Lisa & Milhouse: A Love Tragedy

As a lifelong Simpsons fan and know-it-all, one question seems to always pop up in when looking into the futures of the Simpson family. Why does Lisa almost always end up married to Milhouse? While it may not make sense, I believe there is a behavioral explanation!


Milhouse is shown over the years being madly in love with Lisa throughout their childhood. However, Lisa is shown to consistently be disinterested in Milhouse, regularly and straightforwardly telling him that she has no interest in him.

Hints of a Possible Future Relationship

EpisodeRelationship conveyed
S17E7 – “The Last of the Red Hat Mamas

Lisa is shown to develop a crush on Milhouse once be begins to tutor her in Italian. This new aspects of Milhouse not only interests Lisa but causes her to become romantically involved with him. However, Milhouse became overconfident and began flirting and romancing other girls, resulting in Lisa getting physically aggressive, yelling at him (“in perfect Italian”), and beating him with a tree branch as he tries to run away.
S19E6 – “Little Orphan Milhouse

Milhouse’s parents remarry and go missing. on their honeymoon. Milhouse dedicates himself to becoming a “real man” as a way to deal with his depression, as he sees himself as acting like a baby. He is no longer allows himself to be bullied, as he denies them the pleasure of hurting him through his behaviors that are described as brave, dark, and poetic. Lisa begins to become visibly enamored by him, swooning over his every word and interacting with him in more flirtatious way. As Lisa holds hands with Milhouse, he tells her he feels nothing despite always wishing for that moment, resulting in Lisa appearing more attracted than before.
S22E20 – “Homer Scissorhands

Milhouse had a girlfriend named Taffy. Lisa becomes jealous/suspicious of their relationship, which includes searching up information on Taffy and her past relationships online, and physically followings and spying on their dates. Taffy states that Milhouse will always be in love with Lisa and breaks up with him. Milhouse expresses his frustrations to Lisa, who kisses him, and says she doesn’t know how she feels about him. She does and doesn’t like him, but she always sometimes finds him cute.
Episodes that show Lisa and Milhouse may end up dating one day.

Confirmation of Future Relationships

EpisodeRelationship conveyed
S6E19“Lisa’s Wedding”Hinted Lisa lost virginity to Milhouse, then told him she never wanted to marry. While preparing for her wedding, Lisa is told by Marge that Milhouse doesn’t count and she could still wear a white dress.

In the 350th episode, it is shown that if Lisa doesn’t receive a scholarship to Yale, she ends up married to Milhouse, who has to resort to selling his bone marrow to pay utility bills, and they still cannot afford to pay their bills.
S23E9“Holidays of Future Passed”

After a montage showing Lisa is bisexual with multple partners through the year, Lisa & Milhouse are shown to be married with one teenage daughter (Zia). It was stated they used 100% of Lisa’s genes to have their daughter, as Lisa didn’t want his DNA.
S25E18“Days of Future Future”

Lisa & Milhouse are unhappily married, again with teenage daughter Zia. While jealously defending her from a zombie, that Lisa works with in her undead charity work, Milhouse is bitten and becomes a zombie. This makes Lisa interested in Milhouse and she continuously refuses to get him treatment.
Episodes that confirm either future romance or marriage between Lisa and Milhouse.

Why Lisa Dates Milhouse

The consistent theme of Lisa becoming infatuated with Milhouse consistently begins with Milhouse no longer chasing after Lisa. Whenever Lisa realizes that Milhouse’s attentions are pulled away from her, and she is unable to capture them back, she begins to seek his attention and develop feelings for him.

Behaviorally, while Lisa is not attracted to Milhouse, she has reinforced by Milhouse’s (quality) attention to maintain interactions with him. Especially since she is typically deprived of the quality of attention she receives from others in her life. She longs for quality attention from her father Homer, as exampled by episodes where Lisa and Homer become best friends anytime he puts his full efforts into spending time with her, but shows behaviors of distain for his low quality attention that is typically offered. As Milhouse provides quality attention to Lisa whenever she wants it, she is essentially receiving attention on a fixed interval schedule of reinforcement of 1:1. Meaning, every time Lisa engages in behaviors to receive Milhouse’s high quality attention she receives it. When the schedule begins to thin it is sudden instead of gradually, and Lisa is suddenly deprived, establishing the motivating (establishing) operations to significantly increase the value of Milhouse’s attention. Since Lisa has never been taught a replacement behavior to receive the same quality of attention that Milhouse provides, and no other options are provided to her, she begins to engages in an increased frequency, with increasing magnitude, of attention-seeking behaviors directed towards Milhouse to obtain the only source of high quality attention she knows to be available.

Why Lisa Marries Milhouse

Typically, anytime we peer into the future of Lisa Simpson, it is established that she either marries Milhouse, or had some sort of romantic relationship with Milhouse, during times of self doubt. Romantic relationships occurred when Lisa had doubts of being successful and achieving her dreams, but then when success begins to occur Milhouse is left behind, like when she becomes President of the USA. Likewise, marriage occurs when Lisa has given up on her dreams and settles for what she believes is her security, settling for the life she believes to be achievable.

Behaviorally, one could say that over time Milhouse has become Lisa’s strongest and most generalized reinforcer, despite not being her preferred reinforcer. Thus, he highly preferred consequences are available, she will choose them. However, when highly preferred consequences are NOT available, or believed to not be available, Lisa accepts Milhouse’s attention as the best available reinforcer. This means that at some point throughout Lisa life, a time we don’t see that occurs between childhood and adulthood, she has developed a learning history that her dreams can not and/or will not be achieved, resulting in her engaging in behaviors that give her the best quality attention possible to replace the unachieved attention her goals were to provide. Meaning, Lisa’s desire to be successful is based on the attention she believes she will receive from meeting her criterion goals (dreams). Additionally, when anyone else is seen as a threat to her ability to receive her desired levels of attention, she is unable to function normally (typically) and engages in behaviors that can easily described and maladaptive and socially inappropriate.

This can be exampled in instances when she encounters peers smarter than her or when Bark was seen as a better musician than her. In S6E2 (“Lisa’s Rival“), Lisa becomes obsessed with a younger peer than is deemed smarter than her (and a better saxophone player), sabotaging her works until she observes her science fair project being given moderate reviews. In S18E2 (“Jazzy and the Pussycats“), Bart becomes a drummer and Lisa’s favorite Jazz musicians begin to praise Bart’s abilities, holding his skills in higher regard than Lisa’s, becoming a member of their band. Lisa becomes obsessed with Bart’s success until an animal saving project of her’s results in Bart having severe nerve damage and losing all ability to ever play the drums again. Lisa feels bad for Bart, but is finally able to live a normal life again. She became unhappy with the attention they received, and could not function until their abilities were either lessened (Allison) or destroyed (Bart).

Likewise, these obsessive behaviors and easily triggered when Milhouse’s attention is removed from her and either placed on someone else or placed on his efforts to better himself. Marking the most tragic aspect of every version of the future that results in these two childhood friends becoming romantically involved and/or married.


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