The Michaelangelo Phenomenon is the way interdependent individuals influence and ‘sculpt’ each other in a manner that is as close as possible to their ideal selves.
The Michelangelo studies show that close partners sculpt one another’s traits and skills and promote, versus inhibit, one another’s goal achievement. “It’s not just that you treat me positively,” Finkel says. “You treat me in particular ways that dovetail with my ideal self.”
Finkel says supporting a partner’s image of his ideal self in this way, whether it is a vague yearning or a clearly articulated mental representation, helps the loved one reduce the discrepancy between the actual self and the ideal self.