In two earlier posts (here and here), I began analyzing the marriage between Homer and Marge Simpson, one of America’s most enduring fictional TV couples. As reviewed in those posts, predicting the stability of any relationship can be done via application of the Investment Model,1 which states that commitment between partners derives from three sources: (1) satisfaction, (2) dependence (based on perceived alternatives), and (3) investment level.2 In this final installment, we’ll complete the analysis with the last variable: investments.
While you already know that Homer and Marge are satisfied and dependent, perhaps the most powerful force keeping them together is their investments. What are investments? Caryl Rusbult1 defined them as resources you’ve put into the relationship which you can’t get back, such as time and sacrifices, or objects that would be complicated to “split up,” such as a house, furniture, or even children and mutual friends. Perhaps Homer himself best explains the investment of children in the episode “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” when he tells Bart and Lisa, “Marriage is like a coffin, and each kid is another nail.”
One investment many couples don’t acknowledge is working through all their disagreements and differences—getting through the rough times and living to see the next day is a huge investment. Certainly, Homer and Marge argue practically every day, but they have accepted each others’ flaws and have become just flexible enough to know they’re in it for the long haul. Homer and Marge have found this peace of mind; in “A Star is Born Again,” Homer explains this to Ned: “I used to worry Marge was too good for me. She was always thinking of ways to improve me. But then, part of her died. And she doesn’t try anymore. So we’re all where we want to be!”
In sum, both Homer and Marge are extremely invested in this relationship—if they were to divorce, they would lose everything, and their lives would be complete shambles. It’s pretty rare for childhood sweethearts to marry, have three kids, and still be in love years later. Maybe the next time you and your partner have a fight, the best form of therapy would be to sit down together for an episode of “The Simpsons.”
1Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, 16, 172-186.
2Le, B., & Agnew, C. R. (2003). Commitment and its theorized determinants: A meta-analysis of the Investment Model. Personal Relationships, 10, 37-57.
Dr. Wind Goodfriend - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Goodfriend's research focuses on cognitive bias within romantic relationships: how partners view each other in a subjective, instead of objective, way. These biases can sometimes be positive, but they can also perpetuate unhealthy or violent relationships.