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The Michelangelo Phenomenon

This week, we’ll be talking about the polar opposite of last week’s article, which explains the Manhattan effect. In short, the Manhattan Effect refers to instances where, in a relationship, one person stands against the plans of their partner if he or she sees them as a threat to the relationship. Of course, no one would want that. Here is now to create the opposite and make the best out of a romantic relationship, the Michelangelo phenomenon:

How does the Michelangelo phenomenon look like in reality?

couple looking lovingly at each other

A basic requirement for the Michelangelo phenomenon is that both partners are able to recognize the positive in people. Then, they do the same with their partner.

The second necessary element is the willingness to promote their partner’s positive qualities. They want them to flourish and are completely supportive of them.

If you see a couple who puts lots of effort into enabling each other to achieve self-actualization, to come closer to the best version of their selves, you are observing the Michelangelo phenomenon.

Why is it called “the Michelangelo phenomenon”?

the statue of David, by Michelangelo

This effect is named after the Italian artist Michelangelo. Just as Michelangelo once formed his sculptures, the partners refine each other’s best sides. They recognize and promote the strengths of the other and thus contribute to their personality development through approval, (emotional) support and words of affirmation.

“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”


Recreating the Michelangelo phenomenon in your relationship

couple recreating the famous painting by Michelangelo

What can you do to ensure lasting happiness in your relationship? First of all, you can consider whether you and your partner have a positive basic attitude towards people. You should also be interested in your partner and their goals. Try to understand the motivations behind their desires. Then, offer support in every way possible so that they can get closer to the best version of themselves.

Of course, you are allowed to express your concerns if you think that something will not have the expected positive effect. Honesty is very important in a relationship. Be open with them and ask yourself why you might have reservations.


For happiness, freedom and a relationship that feels good to both people involved, mutual support is paramount. When two people love each other, they want the best for the other (ideally, considering that the Manhattan effect is a thing). Therefore, they support each other in becoming the best version of themselves.

We hope this is the case — or your goal — in your relationship.