Relationship Building: The Michelangelo Effect


Relationship Building: The Michelangelo Effect

By Jessica Burgess

When your partner or spouse is working towards a goal, you can either be a help or a hindrance which can have an effect on your relationship as a whole. So how can you be an effective and helpful partner without pushing him or her towards how you think he or she should go about goal attainment? Psychologists Caryl Rusbult, Eli J. Finkel, and Madoka Kumashiro came up with the idea of the Michelangelo Effect to answer this question. Famous sculptor Michelangelo, know for his works such as David, did not believe that he created his pieces, but rather showed their ideal form. Rusbult and her colleagues believe that the same goes for relationships. In an interpersonal relationship, a partner can help the other reveal their ideal self (and vice versa), but he or she does not create that partner. At the same time, he or she can limit the partner’s revelation. Some tips for aiding your partner in personal growth and goal achievement include:


  • Both verbal and non-verbal
  • Help and encouragement
  • Ex: Helping out with the kids to allow your partner an extra half hour to work


  • Perceiving the partner more positively than he or she views him or herself
  • This is most effective when the enhancement is related to the goal
  • Ex: “You are a hardworking writer so I am certain you will meet your deadline.”


  • Affirm the dream and the reality
  • What is realistically attainable?
  • Ex: “Would you be open to us reading some books on how to get started so we know how the process goes?”

If you or your partner is struggling with support within your relationship call the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy so that they can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit          





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