes fixated on us as we passed by. I am sure they couldn't understand how or why an attractive young woman was flirting shamelessly with an obviously older man who walks with a pronounced limp and his right arm gently curled up at his side.

What the guys on the patio didn't know is that my Mr. Big is not just any guy. He was my 95 percent. And after his behavior on Friday night, the Boy was hovering at around 50 percent.

When I finally got to the Boy's house on Friday night, he greeted me with a hug and a back massage. Then he took me out to the garage to show me the latest progress on the door he has been making for my upstairs bathroom. If I have not mentioned it before, the Boy is building me a door. It is made from the most pristine cherry wood and it will have four glass panels inserted into the wood like pieces in a puzzle. It is absolutely beautiful.

"So, if you are trying to win me over by showing me the door, it's working." I teased the Boy. He just smiled as we walked out to the car.

We went out to dinner at this funky Cuban restaurant called Havana. It was a late dinner so we were seated at a prime table right by the window. By the time we made our way back to his place I was completely exhausted and ended up passing out in the Boy's bed.

The next morning, we went out for our Saturday bagels. It has become somewhat of a ritual. We each pick our own bagel with cream cheese and then we split a muffin. This time it was my favorite flavor, cranberry walnut. After breakfast he took me to pick out my new bathtub and fixtures for the downstairs bathroom. Then we went to the hardware store for some polyurethane finish for my door.

By the end of the day, I had forgotten all about Friday's happy hour incident and the Boy not calling me.

I guess there is one more reason that I am in a relationship with the Boy. It is comfortable. And he could care less about what I am wearing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A great example of the 'love bank' ... you can overlook his not calling if he makes up for it in enough other ways (and as long as he doesn't play that game too often!)