Some societies don't allow divorce. In societies that do, there are still people who just won't have it. After all, the vow was "until death do us part". Surely this must be taken as direct advice for how to handle a divorce?
This can go down two basic routes, murder or suicide, and the spouse who dies may be the one trying to leave or the one wanting to stay. The murder versions are often driven by greed, a desire to avoid splitting the family fortune. Other common reasons include:
Note that the attempted murder or suicide/"accident" may be unsuccessful. Or even fake
Since this is a Death Trope, expect heavy unmarked spoilers.
Anime and Manga
- In Ooku, Yunoshin has sold himself into (pampered) bondage in the female shogun's harem, expecting never to see home or girlfriend again. Once a man enters the ooku as a concubine, he can take no other (female) lovers than the shogun and can leave the service or the building only at his death. The shogun later lets him go, by helping him Faking the Dead. is declared legally dead, his family gets a large "bereavement" payment, and the man formerly known as Yunoshin goes home to marry the Victorious Childhood Friend he loves and take her family name.
- In MAD's parody of The Godfather Part II, when Kay demands a divorce from Michael, he refuses because it is against God's will. He then turns to family consigliere Tom Hagen and orders a "hit" on her. Hagen then tells Michael he is a good Roman Catholic for not divorcing her.
- In the parody of The Shining, the boy's mother tells him that his father is trying to kill her because he can't get a divorce as a Catholic.
- Kate Daniels series: Kate mediates a Pack divorce dispute between werewolves, who traditionally mate for life. A young married wolf couple were separated for years, during which time both spouses fell in love with other people. The spouses now want to marry their new partners while joining a new pack, but their families are horrified at the idea of divorce. Kate is stumped until Curran suggests a Pack law saying "any shapeshifter joining the Pack has a one-time right to a new identity. If the husband didn't use it when he joined, declare him officially dead and let him rejoin under a new name. His former wife will officially be a widow."
- In The Red Tent, Laban's treatment of Ruti has been just beyond awful, and Ruti is living in a society where only men can initiate divorce, so when she just can't take it anymore, she slits her wrists by a dry riverbed.
- A rather complicated example from The Silmarillion: Finwë's wife Míriel dies in childbirth, but due to the way souls work in Valinor could come back. However, Finwë falls in love with Indis, and one of the stipulations for him remarrying is that Míriel is never allowed to return to life, because according to the laws of the Valar Finwë can't have two living wives at the same time. After he is later murdered, this leads him to give up his chance to come back to return Míriel to life.
- In Agatha Christie's 4:15 From Paddington, the victim is the estranged wife of the killer. The killer wanted to marry again, but his wife was Catholic and refused to divorce him.
- Very odd subversion from Edgar Allan Poe 's The Premature Burial. A young French woman named Victorine La Fourcade was seeing a poor journalist named Julien Bossuet, but she caved in to pressure from her wealthy family and dumped him, and ended up marrying a well-known banker. Her marriage to him was abusive and unhappy, and she apparently fell ill and died after many years of putting up with the banker's abuse. Julien went to her grave to take a lock of her hair as a memento, only to find that she was not actually dead; she had only been mistaken for dead and Buried Alive! He took her home and nursed her back to health, and the two eloped to America together. They returned to France some 20 years later, and Victorine's former husband recognized her, and tried to claim her back, though she refused to go back to him. The court ruled in ''her'' favor because of the unusual circumstances and the number of years that had passed.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Second Sight", we meet a famous scientist who have everything... except his wife's love. And she comes from a culture that doesn't permit divorce, so she's slowly killing herself instead. The episode ends with him killing himself instead, so that she will be free.
- In one early episode of Law & Order: SVU, a beautiful man is dead. It quickly turns out that his landlady was an alcoholic who had the hots for him and also had a pedophile boyfriend and a daughter. (The daughter is clearly adult, but probably supposed to be 16 or so, making the pedophile label inaccurate in a plot-relevant way.) It is quickly established that the man died protecting the girl from the "pedophile". This later turns out to be a lie: The girl was in love with the man, but he was about to leave the country and refused to take her with him. And she couldn't bear the thought to live without him. So her mind snapped, and she killed him.
- Highlander: The Raven had an episode where Amanda's former husband (a fellow Immortal she only married to save her own neck) turns up. They fight and when she had him dead to rights, he pleaded "I'm your husband." She answers "I want a divorce" and offs his head.
- This is the plot behind Morcheeba's song "Women Lose Weight". In order to marry his Sexy Secretary and to avoid the complications that come with divorce:
Slick Rick: Anyway, long story short, hit the side of her Chrysler — sent her clean over the divider! "You BASTARD!" she said, as the wreck went tumbling the hill — I thought, she HAS to be dead.
- She Daisey has a song called "A Night to Remember" He has an affair, she finds out and kills them both. The chorus states the the couple "promised him/her forever, 'till death due us part."
- In traditional Jewish Law (not to be confused with contemporary Israel), a woman cannot divorce her husband. Thus it occasionally arises that a man will refuse to give his wife a divorce, often in attempt to extort money out of her, and many legal devices are used in an attempt to pressure this recalcitrant husband into granting his wife a divorce. The story is said of Jewish Sage Rabbi Akiva Eiger, that such a man was brought before him once, with the hope that Rabbi Eiger would convince him to divorce his wife. Rabbi Eiger brings him into his study, and opens a volume of the Talmud to its first page. He turns to the man, looks him in the eye, and says, "The Talmud says here that a woman is freed from her husband in one of two ways. Through divorce, and through the husband's death. Which one would you prefer?" The man looks at Rabbi Eiger, laughs and says, "What, are you trying to threaten me?". He walks out of the study, walks out the front door, and collapses dead of a heart attack on the front steps.
- According to Jewish law (thankfully this isn’t enforced anymore, despite the huge authority given to rabbinical courts and the rabbinate in general over marriage and family life), a man who refuses to divorce his wife is to be beaten till he agrees.
- Jewish women who aren’t granted a get (Jewish divorce) from a missing husband are called ‘agunot*. They have several solutions to avoid this situation. For instance, according to traditional interpretation, King David did not sin when sleeping with Bathsheba, as her husband divorced her before going to war (as was, according to Jewish interpreters, standard practice back in the day), lest he were captured and she would become an ‘aguna; so, technically, King David did not sleep with a married woman, which is a sin punishable by death according to the Old Testament laws.
- It's said that an "Irish Divorce" is actually a shotgun. Similar jokes exist in other countries where the majority of the population is Catholic.
- Used in the old vaudeville joke: "My wife and I have been married 50 years, and I've never once considered divorce. Murder, on the other hand..."
- An episode of Family Guy has Quagmire getting married to a woman who turns out to be insane and threatens suicide every time he tries to divorce her.
- Another episode plays the trope for laughs. During a story told by a psychic of Peter's ancestor, who founded Quahog, he was married to a woman who resembled Meg, but when he fell in love with another woman, he had to divorce Meg. Cue cutaway to past-Peter shooting his wife.
- Inverted in Corpse Bride. Emily discovers that the requirement to marry Victor is to kill him, instead of when he wants a divorce.