ERP 331: How To Move Out Of Power Struggles Into Working Together In Relationship — An Interview With Nate and Kaley Klemp

By Posted in - Podcast August 2nd, 2022 0 Comments

It is incredible and worth celebrating that this generation is actually the first in all of human history to make an attempt to establish equality in marriage. However, we simply lacked the skills necessary to successfully navigate the terrain of long-lasting intimacy, which led to fights over fairness. While the traditional marriage was wildly unfair, it is worth recognizing that couples were more in partnership, working toward a shared goal.

In this episode, Nate and Kaley Klemp share their insights on various marriage structures and introduce the 80/80 model, a brand-new marriage framework designed to support radical generosity in relationships.

In this Episode

3:49 Nate and Kaley’s conflict over fairness and the larger sociological point of our generation to establish equality in marriage.

6:22 Recognizing the value of the conventional marriage structure.

11:19 How your mindset and expectations greatly affect our decision-making or how we perceive the other.

14:00 The three components of mindset.

18:35 The 50/50 model and why it is unsustainable.

29:05 How the 80/80 model was developed and how it changed Nate and Kaley’s marriage.

37:51 Easing into radical generosity while minimizing discomfort.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Determine your core values and use them as the compass for your choices.
  • To appreciate your partner more, pay attention to the good things he or she is doing.
  • Make decisions as a team.
  • Stop keeping score in your relationship because it only breeds rivalry between you and your partner.
  • Transform misunderstandings into moments of connection and opportunities by revealing them.


Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for a Happier, Stronger Marriage (*Amazon affiliate link) (book)

Free Epic Date Night Guide

80/80 Marriage self-guided retreats

80/80 Marriage Newsletter

Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing (*Amazon affiliate link) (book)

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership (*Amazon affiliate link) (book) 

The Drama-Free Office (*Amazon affiliate link) (book) 

13 Guidelines for Effective Teams (*Amazon affiliate link) (book)

Connect with Kaley Klemp





Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins






Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 


Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Nate and Kaley, thank you so much for joining us today.

Thanks for having us. We’re delighted about the conversation. 

So great to be here.

Yes. I love to speak with people that have done their own personal work and have been in the field. Really, you both have done a tremendous amount of interviewing and kind of gathered a lot of information. You’ve been able to distill this in your book, The 80/80 Marriage, is it? 


Awesome. And before we talk about some of the principles that you’re speaking about there, I would love to hear from both of you, maybe for people who don’t know you, a little bit about what got you interested in addressing this.

This book really came out of our own personal experiences and challenges with marriage in the modern era. That as we look backward at examples that have been set for us, they just didn’t fit where we were, this desire for both of us to really feel like we were equals and in love. 

The book really was born out of an enormous fight about who was going to pick our daughter up from the bus when she was coming back from first grade. We realized we needed different tools. We really needed a different mindset if we were going to do marriage the way that we knew was possible that hadn’t yet been described. 

Thank you. Nate, do you want to chime in at all on that?

Yeah. I mean, I think that one of the themes we noticed very early on in our relationship was this fight over fairness over trying to make everything 50/50. I think that really goes to a larger sociological point that our generation is really the first generation in all of human history that is trying to create equality in marriage, which is amazing, and we should all celebrate that fact. 

And yet, we found that we simply didn’t have the tools to navigate that. So, we wanted to make things fair. We wanted to be equals, and in love, so we ended up resorting to this very clunky technology of trying to make everything perfectly 50/50 fair. 

The idea is that if we can just somehow achieve perfect fairness in a scorecard that validates that everything is indeed fair, we’re going to somehow ascend into the heavens of marital bliss, and everything’s going to be fantastic. You know, amazing sex, et cetera, et cetera. That did not work out at all. That’s kind of what will lead us to think, “Okay. Given that we’re this very different generation, we need a different model.”

Yeah, thank you so much. And even as I’m listening and hearing you both speak to the vantage point from which you approached your marriage and your relationship together, there was a level of intentionality. There was a level of consciousness that, up until now, the models that we’ve been exposed to, we don’t want to recreate that, not necessarily to shame or blame that, but that’s not what we’re interested in as far as traditional gender norms. I know you speak about 80/20. Do you want to say anything about the 80/20, as I’m even highlighting this, and then we’ll come back to it? 

Yeah. Recognizing how special this moment is in what we’re able to create. It’s helpful, I think, to acknowledge the context that we come from. And so, for many of us, if you look back a generation or two, you’ll see very stereotypical gender norms. You’ll see very traditional kind of 1950-style marriages where the woman takes care of the house and her husband, and the man goes out and works. 

And to your point, I want to be careful not to blame or shame, but that was the choice. I actually had this fascinating conversation with my own mom where she was saying, “Kaley, I don’t think you understand. When I graduated from college, my choices were: to get married, to be a teacher, or to be a secretary.” 

That was not similar at all to what my choices were when I was graduating from college. And so, 80/20 is really that historical model of the traditional marriage. It’s valuable to recognize that because while it was wildly unfair, it had one thing going for it, which was that the couple was a team, that the couple was very much in a partnership with a similar or an aligned vested interest. 

And so, when the opportunity got to be more equal, as I was graduating from college, I could do essentially anything that I could imagine, that then it became a 50/50 conversation. So now, each person can achieve on his or her own. And so, the question was, “Well, why would we be a team? I’m kind of out for myself.” And that’s really where fairness started to fall apart.

Yeah. Those clearly defined structures that don’t require us to negotiate, be so conscientious, and negotiate the roles, right? Do we do what we do? And even to say, even for people that perhaps have been a part of the previous generations, or their family structure wasn’t that right, maybe there’s a single family at home or perhaps circumstances didn’t allow for one person to be at home, right? Maybe both people are working. There can be a lot of different constitutions. But it’s not undermined that there was a collective consciousness that was being promoted that this is the optimal, this is the ideal, and that historically was very much a part of our awareness. And, you know, that really epitomizes like, this is what we want to achieve. Right? So, thank you for acknowledging that. Nate, do you want to chime in too on any of this?

No. I mean, I would just say that, yeah, the point you made about the shift from unconscious to conscious, I think that’s the whole game when it comes to marriage. The more we can make that shift from the unconscious in accidental patterns that are just happening in the background, and we don’t even know about it, it’s all beneath the radar of awareness, to something that’s more intentional and conscious. I mean, that is really the key. And so, that’s why when we call out the 80/20 model and the 50/50 model, it’s really just a way of shining the light of awareness on these different structures that are often sort of living there implicitly and invisibly in our lives.

I love how you brought that up because I do think that a shadow of 80/20 can unconsciously be part of the design of our relationships, where for no good reason, except that’s what I saw modeled, a woman might say, “Of course I make dinner.” and there isn’t a conscious inquiry around, actually, it might be that the partner says, “I love creating meals for our family.” It’s that we never pause with awareness to ask the question. 

Yes, I think there was even a mention of a couple in your book about a heterosexual couple where the husband is a self-identified, very strong feminist. And he, in the email exchange, was like, “Well, I’ll let my wife handle as she does the social and the mental, emotional load of that, right? Like, I can even just raise my hand and my relationship with my husband, that we very much aspire to a lot of the equity. There’s a feminine desire in me to pick up things that are just traditionally feminine because it feels loving and giving. Yeah, maybe I’m not even evaluating why I’m doing that to your point of the shadow and sometimes what we carry with us. 

It’s also really notable if I might ask that even with this intentionality, even with the equity and the mindset that you come together in your marriage and your partnership and want to cocreate together something that feels life-giving and supportive for the passion and the design of what you’re creating together. There still were expectations. That’s one of the things I got a lot from what you write about in The 80/80, that working through a lot of this, that the expectations and the mindset heavily influence our decision making our the way that we perceive the other. Can you speak about that? Does that resonate for you?

Absolutely. I think at the core of what you’re asking is a principle that we like to talk about a lot that your mindset and your expectations in a relationship are contagious. The way in which we mentally approach our relationship gets mirrored back to us by our partner at every turn. 

“Your mindset and expectations in a relationship are contagious. The way in which we mentally approach our relationship gets mirrored back to us by our partner at every turn.”

So, in that 50/50 model of fairness, where the mindset is about making everything perfectly fair and living with resentment when it isn’t, which is basically all the time, like that becomes the mental lens through which we see the world. As a result, our partner is going to mirror that back to us at every turn. 

I mean, if you’ve ever been in a conversation with somebody who’s extremely resentful, you can’t help but feel your own resentment, right. So that principle, I think, is really important because what it says that if we’re able to shift our mindset, and we talk a lot about this shift from 50/50 to 80/80, the idea being that, hey, instead of striving to contribute my half, I’m going to strive toward 80%, which is totally irrational, the math makes no sense. 

But that’s kind of the whole point, I won’t hit 80%, but I’m shifting my mindset such that that shift toward radical generosity is now mirrored back. It’s creating a whole different cultural dynamic in the relationship in this kind of upward spiral of generosity versus the downward spiral of resentment and fairness.

Right. And I’m even imagining, in addition to what you’re describing around the interaction and what might be mirrored, and my perhaps disappointment or, again, the expectation that if I am approaching from a 50/50, I’m not experiencing the things that I hope to experience. Hence, the resentment. Hence, the disappointment and the letdown that ensues from that. Even if my partner is doing the exact same thing that they would be in the 50/50 or the 80/80, my attitude and my expectations, and my felt sense are really different.

A hundred percent. Okay. One of the things that I think is really powerful is there is a structure in marriage. It’s valuable to have conversations about what are our values, what are our roles, and who’s going to do what and to make that really intentional. And yet, if you’re having that conversation from a mindset of fairness, I guarantee you’re going to fight about it. 

We even received an email. It was funny to us and tragic simultaneously, where a person said, “All right. We did a roles exercise, and we made a spreadsheet, and we wrote down everything that each person was going to do, and then we color-coded it, and it’s not fair.” And we said, “Well, that is a really beautiful, powerful exercise if you come at it from the mindset of how can we do this in alignment with our priorities, where we balance, where we choose things that we’re are good at.” But what you’re naming that I think is essential is the mindset that really shapes the conversation. 

A second dimension that you’re raising that I think is really important is that when we talk about mindset, sometimes that can feel a little bit elusive but having the three components of mindset allows it to become a little bit more tangible. 

The first is about contribution. What are you doing in your relationship? So, these can be small things like, “I started the coffee this morning because I was up first.” or “I reached out to your parents to find out if they want to come over for Father’s Day because they’re nearby.” Right? These small acts of contribution of generosity in the relationship. 

“If you put on glasses where you are looking for all the way that your partner fell short, I guarantee you will find them.”

The second piece is about appreciation. What are the glasses that you’re wearing in your relationship? We like to say that if you put on glasses where you are looking for all the way that your partner fell short, I guarantee you will find them. I don’t know about you, but my inner critic is pretty intense. My inner critic will leap on other people and can find a thousand different ways that things are not as perfect as I would have loved them to be. 

When I switch my glasses and go looking for all the ways that my partner has contributed, all the way that they’re amazing, all the little things that I might have expected, to borrow your word previously, that instead of I can appreciate them, I find those two. And when I can acknowledge those, when I can name those, when I can feel gratitude for those, it changes the tenor of the relationship. Are we talking about revealing?

Yeah, there’s one more piece that we like to include in this mindset of radical generosity, which is just this idea of revealing your full experience. And there are two dimensions to that. One is about just revealing what’s actually happening inside of you, right? So, what you’re feeling, what your hopes are, and what your dreams are. 

A lot of couples we talk to get stuck because they’re not having that conversation. They’re having a conversation about, “Hey, what happened in the news?” or, “What do we need to do later on tonight logistically?” But the other piece of it is, is revealing those moments of misunderstanding, her feelings, etc., and turning those into moments of connection, turning them into opportunities versus these micro ruptures in connection that just grow bigger and bigger and bigger.

No kidding. I couldn’t underscore that last one. I mean, all of them truthfully. The last one is just, as far as it relates to conflict and misunderstanding, that so often, the inside parts that are often not visible are the things that really matter, but we don’t reveal. Hence, what’s showing up on the outside is what our partner is responding to, which could have no bearing on the more deeper vulnerable parts. So, it’s a protective strategy. It’s the attempt to get the need met, but it’s in a very different route other than that clear, transparent reveal. So, that’s so beautiful. 

It sounds as though this mindset and the ways that you’re kind of anchoring this and describing it to make it more practice accessible and practicable really touches on relational, right? If we’re in this 50/50, there’s this attention to the individual. How am I on my side of the street? Where are you? And like, there’s a lot of refereeing. You talk a little bit about competition and comparing. So, when we’re in that relational space, it changes the whole dynamic. Would you like to speak to that at all, or does that fit with what you both are describing?

Absolutely. When you’re in that 50/50, I love your word referee; it’s very much about scorekeeping. Anytime I do something, I look across at my partner and look for their, relatively speaking, equal contribution to make sure that it stays fair. 

One of the things that are so funny about this is one recognizing it’s actually impossible to do this. So, if I do two loads of laundry, does that equal one night waking up with the kiddos in the middle of the night? Does taking out the trash equal one phone call to somebody else’s parent? With just one extra thing giving equal? How do you make that math work? It’s impossible. 

We get ourselves in trouble because of various biases that, in some ways, overestimation bias is that everything I do, I count more. That feels like the things that I’m doing—they take longer, they’re harder. And so, I give myself more credit for those. There’s a way that we can’t possibly measure because of availability bias. I know absolutely everything that I do, and it’s very fuzzy to me what Nate’s doing.

I love that. Yes, there are so many times where my husband, and between the two of us, I’m much more verbal and will identify. And not to be self-congratulatory, but I do. It’s just kind of I’m more verbal in general, so I tend to talk more. So, I will acknowledge or speak to the things that I do not to fish for recognition, but I just sometimes stated where he will not. 

I will see it. I just see examples of things that he’s done, and he doesn’t speak to. I’m like, “I had no idea.” It will surprise me if I’m not paying attention. Or it can be to your point, a discrepancy, and even just how we’re acknowledging it that that could be a difference there.

I love that example because you’re bringing attention to appreciation that you’re going looking for the things that your husband’s done that otherwise, you might completely miss. I also love this notion of revealing that sometimes it can feel vulnerable for a more verbal partner to say, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that this was what I was up to today.” Because it can feel like, “Gosh, are they perceiving that as fishing for compliments?” Whereas if I don’t say it and they don’t notice it, I don’t know about you, but my mind reading skills are not great. 


And so, this is where we really find that that practice of revealing becomes so important. That the number of conversations we’ve had with couples when we’re coaching them, where we’ll say, “Hey, have you had this conversation?” They’ll look at us sort of awestruck for a moment. “Oh, it never occurred to me that I could reveal that this is the experience that I’m having.” Or even in friendship, where people will complain about something with their partner. One of us was asked the question, “Have you told them about that?” “Oh, no.” “How are they supposed to know if you never reveal?”

Thank you. And Nate, do you want to say anything else before we turn a little bit more specifically to the 80/80? What are some of the challenges or problems of the 50/50 dynamic?

Well, one thing that I think is worth mentioning is it’s actually quite interesting if you ask most couples, “Do you fight about fairness?” They will say no. They will say, “Everything’s fair. We don’t have a problem with that.” And so, it can actually be very useful to point to some of the ways in which this shows up because this is one of those areas of unconsciousness for many couples where they’re often fighting about it, but they don’t actually know that they’re fighting about it. 

One of the ways this shows up is around domestic work and scorekeeping around things like household labor and childcare. This is probably the predominant way it shows up in many relationships. It can also show up in time spent with extended family and friends. 

In our interviews with couples, we found that they would often fight about the exact amount of time they were spending with one partner’s parents for Mother’s Day versus the amount of time they spent with the others for Father’s Day, things like that. 

There’s also a way in which it shows up around money, around who’s saving more, who’s spending more. And then finally, one of our favorite manifestations of this argument, which we’ve experienced quite a bit, and people with kids, especially experience, is this fight over free time. Because as anyone with kids knows, the moment you bring your child home, free time just evaporates, right? It becomes this scarce; we call it domestic gold. 

And so, for many couples, there’s a really strong argument running in the background around who has more time to exercise? Who has more time with their friends? Who has more time even to go to the store by themselves without the child? So, anyway, it can be helpful just again start to see how this fight for fairness shows up by looking at those various categories of the way in which we fight about this.

Thank you. That’s so helpful. So even a listener right now might be thinking, “Oh, I don’t know that we talk explicitly about fairness. Or this comes up for us that if we look a little deeper and look at the examples that you’ve just described, we might be in conflict about the amount of what one person has compared to the other. And there are a lot of inequities. Right? I think that one of the things that I’ve heard you both speak to is that this 50/50 is impossible.

Yeah, trying to make things perfectly fair, it is a mirage in the desert. You will never get there. And so, recognizing that it’s futile to do it that way, we find it can be an invitation where couples then become more willing to look at an alternative. But in some ways, only after you’ve tried it and recognized, “Well, that failed miserably.” then couples will say, “All right. Perhaps this radical generosity thing might actually be more powerful.” 

Women Kissing Each Other Stock Photo

“Trying to make things perfectly fair is a mirage in the desert. You will never get there. And so, recognizing that it’s futile to do it that way can be an invitation where couples then become more willing to look at an alternative.”

I actually notice also that there’s a lot more energy available when you shift from 50/50 to 80/80. And the metaphor that works for me is that I imagine 50/50 like a tug of war, where we’re each pulling on our own side. I want recognition, or I want to be treated as something, or I want to make sure that it’s fair, so I’m pulling on my side. A lot of attention and energy goes into that scorekeeping pulling energy on that tug of war rope. 

And when instead we drop it and say, “This is not about me winning, or me winning by myself. It’s about us winning.” we can drop that rope, kind of look at each other, high five, and say, “All right. What do we want to do as a team rather than often unconsciously fighting against each other for what we each want?”

Yes. As we’re talking, I’m aware that if one or a couple is very attached to the 50/50 for what that might bring, right, the sense of cocreating or working together. “I don’t want what my parents had.” or combating some of the inequities in gender. There could be a lot at stake here that not only are we trying to keep things perfectly balanced, which again, as we just said, is impossible. But then, if we don’t, the cost of that, like, what’s the alternative? I love that you have an alternative, but I’m just wanting to name that there can be a lot of emotion and fear attached to being successful with this, the 50/50.

Absolutely. I think one of the things to recognize about this 50/50 fairness model is that the goal is actually quite virtuous. We do want equality; we do want fairness. But the way in which we’re trying to achieve that goal is through this kind of passive-aggressive individualistic structure that, as we’ve been talking about, leads to all sorts of conflict and doesn’t really result in us working together as a team. 

And so, I think that’s where we need some sort of a paradigm shift in the way we think about relationships. Because, yes, we want equality, but if we get there by just keeping this elaborate mental scorecard of who’s doing what, it’s going to be a form of equality that really just makes life miserable for everybody. 

Free Man Looking Back and Holding Another Person's Hand Stock Photo

” We want equality, but if we get there by just keeping this elaborate mental scorecard of who’s doing what, it’s going to be a form of equality that really just makes life miserable for everybody.”

So, one of the things we can do that’s an alternative is to think about, “Okay, let’s keep equality in the forefront.” We want that, but how then can we use mindset and all sorts of intentionality around the structures of our lives to create a more sort of lasting and meaningful embodiment of equality, where it’s actually inequality that makes us better as a couple that doesn’t just equalize who’s doing what?

Right. Because it sounds so exhausting and depleting and, again, impossible to try to achieve the 50/50. And it’s even contrived, if you will, right? Like you’re saying, how do we equate the value of this versus the value of that. And so, when we shift into this new paradigm, it sounds like it’s allowing for the dimensions, the multiple dimensions of life and the complexities and the honoring and the spaciousness and the creativity that can come from that. 

So, before we literally turn to this, I guess I’m curious, how did this come to you, the 80/80. I know there are other people that talk about different principles, but this sounds like a specific one. I love that it’s so concrete and like a math/percentage. It’s really helpful. I’m just curious what illuminated that for you both.

I think there were a few things. One, our own struggle fighting for fairness for over a decade and just feeling miserable and actually getting to the point of almost leading to a divorce between the two of us. Luckily, we didn’t end up there, but our own suffering was part of it. 

Another part of it for me was that insight Kaley mentioned earlier about the cognitive biases that make calculating or assessing what is or isn’t fair almost impossible. When I learned about that, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, there’s something so interesting here because the model we’re all using is fundamentally flawed. It will never work.” 

And so, those two pieces, I think, really spurred us to start thinking about, well, what’s an alternative model. And then, really, it was, in some ways, the conversation over who’s going to be home for our daughter when she starts first grade and the school bus drops her off at 3:15. 

In some ways, that was the catalyst for this whole model because, as Kaley mentioned, we had a huge fight about it. But then we started to realize, wait a minute, what if we ask the question differently? So, instead of asking what’s best for me, what’s best for us? 

When we asked that question, I realized that it’s actually best for us if I cut down to 80% time at the company I was working for so that I can be there. That was a really vulnerable place for me, a decision I never would have made, but it was probably one of the best decisions in my life just in terms of my ability to be a good parent and also the changes that then occurred in our relationship.

I can’t underscore enough how different the conversation was when I said, “What’s best for me (Kaley) is that when she gets off the bus, you pick her up because I have important work to do.” And he said, “Well, what’s best for me (Nate) is for you to pick her up at the end of the bus because I have important work to do.” 

Both of those things were true. Asking the question differently, “What’s best for us?” This is where we actually made up our family name, where we combined all of our names. K-A for Kaley, Jo for our daughter, N-A for Nate, that we got could Kajona. And we ask the question, what’s best for Kajona? Those were profoundly different conversations. 

It sounds as though there’s a climate that we are for each other. Not everything is hinged on this one decision. Like, I’m going to win or lose, or there’s scarcity. It sounds as though if we are working together for the collective health of our family, then we can make decisions in service of that. And there’s generosity because we know we’re all going to be prioritizing that in different ways.

Absolutely. We sometimes even liken it to sports teams, that if every single person is fighting, for instance, in basketball, if every single teammate is fighting for the ball because they’re going to be the one to score the point, then very likely, that team will lose the game because there’s infighting. 

That’s true in marriage in the same way that if I’m fighting for myself, it’s possible that our family team will lose because we aren’t thinking in that collective whole, that if Nate’s the one who scores the basket, we as a team win.

Nate, for you. I mean, this sounded like I’d asked a little more of you in this decision together. Are you willing to share a little bit more about that internal and trust that? It sounds like a bit of a risk to step out into that when that hadn’t been the norm in the past up until then.

Yeah, I think that one of the things we like to say is the thing keeping most couples from this model of shared success in 80/80 is discomfort, feeling uncomfortable, and going into a space that can feel somewhat vulnerable because that 50/50 space of fairness is actually a much more comfortable place to be because there’s less that we are risking for our relationship. 

We’re sort of maintaining our individual status and our ability to support ourselves and sort of having this completely separate life. And so, we’re taking on less risk. By shifting to 80/80, we are taking on more risk. And that moment was a moment where I did feel discomfort, and I did feel like, “Wow, I am really taking a risk here. I’m potentially taking a step back professionally to do something that I know is going to be an amazing move for the rest of our family, but it was scary.” 

What I will say, though, is on the other side of discomfort are often amazing connections and ways of working together that just weren’t possible before. So, you know, since that moment, we have taken many more of these steps. Kaley has taken a lot of these steps as well. We’re now experiencing something that’s just unimaginable from that old perspective of trying to stay safe, trying to stay 50/50, trying to protect our individual turf from the other person.

Thank you for just acknowledging the willingness to tolerate that discomfort because the old equation, right, I’m going to lose. I’m going to be sacrificing, and it’s going to feel awful. Yet when we put it in the new frame of the Kajona, I love that, that there’s a different equation at play and the benefits you’re saying far now outweigh. 

And look, even if it didn’t feel like in practice, once you did take that time reduction, and then maybe a month down the road, there’s another conversation around, I thought this was going to work, and here’s where it’s not working, then there’s trust that we can reevaluate, and we can pivot

You’re speaking so beautifully to the virtuous cycle between making a decision as a team, which is really that shared success structure piece of 80/80, and then coming back to the revealing conversations that allow that mindset, where if you make a decision, and for whatever reason, that structure doesn’t work, you can come back and reveal, “I thought it was going to be this way. “This didn’t turn out the way that I thought.” “I have a different request.” Bringing those together, so it’s a continual dialogue enhances it so that it continues to feel like a shared success and like a team. 

Yeah, I can even feel it when I intentionally make these choices. I don’t think I have the same language that you do, but I love how clear the frame that you’re offering. I can just feel inside myself when I know the purpose and the vision of what I’m so-called, taking the sacrifice for compromise with. I actually feel good about it because it’s in service of something I want more than that immediate, whatever that thing was. 

So well said. 

I wonder. Is there anything else that you want to say about the 80/80 that, in principle, is just really helpful for people to know? Because Nate, as you’re talking about tolerating some of the discomforts, it’s also when we haven’t had enough exposure, right? It’s a little bit of—not blind trust, but it’s because, like, both of you are acknowledging the old way didn’t work. So that’s highly motivating, like when we’re motivated by pain, and like, we don’t want to break up or get a divorce. And like all that’s at stake for that, right? We’re very motivated to try new things. And for people that it’s fairly working but that they’re wanting to uplevel, some of these moves might be difficult to access or even get your partner on board. Can you speak to transitioning into this new paradigm?

Absolutely. Well, I think that one distinction that can be helpful here is that we’ve been talking a lot about the 80/80 mindset, which is this idea of shifting to radical generosity, and the three moves there: contribution, appreciation, and revealing. That, for some people, can feel somewhat abstract. 

And so, it can be useful to also point out that another piece of this is what we like to call structure. This is just a way of describing all of the various structures and logistical machinery that’s now a part of modern married life. And for most couples, especially those with kids, this is a really elaborate enterprise that you’re running together. 

One of the ways to sort of mitigating that discomfort that you’re describing is to also look really carefully at the structure. How are we setting our lives up around things like roles and priorities and even the boundaries we set? Power, right? 

So, this is another case where for many couples, the trap is unconsciousness. The trap is set it up by accident, which means not setting it up at all, just letting the inertia of history set it up. And so, that’s one way that you can mitigate some of the discomforts is by just thinking with your partner together about how do we want to set these things up? 

Well, how does this make sense in terms of our roles? What are the key values that we want to use as the anchor for the priorities, the things we say yes to, or the boundaries, the things that we say no to? I think that structure is often a very helpful way of sort of like mitigating that queasy, you know, groundless feeling that can sometimes happen when we’re changing our habits.

One of my favorite parts of The 80/80 Marriage book is that in each of the structure chapters, we have an exercise that couples can do together. There’s an exercise around how you can define your family values, your equivalent of the Kajona values. 

There’s an exercise, one of my favorites. It’s called The Life Report Card, which helps you get clear about your priorities. I bring this up now because sometimes, if there’s a person and a couple who feels like, “I’m all in. This makes sense to me.” I’m not sure how I’m going to bring this up with my partner. Having something tangible like an exercise that you can do together introduces the concept so that then you can ease into the conversation. And it feels really friendly because it’s so in service of that unit and that teamwork.

I do agree with you both that having the framework to rely on that gives some clarity to the process because, yes, some of these principles and qualities are beautiful. And in practice, it’s sometimes difficult to implement. And so, I think I appreciated that about the book that there are even templates that you both provide. You give examples, or you give some starting place to work with. And yes, I so appreciate that you’ve been able to incorporate that. Is there anything else? I know you talked about why the 100/100 marriage doesn’t work. Is there anything else that, as we start to wind down that you want to speak to?

And so, in our interviews, we talked to about 100 people as we were gathering research for this book. Some people would ask, “Well, if we’re going to go all-in for our relationships, why not 100/100?” The idea of 80/80 is there is still a part of yourself. Call it that 20%, which can be about an individual goal or an individual pursuit. There’s also a real value in, back to one of our big themes, the intentionality of partnership. That it’s not, “I just put 100% of myself over there in that boat because it can start to feel like martyrdom.” And so, 80/80 is really about teamwork without the connotation of 100/100 martyrdom or codependence.

Free Kissing Couple Beside Running Train in Subway Stock Photo

“The idea of 80/80 is there is still a part of yourself, call it that 20%, that can be about an individual goal or an individual pursuit. And so, 80/80 is really about teamwork without the connotation of 100/100 martyrdom or codependence.”

The other thing that I think is worth just touching on briefly is something that we’ve sort of talked about implicitly, but I just want to call it out. It’s this problem that we call the reluctant partner problem. This is really a big deal because there are many couples where both partners are really eager to grow. And for those couples, they can just jump right into a new framework like this. But we have run across so many more couples where there’s a difference between the two partners in terms of their eagerness to change. 

So often, you have one partner, who’s the over contributor, who’s very eager to jump into a new framework like this. And then, you have the other partner who is often the under contributor and what we like to call the reluctant partner. It’s not that they’re totally shut down to change, but they’re just reluctant. And so, that ends up being a really important dynamic just to address. 

Kaley, maybe you should talk about how to address this because we actually had this dynamic going for the first ten years or so in our relationship. I was the reluctant partner. Kaley was the over-contributing partner. And it created this dynamic where we actually pushed each other away, and sort of pushed our whole system toward ever greater forms of inequality. Because of her efforts to get me engaged, I heard as nagging. And that, you know, my story was I could never do enough. 

So essentially, I just threw up my hands, and I said, “Well, it’s never going to be enough for you. I’m just going to stop doing anything.” And that just made it worse. And so, finding your way out of that problem can be really tricky. Kaley, do you want to talk about how couples might do that?

First, I would say don’t do what I did. You cannot nag your way to an 80/80 relationship, nor does giving your partner an assignment. And then when they don’t do it exactly the way that you would do it taking it back. Neither of those are effective. 

The way that we encourage in the book, the way that it unfolded with us, the way that in our interviews we found it can work is first through that vulnerable revealing. What is the experience of being the over contributor? What is the experience of not feeling met by your partner? Rather than allowing the accusation or the resentment to run the dialogue, instead, let the vulnerability and the feelings be present and spoken to.

“I feel less than.” or “I feel hurt.” or “I feel taken advantage of. I recognize I have a part. And if I don’t tell you this is my experience, it’s leaking in control and resentment and in nagging that weighs in with soft eyes and an open heart allows a really different quality of conversation. 

When it gets to the specific components of making a request of your partner, because one of the ways that we see this show up is, “Hey, I’m doing everything.” I mean, yay for your notion of 80/80, but ours is already 150 to zero, or whatever the math might be, that giving your partner a full toolkit is really important. 

So, for instance, in our relationship, I ran the finances for our family. And almost every month, I would get really upset that Nate was spending on something that I didn’t think was valuable, should have the incredible story of this bike that he purchased but then rarely got ridden. I was livid. 

But I also had never actually shown Nate our finances, or how I was doing the accounting, or we hadn’t had a conversation about what our goals were. And then I was mad about the bike, not necessarily about the bike, but because the symbolic meaning of the bike meant that we were a step further behind on when we were going to get to buy a house. 

And so, again, that notion of inviting your partner all the way in, and then in huge risk for my vulnerability, we handed over all of our finances to Nate. I recognized he wasn’t going to do it exactly the same way, but I was willing to invest the many, many hours in letting him understand the systems that I’d created on our behalf. And when he came to me with a question, I didn’t respond with irritation but rather, that’s a good question, and let’s learn in this way together. And that really bonded us more as a team rather than here’s your assignment, go execute it. 

Thank you so much for offering this. And I couldn’t agree more that when the inner experience is revealed. And that’s the juice that fuels all the criticism, the nagging, the accusations. And again, on the receiving end, that just sets up defensiveness or shut down or turn away. And so, when that becomes that much more visible, then it becomes clear around, “Oh, that makes sense.” And then from there, in what you’re talking about the structure and the value and that we both. Yeah, clarifying. 

We do want a house, right? This is part of what we want to gather and the juice around that. And then that was where you could start to work together. And that becomes where that team effort starts to become much more possible. So, thank you so much for giving us that here and offering this example in your own experiences together. Well, thank you both so much for sharing your time and your wisdom, your insight with us here today. And how would you like to encourage people to learn more and connect with what you’re both teaching?

Yeah, I would say the best way to learn more is the book, The 80/80 Marriage, which is available online and in retail stores everywhere. And then also our website, is a great place for a number of resources. 

We have a free newsletter that goes out every week that’s about various tips and strategies. We also have a free epic date night that you can download there. And then we’re on Instagram at @8080Marriage as well. That’s probably the best way to find us.

So, with the social media and the website, and the newsletter, do you offer coaching or groups or programs? Is there anything else that they might find there on the website that you want to let people know?

We do. We have a couple of digital retreats that are available. And then, we also do a small amount of coaching with just a handful of couples. So, there are links on the website to both of those if people are interested.

Wonderful. Well, thank you again so much. I’ll make sure to have all of these links on today’s show notes. The social media handles, as well as your book. Again, I’m grateful for what you’re offering people.

Well, thanks so much for having us. This was a great conversation. 

Thank you.

Signing Off

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching