December 21, 2015

For Better or For Worse: Marriage According to the Simpsons, Part I

Categories: DivorceMental Health

I’ve been thinking about how much challenge it can be to make a marriage work and keep it working. That had me start thinking about one of America’s most dysfunctional couples who happen the be a pretty good model what it takes to make a marriage work – Homer and Marge Simpson.

It is hard to imagine that they have been on television for over twenty years! They have demonstrated the uncanny ability to both endear and endure. What is it that works so well for them?

There have been enough episodes that have suggested that they have been able to maintain a happy and fulfilling sex life, having fun together in the bedroom and enjoying each other’s company. They are not the Hollywood model for hot couples, but they still manage to pull it off.

In one episode Homer finds himself at an adult learning center class. The manager notices he is wearing a wedding ring, and asks him to teach a class called “Secrets of a Successful Marriage.” So naturally Homer concludes he is perfectly suited to teach such a course, and decides to share stories about the love of his life – Marge!

Not surprisingly, Marge is really miffed by this and makes Homer promise to never do that again. Never being a very long time, that is not going to work. His students by now have become enamored by Homer’s stories, and threaten to leave if he doesn’t perform. There is no choice for poor Homer, so he tells more secrets, and then tops it off by inviting the whole class over to his house for dinner so they can witness what a wonderful marriage they have.

Anyone who has watched more than a few episodes will easily predict the outcome. Marge becomes irate, and throws everybody out, including Homer. Of course, by the end of the story Homer has won his way back into her heart.

While Homer and Marge have their issues, they never the less seem to have the most satisfying relationship in their whole community. The reason for this is simple. They fit the mold for a standard psychological model for predicting whether a particular marriage will work out or not. The Investment Model(1) suggests that three things are necessary for a lasting relationship: 1. The satisfaction of each of the parties with the marriage; 2. Their mutual dependence on the relationship based upon perceived alternatives; and, 3. Their investment level.

Satisfaction comes from weighing the relative merits and demerits in the relationship. But, you not only weigh the good and bad parts of your relationship, you also consider how you stack up with other couples you know. So, Homer and Marge have satisfaction in their marriage, are dependent upon multiple aspects of their relationship, and have made investments into their marriage.
Having those qualities enable them to preserver through the trials and tribulations that have kept them at the top of the charts for over twenty years!
In my next article, I’ll explore some additional aspects to consider. Who knows, maybe Homer and Marge will be an inspiration to more of us!

So what do you know! I just might be putting myself out of work!

(1) Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of investment model. The Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, 16, 172-186.


Bruce Peck

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at

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