Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them
You can't live with 'em; you can't live without 'em.
There's something irresistable-ish about 'em.
A development often used in buddy
films and romantic
comedy. One person, often a loner-type, is paired off with someone else against his/her will.
He can't stand the person/situation and wishes for his old routine. When he gets his old routine back, he suddenly realizes he misses that person a lot and does everything in his power to get her back. Usually, happens when a bickering pair become Vitriolic Best Buds
, or generate an Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other
situation, whether it's a fraternal sort of love among buddies, or romantic love.
Sometimes subverted to "Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em".
See also Odd Couple
Compare We Want Our Jerk Back
(when the resident Deadpan Snarker
's presence is sorely missed), Belligerent Sexual Tension
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Anime and Manga
- This is pretty much a staple of Rumiko Takahashi's works.
- Urusei Yatsura: Ataru constantly chases all girls other than Lum. Yet whenever Lum disappears from his life, he'll instantly drop his perverted maneuvers and go to great lengths to get her back. That doesn't stop him from immediately resuming his lecherous ways the moment she's safely back.
- Ranma ½ has Ranma and Akane. Once he had disappeared she was depressed and cried when she thought nobody was looking. When Ranma thought Akane was dead after touching one of the Saffron's devices, he was completely apathetic and emotionless.
- InuYasha: Pretty much the same example as the above for InuYasha and Kagome. All they ever do is fight, mostly leading to Kagome storming off after a massive sit. However, anytime they're seperated for too long, all Kagome can think about is InuYasha, while InuYasha will be unbearable to be around until Kagome's back. And in any fight, they will put themselves in any kind of danger to save the other (which more than half the fight is of InuYasha taking all those moutain busters to keep everyone else safe).
- Full Metal Panic!. Kaname Chidori spends every waking moment berating Sousuke for whatever screw-up he made. The second he is redeployed and out of her life for good, she suffers bouts of depression, paranoia, and a horrible sense of insecurity. Of course, she was being marked for death at the time, which makes this a literal case of "Can't live without him."
- Every third waking moment. She spends a similar mount of time trying to prevent and/or renumerate his messups. The remaining time is spent dreading what will happen next.
- She was also pretty moody when Sousuke was called away for a long mission to Helmajistan ("The Wind Blows at Home, Part 1-3"), even sitting outside his apartment until he returned.
- Mazinger Z: For all what argue when they are together -and claim they don't need each other-, Kouji and Sayaka tend to lose it when they are apart.
- Midori Days. Midori becomes Seiji's right hand and remains this way for the majority of the series. Eventually in the manga, however, Seiji does become quite capable of living with Midori and acknowledges this, although she ends up disappearing anyway.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion. So very very true with Shinji and Asuka. Up to the point that Shinji ends the world when he discovers' Unit 02, and probably Asuka's half-eaten corpses as he just arrived to try and save her. The series ends with Shinji and Asuka looking out over a devastated earth, as the last two people in existence. Or maybe the first two.
- Word of God said she returned together with him because -despite of how much they had hurt each other- he did not want living in a world with no Asuka.
- Rozen Maiden. The protagonist just wants to be left alone, and he hates little kids. Before you can blink, he's got a small army of childlike, living dolls hanging out in his room, one of whom enjoys ordering him around like a servant, while the rest tend to merely be noisy with a penchant for wanton property damage. Of course, in the end, when they all leave, it gets rather lonely all of a sudden... Fortunately, they're only gone for 'bout half an hour.
- Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. This trope occurs despite the fact that the titular character spends most of her time "accidentally" killing the male lead and then reversing the process, (and that's "accidentally" with a large helping of sadistic glee).
- In The Wallflower manga, womanizer Ranmaru tries to get out of a date with a sweet, timid girl, as he prefers assertive women. Of course, after he succeeds, he realizes that he actually likes her.
- The morning after Morinaga takes advantage of a doped-up Souichi in The Tyrant Falls in Love, the extremely homophobic Souichi attempts to murder Morinaga, and yells that he doesn't want to see his face again. When Morinaga takes his declaration to heart and disappears from his home and university for weeks, Souichi predictably falls apart. Of course, with his tsunderish personality, his first action upon seeing Morinaga back is to punch him hard and scream at him for hiding himself for so long.
- Kyon from the Haruhi Suzumiya series constantly, constantly complains, rants and grumps about Haruhi and the SOS Brigade. In the 4th novel of the series, he is finally freed from Haruhi and the SOS Brigade, only to realize that he actually misses Haruhi. Or just the "weird events", who knows... After a Red Pill, Blue Pill decision, he returns.
- He never stops his cynical snarking, but he seems to see Haruhi in a different light (and appreciates her good deeds). He also does stand to his decision, repeatedly saying that he "wanted to be here", creating a True Companions-like relationship.
- Sakura's relationship with Naruto.
- Eva from Monster spends a good bit of time plotting to make Tenma's life a living hell (getting him imprisoned and such), although every now and again she'll remember that she loves him and beg him to come back to her. She broke up with him, incidentally.
- In the Jdrama, Nobuta Wo Produce, Shuji says he hates Akira, but the two are actually very good friends. Maybe too good...?
- In Zettai Heiwa Daisakusen: Euda is stuck in an awkward love-hate relationship with her 'fiance', Johanne, although she herself ain't fully aware of her feelings...
- In XXX Holic, Watanuki is shown to normally get extremely frustrated with Yuuko, and keeps yelling that he can't stand the way she is. And then... she disappears, and he completely breaks down, tears and all, revealing exactly how important Yuko had become to him. This results in him getting extremely depressed, and making a pact to wait for her in the shop forever, never aging, and never being able to leave, until she comes back to him. He even takes on some her traits like smoking from her pipe, and dressing in her extravagant clothes, as if he's trying to cling onto whatever he's got left of her. Let's just say that Doumeki is not pleased to hear this...
- Natsu and Gray, from Fairy Tail. They pretty much complain and fight but do admit to themselves they respect the other. Heck in the Galua Island arc when Gray twice tries to use Ice Shell, a spell that will turn the user into ice to trap their opponents. Natsu stops him both times spelling out that he doesn't want Gray to die.
- Yuuri and Wolfram in Kyo Kara Maoh. Yuuri spends the first two seasons trying to back out in an engagement that he accidentally caused in the second episode when Yuuri first enters the other word. Both of them hate the idea at first but Wolfram accepts his role as he constantly tries to get Yuuri to accept his as his husband. Yuuri constantly plots breaking the marriage on multiple occasions but always fails because Yuuri simply doesn't understand the demon world. However, the small things that piss Yuuri off at the beginning of the series, which range from Wolfram calling him "Wimp" (this was originally his Berserk Button at the beginning when the two argued each other) and Wolfram going everywhere declaring himself the spouse of Yuuri and accusing him of Yuuri cheating on him with every girl he meets. However, as the series goes on, the small things that annoyed Yuuri at the beginning is met with indifference as he slowly gives up on trying to break up the engagement. However, once season 3 hits and Wolfram calls the engagement off, this actually shocks Yuuri to the point where he works to get Wolfram back and then finally declares that he's not allowed to break it off. This is a sign that Yuuri is still confused with his feelings for Wolfram but won't let him design things on his own. Shortly after though, they fall right back into the roll.
- In Wild Rose, Kiri and Mikhail don't get along initially and like to anger the other. Since Kiri literally can't live without Mikhail because he otherwise loses his sanity around humans, they are stuck together. Over time they both come to appreciate each other in spite of their differences and in the end Mikhail hesitantly admits "You are necessary to me" in response to Kiri's Love Confession.
- This sometimes comes up in Dragon Ball with Bulma and Vegeta. When they do talk to each other on screen all they'll do is argue. However, while Vegeta can be unbearable to be around sometimes. They always reconcile pretty quickly.
- In Macross / Robotech, Lisa Hayes despises cadet pilot Rick Hunter, and he returns her contempt...yet when she thinks for a moment he was killed in a Veritech hit, she panics, and later when she's threatened by a Zentraedi, Rick berserks. When Cadet Hunter becomes Lt. Hunter and then begins to rise up the ranks, the tension gets worse because they're always encountering each other...and discovering to their dismay that they work well together. Pretty much everybody that knew them saw what was happening before they did, though.
- Tomoe and Nanami from Kamisama Kiss. Tomoe is a Kitsune that has been forced to serve Nanami against his will and is typically very rude and condescending towards her. Nanami thinks he's a Jerk Ass in return. However, should anything happen to Nanami he freaks and should another man take interest in her watch out. Meanwhile, Nanami hasn't bothered to hide the fact that she has developed feelings for Tomoe.
- Sangatsu no Lion has a downplayed variant of this. Due to his past, Rei's very persistent in living independently. He's also reluctant to get close to the Kawamoto family, despite their willingness to welcome him into their home, and will sometimes abstain from visiting when he has the choice. However, when he returns to his apartment after staying in their house and living with them for several days due to sickness, he's become much more aware of how empty and quiet his own place is.
Rei: "That house is like a kotatsu. When you go inside, it's so warm it feels like you're about to melt...But when you leave, you'll be reminded that your everyday life that felt fine before is freezing cold."
- Light Yagami of Death Note seems to have this relationship with L to some degree. He spends much of their time together monologuing about how much he hates L and how many of L's strange quirks drive him crazy, until he actually manages to kill L. After that... Light doesn't hate him anywhere near so much, and even seems to miss him to some degree.
- Not only that, but L is the person Light sees standing by his side as he's dying.
- Mahiro from Haiyore! Nyarko-san gets easily annoyed by how clingy and off-the-wall his alien Pretty Freeloaders Nyarko, Cuuko, and Hasta are, but in the finales of both TV series he gets a harsh reminder of what life would be without them. In the first season finale, he's put in a "Last Man on Earth" situation and realizes how lonely he is; in the second, the trio is about to be reassigned away from Earth, and hearing a heartbroken Nyarko say "Does this mean I have to leave Mahiro forever?" makes him realize that he's about to lose them for good. After the latter situation is resolved, Mahiro remarks "I get the feeling you three will always find a way to stick around me," but it's obvious he views that as a good thing.
- Jeremy and Ian from A Cruel God Reigns. Jeremy tells Ian that he needs to see him because Ian is the only one to know that he is a murderer and why he did it. To the point that when they do not see each other Jeremy just about loses it. Additionally, Ian, though knowing their relationship is not a healthy one, cannot focus his studies or anything else when Jeremy does not see him.
- In one episode of Samurai Pizza Cats, Francine comments, "Tomcats! You can't live with them, and you can't throw them down a well and drown them!"
- In Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai, this is more or less how the baseball team feels about their pitcher Yugami. In a slight twist, Yugami is both the loner and the person that others have to put up with, instead of the other way around. Most of his teammates can't stand him due to his personality but they rely heavily on him to win because Yugami is The Ace.
- In one arc of Peanuts, Lucy and Linus move out of town and Schroeder finds that he can't play his music without Lucy present.
Schroeder: Don't tell me I've grown accustomed to THAT face!
- Cable & Deadpool.
Cable: For two people who say they don't need each other, both of us keep doing a lot of stupid things to try and stay together.
- Garfield and Odie.
- Hinted at with Calvin and Susie.
- Spider Jerusalem: "Editors. Can't live with 'em, and the mass grave by my compound is getting full."
- Batman is considered this by multiple people within the DC superhero community. He's an antisocial jerk who doesn't particularly care how you feel about his methods...and without him, the world would be so completely screwed.
- My Fair Lady: Henry and Eliza seem to have this problem.
- Taken very literally in Die Hard with a Vengeance, wherein John McClane finds his new sidekick obnoxious, Zeus (said sidekick) despises him in return, but quite literally cannot live without him as the evil mastermind has set traps that he demands they solve together.
- Hello, Dolly!: After Dolly Levi has spent the whole movie trying to maneuver Horace into marriage, he angrily tells her that he 'wouldn't marry (her) if she were the last woman on earth!', she promptly bids him "So Long, Dearie". Cue Horace grousing to himself the very next morning about how he doesn't need her, what a horrible woman she is, he'd never do it, etc. It's clear to the audience that he's firmly in this trope, as he proposes to her the moment she comes back.
- The Muppet Movie has a song called "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along", sung by Kermit and Rowlf and referring to Miss Piggy (and, by extension, women in general). It opens with the lines, "You can't live with 'em / You can't live without 'em..."
- The Miss Congeniality sequel plays with this trope in the following exchange:
Sam Fuller: Men. You can't live with 'em, you can't...
Sam Fuller: ... no, that's pretty much it.
Gracie Hart: Yeah.
- C-3PO and R2-D2 throughout the original Star Wars trilogy.
- The Shining has this theme throughout, especially in Jack's actions after about halfway through the movie. Accentuated in Jack's conversation with a ghostly bartender about halfway through, in which the bartender echoes this trope.
- In Shrek, the titular ogre has this happen after he rescues the princess, when he believes she can't care for him because he's an ogre. He receives the deed to his swamp and returns to it, but feels very empty inside. Eventually, Donkey makes him realize he does love the princess. Cue a rush to beat her Wedding Deadline to Lord Farquaad.
- Jokingly subverted by Tom Arnold's Gib in True Lies: "Women. Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em."
- The Land Before Time, Despite constantly complaining about them, Cera seems to genuinely value her friends.
- In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Neal Page keeps trying in vain to lose Del Griffith. When he finally does, he finds he actually misses Del's company and ends up going back to invite Del to come home with him.
Live Action TV
- In Dexter, the title character says of his adopted sister who crashed at his place for a while after some troubles: "Can't live with her, can't kill her." As Dexter happens to be a serial killer, the second half of the phrase takes on a different meaning. He was joking though because he is "rather fond" of her.
- In Scrubs, Dr. Kelso initially couldn't stand his wife's snoring. She got the operation, but (this being Scrubs) only exacerbated the problem. Cue this trope:
Kelso: Here's the twist. Now, whenever she goes out of town, I can't fall asleep without the sound of that gasping, wheezing woman lying right next to me. Trust me. If I ever met a Japan air stewardess who snores like Enid, I'd marry her tomorrow.
- Dr. Cox and his ex-wife Jordan have this sort of relationship. Both are snarky, jerkass misanthropes who can't stand each other...and it's made abundantly clear that they'd never be happy with anyone else.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Cordelia and Xander are oh so very much like this in Seasons 2 & 3.
- Buffy and Spike regularly cycle through this from the middle of Season 5. Lampshaded in the Musical Episode.
"First he'll kill her, then I'll save her / No, I'll save her, then I'll kill her!"
- Oz. A black inmate on Death Row is subject to constant racist taunts by a redneck in the next cell. After first breaking his hand when he punched the wall in frustration, he then gets smart and carefully digs a hole into the wall, then after one comment too many punches his fist through what's left and throttles the redneck to death single-handed. Unfortunately that means he's the only inmate left on Death Row, and the episode ends with him looking sadly into a hand mirror, with only himself for company.
- Ross and Rachel from Friends. If they're with other people, they want each other: If they're together they argue constantly and break up. Rachel is especially bad as at one point she manipulated Ross into breaking up with his current girlfriend and then refused to get back together with him unless he took all the blame for a past break up. (He didn't).
- The actual line was parodied twice on 3rd Rock from the Sun. In the pilot, Harry declares "Women, you can't live with 'em... and yet they're everywhere." In a later episode, Dick declares "Women, you can't live with 'em and you can't have heterosexual sex without 'em."
- To which Harry responds, "That's probably true."
- Also in one episode Judith says to Mary, "Men, can't live with 'em" [beat while Mary waits for the rest] "Goodbye, Mary."
- Norm, of course, subverts the line in Cheers: "Women. Can't live with them, pass the beer nuts."
- The Vampire Diaries: Damon and Elena, until the last four or so episodes of the first season. After that, they drop the "can't stand them" part.
- Pretty much the reason why Al in Married... with Children hasn't just up and left his ungrateful life parasite of a wife and kids. Among Al's immortal quotes:
"Women. You can't live with them, you can't shoot them".
"Women, can't live with 'em, can't herd 'em all into Canada"
"Women. Can't live with 'em... The End."
- Jerry and Elaine in Seinfeld, in that they are no longer interested in each other sexually but still hang out with each other because they don't have many other friends.
- In Taxi, Louie explains to Zena, who won't take him back, that "love is the end of happiness": he used to be happy staying home and watching the Mets; now, even though everything about watching the Mets is the same, he can't enjoy it without Zena. She very reluctantly, like, to the point of self-disgustedly, takes him back. For a season or two.
- In Big Bang Theory, when Sheldon and Amy end their friendship over an argument as to whether Neurobiology or Theoretical Physics is the more important science, Howard offers the opinion: "Women, can't live with 'em, can't successfully refute their hypotheses".
- P!nk's song "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)" is all about the bi-polar affections of a girl wanting some space, promising cuddling later.
- The song "That's a Woman" is sung by Ryan Kelly and Paul Byrom of the group Celtic Thunder and is about a misogynist who finally falls for one of the women he so greatly disdains.
- Celine Dion's "I Hate You Then I Love You." The title should be self-explanatory.
- Senator John Dean's seminal dubstep/dubhop song, "Can't Live Without Em," a staple of the new genre. "Can't Live Without Em"
- Also the Three Days Grace song "I Hate Everything About You".
- Queen's "I Can't Live With You."
- Stacie Orrico's song "Stuck" - "I hate you, but I love you. I can't stop thinking of you"
- The U2 song "With or Without You"
- French Canadian singer Jean Leloup song "I lost my baby" has the lines (translated) "I can't live with you / I can't live without you / But you can very well live without me /" ending up with "I'm screwed either way".
- Rihanna and Neyo's duet "Hate That I Love You."
- The Coral's "Dreaming of You" has lyrics of "I still need you, but I don't want you now."
- The Voltaire song "Stuck With You" is narrated by a married couple venting about all the things each partner has done to piss the other one off and how much they drive each other crazy. At the end of the song, after this long litany of complaints, they mutually agree that, "I'm not sad I said 'I do'/I'm just glad I was stuck with you."
- Amanda and Elyot in Private Lives. They fight both physically and verbally, to the point of having divorced, but as they find when they actually meet again after remarrying different people, they are perfect for each other.
- Fire Emblem has several examples of this; Erk and Serra in Blazing Sword, Lalam and Percival in Sword of Seals, and to an extent Rennac and L'Arachel in The Sacred Stones. ( His single ending states that he tries to escape her service, but admittedly doesn't try very hard.)
- In Final Fantasy VIII, Squall spends the first two discs of the game grimly resisting Rinoa's efforts to get him to open up to her. When she falls into a coma at the end of disc two, however, he realizes how much he doesn't want to lose her, and abruptly she becomes his main priority.
- Not so abrupt if you unlock certain scenes or do certain events correctly (the "band concert" event being a big example; you have to get the music exactly right or Squall will just be annoyed with Rinoa the whole way.)
- Nageki of Hatoful Boyfriend seems taken aback and annoyed when the player character makes an effort to befriend and spend time with him. In his diary he calls you "the nosy girl", he says you won't leave him alone... but he's glad, in the end. In the second game some of your friends also make an effort to spend time with him, and later he complains to someone threatening them that they exhaust him and are unpredictable, but he's happy to have them.
- Pinky and the Brain. Brain insults Pinky frequently and takes every opportunity possible to bop him with whatever solid object is convenient, but should Pinky wind up missing or genuinely hurt, Brain truly feels bad for his companion. In the Halloween episode, Pinky gives himself up to a malicious supernatural entity so that Brain can take over the world, and Brain gives it all up in order to get Pinky back.
- On an episode of Animaniacs this is parodied when Yakko, Wakko and Dot tell their latest victim, who is begging them to leave, that he'll "be lonely when they're gone". Predictably, after they leave, the man bawls "I'm lonely!"
- This was also done to the Warners in a different episode: they are followed around all day by an extremely dull man who continually tells a long, rambling story in a monotone voice. No matter where they run, they can't get away from him. Finally, at the end of the episode, he suddenly finishes his story and leaves. The three of them just sit in stunned silence for a few minutes, then declare "It's too quiet!" and go running after the man begging him to come back.
- One of the later Sideshow Bob episodes of The Simpsons shows Bob realizing that he can't kill Bart. He's grown accustomed to his faaaaace...
- The titular family in The Simpsons is a great example. They love each other, but they drive each other crazy.
- Family Guy: Stewie sings "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" in a Shout-Out to My Fair Lady when Lois leaves him home alone to campaign for the school board.
- The early Tom and Jerry short "The Lonesome Mouse" has Tom getting evicted from the house. Jerry is initially delighted, but comes to realize that he's bored stiff without his adversary, and schemes to get him back in Mammy Two Shoes' good graces.
- Tom and Jerry are pretty much like this by default.
- In KaBlam!, dispite being his friend, June seems to get a kick out of hurting or watching Henry get hurt. However, in an episode where he leaves the show, June finds herself crying over missing him.
- There was a Dexter's Laboratory episode where Dexter 'fires' Dee Dee and joyously works in his lab without her interference. After a montage of repeatedly doing the same thing, his energetic joy fades until he's depressed and starts looking for a new annoying sister. Eventually, Dee Dee is rehired at the end of the episode.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squidville" Squidward is tired of SpongeBob and Patrick bothering him and ruining his day, the last straw for him is when they accidentally destroy his house he sees an ad on TV for Squidville which is full of Squidpeople like him. At first he finds it relaxing and comfortable but after a while he gets bored of it. Later he pines for SpongeBob and Patrick to come back and cause a little chaos. When they don't, he starts causing the chaos and eventually gets kicked out of the town.
- One of the unfinished episodes of Invader Zim, called "Mopiness of Doom", has something like this. Dib decides to drop paranormal investigation and pursue "real science." Zim, finally being free of the one person that constantly ruins his plans, enjoys his newfound freedom for a while, but soon becomes unmotivated to continue coming up with new evil plans without someone trying to stop him. Meanwhile, Dib has a hard time concentrating on "real science" since he still loves para-science and eventually gives that up and goes back to hunting Zim. Zim is confronted by Dib again and is overjoyed that he's back. The episode concludes with the two happily slinging insults at each other.
- This is what defines Larry and Tuddrussell's relationship in Time Squad.
- Helga and Arnold of Hey Arnold! technically have a one-sided version of this. At least Once an Episode, we see Helga slip off into private to deliver a flowery, romantic poetic rant about her yearning for her one true love, usually following a statement to the tune of "What a twerp, what a loser, what a football-headed dweeb. How I hate him. And yet..."
- And then we have the episode where Helga drinks an 'anti-love potion' to erase her feelings for Arnold, and stops bullying him. Cue an extremely disturbed Arnold.
- Francine and Stan to their sponsored African child, Tungee, in American Dad!. He shows up on their doorstep and quickly aggravates them with his overly sunny disposition. They ditch him at Costgo, only to realize how much they miss him. They go back to get him but he annoys them again on the car ride home so they jump out of the car to get away from him...only to immediately complain that they miss Tungee again.
- Subverted in My Gym Partner's A Monkey. Principal Pixiefrog starts saying "Women! You can't live with 'em..." He pauses, and we expect him to say "You can't live without 'em," but then he says "That's all. You can't live with 'em."
- Transformers Animated: Also doubles as a Funny Moment,
Ratchet: Young Bots... Can't live with them, can't melt them down for scrap.
- Mark Hamill describes the relationship between The Joker and Harley Quinn this way.
"Expressing emotion in any way that's real and meaningful is alien to the Joker, but he's learning those parts of himself, however unconsciously, through Harley. On a physical level they're dynamite together. A lot of relationships are defined by that. Two people may be really horrible for each other, but physically they push each other's buttons so clearly they can't get enough of that person."
- In the "South Park" episode "Smug Alert", it turns out that this is how Cartman feels about Kyle.
- Sadly, most dysfunctional families work this way.
- Downplayed, however, in most ordinary families. It's normal to have squabbles once in a while and anger can definitely make you feel like someone is insufferable. Doesn't mean they are. It means you both need to calm down.
- Mathematics. With it, it's a pain in the brain. Without it, we would live like cavemen.
- Rain. It may give you depression and misfortune oftentimes, but it's better getting wet than getting drought and scorching land.
- The relationship between predators and prey. Predators will kill prey, but without them the prey would overpopulate.
- Humans. While humans may suck at times, they are needed to make society function. After all, humans are social creatures.