The Michelangelo Effect
Michelangelo effect to a greater or lesser degree, for better or worse, relationships change us. Our behavior and even our self-concept can be modified during a relationship. And we do not refer to falling in love and its effects on us , a topic already discussed in another post. We refer to how our intimate relationship with a person shapes our behavior and our thinking.
Couples Who “Sculpt”
As if we used a hammer and a chisel (understand the simile), Drigotas et al. (1999) called Miguel Ángel Effect to the process by which couples in their relationship, are “sculpting” the other in the direction of their ideal selves . We go in parts.
What is our “ideal self”? Our “ideal self” is everything we would like to be , both internally and externally. They are all those characteristics that we would like to have, abilities to possess, aspirations and goals.
Now that we know what the “ideal self” is, let’s illustrate with an example what the Michelangelo Effect consists of. Imagine a couple. Pedro and Eva. Eva has always been very funny and likes to joke. Within the concept that she has of herself, this characteristic is included. Eva thinks it’s fun.
Eva knows Pedro. They fall in love and start a relationship. But Pedro doesn’t find Eva especially funny or doesn’t share his sense of humor. In this way, every time Eva jokes or makes jokes, Pedro is cold and changes the subject. Eva, therefore, finds a negative response every time she conducts this behavior, that of joking.
Over time, if this dynamic is repeated, Eva will joke less and less until she stops doing it completely. It is very possible that you even stop thinking that you are a fun person and your self-concept changes. Peter has “sculpted” Eva, both in her behavior and, quite possibly, in her way of thinking about herself.
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This process can also occur in the opposite direction, that is, that Peter reinforces Eve’s behavior. It would be as follows: The story begins the same, with the difference that Pedro shares Eva’s sense of humor and contributes to her making jokes. Eva finds a positive response to her fun facet, which will strengthen and reinforce her idea of being a fun person.
How Does The Michelangelo Effect Affect Us?
Drigotas et al. (1999) conducted a series of studies to find out how this effect affected the stability and satisfaction of relationships.
The researchers found that when the Michelangelo effect “molds” the members of the couple in a way that resembles their ideal Self, the members are more satisfied with the relationship and it is more stable.
On the contrary, if they are molded in the opposite direction, that is, moving away from their ideal selves (what they would like to be), relationships tend to get worse and the members are more dissatisfied.
Read more: Things Not To Do In A New Relationship
What Does All This Translate?
The reading we get from these studies is that relationships change us and it is very difficult for them not to. The more intimate and close a relationship is, the greater the “molding” that takes place in it as it is part of human nature and its way of relating, reacting to the behavior of others and that the reactions of others affect to our behavior.
What Can We Do About It?
What we should try is to always build relationships in a positive way. We must reflect on the limits we are willing to accept in this “molding” and if we want to use it in a way that contributes to the growth of the person we want or we will adapt it to “our taste” .
Healthy relationships are built trying to make both members fully develop as people and the couple is a source of growth for both . The Michelangelo effect can be a great ally or our greatest enemy.
Eric Cameron is a passionate relationship coach and counselor with a focus on helping couples reconnect and build strong and lasting relationships. He has years of experience working with couples and helping them to understand the intricacies of healthy relationships. He also provides guidance on how to maintain a healthy relationship and deal with difficult topics. Eric’s approach is tailored specifically to the couple’s needs and he has a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon.