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Fallback Marriage Pact
Robin: Let's make a pact. If we both turn 40 and we're both single...
Ted: Robin Scherbatsky - will you be my backup wife?
Robin: A girl always dreams of hearing those words. Yes, yes, a million times, yes!

Two unlucky-in-love Platonic Life Partners or Friends with Benefits, not wanting to grow old alone, agree to marry each other if they're still single after a certain age. Can be played either sincerely or for laughs, but either way it's likely to be a Friendship Moment.

If the pair have been going through a Will They or Won't They? plot, it's a handy way to bring it to an amicable close without irreversibly deciding that They Don't.

Sometimes this trope is seen from the other side; an Old Flame (usually one who's never been mentioned before) shows up to remind a character that they once made such a pact together, and they're here to collect on the deal. Hilarity Ensues, especially if they've aged into an Abhorrent Admirer and the other character doesn't want them any more. If one party has forgotten about it entirely or never took it seriously, the other may say "It Meant Something to Me".

A Defied Trope of Christmas Cake / Old Maid. See also Honorable Marriage Proposal.

Closely related to Childhood Marriage Promise, which is a similar agreement made by kids too young to really understand what marriage is. See also Arranged Marriage.


Examples:

Fan Works
  • An interesting variant is used in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic "Relax". The protagonist and the prostitute he regularly sees make plans to marry assuming that he survives the war and she hasn't been either moved away, fallen for somebody else, or been bought as a personal Sex Slave. It's quite heartwarming.

Film
  • My Best Friend's Wedding where this trope, and the main character's attempt to wreck her best friend's relationship so that she doesn't end up being the Unlucky Childhood Friend form the central plot. She fails, nearly wrecking her friendship with the guy in the process.

Literature
  • In Íverenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt, Seth has one of these with his New Old Flame Lily Tremaine. They're friends rather than lovers, but still decide to get engaged. But in the end, they break it up when Seth is reunited with Beatrice (the story's female protagonist) and Lily finds true love with Alexandre (with whom Beatrice had a similar relationship).

Live-Action TV
  • In Happy Endings Penny is mentioned as having a marriage pact with Butt Monkey Shershow, who ends up getting married in the first season finale, prompting Penny to fake being engaged to not feel bad about her own singledom.
  • Ted and Robin make one in How I Met Your Mother, which pretty much (but not entirely) marks the end of their Will They or Won't They? arc. Apparently the term "Ted & Robin pact" has entered the vernacular. This is discarded as of season 7.
  • Discussed on Friends; Rachel suggests making one with Ross, who claims he already has one with Phoebe... who is the one who suggested it to Rachel in the first place, claiming she has one with Joey. By the end of the episode, they settled on Ross being Rachel's backup, and Joey being Phoebe's.
    • A variant in another episode; Chandler suggests to Monica that if neither of them are married by the time they're forty, they could have a child together. (This was before they were dating). It doesn't go like he expected.
      Monica: Why won't I be married by the time I'm forty?
      Chandler: No, no. I just meant hypothetically.
      Monica: Okay. Hypothetically, why won't I be married by the time I'm forty?
      Chandler: Oh God, this parachute is just a backpack. *Rolls of chair*
  • Carla Noll in Reunion is Aaron's best friend and hidden secret admirer for years. She's happy to hear him say that if they're still single in a few years that they'll marry each other.
  • In one episode of Frasier, it sounds like Roz is about to suggest one of these, and Frasier agrees to marrying her if they are both indeed single at the time. Turns out Roz was going to suggest they kill each other instead.
  • In JAG, Harm and Mac agree to have a child together if neither have a significant other some time in the future.
  • In The Office, Michael Scott suggests this to Pam (at least in terms of having a baby together) if they're still single in ten years. She shoots it down immediately... and, ever the salesman, he starts haggling. When he suggests that they do so if she's still single in thirty years, she thinks about it for a very long time and agrees.
  • On Seinfeld Kramer proposes to Elaine that they marry each other if they're both still single at 60, and she accepts.
  • Hudson and Mrs. Bridges - the butler and cook - of Upstairs Downstairs have this arrangement. In one episode Mrs. Bridges seems to have found true love and Hudson offers to release her from their friendly agreement. Unfortunately her beloved turns out to be a jerk.

Western Animation


Everyone Can See ItThis Index Is Not My GirlfriendFriends with Benefits
Fairytale Wedding DressWedding and Engagement TropesFourth Date Marriage
Fair Weather FriendFriendship TropesFamily of Choice
Exotic Extended MarriageMarriage TropesFidelity Test

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