Michelangelo Effect

Sunday, January 09, 2011 Stef dela Cruz 0 Comments

It seems that the best relationships are the ones that foster selfish growth. Yes, you got that right: selfishness is the new criterion for a good relationship – but not in a bad way.

doctor talks to patient
A psychology professor, Dr. Arthur Aron, held experiments involving couples. He asked couples to describe themselves and their respective partners using adjectives (I’m patient, he’s forgiving, we’re both quiet, etc.). One week after, the couples were asked to come back. They were shown the adjectives they used to describe themselves and their partners and were asked to identify which ones were used to describe themselves and which ones were used to describe their partners.
The couples were quick to identify the adjectives that described both them and their partners. But if an adjective described only one of them, they were slow to remember which trait belonged to them and which belonged to their partners. It seems that people in a relationship found it hard to tell themselves apart from their partners.


Don’t think that this means people lose track of who they are when they get into a relationship. The experiment above showed how people grow out of their comfort zone and into their partner’s world.

In fact, people tend to “carve” their partners into the person who can make them grow more as people. This tendency is described as the Michelangelo effect. And according to recent studies, the more fulfilling relationships are the ones that actually foster this “selfish” growth. The more that someone feels like a better person with a partner, the more he feels that the relationship is a sustainable one. This may sound selfish, but this selfishness is not bad at all as it actually takes into consideration the other person. After all, they can hardly separate who they are with who the other person is. They take on their partners as part of themselves, albeit perhaps unconsciously.

So, I guess unconditional love goes out the window now. But hey, this new point of view on relationships is something I can so get on board with. The more you like yourself when you’re with someone, the more you like that someone. Yep, makes sense to me.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and contributes to The Manila Bulletin. Add her to your circles.