An accessible, transformative guide for couples seeking greater love, connection, and intimacy in our modern world
Nate and Kaley Klemp were both successful in their careers, consulting for high-powered companies around the world. Their work as mindfulness and leadership experts, however, often fell to the wayside when they came home in the evening, only to end up fighting about fairness in their marriage. They believed in a model where each partner contributed equally and fairness ruled, but, in reality, they were finding that balance near impossible to achieve.
From this frustration, they developed the idea of the 80/80 marriage, a new model for balancing career, family, and love. The 80/80 Marriage pushes couples beyond the limited idea of "fairness" toward a new model grounded on radical generosity and shared success, one that calls for each partner to contribute 80 percent to build the strongest possible relationship. Drawing from more than one hundred interviews with couples from all walks of life, stories from business and pop culture, scientific studies, and ancient philosophical insights, husband-and-wife team Nate and Kaley Klemp pinpoint exactly what's not working in modern marriage. Their 80/80 model of marriage provides practical, powerful solutions to transform your relationship and open up space for greater love and connection.Praise for The 80/80 Marriage
New York Times Editor’s Choice
“Beautifully written and illustrated and brilliantly argued, any couple reading this will find themselves guided into new and challenging possibilities for their relationship, which if they take seriously and practice faithfully, will surely transform their consciousness, alter their behavior and fulfill their dreams. We heartily encourage all couples to read it with an open mind and a willing heart.”
—Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, authors of Getting the Love You Want
“Times of dramatic societal change can undo close-in relationships, or strengthen them. This brilliant book offers a pathway for couples to deepen connectedness, calling forth the heart’s potential for generosity, trust, acceptance, and compassion.”
—Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance and Radical Compassion
“Now more than ever, modern couples struggle to find love and connection in the midst of the complexities of modern life. The 80/80 Marriage offers a powerful solution. It gives couples practical tools for shifting out of keeping score and striving for fairness to a mindset of radical generosity.”
—John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
“One of the central struggles in modern relationships is the illusive sense of fairness. The 80/80 Marriage gives couples a new, more effective model for navigating this terrain, and a powerful way to begin feeling more connected and in love.”
—Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
“Nate and Kaley Klemp, through their own marriage and interviews with scores of couples, give us a fresh perspective on handling the age-old issues of intimate relationships: communication, chores, money, sexuality, and more.”
—Gay Hendricks, PhD, author of The Big Leap and Conscious Loving (coauthored with Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks)
“What’s fair is not always equal and what’s equal is not always fair. Nate and Kaley offer approachable exercises to shift from a 50/50 mindset to a relationship mindset, creating respect and true appreciation for every twenty-first century couple.”
—Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play
“The 80/80 Marriage takes us beyond the inevitable power struggles and the scarcity mentality of so many modern relationships. It is a brilliant way forward to deeper love and lasting happiness.”
—Doug Abrams, co-author of Eight Dates and The Book of Joy
“This book will be hugely helpful to everyone except divorce lawyers. It’s filled with profound insights about reframing your relationship, along with specific tips on everything from date nights to chore dividing to screen avoidance. Thank you for writing it.”
— A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
“The core insight of this book is of vital importance: good marriages depend on virtues beyond fairness. Equality is not enough: only generosity will do. And a narrow focus on equality can get in the way. Nate and Kaley have written a book with important lessons not only for marriages, but partnerships and communities of all kinds.”
—Stephen Macedo, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics at Princeton University and author of Just Married
“Nate and Kaley Klemp’s The 80/80 Marriage offers a new model of marriage for a new generation of couples. Instead of arguing over fairness, they call for a shift to a mindset of radical generosity. Instead of asking ‘what’s best for me?’ they call for a shift to a spirit of shared success. It’s the perfect, step-by-step, guidebook for making relationships work in the modern age—not just at home, but throughout all of our life.”
—Chip Conley, New York Times bestselling author, strategic adviser to Airbnb, and founder of the Modern Elder Academy
“Kaley and Nate take a headlong dive, fearlessly and with humor, into the assumptions underlying the ‘modern marriage.’ Drawing on recent research and a wide range of personal interviews, they help us see why so many of our views of how marriage ought to work are flawed. The prescription they arrive at leaves lots of room for our different personalities and inclinations, but its core premise—putting us before me and you—is compelling and inspiring.”
—Barry Boyce, founding editor, Mindful
“The 80/80 Marriage offers an original framework for thinking about marriage success based on a fundamental spirit of generosity. It’s worked for us!”
—Lauren Smart, retired finance executive, and Dr. Geoff Smart, chairman of ghSMART and author of Who and Power Score
“Entrepreneurs and busy professionals face the constant challenge of trying to achieve success at work while also staying connected to their partners at home. The 80/80 Marriage offers a powerful solution. It’s a practical guide for creating a new mindset and structure in marriage built to handle the pressures of real life.”
—Brad Feld, Foundry Group and co-author (with Amy Batchelor) of The Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur
“80/80 will take your marriage to the next level!”
—Tommy Spaulding, New York Times bestselling author of The Heart-Led Leader
“In a world focused on the self, it’s refreshing to see a solid plan for couples to unselfishly work together.”
—BooklistNate Klemp, PhD, is a former philosophy professor and a founding partner at Mindful. He is coauthor of Start Here, a New York Times bestselling guide to mindfulness in the real world. Nate’s articles appear regularly in Inc., Fast Company, Mindful, and other leading publications. He received his BA and MA from Stanford University, and his PhD from Princeton University.
Kaley Klemp is a highly sought-after executive coach. She is an experienced facilitator, specializing in building trusting and synergistic teams. She is also an Enneagram expert, TEDx speaker, and coauthor of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. A favorite with Young Presidents Organization (YPO) forums and chapters, Kaley has led retreats for more than 350 forums throughout the world. She received both her BA and MA from Stanford University.
80/20-Where We Were
Long before Dr. Ruth and Dr. Phil, during a time when nobody talked publicly about sex and the inner workings of marriage, there was Dr. Edward Podolsky, a pioneer in the field of self-help and marriage advice.
One of his most popular volumes was his 1945 book, Sex Today in Wedded Life. The book reads more like an anatomy text than a racy modern sex manual. It offers "confidential" advice on everything from debunking "the harmfulness of masturbation" to the frequency of sex in marriage to the embarrassment some men feel when their scrotum retracts after taking a dip in a cold pool.
And yet, in the two closing chapters, he offers what might just be the best distillation of the inner ethos of what we call the 80/20 model: ten commandments for wives and husbands.
When it comes to his list for husbands, his advice seems dated but not altogether culturally backward:
Remember your wife wants to be treated as your sweetheart, always.
Don't be stingy with money; be a generous provider.
Compliment her new dress, "hair-do," cooking, etc.
Always greet her with a kiss, especially when other people are around.
Taken as a whole, these tips might not exactly hit the mark when it comes to modern marriage advice. But they're also not totally crazy.
That is, until you read some of his commandments for wives:
Be a good listener. Let him tell you his troubles; yours will seem trivial in comparison.
Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego (which gets bruised plenty in business). Morale is a woman's business.
Never hold up your husband to ridicule in the presence of others. If you must criticize, do so privately and without anger.
Don't try to boss him around. Let him think he wears the pants.
What's most amazing about these marriage commandments is that from one phrase to the next, they move from sound relationship advice to wildly sexist claims that even today's marriage traditionalists see as going too far.
"Don't ridicule" your spouse in the presence of others-that's actually good advice. "Be a good listener"-again, great tip. And yet in the very next line, the shadows of the 80/20 model emerge. Because right after "Be a good listener" comes "Let him tell you his troubles; yours will seem trivial in comparison." Lines like these tell you just about everything about the status of men and women in this model.
Dr. Podolsky's marital utopia is a world where men and women live together like master and servant, CEO and secretary, provider and maid. The ideal woman is a domestic service worker. Her job is to cater to the whims of her husband. If he's hungry, cook him a fabulous meal. If he leaves his jacket on the floor, hang it up in the closet. If he's stressed after a long day at the office, be his private chef, escort, and at-home therapist.
Virtue and Vice in the 80/20 Model
Belief "That's not my job."
Mindset Deference and Control
Structure Rigid Gender Roles
The 80/20 model is designed around asymmetrical power and inequality. One partner, historically the woman, takes on 80 percent of the burden while the other, historically the man, puts in 20 percent or less. The woman defers. The man has control. Everyone knows their place.
You might ask: What is this ratio measuring? What does doing 80 or 20 percent in marriage represent? This ratio is a measure of the spirit of contribution. It's a spirit that includes the typical domestic stuff-childcare and work around the house. But it also includes more intangible forms of contribution, such as the effort, energy, and emotional output required to keep the marriage moving smoothly in the right direction. These ratios, in other words, are a measure not only of who's doing the dishes but also of who's managing conflicts, looking ahead to big decisions, and thinking of ways to strengthen the marriage.
There's a core belief fueling this dynamic: "That's not my job." This is what makes the 1950s-style manifestation of this model so much like servitude. The wife isn't an equal-her job is maintaining the well-being of the home and marriage, and she's on the hook for 80 percent. She can't pursue her dreams outside the house because that's her husband's job. And because of her low earning potential and lack of financial resources, it's almost impossible for her to leave. By leaving, she would have no job at all.
Of course, it's easy to see all that's wrong with this model. What's more difficult to spot are its virtues. In spite of all the problems with this arrangement, the 80/20 model actually does a couple of things quite well. First, it rests on a clear division of roles and responsibilities. Cooking-wife's job. Finances-husband's job. Being delightful-wife's job. Manning the barbecue-husband's job. That's not an endorsement of the outright sexism in this model. But it's an important insight to remember as we begin to look toward the 80/80 model.
There's one other virtue of the 80/20 model: unified direction, even if it's a direction set solely by the man. Couples have clear incentives to work together toward common goals. If you're a man, you want your wife to excel at raising the kids and setting a fantastic table for guests. If you're a woman, you want your husband to get that exciting new promotion at work. All this is to say that in spite of its many problems, the 80/20 model is set up to incentivize something positive: a spirit of shared success.
Life After the 80/20 Model, or
"Why Am I Still Doing Everything?"
From the vantage point of modern times, the 80/20 model may seem both like the beginning of marriage history and like some sort of cultural throwback we have moved far beyond.
In truth, both of these ideas are false.
Until just a few hundred years ago, around the eighteenth century in the West, marriage was pretty different from the 80/20 model. Of course, these earlier models of marriage shared the extreme inequality found in the 80/20 model, often in an even more amplified form. But they didn't involve some of the big marital innovations that culminated in the 1950s. Couples in the ancient past mostly lacked the ability to choose a mate. And romantic love-the core aspiration of marriage in the twentieth century-had almost nothing to do with the decision to marry. Instead, marriage throughout most of history was about maximizing your chances of survival, securing economic advantages, or, for those lucky one-percenters of the distant past, building political alliances. So from the perspective of history, the 80/20 model of coupling, in which marriage is chosen and often based on some idea of romantic love, is actually distinctly modern.
The idea that we've moved beyond the inequality of the 80/20 model is also false. As Sheryl Sandberg points out in Lean In, there's a vast gap between the promise of equality and true equality. Take, for example, the business world, where women are told that they are equals but are consistently paid less than their male counterparts and often overlooked for executive-level positions.
This gap between the promise of equality and true equality also defines the world of modern marriage. Almost everyone in the industrialized world believes in the promise of gender equality. A recent Pew survey, for instance, found that 97 percent of Americans support the idea. But that's just what we say about gender equality in marriage, not what we do. When we look at the reality of modern marriage, we see that the unequal and unjust 80/20 model is alive and well today, living on beneath the surface in even the most progressive households.
How does this milder, gentler form of 80/20-style inequality manifest today? In our interviews, we found that at times, it's clear and easily identifiable. But mostly, it shows up in invisible ways, harder to see but no less corrosive on our aspiration to marital equality.
The Easy-to-See Hangover of the 80/20 Model
To see this form of inequality in action, consider Abby and Dave. They met during their junior year of college. At the time, Dave was one of those hard-partying frat guys, the type who play beer pong at an elite level but lack many of the most basic life skills to survive as an adult. At twenty years old, for instance, Dave had never even washed his own dirty clothes. Instead, each weekend, he would make the twenty-minute pilgrimage to his parents' house, where his mom would wash and fold his laundry for him.
Abby lived on the other extreme of the life-skills polarity. Unlike Dave, she had long since mastered the art of operating a washer and dryer. She managed her own finances, booked all her own travel home to see her parents, and had developed elaborate systems for keeping track of important bills, deadlines, and other to-dos.
So when Abby and Dave fell in love, they also fell into a pattern in which Abby did, well, just about everything. Abby got Dave a credit card because he didn't seem to have the will or interest to do it himself. She bought plane tickets for him because, again, he couldn't seem to do it himself. Within a few years, this pattern shifted from an every-once-in-a-while nuisance to the central theme of their relationship.
Twenty years later, Abby and Dave still live like they did in college. Even though Dave now works in consulting and Abby has the bigger job with the bigger salary as CEO of an international organization, she still does everything. As Abby describes it, "I'm the CEO. I'm the primary breadwinner. But I'm also the one who's making sure my child is taken care of and managing everything around the house. While he's lying on the couch and I'm doing all the work at eight months pregnant, he doesn't even offer to help. But nor do I ask. Because if I demand it, I would have to be willing to leave the marriage. And that is an unfortunate place to always be in."
It's easy to see what makes this setup so problematic. At home, Abby's doing the very same thing wives in the 1950s did: all the work of managing a house and raising kids. But unlike the apron-clad 1950s housewife, she's also working sixty- to seventy-hour weeks as the CEO of a large organization. She's working two jobs, while her husband spends his post-work hours working through seasons of Breaking Bad.
We could hear the frustration and strain in Abby's voice. At one point, she confessed, "My husband is a lost cause. I've now set up my life with so many workarounds that I don't even need him anymore."
Not all couples live with such extreme inequality. And yet the most recent data shows that when it comes to the amount of time spent on household work, most heterosexual couples are indeed far from achieving equality. The Pew Research Center, for instance, reports that the average dad now spends around eight hours on childcare and ten hours on chores each week. The average mother, on the other hand, spends eighteen hours on childcare and eighteen hours on chores each week. While the gap between how much women and men contribute has been closing steadily over time, women still do more.
The Invisible Hangover of the 80/20 Model
The inequality in Abby and Dave's marriage is easy to see. But this isn't always the case. Many of the most powerful forms of inequality fly under the radar. They're difficult to see but no less destructive to the promise of equality in marriage.
This more hidden form of inequality isn't about who spends more time on housework and childcare. It's about who spends more mental and emotional energy on it. It's a difference that matters because most tasks in domestic life aren't hard to do. For instance, it's not hard to pay your cell phone bill. It's not difficult to renew your driver's license. It doesn't take a PhD to figure out how to pick your kid up at the bus stop.
And yet hidden behind the thousand or so trivial tasks of domestic life is something that actually is hard: the mental and emotional burden of making sure these mundane tasks get done. It turns out that it's much more difficult to remind your spouse to pay the cell phone bill every month-and deal with the emotional experience of irritation that arises in both of you-than it is to actually pay it. It's more difficult to make sure that you've met the gluten-free, keto, and vegan eating needs of guests at an upcoming dinner party than it is to make the salad and tofu. Managing, remembering, and navigating the emotional strain of these everyday tasks requires mental and emotional work. Getting them done, by contrast, is a mostly automatic form of physical labor.
This may sound obvious. But it's a subtle difference that eluded even the brightest minds in psychology and sociology until just recently. As more and more women entered the workforce, researchers started to see that there was more to domestic inequality than time spent on the physical labor of household tasks. They realized that even when men and women spent the same number of hours on household work, something was still amiss-women still seemed to be the "designated worriers."
University of California, Berkeley, sociologist Arlie Hochschild realized that we needed a name for this invisible form of work and dubbed it emotional labor. We asked her about the difference between emotional labor and other kinds of work. She told us, "Emotional labor has to do with who's handling the tensions, who's mindful of them, and who takes it as their work to make everything run smoothly."
The kind of work Hochschild describes is mostly invisible and often difficult to track. It's not the physical work of actually putting away dishes or changing diapers. It's the emotional work of worrying, planning, navigating family tensions, and mentally scanning the future for playdates that need to be scheduled to support your kids, dinners that need to be scheduled to stay in connection with old friends, or parents who need to be called on their anniversary.
Because emotional labor exists outside time and space, during our interviews we often noticed it in the strangest of places. Consider James, a self-described progressive man. He's emotionally sensitive, a staunch supporter of women's rights, and the first to support female candidates for office. And yet in the process of scheduling a time for him and his wife, Stephanie, to talk with us, he responded in an email with the following one-liner:
As always, I’ll let Stephanie schedule for us. ;)
We could give you pages of interview data, but this one line says it all. “I’ll let Stephanie schedule for us” is his way of saying, “she carries the burden of scheduling.” “As always” is his way of signaling that having her run point on life logistics isn’t some one-off event. It’s the unconscious atmosphere of their relationship, the air that they breathe in marriage. And when it comes to the winking emoticon at the end “;)”, well, we’re not sure what to make of that.
To be clear, James probably isn’t saying “I’ll let Stephanie schedule for us” to be a jerk. He’s saying it because the whole idea of emotional labor is so slippery, so surreptitious, that he, like many men, may not even be aware that it’s happening.
|The 80/80 Marriage
|Nate Klemp PhDKaley Klemp