Bx Guide to Marriage: the Simpsons

I noticed a long time ago that the Simpsons provides us with important life lessons about behavior, if we look hard enough. For example, some of the best marriage advice you can get comes from the Simpsons. I’d like to express some of these lessons I’ve learned through my years of watching the Simpsons.

Spousal Support

In most sitcoms and family-based shows, the primary TV spouse (usually the titular character or the bigger star) is dependent on their spouse’s help to maintain a normal lifestyle. They typically focus excessive amounts of time of their career(s), interests, vices, or general feelings and issues. The secondary TV spouses typically have a very common characteristic, especially the wives if they are not titular characters. Their struggles never really take center stage, unless it’s a special episode. Then it’s back to everyone else.

Only one or two episodes a season focus on Marge specifically, otherwise she just allows her husband’s story lines to flow well. Occasionally, she will have health concerns (physical or mental) that require the episode to focus on her, primarily because her health wasn’t a large enough concern to be attended to earlier.

Life Lesson #1: Don’t be daily Homer!

Essentially, take time to focus on your partner regularly. If you often feel like your life is too stressful and time consuming to have enough time to devote to your life, schedule the time. Literally, add a specific time to you daily/weekly calendar that WILL (not can) be devoted to your spouse. This will help create a behavior that you can keep track of and be mindful of to visually see how often you are keeping this commitment.

I specifically cited “daily” Homer, as he is notoriously unable to create a behavioral history strong enough to allow consistent time devoted to his wife, despite having a regular work schedule without many other commitments, besides personal recreation. However, he can regularly schedule time for his friends, specifically attending or watching sporting events, outings with friends, and spontaneous appointments, either alone or with others. He does spend time with his wife, but it is usually shown to the viewers that he will put his personal activities ahead of his joint marriage activities, or any activity that focuses on his wife in general. As a cartoon character, Homer’s behaviors are more outlandish in their variability. The only real cartoon husband who was similar to a more realistic portrayal of a neglectful husband was Fred Flintstone, who was the foundation this stereotype was built on.

Life Lesson #2: Remember NOT to Forget Lessons!

Don’t create a cycle of working hard to fix your problems, only to go back into your typical routines that led to those problems. Once problems have been identified, you MUST create an intervention plan to increase the frequency of the new desired behaviors, and extinguish the maladaptive behaviors!

“Daily” Homer never seems to remember the lessons he’s learned … presumably because of the crayon lodged in his brain, or his excessive brain damage from falling down Springfield Gulch or his boxing career, or possibly from forcing himself to learn to forget painful memories, which his marriage crises could fall under, resulting in learned short-term memory loss as a defense mechanism. BUT, he does learn lessons by the end of the special Marge-based episodes, which appear to have saved his marriage and family for another week, before completely ignoring the learned lessons for another year until a new Marge-based episode.

Ensemble Characters

Every family has a wacky side character. Don’t allow others to take away your focus on your family and goals. It’s easy to allow ourselves to use the lives’ of others to create an escape for us from our problems. If you focus on the problems of others too often, you stop working on your own problems and goals. If you let them take away your focus from what’s important, you’ll get lost in their storylines. But, if you learn from their lives, you can better your marriage.

Life Lesson #3: It NEVER Comes Up Milhouse!

The parents of Milhouse Van Houten (Kirk and Luann) have had numerous episodes devoted to their failure of a marriage. They lack a mutual respect and they allow their marital problems to impose upon their son’s life, decisions, and behaviors. When things become excessively bad, by their standards, they allow their problems to spill into the lives of their friends and neighbors, adversely affecting those relationships. When the lives of others become that toxic, you CAN NOT allow their relationship to affect yours. The decisions of your spouse has nothing to do with the decisions, patterns, or behaviors of others and their spouses.

Life Lesson #4: Look for Positive Influences!

Relationship role models, heroes, or general positive influences can come from anywhere, as long as you pay attention. While consciously avoiding the negativity of others, stay aware of the positivity evoked by others. When Apu was corting his wife Manjula for Valentine’s Day (as a sign of good faith after messing up in other areas), the other men of Springfield actively tried to sabotage him, as he made them look bad. Instead of using all that energy to plot against Apu, the townsmen could have easily put that energy towards making their spouses happier. Another example is the disgust directed towards Ned from Homer when he attempts to woo his wife. Embrace the love of others to help you be more creative with your own expressions of love.

Luckily, Homer usually does finally embrace the creativity.

The Children

Please! … won’t SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN?!?!

I will sum this section up using some simple quotes from the Simpsons, that I actively use in my daily life.

Don’t do what Donny Dont does!

Make sure you pay attention to the influences and friends of your children. For every Milhouse that your Bart pushes around, there’s a team of bullies making him think thuggery is cool. For every group of nerds making your Lisa feel like she’s amazing, there’s random peers making her feel inadequate.

I Choo-Choo-Choose You


It’s not always the gestures you intend to do that matters to your children, it’s what you actually do. When Lisa gave Ralph a “meaningless” last-second Valentine’s Day card, it changed his whole life. He was more confident and more aware of his behaviors (until Lisa got mad and blew up his world). One momentary decision can affect your child, their actions, their thoughts, and their emotions.

Final Thought

Everything you do in your marriage is affected by your internal (thoughts & emotions) and external (physical actions) behaviors. When you allow yourself to see marriage negatively, you will react to your marriage negatively.

Homer’s primary problem that consistently arises is this, despite the fact he loves his family passionately, he has long learning history of negative thought towards the construct of marriage. His mother and father were awful examples, and his wife’s family was a non-positive example. Homer and Marge are akin to families today that attempt to make marriage work the way they think it should based on friends, peers, and TV, but have no true examples of how to successfully operate within a marriage. Despite consistent disappointments, Homer and Marge have an underlying love that proves effort and desire can help overcome a long learning history.


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