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Break His Heart to Save Him
"You're a great actress, Satine. Hurt him. Hurt him to save him."
Harold Zidler, Moulin Rouge!

So, you've got someone you deeply care about, and who cares just as much about you. However, you know the two of you cannot stay together: being near you, or just the fact that he loves you is putting him at risk. You tried telling him, "It's Not You, It's My Enemies", but it didn't work — he knows he'll be in danger, and he's okay with that.

But you're not. So, you lie to him. You pretend to be mean, callous, and completely disrespectful of his feelings. You say you never loved him. You do everything you can to make him hate you, because you know that's the only way he'll stay away from you and, in turn, from danger: you have to break his heart to save him.

The human version of Shoo the Dog, quite possibly the most extreme manifestation of I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy; this is when a character does ostensibly hurtful things to their beloved because they know it's the only way to protect them from some sort of even greater harm. Cruel to Be Kind is the supertrope. See also, Break Up to Make Up. Can lead to a character regretting taking an action that they now believe Was Too Hard on Him. Note that when this trope is done poorly, it will often collide with the Idiot Ball if there's an obvious solution to the problem that does not require such a drastic step or your deprivation of key information is actually going to put that person in greater danger than being honest would have. In particular, it's likely to backfire spectacularly when the pain of the breakup just drives the other person to do exactly the thing you needed them not to do (and especially if you skipped the "It's Not You, It's My Enemies" step).

Unsurprisingly, while it usually works temporarily, in many cases, it doesn't hold up for very long.

Compare Inspirational Insult.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Code Geass: Lelouch does this a couple of times to Kallen in R2. In the first instance, he pretends that he was merely using Kallen as a pawn to drive her away, when in reality he was trying to save her from being killed by the rebelling Black Knights. He betrays his intentions with a soft, barely audible, "Live on, Kallen." In the second instance, when Kallen confronts the newly-crowned Emperor Lelouch about his parting sentence and kisses him, he feigns a lack of emotion to again drive her away and make sure that when he dies as part of his planned Zero Requiem, Kallen will not die with him.
    • Ironically she caught on as she saw the Requiem in action, but by that point there was nothing she could do except watch and let it unfold.
    • C. C. abandoned Mao with this in mind when she felt he was becoming too obsessed with her. It ended up backfiring big time, when Mao went insane due to his Geass incontinence.
  • Miaka tries doing this to Tamahome in Fushigi Yuugi because, as she found out, as the priestess of Suzaku she cannot be involved with her bodyguard. Later on, Tamahome in turns tries this on Miaka when he finds out that she will never be allowed to stay in the book, even if she wishes it to Suzaku.
  • Haou Airen: Once Kurumi's Stockholm Syndrome sets in, Hakuron tries this technique on her a lot because he realizes that his enemies will do horrible things to her if he appears to care for her. He even goes so far as to make her be Fuuron's mistress instead of his own. It doesn't work very well.
  • In the shoujo manga The One, the male lead seems to attempt rape on the female lead, who's explicitly told him that she has a crush on him, in order to protect her from being followed and perhaps harmed, either physically or in terms of her career as a model being ruined, by the minions of a very powerful person who is out to get his brother and him, by misleading the stalkers into thinking that he has no feelings at all for the female lead. Yes, it's convoluted.
  • Ace attempts to do this for Luffy in One Piece as Luffy plunges headfirst into the battle at Marineford and is attacked on all sides by the Seven Warlords of the Sea and Marine officers in an attempt to rescue Ace from his execution. Ace shouts for Luffy to go away, stating that they have their own crews and Luffy is under no obligation to rescue him. He even states that it would be "humiliating" to be saved by a "weakling" like Luffy, all the while silently begging for Luffy not to involve himself in Ace's mistake. Luffy of course just ignores this and shouts that he's Ace's little brother and promises to save Ace even if it killed him. Awww.
    • There are earlier instances of this before that, such as when Nami had returned to Arlong Park, trying to act coldly to the then forming Straw Hats in order to keep them from Arlong's wrath. (Going as far as pretending to stab Usopp in front of Arlong). It doesn't work of course and in fact, against all odds, they end up beating Arlong and his crew.
    • In Chopper's flashback, his father figure Hiriluk does this to spare Chopper from seeing him slowly die from an incurable disease. Chopper later follows Hiruluk and learns the truth, but his attempt to save him only hastens his death.
    • And later in the series during Robin's flashback, her mother Olvia tries to do this to spare her from the World Government, but she can't deny Robin's pleas to her and breaks down. In that same arc, Robin does this herself to the Straw Hats to protect them from the World Government. They respond by declaring war on the World Government, showing that they didn't care about what she had done, and that they were willing to do anything to get her back, because they loved her.
  • In Sailor Moon R, when Mamoru starts to have horrifying images about the future where Usagi is in grave danger if they stay together, so he decides to break up with her to protect her. Usagi doesn't take it so well at first since Mamoru refuses to give her at least an explanation as to why they shouldn't stay together, and Mamoru can barely keep up the facade of not liking her since he can still assist her and the other Senshi in fights against Droids. Not shockingly considering the themes of this show, it doesn't stick when Usagi eventually figures it all out and Mamoru finally can't keep up the charade anymore. The real kicker? The visions were actually being sent by his future self, who set up the scenario to ensure the two had a love that was strong enough to withstand the trials ahead.
    • A much lighter version is done in the manga, when Mamoru gets sick. While he isn't cruel, he still rebuffs her attempts to comfort him and bring him food and medicine, repeatedly driving her away and causing her to feel hurt and lonely. The real reason he keeps doing it is because he knows that there's something unnatural about his disease, and he's afraid that she'll catch it if she goes near him. It turns out that he's right on both counts. The disease is basically caused by an evil power and Usagi does eventually catch it, but doesn't care because she'd rather stay close to him.
  • In a particularly extreme example, Chikane's rape of Himeko in Kannazuki no Miko.
  • Ai no Kusabi. Guy has just "saved" Riki by kidnapping him back from Iason whom had been keeping Riki as a Sex Slave. He now wants Riki to confess his true feelings about him. Instead Riki tells Guy they can't ever be together again because of Iason's Pet Ring on him to deter Guy away since Iason had threatened to Brainwash Guy beforehand. Guy completely misunderstands and makes matters even worse...
  • Oniisama e...: While Kaoru isn't a jerk to begin with, she does this to Takehiko after she shows him her scars from her mastectomy as a result of breast cancer because she doesn't want him to suffer for her illness. They make it up years later and they eventually got married (In the manga, she dies from her illness a few years later and in the anime, they had a child.)
  • This is what Sakura from Naruto truly meant when she gave the infamous false Love Confession to Naruto, hoping that he wouldn't keep hurting himself for her and Sasuke. It really didn't work how she wanted it to.
  • In The World God Only Knows, Keima was forced to resort to this during his date with Chihiro, when he realizes that she does not contain one of the Jupiter Sisters. The fact that he was not used to generic character types like her, and that he needs to protect his previous "capture targets" from a looming threat, made him push through with this trope in the worst possible way.
  • A particularly weird example happens in a filler arc of Naru Taru. A boy who's in a coma but can still use his Dragon uses it to impersonate a friend and tell his young aunt that neither of them ever really liked her. His reasoning is that it'll help her overcome her incestuous crush on him and find new friends as well as soften the blow when he fakes his death to go into the sea with his Dragon and become one of the Virgins.

    Comic Books 
  • This was common in Silver Age Superman and Batman comics, usually to explain plot twists that would otherwise make the characters out to be total jerks.
    • In "The Batman Plays a Lone Hand", Bruce tells Dick that he's becoming too much of a bother and he cannot remain Robin any longer. At the story's conclusion, he confesses that it was all a trick to protect him. A gangster named The Thumb warned Bats to keep his nose out of his business or his gang would shoot Robin on sight. To keep his young sidekick safe and catch the crooks, he momentarily tried to put him out of action.
  • The Mall Rats in the Gold Digger miniseries Throne of Shadows. Lydia McKracken sends away her friends Moisha Rich and Romeo Ellis by insulting them. She knows that as Gothwrain's heir she's the target of every criminal overlord on the planet, and that her friends are as doomed as she is if they stay with her.
  • When Raven turned down Beast Boy, he asked if she was doing this. She denied it. He... took it well.
  • An odd variation from John Byrne's run on the Fantastic Four; when Sue Richards was being mind-controlled by Psycho-Man into becoming the murderous Malice, Reed was able to free her from Psycho-Man's control by berating her (and even slapping her across the face) in order to make her hate him, however briefly.
  • In 52 Renee Montoya has gone to an ex-girlfriend, Katherine "Kate" Kane, for information on an abandoned property that her family might own. When Kate reveals that her family does own the property, and gives Renee the name of its last occupant, she demands to know what this is about and why Renee needs this information, explaining that Renee at least owes her an explanation. Renee, however, explains that this situation has nothing to do with her and she does not owe Kate anything. Kate is visibly crushed, but Renee's narration reveals that, if The Question's theories are correct and Intergang is behind everything, it is not just themselves who are in trouble, but all their friends and loved ones as well. Renee does not want to drag Kate into this. However, unknown to Renee, Kate has her interests in the game.
  • In the Ninja High School: Shidoshi series, Tetsuo goes against his grandfather in hopes of becoming the clan leader and getting out of an arranged marriage so he can marry his true sweetheart, Nanashi. However his grandfather is too strong and, realizing that he'll kill Nanashi if he continues to defy him, Tetsuo puts on a jerkass performance in order to drive Nanashi away and keep her safe.
  • In Runaways, Chase tells Gertrude that sometimes it's necessary to lie to someone a person loves, in order to protect them. She keeps this in mind later, when Chase is in danger of being sacrificed by the past self of Geoffrey Wilder. She pretends to hate Chase for kissing Nico, and tells Wilder exactly how much of a scumbag she thinks Chase is. When she's dying from a knife wound, she is able to tell Chase that she still loved him and lied about him being a bad person.

    Fan Works 
  • In Volume IV of The Private Diary Of Elizabeth Quatermain, Elizabeth is blackmailed into marrying the villain, Ben Everett. If she didn't go through with it and put on the happy bride act, he would have her surrogate brother Tom killed and have Skinner, who loves her but Cannot Spit It Out, framed for it. Unfortunately for the villain, the rest of Elizabeth's True Companions figure out what's up.
  • In Fever Dreams Light attempts to do this with Misa (not because he cares for her but because Rem is making him protect her and then Misa says something incriminating and now Light has to create a distraction for the investigators) Hilarity Ensues:
    Light: Misa, I admit I've been having sex with Ryuzaki, but it's only because he's so much better looking than you.
    Misa: What!
    Light: Well, to begin with you're too skinny. You should put on some weight. Also, you shouldn't dye your hair. And I hate the gothic lolita style. You should wear regular clothing, like Ryuzaki does. There's nothing wrong with a t-shirt and jeans.
    Misa: But he's a guy! That's disgusting. And he looks horrible. I don't think he even brushes his hair… It can't be. Why would you do this? Light, how do I stop you from seeing him? Is he blackmailing you?
    Light: Misa, I'm not breaking up with you. I can't resist Ryuzaki because I have very exact sexual requirements that he meets, but there is no need for us to stop dating because of this.
    Misa: You'll leave him?
    Light: No, Misa. I told you I can't resist him. The real reason I couldn't leave headquarters is because he always wants to have sex and I give in every time. We're almost constantly doing it. It started before I ever met you. We had sex while we were going to college together. That first night I met you, when you came to my home, and I kissed you, I was thinking about fucking him while we kissed.
    Misa: Light! Light!
    Light: But we don't need to break up, Misa. Let me talk to him. We've had threesomes before, so maybe he'd be willing to let you join in, if I phrased it just right. However, you definitely have to gain some weight first. You don't turn me on at all the way you are now.
    Misa: Threesomes! Threesomes!
    Rem: Light, you're tormenting her!
    Light: Yes, Misa. Matsuda has joined us quite a number of times, and a few other people as well on rare occasions. In fact, I think this would work best if you seduced Matsuda, and then I introduced the idea to Ryuzaki. Yes, why don't you gain a little weight, and seduce Matsuda, and then after that I'm sure Ryuzaki won't object to you joining us. We'll all become a nice stable foursome. You want me to be happy, don't you, Misa? This will make me very happy, and you'll be able to have sex with me that way.
    Rem: Light Yagami, you're giving Ryuk more time, aren't you? This is... necessary.
    Light: Misa, don't worry. Soon everything will be good. Just seduce Matsuda for me, okay? And, one more thing I just thought of. I've never been in anything bigger than a foursome. I'd really like it if you could seduce one of the girls from your modeling agency and bring her along too. Any of them would work. They're all more attractive than you are.
  • In Mass Effect's Weightless, Shepard decided to push Garrus away because she thought if she let him love her, she would lose him to death. Her fear of ruining his life, combining with Nihlus and Kaidan's death beforehand also cemented this decision of hers.
  • In the Touhou Doujin Alice and Yuuka at Marisa's grave it's implied that the reason why Yuuka tells Alice that she killed Marisa out of jealousy, and subsequently almost rapes her was that she wanted to snap Alice out of her depression, even at the cost of being hated and remembered as a monster by Alice for the rest of her life. Whether this is true or not (or even if she actually killed Marisa out of jealousy and not by accident) is left ambiguous.
  • RWBY Reckoning has a unique variant: Yang is blackmailed into doing this to Darrel by Cardin, otherwise, he goes after Ruby and Darrel. It's clear she doesn't want to do it, but she doesn't want Ruby and Darrel hurt either. Thankfully, Cardin gets his just desserts.
  • Notably averted in the Beetlejuice story Worth of a Soul when Prince Vincent tells Beetlejuice that he should break up with Lydia since he's always getting her into trouble, not to mention almost getting her killed as an indirect consequence of his actions during a recent altercation. To put it simply, she's just too good for him, and if he really loves her he should let her go and allow her to move on to bigger and better things. Beetlejuice responds that he knows she's too good for him, and that's why he'll never stop pursuing her.
    "Look, I don't know the way you read it in those sappy romance books, kid... But someone's too good for you, and loves your ass anyway? You don't fucking let them go."

    Film - Animated 
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, King Candy convinces Ralph that allowing Vanellope to participate in the Sugar Rush races can put the game out of commission—and since Vanellope cannot leave the game, it will kill her. Ralph proceeds to destroy Vanellope's kart to prevent her from ever racing again, despite it being her dream for her entire existence. King Candy was ultimately shown to be a liar, though: not only had he reprogrammed the game to make himself the star player when she in fact was the original ruler, but having a glitch-teleport in a kart racer game makes her the most popular character in it.
  • In the third Shrek film, Shrek tells Artie that he was only pretending to like a loser like him, so he'll stomp off in a huff rather than be killed by Charming as one of the ogre's allies.

    Film - Life-Action 
  • The Trope Namer is Moulin Rouge!, when Zidler tells Satine she has to drive Christian away so that the Duke won't kill him out of jealousy.
  • In The Adjustment Bureau David Norris does this to Elise After hearing from Thompson that if he stays with her, she won't become a world famous dancer, so he leaves her without explanation in the hospital.
  • In Dangerous Liaisons, The Vicomte does this to Madame De'Tourvel, but not to protect her — he did it at the order of the Marquise.
  • In the Film of the Book Day Of The Dolphin, Dr. Terrell has taught several dolphins to speak English, and has come to love them as if they were his own children. At the end of the movie the evil government representatives are coming to take them away. He has to tell the dolphins that he doesn't love them any more to get them to leave him, so they can be safe. A real Tear Jerker moment.
  • Seen in Harry and the Hendersons when John Lithgow not only says mean things to their Sasquatch friend, but also punches him.
  • Will Ferrell's character does this to his love interest in Land of the Lost.
  • In A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More is in serious trouble with the King, and his friend the Duke of Norfolk is feeling the heat. More can't convince Norfolk to break off their friendship, so instead, he attacks him verbally until Norfolk actually lashes out. It pains More terribly to do this, but it works: his friend stays away from him after that and is spared the King's wrath.
  • Hartigan does this indirectly to Nancy at the end of That Yellow Bastard — he doesn't break her heart upfront, but lies to her and kills himself afterward. If he had stayed with her, Senator Roark would have most likely attacked Nancy to get revenge on him.
  • Harry Osborn forces Mary Jane to break up with Peter to save him in Spider-Man 3.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy's father makes Peter promise to break it off with Gwen as his Last Request. Peter does so, but Gwen quickly figures out that her father put him up to this. Peter later hints that he might not be able to keep the promise.
  • There was an interesting variation in Ever After. Danielle attempts to explain her true identity to Henry, but he doesn't really give her the chance. Later, his mother explains that "Nicole" is engaged to a Belgian, which is what Danielle's stepmother has told her, and he thinks that what she was really trying to tell him was goodbye.
  • Long Jone Silver claims he was trying to do this to save Jim in Treasure Planet when his crew start questioning his loyalty.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises Alfred reveals Rachael's true choice in The Dark Knight before her death in an effort to force Bruce to move on with his life without Batman. Alfred acknowledges this will likely earn him Bruce's hatred but that doesn't matter to him as there's a chance it could save his life.
  • In the theatrical cut of The Butterfly Effect, Evan finally decides that the best course of action is to go back to where he and Kayleigh first meet and be mean to her, so she never befriends him, moves away with her mother and avoids the sexual abuse by her father which ultimately leads to her suicide.
  • Johnny does this in Hotel Transylvania to Mavey, at the behest of her father.
  • At the end of Candy, Dan gives up on Candy because he knows that if they stay together, he's going to drag her back into addiction.
  • In Frozen, Elsa keeps as much physical and emotional distance from her little sister Anna as possible. She does this to avoid harming Anna with her ice powers, like she did accidentally when they were little. Unfortunately, Anna doesn't know this because her memories had to be altered to survive the initial curse. When Elsa runs away, Anna goes after her anyway, believing that Elsa won't hurt her. Three guesses as to what happens when Anna finally catches up to her...

    Literature 
  • Robin Hobb has a variation in her Farseer trilogy: it's not an active lie, but the protagonist decides not to reveal the fact that he is still alive.
  • Vanyel does it to Stefan in the Last Herald Mage series by Mercedes Lackey, believing (rightfully) that Stefan will be targeted by Vanyel's powerful Mage enemies. It doesn't work.
  • Richard and Kahlan from The Sword of Truth series when Kahlan tells him she doesn't love him in order to save his life by forcing him to leave with a priestess of the light, Verna. Later on, Richard breaks out of his depression when he does the same thing to his pet Gratch and realizes Kahlan was doing the whole thing for Richard's sake.
  • Edward attempts this in New Moon, because he feels that he's put Bella in too much danger. Bella responds by having a Heroic BSOD for four months.
    • Bella also does this to her father to some extent, shouting at him and basically calling him a loser in every way. She does it so she can justify her flight from the "evil" vampires and in order to protect him. To twist the knife further, she uses the same words her mother used when she left him.
  • Done by Ella to Charmont in Ella Enchanted so that Hattie and Mum Olga won't be able to take advantage of the marriage. Of course, once she breaks the curse she unbreaks his heart by proposing to him instead.
  • This trope shows up a number of times throughout J.R.Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Example: Rehvenge revealing his life as a coldblooded drug-dealer/pimp to his Love Interest Ehlena in order to drive her away so she wouldn't find out he's half sympath and, worse still, marked for torture and certain death. Thankfully she saw through the act eventually and helped to save him.
    • Another example occurs in Lover Enshrined wherein Qhuinn is basically marked for death after cutting open his cousin, Lash's, throat so he plans to go underground. On the way he's caught by his best friend Blay, who says he'll never abandon Qhuinn. Qhuinn resorts to outing his buddy and confronting Blay about watching him, making it sound as though he's disgusted by his friend. A Tear Jerker moment, to say the least. Like Rehv's ploy, this is thankfully seen through and at least partially resolved after awhile, leaving the two on friendly terms again, albeit Nothing Is the Same Anymore thanks to newfound UST.
  • In Mistborn, Elend does this with Vin, and then she promptly saves him from an assassination team
  • Sweet Valley High: Steven's girlfriend Tricia begins acting distant towards him. He concludes that she's seeing someone else and confronts her with this. When she doesn't deny it, he dumps her. Little did he know that she was dying of leukemia and of course, was pushing him away so as to spare him the pain of watching her suffer.
  • In the Wild Cards books, Tom Tudbury, The Great and Powerful Turtle's Secret Identity, had a girlfriend that he loved a lot. But she had a dormant form of the wild card virus, meaning that any children they had would get at best a one-in-ten shot at survival (since he, unbeknownst to her, had the virus). He knew that she really wanted kids, so he manufactured a big fight that led to them breaking up but remaining friends so that she could find happiness with someone else (even though it was killing him to do so).
  • Toyed with in The Truth-teller's Tale. In order to save Roelyn, both the twins say things they know will stay her father's hand, but break their friend's heart. Eleda, who cannot lie, says Roelyn will marry, not the man she loves, but the Prince. Adele, the secret keeper, reveals that she saw the love interest secretly wed the previous day. It works, and Roelyn's father frees his daughter... Only to reveal that Roelyn was the one wed to the love interest, and that the love interest was keeping his identity as prince a secret
  • In Dance of Death, D'Agosta, under Pendergast's advice, ends his blossoming relationship with Laura Hayward when he begins investigating Pendergast's brother Diogenes, in order to protect her from becoming a potential target. The kicker to that? As it turns out she personally isn't in any danger, as Diogenes is framing his brother for murder and is tricking her into arresting him, meaning he needs her alive.
  • A young adult series called Haunting With Louisa featured a modern girl named Dee who moves into an old inn with her after her mother died and discovered the inn was haunted by the ghost of a girl named Louisa who had died in the 1880s. Dee soon considers Louisa her best friend and does all she can to help her reunite with the spirits of her family. Louisa also thinks of Dee as a friend but is worried that it isn't healthy for Dee to spend all her time hanging out with a dead girl. Eventually, Louisa tells Dee that as a ghost, she wants to enjoy her special powers rather than be friends with a worthless mortal and disappears, hoping that this will force Dee to make some mortal friends and move on with her life. The plan seriously backfires when Dee decides that Louisa's disappearance means something horrible has happened to her, and Dee nearly gets herself killed trying to find her.
  • Lena tries to do this for Ethan in Beautiful Darkness.

    Live Action TV 

  • Arrested Development: Parodied in an episode with GOB driving away George Michael for similar reasons, and again in Rita's first appearance, where Michael utterly misinterprets her statement "I'll make you blue."
  • Angel: in the episode "Double or Nothing", Gunn is doomed to a fate that will destroy his relationship with Fred, so he dumps her as cruelly as he can. Fred later makes him apologize for handling the problem that way.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Angel does this, though interestingly enough he is more concerned about the long-term implications of their relationship, rather than the immediate danger they face on a daily basis.
    • Likewise, Giles in Season 6 (in a platonic love version of this trope) leaves Buffy to force her to become independent.
  • Being Human: In the third series finale, Mitchell insults George and tells him their friendship was simply emotional manipulation to try and convince George to kill him. George figures out what he's doing and tells him as much.
    • Later, Tom tries to do it to Allie, telling her that he actually hates her and thinks that she's annoying. Given that he all but breaks down crying while saying this, no one is fooled. Allie still leaves though, because she knows that he's trying to save her from being made a worse person by his influence.
  • In the third-to-last episode of Breaking Bad, the Wham Episode of the series, Walt does this with Skyler, pretending in his phone call to be a psychotic abuser who terrorised her into complicity with his crimes, so she would not get ostracised by the remaining family, and that the police and DEA would (hopefully) not treat her as harshly. He's playing it up hard, crying as he delivers the more evil lines, and you can see when she realises what he's doing.
  • Chinese Paladin: Ling'er, motivated by a mix of The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask and Leaving You to Find Myself, does this to Xiaoyao. He eventually gets the point and agrees to let her go.
  • Cold Case: Seen in the episode Sandhogs. The victim of the week was an avid union activist, but this had made him very unpopular. When his opponents began to make threats against his girlfriend, he abruptly told her he was going to reconcile with his wife and that their racial difference (he was white, she was black) would have doomed the relationship anyway. The woman spent DECADES believing that he had never loved her and was using her, taking comfort only in the existence of the son conceived during the affair until the detectives told her the real reason he had pushed her away.
  • Chuck: A non-romantic (unless you prefer it that way) version happens in the back story. Bryce Larkin, the title character's best friend during his university days, apparently betrayed Chuck and got him expelled from Stanford after framing him for cheating. Only later does he learn that Bryce did it so that he would not get recruited by the CIA (which was looking for exceptionally-talented students in the university) and have his innocence shattered.
  • Doctor Who: the Seventh Doctor does this with Ace in "The Curse of Fenric". He specifically needs to break her faith in him in order to save the world, so he convinces her that her life means nothing to him and he only travelled with her as part of a bigger plan.
    • The Fourth Doctor does this to Sarah in "The Ark in Space", when she is stuck in a pipe and panicking. He pretends to give her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, in order to make her angry enough to push her way out of the pipe.
    The Doctor: "Oh, Doctor." Is that all you can say for yourself? Stupid, foolish girl. We should never have relied on you. I knew you'd let us down. That's the trouble with girls like you. You think you're tough, but when you're really up against it, you've no guts at all. Hundreds of lives at stake and you lie there, blubbing.
    Sarah: You wait till I get out! I can manage. I don't need your help, thank you!
    The Doctor: Yes you do, yes you do. (Sarah is fully out) Splendid. You've done marvellously, Sarah. I'm very proud of you. I really am very proud of you.
    Sarah: Conned again. You're a brute!
    The Doctor: Oh, don't be ungrateful. I was only encouraging you. Come on.
    • The Ninth has a Shoo the Dog moment with Rose, faking an "eureka" moment so he can get her into the TARDIS and send her home while he stays to face a Dalek army, fully expecting to die.
    • The Eleventh Doctor does it to Amy Pond, for almost exactly the same reasons as the Seventh to Ace.
    I can't save you from this. There's nothing I can do to stop it… I've stolen your childhood and now I've led you by the hand to your death. But the worst thing is, I knew. I knew this would happen; this is what always happens. Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored… I'm not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And it's time we saw each other as we really are.
    • Amy tried doing this to Rory immediately prior to "Asylum Of the Daleks", booting him out of their home, moving forward with divorce proceedings and generally acting caustic and unfeeling toward him, in the mistaken belief that he would be happier without her; she knew he wanted to be a father, and due to injuries sustained during the events of "A Good Man Goes To War" she could not give him children.
      "I didn't kick you out, I gave you up."
  • Everwood: Colin attempts this with Amy in .
  • Farscape: (a staged version) Crichton blows Aeryn off and then asks Pilot to check the comm system, which will take them offline for a minute or so. He then explains that Scorpius is eavesdropping using the comms, and if they rekindle their relationship, Scorpius will use both Aeryn and the baby she's carrying as leverage. Aeryn dismisses him as paranoid until Scorpius is heard asking about the comms. They then continue what sounds like a breakup and end it by kissing. Unfortunately, the Scarrens kidnap Aeryn two episodes later, forcing Crichton to offer Scorpius wormhole tech in return for his assistance in rescuing her, making the whole thing completely pointless.
  • Game of Thrones: Tyrion does this with Shae. Doesn't work out so hot for him, either...
  • House of Cards (US): In 2x12, Posner makes Lisa go away to eliminate any threats towards her from a constantly opinion shifting Stamper.
  • LOST: Pierre Chang does this to his wife, because pretending to turn into a total asshole to drive her away from the island is the only way to persuade her to leave in time before everyone's lives become endangered by The Incident.
  • Merlin: (in a way) In 2x09, Freya tries to leave Camelot without telling Merlin so that he won´t leave the good life he has there, and to prevent him from finding out she´s a Bastet.
  • NCIS: DiNozzo wooed Jeanne Benoit as part of a black ops plan to get at her arms-dealer father. After his cover was blown and Jeanne confronted him, he claimed that the relationship was entirely fake... even though he had really fallen in love with her.
  • Once Upon a Time: Snow White has to do this to Prince Charming so he will continue with the Arranged Marriage to prevent his father from killing him.
    • Grumpy also does this to his fairy girlfriend Nova so that she can have a better future.
  • Roswell: Liz does this to Max in "End of the World" after being asked to by time-traveling future Max.
  • Sherlock: In "The Reichenbach Fall", Sherlock tells John that his entire life was a lie, that he made up Moriarty to look clever, that he researched John before their meeting to impress him, before faking his suicide so that John, Mrs Hudson and Lestrade won't get shot by snipers. John doesn't believe a word of it, of course.
    • Sherlock's earlier attempt to do this was, sadly, a lot more successful. John receives a phone-call telling him that Mrs. Hudson has been shot. Sherlock refuses to go with him to see her and acts as if he doesn't care about her when previous events have clearly shown otherwise. Throughout the episode, people have been slowly turning against Sherlock, all except John who has been fighting his corner all the way until this moment which causes him to snap and call Sherlock a 'machine' before abandoning him as well. It turns out Mrs Hudson was fine all along and the whole thing was a ruse set-up by Sherlock to get John to leave him so he could face Moriarty alone.
  • Smallville: In Season 5, Clark does this to Lana.
  • 30 Rock: Parodied, when Jack does this to Frank to prevent him from becoming a lawyer (and subsequently killed by the Mafia). Notable for being a direct reference to Harry and the Hendersons.
  • Twilight Zone: In the original episode "The Trouble With Templeton", the title character's obsession with his dead wife propels him back to a speakeasy in the 1920's when they were first in love. However, her shrewish, callous treatment of him there forces him to flee back to his present time. After he's gone back, his wife drops the act and breaks down in tears; it was all to make him let go of his obsession with her memory and continue to live his life. He figures it out, too, when he finds her acting script in his hand, back in the present day.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Stefan occasionally does this to Elena throughout the series. Stefan breaks up with Elena or turns his back on her in order to protect Elena. This is especially evident in season three when Stefan leaves Mystic Falls with Klaus and becomes a Ripper in order to protect Elena and the rest of the town. Elena also did this with Stefan in season two by breaking up with Stefan in order to protect Stefan and her family and friends from Katherine Pierce.
  • Wonderfalls: Jaye basically treats Eric like crap and breaks up with him because the animals told her to and she thinks there will be grave consequences if she doesn't.

    Music 
  • Hate Me by Blue October, is from the viewpoint of an alcoholic/drug addict singing to his mother.
    An ounce of peace is all I want for you, will you never call again?
    ...
    So I'll drive so fucking far away that I never cross your mind.
    And do whatever it takes in your heart to leave me behind.
    Hate me today. Hate me tomorrow.
    Hate me so you can finally see what's good for you.
  • "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" by Marvin Gaye (later covered by Paul Young) plays with this trope; the song is about a guy essentially telling a girl that he's a philandering jerk and that the best thing she can do is just walk away from him and forget all about him. However, where Gaye's version is more upbeat in tempo and style, as if the guy's tone is casually along the lines of "hey, baby, that's just the way I roll", Young's version is a lot more melancholy, as if the guy has actually fallen deeply in love with the girl but is trying to push her away because he ultimately knows he's no good for her.
  • "The Hardest Thing" is a 98 Degrees song about a guy who has to break up with a girl because he's already made a commitment to another girl.

    Theatre 
  • In La Bohème by Puccini, Rodolfo leaves a distraught Mimì, ostensibly because she flirts with other men and he is jealous, but the true reason is that Mimì is suffering from lung disease and Rodolfo is too poor to afford medication or even firewood, so he sets her free hoping that she will fall into more capable hands.

    Video Games 
  • Viconia tries this in Baldur's Gate II. (several times, at least once citing her enemies as an excuse, the other times it seems to just be her Tsundere tendencies)
  • A meek variation can happen in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer. If you romanced Gann, were unable to completely get rid of the curse and chose to remain in the City of Justice for all eternity as a vessel for the Spirit Eater, Gann chooses to stay with you. You can try to convince him not to by lying that you don't want him there, but when he realizes you're trying to deceive him for his own good he only becomes even more determined to stay with you.
  • Done rather well in the end of Metal Gear Solid 4. Rose told Raiden that their child had died before birth and pretended to have married Roy Campbell, so the Patriots could not use her and the child as leverage against him. Being somewhat unstable before, he didn't take it well at all, but he's very quick to forgive her when she explains her motives and he meets his son for the first time.
    • Done again in Ground Zeroes, where Paz acts cold and distant and then repeatedly insults Chico while he is being forced to torture her, so as to make Skull Face think that she hates Chico and he is therefore of no use in trying to make her talk. She only reveals the truth to Chico in a recording she left him while he slept, telling him that she meant none of it and was actually really happy that he had come to rescue her; that he has given her hope of survival and that she is grateful to him. One day before her death.
  • Morrigan of Dragon Age: Origins tries to drive away a Warden who completes her romance path, partly out of fear of such unfamiliar feelings and partly because a real relationship complicates her own plans. At one point she flat out begs him to say he doesn't love her.
  • You have the choice to do this to your personal ghoul, Heather, in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. She is head-over-heels for you after you use your blood to save her life, and anytime after she moves in with you, you have the opportunity to either keep her around for money and blood, or kick her out. She'll tearfully cry and beg to stay if you go for the latter option, but it's the only way to free her from a life of servitude. If you keep her until the end, then she'll eventually be killed by the Sabbat, making this trope very true in a meta sense.

    Webcomics 
  • In Fans!, when the rare terminal disease that she had lived with for much of her life was progressing to its final stage, Rikk's wife Alisin "seduced" (ahem) Meighan and bragged about it to Rikk, hoping that he wouldn't waste any time mourning her. This plan went wrong on every level: Rikk was devastated and realized what she was doing, and then Alisin was cured just in the nick of time.
    Rikk: Sorry, Ally. I still love you. You can't stop me.
  • In Shortpacked!, Mike finally gives into Amber's request for a marriage proposal by arranging for her mom to sleep with their recovering sex addict friend, then edit a tape of it into a proposal. He was hoping that she would finally realize what a Jerk Ass he is and leave him. Didn't work.
  • In College Roomies from Hell!!!, Margaret spent several years pulling this maneuver on Dave. It's not him, it's her enemy... who happens to be THE Enemy. But unlike Ally in Fans, she did it perfectly, convincing not just Dave but most of the readership that she didn't love him — to the point that when Roger figured out her real motives and told Dave, the forum was less inclined to believe him than to be mad at him for getting Dave's hopes up again. Unfortunately, Margaret's efforts to spare Dave included pushing him into Blue's arms... so when the truth came out, it was too late.
  • In MYth: A Promise we discover that Hades willingly made Zeus hate him forever and destroyed the bond he had with his precious little brother to make him stronger and avoid that Zeus offered him the crown everybody knew it belonged to Zeus.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Animated Hulk, Bruce was dying from poison and his only chance to survive was to become angry enough to hulk out. Because fighting with Doctor Samson and Ghost Rider wasn't enough, Rick and Betty, the two closest people in Hulk's life, were forced to yell at him that they hate him, he destroyed their lives and he should have never been born. It worked. And hurt Hulk, hard. Ghost Rider even invokes the trope by name.
    Ghost Rider: Break his heart in order to save him. I don't know if I would be able to do such a thing.
  • In Gargoyles, Macbeth does this to Gruoch, who has been betrothed to somebody else:
    Macbeth: Frankly, you're not worth the effort.
  • You could consider Robin's assault on the other Titans in Teen Titans this. Considering Slade had a way to kill them all with a push of a button, his only viable response was to do as Slade asked for their sake...including not holding back against them when he commits crimes for Slade.
  • In Danny Phantom, Sam does this to Danny after he is brainwashed by Ember into being so in love with her he can't think of doing anything else, including save them. She kisses Dash (something she found disgusting) in front of Danny to finally snap him out of it. Luckily he could take out his rage on Ember.

The Big GuyUnisex TropesBring Him to Me
Better to Die than Be KilledPragmatism TropesBribing Your Way to Victory
Second Act Break UpRomance ArcBreak Up Demand
    A Reluctant IndexDon't Make Me Destroy You
All-Loving HeroSelflessness TropesCharacter Alignment
Boy Meets GhoulLove TropesBreak-Up Bonfire

alternative title(s): Break Her Heart To Save Her
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