Sometimes I get frustrated when my needs aren’t met in a relationship. “What’s wrong?” I ask myself. “Why doesn’t my partner understand what I need?” “If she really loved me, she would do [fill in the blank].”

If you are anything like me, maybe you have struggled with these questions as well.

I was talking with someone recently, and he shared something that made a lot of sense to me.

Rule of 1/3

He said from his experience as a counselor, good relationships followed what he called the Rule of 1/3:

  • 1/3 of the time, your partner knows what you need and meets your need.
  • 1/3 of the time, your partner doesn’t know what you need. You have to tell your partner what you need, and they meet your need.
  • 1/3 of the time, your partner is either unable or unwilling to meet your need.

3 Lessons from the Rule of 1/3

Here are 3 lessons from the Rule of 1/3:

  1. Sometimes you and your partner are on the exact same page. These are situations where everything is clicking. Your partner senses what you need, and takes the initiative to meet your need without you even having to ask for it. I think the key here is to enjoy and celebrate these times.
  2. There are times when your partner doesn’t know what you need, and you have to ask for it. Even in good relationships, your partner isn’t a mind reader. You have differences. You have different needs and wants. You grew up in different families. One important aspect of good relationships is the ability to communicate your needs clearly. It is important to be able to ask your partner for what you need and want.
  3. You can’t always get what you want. This is true even in good, healthy relationships in which both partners love each other well. Sometimes, you will have to accept that your partner has limitations and may be unable to meet your needs. Or, you will have to accept that your partner is their own person, and there may be times when they are unwilling to meet one of your needs. There is an aspect of acceptance and disappointment in relationships that is okay and healthy. Your partner will not be able to meet all your needs. It just isn’t reality. Having that expectation will set you up for disappointment.


What do you think of the Rule of 1/3? Does it ring true for your experiences in intimate relationships? What could you do today to start working toward (a) communicating your needs to your partner and (b) accepting the disappointment that your partner may at times be unable or unwilling to meet your need?


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