What does a renaissance sculptor and marriage counseling have in common? More than you might think according to researchers at NorthWestern University, who have completed an international review of papers on the "Michelangelo phenomenon" in marriages. This shows that when close partners affirm and support each other's ideal selves, they and the relationship benefit greatly.
The Michelangelo phenomenon views each of us like a block of marble, and inside is our ideal self, just waiting to be fully revealed. If you recall Michelangelo said that the sculpture already existed inside the marble, and his job was just to make it visible. Like Michelangelo, our partners can help shape us so that it is this ideal self that emerges in all its fullness and aliveness. That's interesting to me because its another way of looking at the goals of Imago marriage counseling.
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"To the degree that the sculpting process has gone well, that you have helped mold me toward my ideal self, the relationship functions better and both partners are happier" said Eli Finkel, associate professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University.
Interesting enough the article points out that the more empathy that the partner shows, the more successful someone can be at helping their partner grow into a more complete and satisfying version of themselves, a version which is fully consistent with their own deeply held beliefs and values.
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These studies focus mostly on what takes place naturally in our relationship, not so much the result of marriage counseling. However Imago does provide an opportunity to put this information into practice, because at an Imago couples retreat, or in Imago couples therapy, the dialogue process helps each person discover more about the true nature of their partner, and look for ways to stretch into that true nature.
Have you ever asked yourself what is the purpose of marriage or a long-term relationship? In Imago we focus on a new purpose, very much in line with the Michelangelo phenomenon. Loving partners can help each other reach their full potential. And by the way - its not nearly as painful as the "Michelangelo" reference might sound. Its a wonderful process of learning how to connect more closely with your partner, and you can start it off at a weekend couples retreat, or by a short period of couples therapy