Created By: DmM on June 26, 2012 Last Edited By: DmM on July 21, 2012
Troped

Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome

Just because you're the Official Couple doesn't mean the writers don't hate you

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"It has been ten thousand years, Nada... yes, I still love you. But I have not forgiven you"
Dream of the Endless takes this trope Up to Eleven in The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

Many stories have an Official Couple. In some genres, their relationship will drive the plot. There will be lovers' tiffs and Unresolved Sexual Tension. However, most official couples have a form of Hero Insurance that stops things from getting too bad. In Friends Ross and Rachael's friendship has recovered from their acrimonious breakup within a couple of episodes. In Harry Potter, nothing, not even death, gets in the way of Harry and Ginny.

Sometimes, however, an Official Couple gets put through Hell. Fights, breakups, infidelity and sometimes even people trying to kill them will get in the way in an ordeal that can last anything from months to years. If they're lucky, their relationship will make it out intact but changed. Warning: in extreme cases this can lead to mental breakdowns and even death.

This trope exists because people tend to identify with an Official Couple. Therefore a good way to keep up the suspense is to make their relationship dramatic (which is what drove Friends for ten seasons). This trope is the Up to Eleven Darker and Edgier version of that. The writer creates an Official Couple knowing people will care for it. The entire point of creating this couple and making it official is to make the tragedy of its demise/near-demise all the more obvious/painful to the reader. With the exception of Ron and Hermione (who go through this Played for Laughs before they're actually a couple) if the Official Couple stays together despite being put through this trope it's usually a Bittersweet Ending, but the readers are so relieved the couple made it through it's a while before the bitterness sinks in.

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • CLANNAD: the Official Couple of Okazaki and Nagisa has them eventually getting married and expecting a child. Of course Death By Child Birth separates the couple leaving their child Ushio with a broken father and no mother.
  • Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon. After they're reincarnated, he almost dies, she has to fight against him when he's evil and brainwashed, he's taken away from her many times... But they are (were? will be?) always together.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comics]]

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • In Hancock Hancock and his one true love are destined to be apart forever, because if they're together much their powers leave them and they eventually die. This has happened to their entire race; only Hancock & she are still alive.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians initially subverts this in the ending and plays it straight into. At the end of The Last Olympian, the Official Couple Percy and Annabeth are together complete with an Underwater Kiss. In The Lost Hero the major plot point is the disappearance of Percy.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: Winston Smith and his love interest, Julia, take part in This and That, rebelling against the system. Then, with The Reveal, O'Brien is found to have turned them in and takes part in re-institutionalizing them into the system. They are reunited at the end, if briefly.
  • Vicky Holmes, the Erin Hunter author who writes the storylines and makes the major decisions, often jokes that she likes doomed romance. And apparently this is true:
    • Graystripe and Silverstream are from different Clans, and it's very difficult to meet and even see each other, since their relationship is forbidden by Clan law. They're thrilled when Silverstream's expecting kits, but then she suffers Death by Childbirth.
    • Oakheart and Bluestar were also from different Clans. Bluestar became pregnant with his kits, and he offered to join ThunderClan to be with her. However, she stood a good chance of becoming deputy - she wouldn't be eligible for the position with kits - and she felt it was her duty to become deputy since she felt the only other cat being considered for the position would lead the Clan to disaster. Though she wished it could be otherwise, she ended the relationship, and after her kits were born, she gave them to Oakheart to raise in RiverClan.
    • Perhaps part of the reason that so many of these Official Couples are doomed is because they're forbidden. Leafpool and Crowfeather's relationship was forbidden in two ways - they're in different Clans, and she's a medicine cat, forbidden to take any mate. They ran off together for a while, but when disaster struck her Clan she realized that they needed her more than he did. She secretly had his kits a short time later. He took a mate in his own Clan, though the authors have described that as a "marriage of convenience", and they seem to argue every time they see each other afterward - and he refuses to acknowledge Hollyleaf, Lionblaze, and Jayfeather as his kits. Despite this, they still have some feelings for each other deep down, even though they never get back together.
    • In a rare non-forbidden example, Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight. They became best friends after going on a long journey together, even though initially they were always irritated by each other. Their relationship was tested when he began to follow his evil father, and associate with his half brother, who made no secret of his dream to rule all the Clans, and there was a bit of a Love Triangle when Ashfur showed interest in her as well. Their relationship was eventually mended, and StarClan sent a vision of the two as mates, walking into the sky with stars trailing behind their paws in a single path - their destiny intertwined. Everything seemed fine - they had kits. Then it was revealed that they weren't actually her kits; she'd been covering for her sister Leafpool, who, as a medicine cat, was forbidden to take a mate. They barely spoke to each other for at least two years, until Brambleclaw became leader and chose her as his deputy, admitting that she'd always done what she thought was right. The authors have said their relationship probably won't get back to where it was, but he's forgiven her to an extent.
  • Harry Potter does this to Ron and Hermione (usually played for laughs). Order Of The Phoenix plays it straight with Harry and Cho and Deathly Hallows plays it straight with Lily and Snape.
  • The Mortal Engines series is effectively the narrative of this happening over an eighteen-year period with Tom and Hester, culminating in his death from a heart attack and her suicide over his dead body.
  • His Dark Materials makes Will and Lyra go through Hell (figuratively) individually, meet, go through Hell (literally and figuratively) together, and then have to leave each other in Alternate Universes because doing so is the only way to save the multiverse.
  • This is a fundamental trait of the Sword of Truth series. Richard and Kahlan have been in love since early in the first book, but the increasing turmoil in the setting means they have to deal with separation, invasion, apparent betrayal, and ultimately save the world ten or twelve times before they can be together.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Happens a lot in Soap Opera.
  • In CSI NY Danny and Lindsay have a mid-strength case of this syndrome. First, Lindsay pulls back because of what she's going through with the aftermath of a traumatic childhood incident she survived. Then,after a boy Danny's caring for is shot, Danny pulls away and even sleeps with the kid's mother once. After they get married and Lindsay has his baby, Danny is shot and temporarily paralyzed. Then barely a year later, they and their daughter are stalked by a deranged criminal who blamed Danny for losing his idyllic image of his brother. He battled Danny during the family's first vacation, and they only escaped because he was knocked over the railing of a lighthouse. Then, he shows up in their apartment, holds their daughter hostage and wants to kill all of them. Only Lindsay stops him. Then a year after that, there's Danny as a sergeant, getting grilled by IA because one of his rookies shot the wrong guy. The cop who did it accuses Danny of cheating because she's scared to tell the truth, and Lindsay has to pressure her to tell what really happened.
  • Buffy and Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I could give a large description, but the fact that the first time they made love, Angel lost his soul, turned evil, and then tried to kill Buffy and end the world only later to have his soul brought back just in time for Buffy to have to send him to a hell dimension in order to save the world pretty much illustrates the point. Or perhaps Buffy's later quote when Angel was complaining of her current association with Spike does "What was the highlight of our relationship: when you broke up with me or when I killed you?"
    • Also to a lesser extent Tara and Willow with Tara first being sent crazy by the Big Bad and Willow's later magic addiction. Didn't end well.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Music]]
  • The debut albums by Taking Back Sunday, Brand New and Straylight Run (along with Taking Back Sunday's second album) are four people's perspectives on a Real Life instance of this.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
  • Romeo and Juliet, the Starcrossed Lovers: Initially, both are greatly in love with each other. However, as the plot moves past the romance, kin and family are killed: Mercutio for Romeo and Tybalt for Juliet. As both are torn by grief, they are at risk of being separated by the Family Rivalry. With both families ready to destroy each other by play's end, Romeo and Juliet both commit suicide in grief at having lost each other. Juliet was under the effect of a potion and appeared dead. Romeo proceeds to commit suicide and Juliet follows suit after him.
    • This also occurs in Othello, climaxing in Othello murdering Desdemona and killing himself. Even worse, the entire plot was being carefully choreographed by Iago.

[[/folder]] [[folder:Visual Novels]]
  • School Days is likely the darkest and edgiest this trope will ever get. Though the Official Couple were Makoto and Kotonoha. Makoto and Sekai proceeded to sleep together. And then of course Makoto sleeps with just about everything that moves. In the end, depending on what rendition of School Days you are referencing, we have variations of Sekai murdering Kotonoha and Makoto to Kotonoha murdering Sekai.
  • Fate/stay night in the Fate route/Anime. The Saber-focused Fate route has the Shirou and Saber come to love each other. With the war at an end we get a Bittersweet Ending with the romance entering Starcrossed Lovers territory. With the Big Bad and his Dragon defeated, the Holy Grail war ends, Saber returns to the past to finally allow her body to die and complete the myth of King Arthur.

[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • June 27, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    Happens a lot in Soap Opera.
  • June 27, 2012
    DmM
    Very true. Thanks!
  • June 27, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
  • June 27, 2012
    DmM
    Thanks!
  • June 27, 2012
    Generality
    • This is a fundamental trait of the Sword Of Truth series. Richard and Kahlan have been in love since early in the first book, but the increasing turmoil in the setting means they have to deal with separation, invasion, apparent betrayal, and ultimately save the world ten or twelve times before they can be together.
  • June 27, 2012
    Routerie
    Isn't this kind of inherent to being an Official Couple? Can you be an Official Couple without encountering absurd cycles of drama?
  • June 27, 2012
    DmM
    Yes you can. The point is it's not absurd cycles of drama. It's the complete or near-complete destruction of the relationship over an extended period of time using the worst possible scenarios. As I said, if the Official Couple are still together at the end of this happening, they're very lucky. People tend to identify with an Official Couple. Therefore, as you have noted in your comment, a good way to keep up the suspense is to make their relationship dramatic. This trope is the Up To Eleven Darker And Edgier version of that. The writer creates an Official Couple knowing people will care for it. The entire point of creating this couple and making it official is to make the tragedy of its demise/near-demise all the more obvious/painful to the reader. With the exception of Ron and Hermione, who go through this Played For Laughs before they're actually a couple, if the Official Couple stays together despite being put through this trope it's usually a Bittersweet Ending, but the readers are so relieved the couple made it through it's a while before the bitterness sink in.
  • June 27, 2012
    chicagomel
    CSI NY with Danny and Lindsay may count. First, Lindsay pulls back because of what she's going through with the aftermath of a traumatic childhood incident she survived. Then,after a boy Danny's caring for is shot, Danny pulls away and even sleeps with the kid's mother once. After they get married and Lindsay has his baby, Danny is shot and temporarily paralyzed. Then barely a year later, they and their daughter are stalked by a deranged criminal who blamed Danny for losing his idyllic image of his brother. He battled Danny during the family's first vacation, and they only escaped because he was knocked over the railing of a lighthouse. Then, he shows up in their apartment, holds their daughter hostage and wants to kill all of them. Only Lindsay stops him. Then a year after that, there's Danny as a sergeant, getting grilled by IA because one of his rookies shot the wrong guy. The cop who did it accuses Danny of cheating because she's scared to tell the truth, and Lindsay has to pressure her to tell what really happened. I'm not sure, though, if even that's enough angst to fit the idea.
  • June 28, 2012
    DmM
    Thanks! That's what we might call a mid-range case of it :)
  • June 29, 2012
    DmM
  • June 29, 2012
    NightNymph
    • Buffy and Angel on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I could give a large description, but the fact that the first time they made love, Angel lost his soul, turned evil, and then tried to kill Buffy and end the world only later to have his soul brought back just in time for Buffy to have to send him to a hell dimension in order to save the world pretty much illustrates the point. Or perhaps Buffy's later quote when Angel was complaining of her current association with Spike does "What was the highlight of our relationship: when you broke up with me or when I killed you?"
      • Also to a lesser extent Tara and Willow with Tara first being sent crazy by the Big Bad and Willow's later magic addiction. Didn't end well.
  • June 29, 2012
    DmM
    Thanks! Brilliant quote too :)
  • June 29, 2012
    falver
    Clannad: the Official Couple of Okazaki and Nagisa has them eventually getting married and expecting a child. Of course Death By Child Birth separates the couple leaving their child Ushio with a broken father and no mother.

    School Days is likely the darkest and edgiest this trope will ever get. Though the Official Couple were Makoto and Kotonoha. Makoto and Sekai proceeded to sleep together. And then of course Makoto sleeps with just about everything that moves. In the end, depending on what rendition of School Days you are referencing, we have variations of Sekai murdering Kotonoha and Makoto to Kotonoha murdering Sekai.

    Fate Stay Night in the Fate route/Anime. The Saber-focused Fate route has the Shirou and Saber come to love each other. With the war at an end we get a Bittersweet Ending with the romance entering Starcrossed Lovers territory. With the Big Bad and his Dragon defeated, the Holy Grail war ends, Saber returns to the past to finally allow her body to die and complete the myth of King Arthur.

    Percy Jackson and the Olympians initially subverts this in the ending and plays it straight into The Lost Hero. At the end of The Last Olympian, the Official Couple Percy and Annabeth are together complete with an Underwater Kiss. In The Lost Hero the major plot point is the disappearance of Percy.

    {{1984}}: Winston Smith and his love interest, Julia, take part in This And That, rebelling against the system. Then, with The Reveal, O'Brien is found to have turned them in and takes part in re-institutionalizing them into the system. They are reunited at the end, if briefly.

    Hamlet and Ophelia, though never blatantly stated, may as well have been. Trudging into Platonic Love, both are stricken by paranoia and madness through the course of the play. By the end, Ophelia has completely gone mad and drowned her self and Hamlet too dies in The Hero Dies ending.

    Romeo and Juliet, the Starcrossed Lovers: Initially, both are greatly in love with each other. However, as the plot moves past the romance, kin are killed: Mercutio for Romeo and Tybalt for Juliet. As both are torn by grief, they are at risk of being separated by the Family Rivalry. With both families ready to destroy each other by play's end, Romeo and Juliet both commit suicide in grief at having lost each other. Juliet was under the effect of a potion and appeared dead. Romeo proceeds to commit suicide and Juliet follows suit after him.

    Just about anything by Shakespeare will employ this trope.
  • June 30, 2012
    MorganWick
    ^There's no excuse for a Zero Context Example.
  • June 30, 2012
    DmM
    Yeah, more context needed please. I'd say Othello is one of Shakespeare's more extreme examples.
  • June 30, 2012
    falver
    Sometimes there just isn't the time to write adequate examples at the drop of a hat.

    Anyways, I honestly don't remember enough about Othello to write a proper entry on it.
  • June 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^^^^ Mercutio isn't Romeo's kin, just a good friend. Actually, the aforementioned person is kin to the Prince.
  • June 30, 2012
    Dawnwing
    Hopefully I understood the trope right:

    • Vicky Holmes, the Erin Hunter author who writes the storylines and makes the major decisions, often jokes that she likes doomed romance. And apparently this is true:
      • Graystripe and Silverstream are from different Clans, and it's very difficult to meet and even see each other, since their relationship is forbidden by Clan law. They're thrilled when Silverstream's expecting kits, but then she suffers Death By Childbirth.
      • Oakheart and Bluestar were also from different Clans. Bluestar became pregnant with his kits, and he offered to join ThunderClan to be with her. However, she stood a good chance of becoming deputy - she wouldn't be eligible for the position with kits - and she felt it was her duty to become deputy since she felt the only other cat being considered for the position would lead the Clan to disaster. Though she wished it could be otherwise, she ended the relationship, and after her kits were born, she gave them to Oakheart to raise in RiverClan.
      • Perhaps part of the reason that so many of these Official Couples are doomed is because they're forbidden. Leafpool and Crowfeather's relationship was forbidden in two ways - they're in different Clans, and she's a medicine cat, forbidden to take any mate. They ran off together for a while, but when disaster struck her Clan she realized that they needed her more than he did. She secretly had his kits a short time later. He took a mate in his own Clan, though the authors have described that as a "marriage of convenience", and they seem to argue every time they see each other afterward - and he refuses to acknowledge Hollyleaf, Lionblaze, and Jayfeather as his kits. Despite this, they still have some feelings for each other deep down, even though they never get back together.
      • In a rare non-forbidden example, Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight. They became best friends after going on a long journey together, even though initially they were always irritated by each other. Their relationship was tested when he began to follow his evil father, and associate with his half brother, who made no secret of his dream to rule all the Clans, and there was a bit of a Love Triangle when Ashfur showed interest in her as well. Their relationship was eventually mended, and StarClan sent a vision of the two as mates, walking into the sky with stars trailing behind their paws in a single path - their destiny intertwined. Everything seemed fine - they had kits. Then it was revealed that they weren't actually her kits; she'd been covering for her sister Leafpool, who, as a medicine cat, was forbidden to take a mate. They barely spoke to each other for at least two years, until Brambleclaw became leader and chose her as his deputy, admitting that she'd always done what she thought was right. The authors have said their relationship probably won't get back to where it was, but he's forgiven her to an extent.
  • July 1, 2012
    DmM
    Thanks for the examples! @ Dawnwing: you've picked up on quite an important point there: in 'traditional' narratives (ie, myths, folktales, etc) and in anything that is based on or models itself after such stories, the best way to inflict Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome on (and extract the maximum amount of drama from) your characters is to make their relationship taboo. Do we think this should go in the description?
  • July 8, 2012
    DmM
  • July 12, 2012
    LOAD
    Would Batman/Catwoman count?
  • July 12, 2012
    DmM
    Could do... can you elaborate? I don't know much about bar that it's on-again off-again and that Catwoman can't decide who's side she's on...
  • July 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the film Hancock Hancock and his one true love are destined to be apart forever, because if they're together much their powers leave them and they eventually die. This has happend to their entire race; only Hancock & she are still alive.
  • July 13, 2012
    DmM
    thanks!
  • July 13, 2012
    Kiereth
    Goku dies several times over the course of Dragon Ball Z, even though he has a wife and kids. El Goonish Shive's Spotlight Stealing Squad, Ellen and Nanase, go through a story arc in which Ellen is nearly killed.
  • July 14, 2012
    Achitha
    Um do Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon count? After they're reincarnated, he almost dies, she has to fight against him when he's evil and brainwashed, he's taken away from her many times... But they are (were? will be?) always together.
  • July 15, 2012
    DmM
    Thanks!
  • July 21, 2012
    DmM
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=k64459f19nn5sr78rxs2khkt&trope=OfficialCoupleOrdealSyndrome