NOTE: This happens a lot in anime and manga. Especially Harem animes that don't end with the lead hooking up with everyone or with No Romantic Resolution. Basically, any anime which gives the main lead multiple love interests (male and/or female) will usually have anyone other than the "True Love" be like this, or end up sacrificing their life to save either the hero or his true love (or both). It may be easier to list examples that subvert, avert, or invert this trope, or are otherwise exceptions.
Haou Airen: Huo Long is an unusually proactive version of this trope.
An extremely twisted example of this trope can be found in Hell Girl, where a girl deliberately invokes this trope because she likes to keep her distance and her crush this way. She really goes out of her way to make the guy happy with his girlfriend, as she believes they will both be happier this way. And as an inversion of how this trope is usually played, things starts going really bad when the guy discovered he was cheated on.
In Full Moon o Sagashite, after Mitsuki and Takuto finally get together, the soul of Eichi Sakurai, though desperately trying to stay with Mitsuki, sees her smile with Takuto. He then smiles and departs to the afterlife, knowing Mitsuki will be happy.
In the anime, Meroko becomes an angel after not wanting Takuto to disappear, she takes it upon herself to become an angel and unite Mitsuki and Takuto after erasing Takuto's memories in a previous episode. She then bids her farewell to Mitsuki before departing.
In an admittingly adult anime Girl Next Door you can find this sad but touching scene where Asuka admits she loves Pisuke but then Pisuke tells her that he loves a girl from his past when he was a little kid. While on the elevator Pisuke explains when and where this happened, Asuka realizes that Pisuke is talking about her sister Kyoko. She then brings this trope forward with some very touching words.
Subverted in Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure, where in the final episode of the tv series, it is revealed to the hero and his harem that it was Mitsuki herself, previously a Clingy Jealous Girl, who consciously created the 3rd reality where Kazuki gets to remain with and ultimately end up, not just with her but also her ostensible rivals.
One example that's both humorous and heart-warming is Peorth from Ah! My Goddess. She comes down to Earth to grant Keiichi's deepest desires, and realizes that she can't separate Keiichi from Belldandy, another wish-granting goddess (who, incidentally have had a rather chaste relationship together). She continues to throw herself at Keiichi and prove her superiority over Belldandy, and, when all else fails, comes out and says she loves Keiichi, which causes Keiichi to ask Peorth to grant his deepest desires... and then Hilarity Ensues when Keiichi and Belldandy try to distance themselves from a now libido-charged Peorth. When Belldandy finally confesses her love for Keiichi, however, Peorth considers it a wish granted, and she returns to Heaven, occasionally returning to Earth to help bring the two together.
In Berserk, when Judeau sees feelings start to develop between Guts and Casca, he tries and succeeds to help them start a relationship together despite his own feelings for Casca. In his final moments during the Eclipse he tries to tell her how he feels but is unable to, saying instead "I'm glad to see you cry," before dying, regretting that she only ever saw him as useful. And then It Got Worse.
Guts himself had shades of this with Casca as well, convincing himself that he was no good for Casca and that she was better off with a guy like Griffith, whom he assumed that she was still in love with. Quite the contrary happened, with Casca admitting to herself that she was also in love with Guts but didn't want to admit it because of her pride as a soldier under Griffith. The whole situation was handled rather poorly due to a big misunderstanding which pretty much ended with everything going to hell a year later... but not before Guts and Casca finally come aroundto admit their feelings for a happy but short-lived time.
To some degree, Yuki Nagato from Suzumiya Haruhi. She has loyalty to Kyon and Kyon alone up to and including (in the novels) usurping Haruhi's god-like power to destroy the Data Overmind and create an Alternate Universe where everything is what Kyon has said he wanted things to be like, i.e. Brought Down to Normal. He gently tells her that he really does want the craziness that Haruhi creates, and to be with Haruhi; and Yuki accepts this and gives him the power to change everything back. Kyon does appreciate her, though, and trusts her the most out of anybody.
Otohime Mutsumi from Love Hina is this trope to the max for Keitaro, She has loved Urashima Keitaro since childhood;She trys harder than anybody else in the series to get Keitaro and Naru together even though she loves Keitaro. In the manga version, Mutsumi frequently/actively trys to get close to Keitaro; it is foreshadowed, and later explicitly revealed, that her motivation for doing this is in fact to ignite Naru's jealousy and make Naru work harder at her own relationship with Keitaro. Mutsumi is perfectly happy for Naru and Keitaro to be together, because Mutsumi wants Keitaro to be happy even though she still loves him and always did.
Oogami Souma from Kannazuki no Miko supports the relationship between Himemiya Chikane and Kurusegawa Himeko despite being attracted to Himeko; meanwhile, Chikane supports the relationship between Souma and Himeko despite also being attracted to Himeko.
Video Girl Ai, especially towards the end, in spades. In fact, the reason why Youta gets Ai to help him is because he preferred to help Moemi get Takashi's love instead of sabotaging her plans, which he could've done very easily because he was both Takashi's best friend and Moemi's confident; his selflessness is what allowed him him see the Gokuraku club in the first place.
Tomoyo Daidouji and Meiling Li from Cardcaptor Sakura are both examples of this trope. Tomoyo channels her feelings for Kinomoto Sakura towards making Sakura happy, even going so far as to regularly help Sakura's relationship with whoever Tomoyo thinks Sakura would be happiest with. Meanwhile, Meiling had convinced Xiao Lang to become engaged to her when they were younger, but with the condition that the engagement would be broken if Xiao Lang found the one he truly loved.
Despite having nigh-superhuman physical and mental abilities, in addition to magical powers, Chanohata Tamami in Mahoraba does not take advantage of them to remove her rival for Aoba Kozue, Shiratori Ryuushi.
Hotohori in Fushigi Yuugi lets Miaka go to Tamahome, saying he only wishes for her happiness. It was also part of his Final Speech before dying at Nakago's hands, fighting for his country. Miaka, I've loved you. Be happy."
This is part of what sends Princess Tutu so thoroughly off-course. Ahiru was transformed from a duck to a human specifically to fall into a selfish love for Mytho that would override both her common sense, and any sense of charity towards Mytho's girlfriend Rue, leading all three to a tragic end. The "author" of this tale doesn't take it well when he realizes she'd rather see Mytho happy with Rue than unhappy with anyone else, even her.
Hayato Ike, ordinary friend of the heroes in Shakugan no Shana, helps his classmate Kazumi Yoshida get closer to the male lead, even though he himself likes her. When said male lead Yuji Sakai has Selective Obliviousness over this, he breaks the usual rule and flat out tells Yuji that he's being rude and cruel.
In Gravitation, Ayaka Usami loves her fiance Yuki enough to come to see him by herself all the way from Kyoto, but breaks off their arranged marriage when she believes that he can be happy only with Shuichi. Ultimately, Shuichi's Unlucky Childhood Friend Hiro takes a liking to her and they start dating.
Hanon in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. The guy loses the person he wanted to be with in a few episodes anyway, but Hanon still doesn't end up with him afterward, maybe because he's her teacher. Later, Michal enacts this with Kaito, despite spending most of the series as a Clingy Jealous Girl that would compromise anything she could think of to break up Kaito and Lucia.
The fourth episode of Haré+ Guu Marie attempts to do this for Haré and Guu (complete with a "schoolgirl walking through the autumn leaves" scene). Of course, that's not what Haré was trying to tell her at all. Naturally, when he tries explaining this, she assumes he's just trying not to hurt her feelings, and goes into Love Bubbles and sparkles mode.
A really tragic case of both halves of a separated couple failing to reunite because they think the other would be happier without them forms the central conflict of the second half of Nana.
In the manga Yami No Matsuei, Tsuzuki accidentally winds up trapped in a magical self-writing romantic novel created by the pervy Count and featuring fictional counterparts of the main cast. The novel's plot mostly centers around the efforts of Tatsumi's fictional counterpart Butler to force the love of his life, Tsuzuki's gender-flipped counterpart Luka, into marriage with the rich His Lordship so that she might be financially secure. (Tsuzuki sees fit to interfere and ends up getting Butler and Luka together before he's finally rescued from the book world; Tatsumi, who is emotionally constipated to the point that Tsuzuki isn't sure Tatsumi gives a damn about him even though Tatsumi in fact cares very much, finds the whole experience very cathartic. Other onlookers among the cast, including Tsuzuki's partner Hisoka and the Count responsible for the whole mess, are mostly puzzled and amused to varying degrees.)
Paraietta in Simoun has been desperately in love with Neviril since childhood, but stands aside in favour of Aaeru once she's sure Aaeru is worthy of Neviril.
Mifuyu in Maria-sama Ga Miteru despite her obsession with Sachiko realizes that she is better off with Yumi.
Tadase from Shugo Chara!stepped back after realizing the feelings Amu harbours for Ikuto and vice-versa.
Mamoru did a form of this in the second series of Sailor Moon in which he was receiving rather disturbing messages that Usagi would die if they continued to be together and he forced himself apart from Usagi.
In Kaleido Star, ex-magician/now businessman Kalos Eido has been in love with his right-hand and companion Sarah Dupont for years, but since Sarah ditched her singing career to work with him, he feels horribly guilty and doesn't dare to ask her out.
Much of the drama in the second season of Da Capo arises from one character refusing to accept this concept. It only makes the shipping wars worse.
In Blood+, use of this trope could be attributed to several characters, the most notable being Mao and Haji. After Mao finds out that her boyfriend has fallen for another woman, she spends the next episode making sure they get to spend some Quality Time together. Haji, meanwhile, spends the vast majority of the series doing whatever it is that will make Saya happy, and does his best to stay by the wayside (however, he also somewhat subverts the trope in later episodes, when Saya is nearly whisked off by the infatuated Solomon, and Haji makes it clear that he is not pleased).
Hilariously enough, once Saya makes it clear that she returns Haji's unspoken feelings, Solomon invokes this trope, and decides that even though they'll never be together romantically, he'll still do his damnedest to protect her so she can get the chance to be happy with Haji. Not so hilariously, this gets him killed by his former comrades, with Saya being none the wiser.
In Pretty Face it's the whole reason Randou decided to spend a year with Rina's face, since he gets a picture of his original appearance early on.
Serial Experiments Lain toes the line between text and Subtext with a lot of Lain and Alice's relationship, but it's hard to read Lain deleting herself from existence for Alice's peace of mind, arranging things so that she can marry her high school crush, and spending eternity watching over her from the Wired in many other ways.
Nachi and Kaya in Mugen Densetsu Takamagahara: Dream Saga both concede to Yuuki.
Madarame of the Genshiken manga has a secret and rather intense crush on Kasukabe Saki, the girlfriend of his friend and fellow otaku Kousaka. Not willing to risk his friendship with both, he keeps his feelings to himself.
Itta in Girl X Girl X Boy flat-out says that this is his intention - he'd sure be happy if Fuuka fell for him, but if Riri was willing to be with her, he'd be totally fine with bowing to her.
Shigeru, Sakurako, Rui, Kazuya, and Umi in Hana Yori Dango give up their pursuit of Tsukushi and Domyouji so the two of them can stay together.
Axis Powers Hetalia has Spain letting Italy leave him during the War of the Austrian Succession. Sweden briefly thought of letting Finland go during the Polish-Swedish wars. However, he couldn't bring himself to touch the subject.
Despite his own love for her, Naruto promised to bring Sakura back the man she loved, Sasuke. Throughout the series, he continues to think of his love's happiness first before his own.
Okay, get the tissues, 'cause this is really touching. After Sakura begged Naruto to bring Sasuke back to her, he set aside his own feelings for her, give a pained smile, and promised to bring him back no matter what (promise of a lifetime, he said). And when makes it even more sad is the fact that he failed. Oh...I'm going to need a minute...
Sai of all people eventually calls Sakura out on this. By letting him continue to pursue the promise, Sakura is continuing to break Naruto's heart. Her attempt to free him from the promise by confessing to him only made it worse because he refused believing she was over Sasuke.
Even more touching is how Jiraiya also did, if not similar, the exact same thing. After Tsunade lost both her little brother and her lover, Jiraiya never took that chance to get a Relationship Upgrade even after Dan was out of the way. Choosing to just stay on a friendship basis with Tsunade and support her in any way he can besides being lovers, fearing that becoming attached to her would just break Tsunade's heart again if she lost him. And she did which just makes you want to use up nearly every tissues you have in your house when you realize everything in hindsight.
In an extremely roundabout way this turns out to be Itachi's plan all along. They're not lovers but it fits otherwise.
A possible interpretation for the acceptance of three of the other four girls of Rin's decision to choose Asa Shigure in SHUFFLE!.
Towards the end of the manga, Inuyasha realises that he'd rather Kagome live forever in her world and he remain in his if it only means she'd be able to live in safety and peace. At the end of the manga, Kagome goes back to her world and the passage between their worlds closes, leaving them in their own worlds and separated from each other. Inuyasha puts a brave face on it, saying it's for the best since she will be safe and at peace. After three years, the passage reopens again, reuniting them permanently.
In a filler episode, when wealthy nobleman Kuranosuke Takeda proposes marriage to Sango, Miroku spends most of the episode conspicuously refraining from offering any input whatsoever - much to the frustration of Shipper on Deck Kagome, who badgers him about it until he calmly points out that if it would make her happy, Sango would be much better off marrying Takeda than she would be continuing on with them on their quest to kill the Big Bad.
In Fruits Basket, the Yuki Fan Club is rebuked for not wanting this, especially since their non-reciporated love would only make him loathe them. In the manga, their leader Motoko gives up on Yuki.
In s-CRY-ed, Scheris' last moments can be considered part this, part Heroic Sacrifice. She knows damn well that Ryuhou loves Mimori, not her, but she can't stand to let him die, even if that means losing her own life and another woman getting him. Possibly subverted in that Ryuhou later cites her death as an example of why it's a bad idea to love him, when he tells Mimori that starting a relationship won't be happening.
Similar to the Negima version, in Hayate the Combat Butler, Hinagiku chooses not to pursue Hayate because she has befriended Nishizawa who was interested first. She has so far made certain that Hayate returns Valentine's Day chocolate to Nishisawa; and has dressed up as a Power Ranger to stick her arms in frogs and stand on a tall building despite being afraid of heights.
Hina even 'forces' Nishizawa to go deliver the correct chocolates to him to convey her feelings (Ayumu had given him 'obligation' chocolates, and then run away, but had intended on giving him 'romantic' chocolates).
Subverted later as she does pursue her feelings for Hayate and is even encouraged by her friend Nishizawa (sort of a friendly competition).
Athena plays this role (even though there isn't a counterpart romance, yet) after she's been saved, hearing Hayate's words of admiration for Nagi.
Nishizawa works for Hinagiku's favor as early as Hina admits that she likes Hayate. Ayumu manages to convince Hayate to walk her home, and their conversation is about how Hayate feels about Hinagiku, which then gets related back to her. Almost as if both girls are frustrating the other's attempts to work this trope.
Miki also seems to be working this angle. Having stated pretty clearly that she likes Hinagiku, she plays out Batman Gambits that seem to be pointing Hinagiku into a relationship with Hayate.
Subverted in Revolutionary Girl Utena in regards to the Love Triangle between Ruka, Juri, and Shiori. Whereas Juri is struggling with her unrequited love for Shiori, Shiori believes Juri is making fun of her and only associates with her out of pity, leading to extreme bitterness, making Juri believe that her cold demeanor and fencing skills are unlikable assets. When Ruka arrives after recovering from illness, he dates Shiori for a short spell, sleeps with her, and uses her for a duel against Utena. It turns out that he used his duel to humiliate Shiori and call her out on her behavior, and then he breaks up with her in front of the entire school. In the end, Ruka seemed like a prick like most of the male cast initially, but he pulled out these stunts to free Juri from her destructive relationship with Shiori.
During the ending chapters of the manga version of Kashimashi: Girl Meets GirlYasuna says she only wishes for Hazumu to be happy, and thus she does not mind if Hazumu chose Tomari instead of her. That she ends this dialogue in tears might undermine her words, however.
In Girl Friends this may be the reason why Akko and Mari have trouble facing up to their true feelings for each other.
In the Gun Grave anime Brandon Heat left his sweetheart Maria so she and Big Daddy can be together. Some subversion occurred because he never thought that Big Daddy could ever hurt her.
Disturbingly enough this happens in Ranma ½ after Ranma falls in love with Ryoga (long story, don't ask) leading to the bizarre scene of Ranma willingly kneeling down to allow Ryoga to kill her as Ryoga is so disturbed and horrified by the situation (and wants to kill Ranma anyway).
Love potion stuff is scary.
Ranma does this in the manga after Akane slaps him in order to protect Shinnosuke from him in a fight. At that point, he's completely convinced she's in love with Shinnosuke, so he tells her goodbye and leaves, thinking that he'll never see her again. In the manga, this is milked for all the angst it's worth; whereas in the anime, a lot less focus and time are spent on this trope.
He tries to do the same exact thing later on in the arc. When they're all out of danger, he tells Shinnosuke to take good care of Akane and attempts to leave them together once more. Considering he's the Crazy Jealous Guy type, this is actually rather significant.
Yuzu Yamamoto in Bitter Virgin liked the main lead Daisuke Suwa. She was quick to notice that Daisuke was developing feelings for Hinako Aikawa, and after some wrestling with the issue decided to support Hinako. Up until she inadvertently learned Hinako had given birth to a child and ends up blurting this out to Daisuke. Unknown to her, Daisuke was fully aware of this already and it only cements her status as Unlucky Childhood Friend. Also, resident Yandere Kazuki also has a moment of this when she comes to the same realization as Yuzu. Though in her case she's only stepping aside temporarily as everyone is certain the relationship will ultimately fail.
In Mirai Nikki, Yuno, of all people, does this in later chapters. She has near-death experiences in chapters 22 and 23, and both times she was ready to die in order to save Yukiteru from the 4th—either from blowing herself and the 4th up with a grenade or taking a missed shot from Yukiteru while being held as a human shield by the 4th. Later, when Yukiteru's parents die and he swears to kill the rest of the diary holders (and explicitly mentions killing her) so he can become a god and bring back his parents, Yuno, with a smile on her face, responds:
There's the resolution to the Karasuma/Tenma/Harima arc, which ends with Harima driving Tenma to the airport so she can join Karasuma in America, which also allows him to indirectly confess to her after 20-odd volumes of the manga.
Also, there is another instance towards the end of the manga where Max, Eri Sawachika's childhood friend who invokes this trope when he convinces Harima to stop Eri's arranged marriage.
Played with in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Rena has a very obvious crush on Keiichi, but Mion has an even more obvious one. Rena says she was perfectly fine with Keiichi giving Mion the doll. Then again, Rena is pretty nice.
For Shi Ryuuki in Saiunkoku Monogatari, wanting his beloved to be happy means bootstrapping his country's progress toward gender equality ahead about a century, making it possible for women to serve as government officials so that Shuurei can fulfill her lifelong dream of doing just that. Conveniently, this also turns out pretty well for Saiunkoku as a whole.
In Junjou Romantica, Usagi trips over this trope when Misaki's brother (who doesn't know Usagi and Misaki are lovers) persuades him that Misaki would be happier living with him and his wife, since Misaki's never really known what a proper family is supposed to be like. Because Misaki has never been able to just ask for what he wants, he goes along with this, even though it's making him miserable (though Usagi figures it out in one of the series' most touching scenes).
A very strange example happens in the anime version of To Love-Ru. A cat/wolf-like alien wants to take Saruyama back to her planet as a 'souvenir', seemingly having affection for him after he helps her give birth. In the end however, she goes back alone, wanting Saruyama to be happy.
When Lala finds out that Haruna also has a secret crush on Rito, she decides that Haruna and Rito need to be together so they will both be happy. Although that doesn't mean Lala has changed her plans for her and Rito to also be together.
Ouran High School Host Club has this in both the anime and the manga. In the anime Eclair lets Tamaki jump off the bridge after Haruhi. In the manga Kaoru tells Haruhi that he loves her, but that he loves his brother more. In the end he tells Hikaru he'll step out of the battle for Haruhi's heart and support him in trying to win it. And, Hikaru tells Tamaki to finally realize his feelings for Haruhi because he wants to fight for her on equal ground, even though he would have an advantage with Tamaki still Oblivious to Love.
In the recent chapter (76) Tamaki has had to cut all ties with Haruhi at his grandmother's wishes. Haruhi took it a bit hard initially, skipping school to think. This short dialogue goes on while Hikaru and Kaoru go to Haruhi's apartment to drop off her bag:
Hikaru: "By the way, don't you think it's good? If the rift between Tono and Haruhi opens more, thinking carefully about it, it will be all to my advantage."
Hikaru: "Just joking! ... Don't you think it would be a waste... if I said that I don't really wish for this to happen?"
And how could we forget about Kasanoda? He protected Haruhi's secret even if that made people think that he was gay, and gave up his first love without even really declaring it so it wouldn't cause problems for Haruhi.
The anime version has Umehito Nekozawa crawling off into the dark, saying some variation of this line... referencing his beloved (much) younger sister Kirimi, who had just deemed Tamaki her older brother... keep in mind that Kirimi thought Umehito was a monster her entire life.
Alluded to several times in Zetsuai1989: Kouji feels guilty for not feeling this way about Izumi. But despite his frequent statements that he'd like nothing better than to lock Izumi away from the world and have him all to himself, his actual behaviour is closer to this than If I Can't Have You.
In True Tears, half the cast acts upon this trope.
Tabby from .hack//Roots isn't actually in love with Haseo, but she wants to help him in any way she can. The already Jerk Ass Haseo starts going to every length possible to find who or whatever caused Shino, the only one he could really open up to, to fall into a coma, but his obsession quickly causes him to lose his way. Both Shino and Haseo are Tabby's friends, and she just wants to help them both in any way she can, in the game or in the real world. Haseo thinks she's just getting in the way, but that's HIS problem. Even after telling her to never show herself ever again, she continues to help him in any way she can, just to ensure his happiness. Things work out in the end for everyone though when Haseo comes to his senses and apologizes to Tabby and thanks her for everything she's done and sticking with him through everything he put her through.
Even Gintama has one of these moments for Hijikata and Mitsuba.
Milly does this. She has a crush on Lelouch, but her ultimate goal during Cupid's day was to pair Lelouch and Shirley. But it was probably not for Lelouch, who has no obvious love for Shirley, but rather for her friend Shirley, because she has the true big love for Lelouch, compared to Milly's crush.
The Blonde in Gunjo kills a man among other things to make the woman she loves happy.
In the manga Corsair, Sesaam takes in Canale who is an assassin assigned to kill him. He protects Canale and loves him dearly, and Canale eventually falls in love with him. However, Canale still feels he has no choice but to kill him, and after being stabbed Sesaam reassures Canale that he doesn't blame him, and tells him how to escape through the trapdoor under his bed, and tells him it's okay to move on after his death. 8 years later, Canale returns and finds out Sesaam survived but can no longer use his leg. He tries to seduce Canale again, but a Wrong Name Outburst leads to Canale sobbingly confessing that he found someone else. Sesaam accepts it, and says he stands by his former words. He then still tries to protect him and help him out after this.
In Sakende Yaruze!, Misao pulls a form of this when she leaves Shino after she gets pregnant to not get in the way of his potential career. Nakaya, their son, does the same thing 17 years later when, after coming to live with Shino for a while, he decides to move out to make way for Tenryuu, his father's Love Interest.
In Keroro Gunsou, the normally cheerfulNinja Koyuki once wished to be an ordinary high schooler. Without her ninja skills, however, she was no longer able to see her friend Dororo. Still, Dororo was perfectly willing to let her live an ordinary life, even if it meant she'd never notice him again.
Serves as one of the main Aesops for Gankutsuou. Franz teaches Maxamillian that the most important thing when you love someone is to make that person happy, whether you can marry that person or not. Both Franz and Peppo carry through with it, and it's implied that a failure to understand this is where the older generation went wrong and caused the tragic plot. Well, partially. It gets more complicated than that.
Subverted in Hana Saku Iroha, Igarashi wants Ohana to let go of her co-worker, Ko. So she can date him.
Subverted in-story in Heartcatch Precure. Ban has created a manga about Cure Blossom and Marine in which a story had Blossom discover Marine was in love with a guy named Ken, so she decides to help the two get together, only for her to realize that she had fallen for him as well. Ban has a brain fart and can't figure out what to do next, so Tsubomi and Erika act out an ending where they both drop their crushes and decide that their friendship and being Precures are much more important. He loves it and runs with it.
Subverted in Hanaukyō Maid Tai La Verite. Mariel appears to put Taro's happiness above her own, but it turns out that she's doing it because she's been brainwashed since childhood into being his perfect slave...er, maid.
In D.N.Angel we have Daisuke falling into this in regards to his unrequited love for Risa. And Mio Hio for Daisuke.
In the seinen My Balls, Minayo has finally encountered someone who doesn't get freaked-out by her drunk nymphomaniac side, however he's fallen in love with Elyse at this point. For a comedy/ecchi/romance manga it's kind-of a Tearjerker to see Minayo comes to work with her hair cut and Elyse arrives and admits she accepts Kouta's feelings in a stealthy love declaration. Kouta was after all the first person to accept this side of her.
Volume 3 of Poor Poor Lips has Ren learning about the cause of Nako's debt and deciding to do something about it at the cause of her own chance to live a happy life with Nako. She tells Nako through her goodbye letter to take this opportunity to make all of her dreams come true. However, what Nako really wanted in the end.... was Ren.
In Zero no Tsukaima Louise tries to do this when she finds Saito kissing Princess Henrietta after she confessed her love for him and thought he felt the same way, it turns out she was mistaken and he deeply regrets his actions going as far as saying that without Louise byt his side his existence is pointless; so they get back together.
Also pretty much every girl that was in love with Saito does this in the final episode of the anime except Louise who's his bride.
Elizabeth from Black Butler to the point where's she is willing to give her own life away and drown just to see Ciel smile again.
Toyed with Gundam Seed Destiny. Cagalli more or less implicitly dumps Athrun (by removing the ring he gave her), and shortly after she asks Athrun's friend Meyrin to take care of him. However, there is no definitive word on Athrun and Meyrin actually having a Relationship Upgrade; it can be easily seen as them being Like Brother and Sister if you wish so.
In the beginning of Kotoura-san, Hiyori was jealous of Haruka that the latter won over Manabe despite being a New Transfer Student while she became a Hopeless Suitor, eventually asking a few thugs to attack Manabe, causing him to be hospitalized. Haruka then ran away out of guilt after reading Hiyori. After a week of an obviously unhappy Manabe, Hiyori planned on bringing Haruka back.
Mei No Naisho: Mikoto loves Mei but would rather help him with Fuuka than see him sad.
In Yurara, both Mei and Yako attempt to do this during the course of the story. Neither of them handle it particularly well.
Pictured above, Kitty Pryde and Caliban, one of the Morlocks. Short version: In one early encounter with the X-Men when most of the team was taken prisoner, Caliban fell in love with her, and she promised to stay with him forever if she helped them escape. He agreed, and they escaped, but she didn't keep her end of the bargain. Later, Callisto (the former leader of the Morlocks before Storm wrested that title away from her in ritual combat the first time) found out about the broken promise, and ordered Kitty kidnapped to make her own up to it. Eventually, Kitty decided she was bound to do as she promised and agreed to marry him, but he realized by then that she didn't love him, telling her he wouldn't hold her to that. (They became close friends soon after. On a related note, Kitty was using the alias "Ariel" at the time, making this an unsubtle Shout-Out to The Tempest)
ElfQuest: Zhantee is hopelessly in love with Leetah even though she already has a lifemate, Cutter. When Zhantee develops the power to generate a protective shield he uses it on a number of occasions to save Leetah from attacks. The irony here is that the elves have open marriages and both Leetah and Cutter would have been happy to allow Zhantee into their relationship. Zhantee was just too shy to ask. Zhantee later dies in Cutter's arms during a human-elf conflict, and as he dies he shows Cutter a vision of the child that he and Leetah could have had.
Cutter: I just want you to be happy. Even if you must be happy far away.
David Qin in Strangers in Paradise realizes that Katchoo loves Francine more than she could ever love him, and retreats to Japan. When Tambi tries to confront David concerning why he hasn't gotten Katchoo pregnant (in order to produce a family heir), he proposes that Tambi could carry this heir, on the condition that she leave Katchoo alone with Francine.
There's a LittleArchie comic story in which Veronica finds out she's moving away. When Betty hears this news, she's at first ecstatic, believing she'll now have Archie all to herself. But after seeing how majorly depressed Archie is about Veronica moving, Betty convinces the oil dealer Mr. Lodge is selling his house to that there are ghosts inhabiting the mansion, causing him to call off the deal. When Jughead asks why she's glad that the Lodges are staying, Betty replies, "If Archie's happy, then I'm happy."
In a later issue, Amy, whose intense crush on Sonic is one of her major character traits, insists that Sally and Sonic be allowed to have a nice date without interference; when a confused bystander asks why, her response is this trope almost word for word.
In Nine Chickweed Lane, Edie is not happy that her rediscovered-love-turned-fiancee Kiesel is about to "haul off and be honorable" after they both learn that Edie's other love interest Bill is in fact alive but for didn't contact Edie for ten years even after he physically recovered from World War II and his amnesia supposedly wore off. Not helping Kiesel's case is the fact that he's an ex-Nazi and Bill was sent to Omaha Beach as punishment for defending Edie's honor against a superior with his fists. It's a foregone conclusion since this is a flashback, and it's implied Edie and Bill's marriage wasn't perfect ("You used dad's name and 'passion' in the same sentence!").
In The Legend of Zelda comic book adapation, Zelda decides that to save her kingdom from future attacks by Ganon, she'll take the Triforce of Wisdom to a faraway place where he can't find it. She begs Link to help her, and while the thought of her leaving clearly devastates him, he agrees. He has the chance to prevent her from going by lying and saying that the magic item she needs isn't in the hidden chamber, but he can't bring himself to do it. Fortunately for him, while he's in the chamber collecting said MacGuffin, Zelda comes to the realization that she and the Triforce are safest wherever he is, and decides not to leave. He even gets a mini-glomp for his trouble.
Scott Pilgrim gets some of this from both Kim and Knives, during the last book. How much Kim is still in love with him is up for debate, but her response to him is that he should seek out Ramona. Knives less so (than in the film), but she's still realized whatever she felt for Scott, Scott isn't her true love.
In the third book, Knives Chau (17 years old) saves her arch-rival Ramona from a coup de grâce by Envy. She states that she just wants Scott to be happy.
Current Spider-Man comics have Mary Jane in this role. After decades being depicted as Spider-Man's one true love, recent stories like OMIT have her walking away from Peter so he can be with someone who is "stronger" and has actively been working to hook Peter up with girl-of-the-week Carlie Cooper. Needless to say, this sort of thing hasn't gone over well with the fanbase.
Catman, fresh from a Trauma Conga Line that made him relive his accidental murder of his mother and not so accidental murder of his father and made him realize that he would be an even worse father, enacted a complicated gambit to make Huntress hate him so that she would be free of any lingering doubts and "what ifs" about their Foe Yay.
In the X-Books Mystique's relationship to her son Nightcrawler and her adoptive daughter Rogue is often coloured by the non-romantic version of this trope. This is especially obvious in the case of Rogue, with whom she had a by all accounts happy family life. At first Mystique thought that Professor X had brainwashed Rogue into joining the X-Men, but once she found out in UXM #178 that this was what Rogue actually wanted, she came to accept her decision and never once tried to make her reverse it. In UXM #185 story Mystique seriously considers allowing Rogue to be shot be Forge's Neutralizer to strip her of her powers, which would enable her to touch people, lead a normal life, and, not least, to return to live with her adoptive parents. However in the end Mystique decides against this because this would have happened without Rogue's consent. And so she manipulates events so that Storm, not Rogue, is hit by the Neutralizer (Mystique is after all a villainess).
Clea, Doctor Strange's lover and student, left him when she became aware of a woman who had met Strange and fallen in love with him in several of her past lives. Feeling that he deserved to have that endless love, she left him to return to her home dimension. He was completely shattered and spent a week in isolation, mourning her loss, and was nearly Driven to Suicide as a result.
In Astérix The Legionary, when Obelix learns that the lovely Panacea (Whom he has a major crush on) has a fiance' whose been forcibly recruited and sent to Caesar's legionaries in Africa, he immediately declares that he and Asterix will go and rescue Tragicomix. However, just as Asterix is applauding Obelix for being so mature, Obelix bursts into tears.
The Batman Adventures: Mr. Freeze is being treated by a team of doctors, courtesy of Bruce Wayne. Dr. D'Anjeou, the man whom Mr. Freeze's wife married after leaving him, is called in as he is proficient in this field, but he is kidnapped by a man with a similar disease to Freeze from the shownote he tried to become immortal from it. He freezes Wayne steals the doctors and leaves, while Freeze, now just a head, merely laughs at Wayne's misfortune. However, he becomes serious when he realizes who the doctor was, and demands to be put in his suit to rescue him because Nora loves D'Anjeou. Even when he Nightwing and Batgirl are almost killed, he ignores them and all danger to himself (considering Barbara saving him to be a worthless gesture), and fights his way through to free the man his wife loves.
In the Vampirella story "Into the Inferno" we learn that Pendragon agreed when his wife wanted a divorce because of this.
In TSA The Amazing Spider Man After Gwen and Peter break up due to Peter keeping secrets from her she starts dating Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four. which Peter accepts despite wanting to be with her because Gwen is with a guy she likes, who can be honest with her.
In New Feelings, Jade (originally The Mole sent by her brother Peridot to kill Garnet to get back at Pearl) decides to move on after Pearl gets engaged. Unfortunately, this doesn't end well for her.
James Potter does this in the James Potter Chronicles series by Mean St. When Lily and Snape have a major fight in fourth year, it's James who convinces Lily to talk to Snape and give him another chance. When asked why he did this by Lily, James explains that her happiness is more important to him than his feud with Snape; as much as he hates Snape and would prefer it if Lily stopped being friends with him, he can tell that Lily is miserable and wants her to be happy again, even if that means helping her to make up with Snape.
A Discussed Trope in A Growing Affection: Sakura asks Naruto to leave Hinata to be with her, claiming Hinata will be fine because she would want Naruto to happy. Naruto tells Sakura he knows she is not in love with him, because she did this with Sasuke, but she is not doing it with him now.
In the Star Trek fanfic Safe and Sound, Christine Chapel, who has feelings for Spock, pulls one of these towards the end of the story, upon realizing that his heart belongs with Uhura.
Film - Animated
Happens briefly in Anastasia when Dimitri decides to go back to Russia without the massive monetary reward offered to him for reuniting Anastasia and her grandmother because, as he says, "princesses don't marry kitchen boys." But of course, he comes back when she gets her dumb ass in danger, and she goes and makes her beloved happy by renouncing her crown and eloping with him.
Near the end of the Disney film Beauty and the Beast, the Beast releases Belle from the castle so that she can help her father. Because the only way for him (and his entire castle) to return to their human forms is for the Beast and Belle to fall in love (to which she has not yet confessed), by allowing his beloved to be happy, he's [temporarily] doomed them all. Oh, irony.
Brotherly version: In Brother Bear 2, Koda asks the spirits to turn Kenai back into a human, so he can be with Nita, who is human.
In Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time, Lady Tremaine gets Anastasia engaged to the Prince by magically turning back time a year, brainwashing the Prince into thinking he danced with Anastasia at the ball, and then transfiguring her daughter into Cinderella's likeness when all of the previous fail. Ultimately, Anastasia realizes that no matter how much she loves the Prince and wants a man to love her, the Prince really loves Cinderella. This prompts her to defy her mother and undo all of the damage they'd done. Of course, Anastasia is later rewarded when she and a baker fall in love with each other.
Similarly at the end of the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where Quasimodo realizes Esmeralda would actually be happy with Phoebus, despite the longing he has for her and the rather petty dislike he has for Phoebus.
There's a variation in Disney'sThe Princess and the Frog. Our hero, Prince Naveen, is ready to ask Tiana to marry him and help her get the restaurant she's always dreamed of, despite not having a penny himself. "I'll get a job. Maybe two. Maybe three!" Then the riverboat they're sailing on flows past the very site Tiana wants, and she reveals to him that if she doesn't have the money by the very next day, she loses it to a higher bidder. So Naveen sadly scraps his plans and decides to marry Tiana's stinking-rich best friend, Charlotte, so that he can get the money she needs. He's spared having to make this sacrifice when Tiana admits that her dream "wouldn't be complete without you in it," and Charlotte shows her true colors as a rare rich, blonde ditz with a heart of gold in one of the most beautiful Disney climaxes to date. Though she'd always loved princes and wanted to marry one, she was happy just to end at a kiss so Tiana could have her dream.
This occurs in Tangled: Rapunzel promises to be Mother Gothel's prisoner forever if she is allowed to first save Flynn's life. Aware of how seriously Rapunzel takes keeping her promises and not wanting her to be trapped forever by someone who only wants to use her for the healing properties of her magical hair, Flynn cuts Rapunzel's hair off before she can heal him, causing it to lose its power.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa plays it straight when Melman the giraffe agrees to let King Julien feed him to the volcano gods so that Gloria and Motomoto can survive.
More like "I Want My Beloved to Be Safe", but almost everything Elsa does in Frozen is what she perceives as protecting her sister. Her desire for Anna to be happy is more evident in the reprise of "For The First Time in Forever" where she tells her to go back home and enjoy her life.
Film - Live Action
The climactic scene of Casablanca. In fact this trope could simply be renamed "We'll always have Paris."
Rick gets all the recognition, but Victor Laszlo actually does the same thing earlier — it's because he asks Rick to use the letters of transit to take Ilsa to America that it's a surprise when Rick sends the two of them instead.
Actually, Rick makes it quite clear that he wants Ilsa to go with Laszlo not to make her happy but because Laszlo's work fighting the Nazis is more important then they are. And her going with Laszlo will help him do his work better. Now, Laszlo, on the other hand, is this trope, as he wants Rick to keep Ilsa safe, even if it means Rick and Ilsa go off without him. Rick says that the happiness of all three of them doesn't count:
"I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that."
Still, Rick does fall into this trope a bit when he warns Ilsa that if she doesn't leave with Laszlo, she'll eventually come to regret it.
Also The Reveal in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Bruce: No. I want her to be happy, no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who will see her always as I do now, through Your eyes.
God: Now THAT'S a prayer.
The end of There's Something About Mary shows Ted redeem his earlier behaviour by going out of his way to ensure Mary's happiness by reuniting her with her ex-boyfriend, with the twist that Mary realizes that she'd ultimately be happiest with Ted after her brother DOES NOT FREAK OUT from Ted touching his ears, which is usually his Berserk Button with anyone outside of family.
In Bedazzled (2000) (at least the 2000 remake), Elliot uses most of his wishes trying to make Alison fall in love with him. He uses his final wish to give her a happy life instead. He then asks her out normally, and she turns him down. However, he does wind up with someone else who looks identical to her.
Until the sequel, when he became a vengeful and slightly ridiculous drunk who went back on every single thing he said during the first movie.
At least he gets some redemption in "At World's End." (Our destinies were intertwined, Elizabeth...but never joined.") This is his rejection to Elizabeth's offer to join them in their escape from the Flying Dutchman, made the more poignant and heartbreaking when she sees him killed by Bootstrap Bill moments later. This was a man she contemplated marrying, afterall.
Plus note his vengeful-drunk situation stemmed mostly from having destroyed his fleet in pursuit of Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl, and most of his anger is directed at Jack for having (in Norrington's view) turned him into the thing he hates, a pirate. That, and he's drunk at the time.
The main character of The Butterfly Effect spends the whole movie going back in time to try to end up with the girl, mucking things up more and more, before figuring out that I Want My Beloved to Be Happy is the only way to go. In fact, this Aesop is taken to an extreme, as in everyone in the world would be better off without knowing you at all.
In an alternate ending, the character figures that out as well, and strangles himself in the womb.God knows why they don't show that one on TV...
It's also strongly implied that this alternate ending has happened MANY MANY times before to his mother with previous pregnancies...
In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Knives Chau spends the length of the movie obsessing over Scott, to the point where she dyes her hair partially blue and starts dating Young Neil to try making Scott jealous. The change happens when she attacks Ramona at the Chaos Theatre, not because Ramona is dating Scott, but because Ramona broke Scott's heart. At the end, when Ramona decides to leave Toronto, it seems Knives will get him back in the end. Instead, she urges him to go with Ramona, even joking that she has become too cool for him. Seeing her come into her own over the course of the film, she may have a point.
Played with in Strange Days: Mace is vocally dismissive of Lenny's pathetic pining for his ex-girlfriend Faith, and is quick to remind him that she doesn't love him any more and that he needs to move on. However, Mace herself is in love with Lenny and ends up reluctantly helping out with his attempts to protect (and win back) Faith because ultimately she wants him to be happy, and he so clearly isn't.
A particularly excellent example is in the film Witness. Even though Detective John Book has fallen in love with the Amish widow Rachel, he knows that he would never fit in with her people. He gives his blessing to her union with his rival Daniel (an Amish man who has loved Rachel long before Book arrived), knowing that in the long run he is the man who would make a better husband for her. An example of how affecting this trope is if written well.
Some Kind of Wonderful is an instance where a woman decides that she wants her beloved to be happy. Keith Nelson has spent the entire movie pursuing the hottest girl in school, and by the end she's fallen in love with him. But she also realizes that he'd be much happier with his tomboyish best friend Watts (who is very obviously in love with Keith). In the end, Amanda tells Keith to go to Watts and tell her about his feelings for her.
Considering that Keith had pursued Amanda for the entire movie (and for quite some time before) and that Keith had no particular reason for his abrupt change of heart except that the end of the movie had been reached, this plotline could be considered a major problem.
Weebo in Flubber. Which is just as well, as she's a non-humanoid robot in love with an (engaged) absent-minded professor.
Aggravating example in Jab We Met when Aditya tries to reunited Geet and Anshuman. Subverted because Geet is in love with Aditya at this point, and lets him know it. They then get married and presumably live happily ever after.
In The Lord of the Rings Aragorn encourages Arwen to go to the Undying Lands, claiming that they can't be together because he is mortal and she an elf and eventually, they will part in death. Keep in mind that humans and elves have a different afterlife. Even in death, they will not be together. But in the end, Arwen chose to live as a mortal, meaning that when she dies, she will go to the human afterlife.
Used in Prime. While there's no "other person," Rafi breaks up with Dave, despite his desire to have a baby with her, knowing full well that it's not the right choice for him (he's only 23, much younger than she). Ironically, his willingness to take a step that he KNOWS he's not ready for (he loves her so much he's willing to make that sacrifice) makes her love him even more, but because she loves him so much, she doesn't want to tie him down like that and knows he'll eventually regret the decision.
Spoofed hilariously in Hot Shots!! the Romantic False Lead insists on putting on a big show of how he's magnanimously letting his girlfriend go so she can be with Charlie Sheen, oblivious to how she's long since fallen out of love with him and just wants him to go away.
In the Spider-Man film series Ursula Ditkovich is clearly infatuated by Peter, but when she senses he's in trouble, advises him to call Mary Jane and does what she can to help him.
Kal Ho Naa Ho: Aman fixes all the problems of the Kapur household and helps Rohit seduce Naina because he wants her to be happy.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam - Vanraj spends half the movie helping his wife search for the man she loves.
Dosti: Friends Forever: one of the weddings you expect in the first part of the movie is cancelled for this reason. Raj thinks it's unfair to marry Nandini given that he's dying.
The artist's story in Love Actually is essentially this. It wasn't the saddest of the storylines.
Tinkerbell does this in Hook, where she helps Peter (who's regained his memories of Neverland, but regressed to the point where he's forgotten his adult life) remember his children, rather than letting him remain "her" Peter.
Unfaithfully Yours did this as one of the ways Alfred planned to deal with his wife's apparent affair.
Going the Distance: Garrett breaks up with Erin in order not to make her choose between him and her dream job.
Proxy example in noir film Out of the Past: the hero instructs his sidekick to tell his good-girl love interest that he had planned all along to leave her for The Vamp, when in fact he knew that he was going to end up dead.
Ted: Ted, a magically animated sentient teddy bear, is willing to abandon his lifelong friendship with the John, the boy (now man) who wished him to life, because he knows that he is holding back John's emotional development, which led to John's break-up. John himself wants this for his ex-girlfriend, after he fully accepts responsibility for the behaviour that led to their break-up.
In Cyrus, the title character is jealous of his mother's new boyfriend, so he does everything he can to drive him away. He succeeds, but at the cost of making his mom miserable - so he apologizes to the now ex-boyfriend and begs him to get back together with his mom.
It has been revealed that in Thor: The Dark World, Sif will make a large sacrifice for Thor, out of love for him. Evidently, it's not dying (confirmed by Jaimie Alexander) or pushing Thor into Jane's arms (as Jaimie also said that it's a sacrifice out of love for Asgard as well), but what it is still remains to be seen.
Jaimie Alexander: She does sacrifice quite a bit for Thor, because she is so very much in love with him, so you do get to see that... She cares about him. They grew up together, you know?
R.I.P.D.: In the end, Nick decides to let Julia go so that she can live her life.
In The Circus, the Tramp convinces Merna to marry Rex so she can escape the authority of her abusive father.
In the movie Away From Her, Grant's wife Fiona is placed in a residential facility after developing Alzheimer's. While there, she forgets who Grant is and develops a relationship with another man. Grant is devastated at first, but when the other man is discharged and Fiona begins to pine away for him and deteriorate, he attempts to arrange for the man to return and see Fiona again.
In Lois McMaster Bujold's novel The Curse of Chalion Cazaril, the protagonist, decides he's not young or rich enough to be a good match for Betriz, who's half his age, and tries to set her up with his friend Palli. She however is having none of it. It's Cazaril she wants, especially if she can persuade him to shave off his beard.
In The Brothers Karamazov, Dmitri Karamazov plans to commit suicide due to the circumstances immediately surrounding him and the disgrace he perceives is upon him, and decides that before he goes he's going to make her happy one last time. He ends up with her, but those aforementioned circumstances really bite him in the ass later.
In Anne McCaffrey's The Rowan, Designated Best Friend Afra Lyon pines away for the title character, only to wait too long and watch Marty Stu Jeff Raven swoop in and claim her. (Though, being a powerful telepath, The Rowan knew that nearly all along, but doesn't want to ruin their friendship, admitting that she would've turned to Afra eventually.) Made creepier by the fact that Afra's loyalty is "rewarded" by hooking up with The Rowan and Jeff's youngest daughter, Damia. (Does anyone know if Stephenie Meyer has ever read McCaffrey?)
Seems to be a favorite trope of Dame McCaffrey. A similar situation develops in Dragonriders of Pern's Harper Hall Trilogy: Masterharper Robinton starts to get intimate with prized pupil Menolly, despite Menolly being involved with his other prized pupil, Sebell. Robinton nips it in the bud, citing their ages, positions, and her previous attachments. All this despite the fact that, as Menolly states, "[She] loved [him] first." (And later we find that Sebell not only knew all about Menolly's feelings but understood and accepted them and probably would not have been adverse to going the Poly route.)
This is practically a straight-up borrowing from Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger, as the older Hans Sachs gently declines Eva's suggestion that he win her for himself. He explicitly alludes to Tristan und Isolde (so does the music) and indicates that she will be happier with young Walther.
In the semi-historical romance novel The Lady Royal by Molly Costain Haycraft, Princess Isabel of England (daughter of Edward III) is engaged to marry Bernard d'Albret, a young man with whom she is deeply smitten. However, she learns that Bernard has a strong religious vocation and longs to become a monk, against the wishes of his tyrannical mother. Isabel breaks off the engagement in such a way that it allows him to enter the monastery under the pretense of a broken heart.
Deconstructed in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth realizes that her happiness at Mr. Wickham's engagement to Miss King means that, while she cares about him, she was never in love with him. Were she in love with him, she would have nothing but contempt for him for choosing another girl.
Played perfectly straight, on the other hand, by the considerable lengths Mr. Darcy goes to save Lydia Bennet from her own idiocy before she and the rest of her family are Defiled Forever. He's motivated in part by a sense of responsibility in not having spoken up about Mr. Wickham's true character before, but the rest of his motive is to protect Elizabeth and make her happy. Then he swears Lydia and the Gardiners to secrecy regarding his involvement, and when Elizabeth finds out anyway and tries to thank him, he refuses to accept her thanks on the rest of her family's behalf: "Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you."
In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor acts superior to the point of exasperation. Her love interest is engaged to someone else. That someone else informs her of it in confidence (while harboring deep — and correct — suspicions that Elinor is in love with him too, and so warns her off and keeps tormenting her in subtle ways for the greater part of the book). Elinor not only keeps the secret and endures the indirect attacks with aplomb, but there's a scene where she actually leaves them together on purpose so that they can have private time.
One of the more classic examples occurs at the end of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities when Sydney Carton, knowing his beloved Lucie will never love him as she loves Darnay uses his near identical likeness to Darnay to take his place on death row, allowing Lucie and Darnay to escape together while he is executed in Darnay's place.
Troy, in the V.C. Andrews Casteel series, after finding out that he and Heaven (the protagonist) are uncle-and-niece (oh those wacky V. C. Andrews incestuous relationships), cuts off contact with her for her own good, then inadvertently fakes his own death, then leaves Heaven alone for a while, believing he's dead, so she can date and marry Logan, then after a few years they get together for a last fling, during which Heaven's daughter is conceived and Heaven returns to live the rest of her life with Logan.
In Captain Blood: His Odyssey, Blood believes Arabella to be in love with another man and is willing to let her go. When he realizes that she is not going back to England with this man, it dawns on him that he has hope.
In the Twilight series, Edward leaves Bella for these reasons.
Beautifully subverted in the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey. Dirk spends about half his time pining over Talia and the other half trying to get her together with his best friend Kris, and ends up thoroughly exasperating both Talia and Kris - who happen to love each other dearly but are quite positive they're Better as Friends, thank you very much. Not to mention that Talia is madly in love with Dirk and Kris really would just like to see his two dearest friends happy, preferably with each other. Shame about Ancar, really.
In the last two books in the Harry Potter series, Remus Lupin does this regarding Tonks. Subverted in that he's the only person who ever thinks it's necessary, because Tonks wants to be with him and most of the people they know want them to be together too. Also, Lupin doesn't act the way he does because he thinks Tonks should be with a specific other person, he just thinks she deserves better than himself.
In Beastly, Kyle allows Lindy to go rescue her sick father despite it possibly meaning losing his chance to turn human forever. In fact, he nearly releases her several times since he finds it very hard to believe that anyone can love a monster.
Bridge of Birds: Henpecked Ho set his own concubine up with her (mutual) crush, because he loved her so much he didn't want her to be stuck with an ugly old "worm" like him.
Probably the straightest example is Jefferson Cope from Appointment with Death. He only asks Nadine Boynton to run away with him because he believes she can't possibly be happy with her current husband. Once the situation changes and Nadine decides to stay, he is willing to go back to being friends.
Bella Duveen from The Murder on the Links was willing to set her fiance free so that he could marry the girl next door. She also falsely confessed to the murder to try to protect him, even after she found out he wanted to marry someone else.
This trope was combined with Love Makes You Evil in Death on the Nile. Jacqueline was willing to let her one true love Simon marry her best friend Lynette when she realized that Lynette was in love with Simon and Simon was in love with Lynette's money. When Simon insisted he wanted both Jackie and Lynette's money, Jackie helped him with his plan to marry and then murder Lynette.
Appears to be the case in Towards Zero with Neville Strange, who pretended to run away with another woman after his wife Audrey left him so that Audrey would keep all public sympathy in the divorce. However, it is subverted when it turns out Neville only took the blame for the divorce because his pride wouldn't let him admit to the world that Audrey had left him. He spent the next several years plotting Audrey's murder.
In Howl's Moving Castle, when Miss Angorian, the pretty teacher that Howl was courting, was kidnapped by the Witch of the Waste, Sophie goes to rescue her even though she is herself in love with Howl. It turns out that Miss Angorian is the Witch of the Waste's fire demon and faked her kidnapping so that Sophie, Howl's true Love Interest, would fall for it.
Forever Amber has a particularly demented version of this trope. Queen Catherine, depressed at the realization that she likely won't be able to give King Charles II an heir, falls sick and wishes to die, since if she does, Charles can marry Frances Stewart and get the legitimate heir he's always wanted. When she tells this to Charles on her deathbed, he is horrified to realize that she's driven herself to suicide on his part, and begs her to live. He does not, however, give up his extramarital affairs which were probably what mentally damaged Catherine so badly in the first place.
In the original Tarzan of the Apes, Tarzan and Jane are separated (seemingly for good) when Jane chooses to honor her obligations and stay with Clayton. Tarzan by this time has discovered, and has the evidence necessary to prove, that he is the long-lost heir to the late Lord Greystoke, thus the title and wealth Clayton claims are his by right. Rather than using this newfound status to go fight for Jane, he chooses to go back to Africa, reasoning that enriching himself at Clayton's expense won't do anything to sway Jane's sense of honor, only reduce the chances that her marriage to Clayton will be a happy one.
In The Iron Hand of MarsMarcus Didius Falco discovers that his patrician Love Interest Helena Justina is being courted by the Emperor's son Titus. Falco knows that she doesn't love Titus, but out of a belated sense of patriotism — and feeling that he can't stand in the way of her getting such a tremendous social advancement — urges Helena to accept. Helena calmly responds that she's already turned Titus down.
In one of the sidestories of the Shared Universe that is the 1632 series, Franz, a downtimer (from the 17th Century), tries to refuse a confession of love from Marla, an uptimer (from the future), even though he loves her back, on the grounds that his left hand is crippled. A minor injury by uptime sensibilities, but a major dealbreaker by 17th Century standards; especially for a former musician.
Franz (thursting his crippled hand at her face) : Because of this! Because I am crippled! I cannot hope for you or anyone to marry me. Your family would not allow it. I cannot support you. I cannot provide for a family, when all I can do is translate for one person here today, another person there on Thursday, or write two letters for someone next Monday. I cannot give you what you deserve, a husband sound in mind and body. I cannot protect you from the ridicule that people will heap on you for marrying a cripple! I love you more than my life, Marla, and because of that I cannot do this!
I loved you, one of Alexander Pushkin's most famous love poems, ends in this note. The narrator bows out not because of a specific romantic rival, but out of the realisation that his love is unrequited and will remain so:
I loved you so sincerely and tender/God bless you with such love of someone else.
Slote in The Winds of War. Later he ends up dying bravely and conveniently in battle. Of course he does.
Viciously subverted with Petyr Baelish in A Song of Ice and Fire. While he didn't plan on his beloved, Cat, getting killed, then resurrected as a merciless, grief-stricken zombie hell-bent on revenge, he didn't seem to much care about her feelings over the fate of her husband. While he'd prefer her to be happy, he mostly just wants her.
In the Sword of Truth series, Nicci decides on this, both because her love was already fully in love with someone else before she met him, and because of her shame over formerly being a villain. This becomes a source of particular anguish for her in the last three books, as several of the other characters begin shipping them and encouraging her to be with him, leading her to repeatedly tell them that she is the Romantic Runner-UpAtoner, not the pure-hearted love interest.
Nicci: "It is because I love him that I could never betray his heart."
In the short story "Antinomy" by Spider Robinson, Tom Higgins has spent decades trying to revive his lover Virginia Harding after she fell into a coma. When Virginia does eventually wake up, she initially doesn't remember him. Even worse, she develops an interest in his friend and younger co-worker Bill Mc Laughin — an interest that is reciprocated. Tom eventually has an epiphany after he is unable to tell a good joke — one of the things Virginia always loved about him was his sense of humor. His monomaniacal obsession with her over the years has made him someone far less than the man she once loved. When Virginia starts to recover her memories, Tom pretends not to know her so she can start a relationship with Bill, who is everything Tom was and more.
Wodehouse used this trope quite a bit. In Thank You, Jeeves, Bertie and Pauline are being forced into marriage; Bertie appeals to her love interest Chuffy to help him, but Chuffy refuses, since circumstances have convinced him that Pauline loves Bertie instead. He even gives Bertie a speech about doing the right thing and not breaking Pauline's heart.
Other times women think Bertie is doing this for them, when the truth is that the idea of marrying them horrifies him. He goes to great lengths to get them back together with their other love interests, something they see as evidence of his pure and self-sacrificing nature rather than him desperately trying to get out of their engagement. Not that he isn't also pleased to ensure the happiness of people who inexplicably want to marry people like Madeline Basset.
In Catching Fire, Peeta is afraid that Katniss will sacrifice her life to save his; he shows her a picture of her family and Gale, telling her that she has something to live for. The implication is that he assumes she'll eventually marry Gale if she survives. A particularlytear-jerking example of this trope as Peeta isn't just planning on giving up his feelings for Katniss, he's planning on dying so she can be with Gale.
Ayn Rand's first ever short story is about a woman who, realizing that her husband is in love with another woman, fakes an affair so that he will divorce her and marry his true beloved. (This looks very much like Values Dissonance compared to her later belief that self-sacrifice was the root of all evil, and her literary executor went to great lengths to try and demonstrate that the wife was actually pursuing her own self-interest.)
In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol story "Brave to be a King", Manse, having lost in the Love Triangle, wrestles down the temptation to obey the Time Patrol rules in the easiest way, which would leave his rival stuck in the past.
In Edith Wharton's novelette "Bunner Sisters", about two unmarried sisters in 1800's New York City, the eldest sister Ann Eliza rejects a proposal of marriage from Mr. Ramy, a man who had been visiting the sisters regularly for a time, but who she (and everyone else, including this reader) thought was interested in her younger sister Evelina. Ann Eliza's sacrifice was more on her sister's behalf than Mr. Ramy's, however: Ann Eliza felt that Evelina deserved what Ann Eliza thought would turn out to be happiness more than Ann Eliza did.
Happens with a minor character in The Pillars of the Earth. When Jack works in Toledo, his employer's daughter Aisa falls in love with him, and her father also wants to marry her to Jack. After he leaves, Aliena arrives, Aisa is the only one who is nice with her and tells her to go after him because she realized that Aliena loves him.
In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millenia, Oenoe recounts how when she was unable to move her beloved to come with her, she consented to let her beloved biochemically induce Love at First Sight in her, at the first person she saw, because her beloved wanted to make her happy that way.
In C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves, he discusses how this trope is not found in either erotic love or affection, both of which are jealous. Only agape can induce either type of love to do it.
Near the end of Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, this is done by both halves of the Official Couple, due to a misunderstanding: Angel, thinking Michael would be happier if he could take a wife who is able to give him children, runs away, unable to bring herself to even say goodbye; Michael, thinking all his attempts to win Angel's heart have failed, decides not to go after her and resigns himself to lifelong bachelorhood. Luckily, their sister-in-law realizes how catastrophically mistaken they are and concocts a plan to get them back together for good.
In The Host Wanderer gives up on retaining Melanie as a host for Melanie's sake, effectively trying to commit suicide because she doesn't even want to take over another host (she now sees it as cruel and unfair to the host)... but also largely to give Melanie back to Jared and vice versa, making it a sort of doubleI Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
In The Tamuli, Kalten manages to convince himself that Alean, the woman he's fallen in love with, loves his fellow knight Berit instead. Sparhawk has to force Kalten to promise not to try and get himself killed in battle to resolve the issue. (Sparhawk then tells Alean what was going on, and she tells Kalten off for being an idiot. It's implied that Kalten and Alean will marry as soon as they get back to Elenia.)
Meravyn in The Hour Before Morning not only gives up her husband out of love for him, but also commits murder and is condemned to death so that he can escape persecution.
Thrushpelt from Warrior Cats is in love with Bluestar (Bluefur back then), but she doesn't like him back in that way. When he finds out that Bluestar was pregnant with Oakheart's kits, what does he do? He offers to pretend to be the kits' father, and he shows great love for them even if he's not their real father.
Spottedleaf towards Firestar. She sees that Sandstorm is his mate...and it doesn't bother her at all. In fact, she admitted that the relationship between her and Firestar wouldn't have worked out since she was a medicine cat (and medicine cats can't have kits). In fact, when Mapleshade almost kills Sandstorm because she "stole" Firestar from Spottedleaf, the latter of them says that there was nothing left to steal and that Sandstorm made him happy. She ends up getting killed for this.
Word of God says that Spottedleaf died again so that Firestar wouldn't have to choose between her and Sandstorm when he died.
Dave the Dude in Damon Runyon's "Romance in the Roaring Forties" may be the sort of guy who will get sored up at a man for taking a second peek at his doll Miss Billy Perry, but when she says she loves Waldo Winchester, he plans them an elaborate surprise wedding. However, it turns out that Waldo Winchester is already married, and his wife crashes the party, so Dave the Dude gets Miss Billy Perry in the end, but it is the thought that counts, after all.
Ladylord features a non-final, sexual (rather than emotional) version. In the culture in question, it seems to be accepted practice for a woman who would like to sleep with a man but is currently unable to do so (such as because she's already married) to arrange a courtesan for the man instead. The protagonist does this for her own husband, since she feels she must keep herself virginal, but is more angsty about the mental image of it than she had expected to be. It turns out, however, that her husband didn't ever enjoy the courtesan's intended service, and they get together themselves in the end.
In J. R. R. Tolkien's Legendarium, there is the tale of Finwe, Miriel and Indis. Miriel dies in childbirth, and refuses to reincarnate, which leads to Finwe marrying Indis. Because Elves marry for life, this means Miriel can never reincarnate, since it would mean Finwe would have two living wives. Ages later Finwe is killed, and meeting Miriel again tells her all that occurred while she was dead. She then regrets her refusal, and wishes to be reincarnated, and Finwe chooses to stay dead forever so she can do so.
Live Action TV
In Smallville, Chloe's attitude towards Clark's blind and undying attraction to Lana. Taken Up to Eleven in season five, in which both of them complain to her about their sex life, then Clark decides to tell Lana his secret and proposes to her. Clark thinks Chloe would say they are too young and whatnot, but instead she provides her support and encouragement.
For the first five episodes of Pushing Daisies, Olive. pursues Ned relentlessly, to the point of considering blackmailing Chuck, the girl he's interested in. By the sixth episode, though, she's decided that she just wants him to be happy, even though she's still hoping he'll wind up being happy with her.
Tara tells Willow "you have to be with the one you love." Tara is convinced that Willow will go back to her ex-boyfriend Oz, and is astonished and happy when Willow's answer is "I am."
Interestingly, Oz's reaction (after the dust has settled) is the same as Tara's. One of the things he wants to know for sure before leaving is that Willow is happy.
This is Angel's reason for leaving Buffy: he doesn't think she can be truly happy with him. This is an extreme case of I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: there is no "other guy" in sight at the time. Angel just wants Buffy to have the opportunity to have a normal relationship.
Spike's currently doing this to Buffy in Season 9 for the exact same reasons as Angel, ironicallyenough. He thinks she'd be happier without him in her life and wants her to be with some normal guy, even though, once again, there is no "other guy" and she's been sending signals his way.
Xander eventually reconciles himself to Buffy seeing him as a friend. In Season Eight, Buffy briefly comes onto him. However, Xander recognizes that she's looking for a warm body, not love, and reaffirms that they are friends only.
Nicely understated and not melodramatic in Eureka. Jack Carter wants the best for Alison, even to the point of walking her down the aisle to marry another man even though he thinks she's making a mistake.
This is worse for the audience than for Jack, though, since he doesn't remember that before he was sent back in time he and Alison were married and expecting a baby, and that this is an alternate future.
Between Wesley and Angel it's all over the Angel episode "Couplet".
Subverted in "A Hole in the World".
In Doctor Who, Rose Tyler and her boyfriend Mickey both go through this, when they realise that Rose's love for the Doctor makes their relationship impossible. Rose wants to be fine with Mickey dating other women, and Mickey wants to be fine with Rose's feelings for the Doctor, but it's hard on both of them. Eventually, The Doctor himself breaks off all ties with Rose, since he doesn't want her to have to experience a painful Mayfly-December Romance with him. He pairs her up with his half-human mortal clone and tells them to go live happily ever after like regular humans. Mickey leaves Rose forever after a sweet goodbye and goes to live his own life.
The Doctor does this in a non-romantic sense whenever a companion leaves the TARDIS (or whenever he leaves a companion behind). It generally doesn't work, though: Sarah Jane, Jo and Jack were all deeply hurt by him leaving them. He eventually apologises to them all after decades.
This also turns out to be the reason Amy broke up with Rory between Series 6 and Series 7. She knew that he had always wanted children, but due to something the Silence did to her on Demon's Run, she'd become infertile. Luckily the two later reconcile.
For the first two seasons of The Office (American), Jim tries to be this with Pam, but ultimately fails due to Roy's poor treatment of Pam (i.e. he'd probably be happy that she's happy, except she isn't happy).
Repeated in season 9 with Pete, Erin, and Andy. Erin intends to break up with the less-than-considerate Andy, but Andy guilts her out of doing it. She later confesses this to Pete, knowing he'll be disappointed. He tells her he just wants her to be happy. which prompts her to kiss him and run off to dump Andy.
The Red Dwarf episode "Camille" ends with Kryten losing his love interest, the titular Camille, in a spoof of the Casablanca scene.
Played both straight AND subverted by Arnold J. Rimmer as he realizes that Nirvana Crane has willingly surrendered her existence on the hologram ship so that he may get a position in her place. He immediately turns in his resignation to return to the Red Dwarf, stating that "we won't be apart, we just won't be together" and in doing so quoting exactly a romantic movie he saw at the start of the episode. He instantly realizes this and adds "I can't believe I just said that!"
Averted by Lister, who pursues his dream girl Kochanski through a time hole after finding a picture of himself marrying her. When he finds her hotel room and he sees another man's shoes, he realizes that the groom in the photo is not himself, but the other guy. As he abandons the idea of getting together with her (and bemoaning the yuppie type of man she probably married), she opens the door and invites him to meet her new husband, who turns out to be himself from several years in the future.
iCarly: Freddie for Carly in iSaved Your Life. Quite an unusual example, because Freddie himself pulls out of the relationship in order to make sure Carly would be happy, instead of potentially taking advantage of a situation where she might not really like him but just thinks she does.
An interesting subversion occurs on In Plain Sight with one of the witness couples. They were a very unhappy but very devout Catholic couple when they see a priest murdered. Because of their faith they cannot get divorced, even though it is quite obvious they hate each other at this point. To make a long story short she has found someone else that she likes and they both know this, but she wouldn't dare cheat. He ends up faking his death so that she can move on. She is not his beloved, but she is his wife and he admires her very much, and in order for her to be happy she can't be tied to him. So he fakes his own death and gets WitSec to help him get relocated again. At the end the man she really loves is comforting her as he sneaks out the back.
In "Rapture" Lee orders Dualla to undertake a risky rescue of Kara Thrace. Dualla knows perfectly well what motivates this order and is not happy about it, but obeys her husband and superior officer anyway.
Patrick from Coupling almost does this to Sally: "You need Mr. Amazing, Mr. Incredibly-Superbly-Fantastic-Ness. In your heart, I'm sure you know I'm right." Subverted because he was talking about himself.
On Guiding Light Olivia decides Natalia's faith and happiness would suffer if they ever got together, so she decides to talk her into marrying the good man Frank. Much angst was caused.
In the U.S. version of Queer as Folk, Brian refuses to try to dissuade Justin from leaving him for Ethan, but at the same time continues to lend Justin money for college and pushes him to keep working on his comic with Michael. He even punches Michael when Michael attempts to take Brian's side in the split. Of course, Brian still can't tell Justin he loves him.
The platonic(ish - more so in the US version) variation occurs in both the UK and US series', when Brian/Stuart outs Michael/Vince in order to piss him off enough to make him leave, because he thinks he's holding Michael/Vince back and preventing him from finding true happiness with David/Cameron. (lol, David Cameron)
This is somewhat subverted in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in the episode "Birthright" with a woman and a little girl. This is because the little girl is the woman's daughter biologically. As Novak practically harasses the little girl on the stand, the little girl denies that the woman is her biological mother and cries for the mother that raised her. In the end, the woman loves her "daughter" too much to see her upset so, she quits fighting for the custody of the little girl and moves out of New York. It was a pretty upsetting episode.
Which is almost a modern-day version of King Solomon's "split the baby" idea... except with a less clear resolution.
On Gossip Girl Chuck tells Blair he has no romantic feelings for her and is only playing a game, and sends her off to be with his best friend. When Serena asks why he would say that his reply is: "Because I love her. And I can't make her happy." The following episode he goes out of his way to make sure Blair has the perfect prom as envisioned in her secret prom scrapbook, without even telling her he is orchestrating it, just to see her be happy.
He takes things a step further at the end of season 4 where Blair is about to break her engagement with Prince Louis only to have Chuck cut in saying that he had been giving Blair his blessing for the marriage... because although Blair and Chuck were in love in an insane crazy way, he knew she needed something different at that point, something she could only have with Prince Louis.
Cranked up to eleven in season five. Chuck spends the entire season doing everything to make Blair happy, almost always at the cost of his own happiness. Examples include letting her think he's turned bad so she can feel confident in choosing Louis, giving food poisoning to the priest who planned on ruining Blair's wedding to Louis and nearly bankrupting himself to get her out of her marriage by paying her dowry without her knowing about it, even though he knew that she would choose to date Dan Humphrey instead, a guy Chuck hates (this after she's made out with Dan in Chuck's bedroom). In the season finale he finally gets to the point where he can't sacrifice his own happiness for hers anymore. He tells her he's moving on with his life which causes her to break up with Dan to get back together with Chuck but he rejects her in what Word of God suggests is a Gone with the Wind homage.
On Dollhouse Alpha, of all people, does this in the finale, allowing Echo and Paul to be together forever.Sort of.
On Heroesafter learning that Charlie was sent back to 1944, and has lived a fulfilling life, complete with grandkids, Hiro decides not to go back in time to "rescue" her, despite being in love with her.
On Alice the increasingly smitten Hatter continues to help Alice throughout all her tribulations, despite knowing that it's all in a bid to save her fiancé. He wins her in the end though.
An odd variation of this happens in Robin Hood, in which Marian is coerced into marrying Guy. Robin tries to persuade her not to go through with it, but Marian insists in order to keep her father safe. Despite the fact that marrying Guy obviously won't make Marian happy, Robin eventually respects her opinion on the matter and leaves her to it. Though of course she doesn't go through with it.
The fourth season finale of Friends has Rachel realizing she loves Ross and rushing to London to stop him from marrying Emily. As she arrives at the church, however, she witnesses a tender moment between Ross and Emily. So when Ross sees Rachel and asks why she's there, Rachel replies, "I just needed to tell you... Congratulations."
Previously, Chandler to Janice when she can't decide between him and her almost ex husband. They had a child together so Chandler says he'll walk away so she can go back to her family. Extra heartwarming as Chandler explains his own parents split up when he was young and he doesn't want any other child to go through what he did. It then gets subverted in their last scene of the episode where Chandler takes back everything he'd previously said and pathetically begs Janice to ignore her husband and stick with him instead. It doesn't work. But the sentiment is definitely there and a heart-wrenching moment for Chandler.
Richard has this in his final appearance. After coming back asking Monica to get back together while she's with Chandler (even offering her marriage and children), he ultimately bows out when he sees that Chandler is also prepared to offer these things (and more willing to have children than he is) and that he himself wouldn't even be in the running if he hadn't messed up Chandler's proposal.
Played for Laughs between Chandler and Monica after they're married. Chandler, playing on his fears as an Insecure Love Interest, is led to believe another guy is Monica's "soulmate" and he's not good enough for her. (Well done Phoebe and Rachel). Caught in an Imaginary Love Triangle, Chandler tells Monica he won't stand in her way if she wants to get a divorce and run off with her "soulmate". Naturally Monica - after she figures out what the hell he's talking about - tells him she's not going anywhere and doesn't want anyone but him.
There's an example in House. The patient of the week was a polygamist in an open marriage, so she and her husband have sex with people outside the relationship. One of the theories is that the disease was sexually transmitted, and when they check up on the wife's lover it comes up empty. The husband's lover is the next candidate, only he doesn't have one. Turns out he never wanted to have sex with other people, he just wanted his wife to be happy.
Lennier in Babylon 5 is a curious example. He tries to be this for most of the show. The time he fails, he is so ashamed that he runs off to become The Atoner.
In a non-romantic example, in "Wheels" Kurt gives up a chance at a solo he desperately wants - he actually throws the all-important high note at the audition - because his father is getting anonymous homophobic phone calls and he doesn't want to make the situation worse by drawing attention to himself. In a more standard romantic example, in "Silly Love Songs" he supports Blaine in his attempt to woo Jeremiah with a public serenade even though he is in love with Blaine himself. He's not so generous when Blaine gets a bit confused and briefly tries dating Rachel, though...
And then when they finally get together, Blaine returns the favor by letting Kurt transfer back to McKinley.
Blaine does it again in "I Am Unicorn," deciding not to try out for Tony in the school's production of West Side Story because he knows Kurt wants the part, even though he really wants it too.
Finn to Rachel at the end of Season 3 when he breaks off their engagement and sends her to New York to follow her dreams of stardom instead of her staying in Lima to help him and Kurt.
Played with in Psych. Shawn wants Jules to be happy and wants to be okay with her dating Declan, but he also wants to be happy himself, and can't picture being happy without her.
On Merlin, both Lancelot and Arthur reveal to Merlin in separate conversations that all they want for Guinevere is her happiness. It's also something of a subversion, since between the two of them, the actions they take to secure her happiness usually end with her in tears.
Downton Abbey does this with the Mary-Matthew-Lavinia triangle. Initially, Mary supports Matthew's relationship with Lavinia for this reason, despite still being in love with him. At the end of series two, after seeing Matthew and Mary kiss and hearing that Violet asked Matthew to marry Mary, Lavinia tries to convince him to go back to Mary in the belief he'll be happier that way. Then she dies of Spanish flu before he can argue with her.
Ted does this in How I Met Your Mother when he falls in love with his new friend Zoey, a married woman, and noticing their mutual chemistry, tries to ensure he won't accidentally ruin her marriage by pretending to hate her, hoping she'll break off their friendship. However, he is unaware that Zoey is in fact getting divorced, so he doesn't have to do it at all.
Ted also did it earlier for Stella, the woman who left him at the altar, when he has an opportunity to confront her and imagines delivering a devastating "The Reason You Suck" Speech to her for breaking his heart. However, when he sees her greet the man she dumped him for, his anger dissapates and he leaves them be, noting that "It was the perfect end to a perfect love story. It just wasn't mine." And several months later, he even gets the two of them back together (on Stella's request!) when they temporarily break up over the guilt about what they did to him. Talk about Up to Eleven.
Way back in season 2, Lily did this for Marshall while they were broken up. After making a fool out of herself in front of Marshall and his date, she apologizes, promises she'll stay away from him from now on, and tells him to go after the girl, but Marshall (of course) picks Lily in the end.
Ted and Robin's breakup basically boiled down to a mutual case of this: they were both still in love with each other, but realized that to fulfill their dreams the other would have to sacrifice theirs, so they decided to part amicably instead.
Robin does it in season seven with regards to Barney (who she is desperately but secretly in love with), even Playing Cyrano for Barney and his crush Nora.
After their roles are reversed in mid-season seven, Barney does it for Robin, saying that even though her choosing Kevin over him made him mad, she's his bro and if she's happy, he's happy, regardless of who she is with.
And Ted does it back to Barney in the same conversation, encouraging Barney to go after Robin after he realizes what happened between them that caused the aforementioned role-reversal even though Ted himself had been in the middle of asking Robin to consider getting back together with himself, until Barney insists that Robin's not in love with him, so if she's happy with Ted, he'd be fine with it. When Robin rejects him, he quite calmly assumes it's because of Barney, and doesn't seem to believe her denial, possibly setting him up for this trope again given that Robin and Barney are set on a Will They or Won't They? track. Seriously, this entire group is so concerned about making each other happy to the detriment of their personal desires they seem to keep accidentally screwing up each other's lives due to Poor Communication Kills.
They really are. In the season 7 finale Robin tells Barney that she really is happy for him after he and Quinn announce their engagement. Between Barney joking about this being their last chance to run away together and the flashforward to Robin being the bride at his future wedding, it seems like they're both taking the I Want My Beloved to Be Happy route because they're under the impression that All Love Is Unrequited when really they're just postponing their inevitable reunion.
In the Chinese drama Chinese PaladinYue Ru settles for this after realizing there's no way in hell the hero is going to abandon his true love for her.
Possible example in Star Trek: Enterprise. T'Pol has to go through an Arranged Marriage with her childhood fiancee, Koss, to help preserve her mother's career. While T'Pol had no significant feelings for Koss, he may have harbored some for her. In particular, at the climax of the Vulcan arc, he gave her transporter codes to get into the Vulcan capital city - which, given that she was being hunted by the Vulcan government, was a risky thing for him to do. He then decides to annul the marriage, saying that with her mother dead, there is no point in remaining married.
An even better example would be Trip in that same episode. Vulcan law allows for a 'challenge' to be issued at weddings (basically if "speak now or forever hold your peace" was allowed to include duels to the death). Trip refuses, even at the bidding of T'Pol's mother, because even though he loves her, he understands why T'Pol is marrying Koss and won't interfere.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Price," a negotiator named Devinoni Ral threatens to take Counselor Deanna Troi away with him to get the upper hand on Commander Riker, who he knows has feelings for her. Smiling sardonically after Ral issues his ultimatum, Riker makes his feelings on the matter very clear.
Riker: That's the first bad play I've seen you make. If you can bring happiness into Deanna's life, nothing would please me more. You know, you're really not such a bad sort, Ral. Except you don't have any values - beyond the value of today's bid, that is. Deanna is just the woman to bring some meaning to your sorry existence, if you're smart enough to take it. I doubt that you are.
Played with in Princess Returning Pearl. Yong Qi would have given up Xiao Yan Zi and allowed Er Tai to woo her, in order to both allow Er Tai – his best friend – to be happy and to get Xiao Yan Zi out of an unwanted engagement.
How happy Xiao Yan Zi would really have been with Er Tai is unclear as at the time Yong Qi has no idea how Xiao Yan Zi feels about him. But the fact that he gives her up so that his friend could be happy is pretty adorably heartwarming.
In Wizards of Waverly Place there is an unusual inversion, in that Alex stays in the family wizard competition so that she can stay in her relationship with Mason (because Muggles and magically-oriented beings can't have relationships).
At the end of Season 3, Dr Ogden moves to Buffalo because she can't have children and knows Murdoch wants a family. She even marries another man, Darcy, at the end of Season 4.
At the end of Season 5, Darcy says he's not going to stand in the way of Julia getting back together with Murdoch. Then he changes his mind in season 6, because drama.
The Arthur Alexander song (Covered Up by The Beatles) "Anna (Go To Him)" could be an example of this, with an engaged man breaking it off with his fiancée Anna because another man loves her more. However, it could simply be that he's used to every woman he loves leaving him.
"You're in Love" by Wilson Phillips is definitely an example of this, though.
"Diary" by Bread appears to be this, as well, though it could simply be a man giving in gracefully to the impending loss of his love to someone else.
Sort of. The protagonist seems to be guilting the listener about it an awful lot.
Belle and Sebastian's song "Jonathan David" is an example of this, though the Biblical theme in the song ("I was Jonathan to your David") gives way to another interpretation.
Ne-Yo's song "Fade Into The Background" is about the singer attending the wedding of the woman he loves, deciding he's just going to let her be happy with somebody else and "smile and fade into the background."
Also Back to What You Know from the same album deals with this. He even sings in the bridge "I'd rather you be happy\Then you be miserable with me".
Subverted in Mariah Carey's song "Butterfly" - she sings that she'll allow her lover to fly away and experience other things because if he's truly hers, he'll come back to her eventually.
In Choidos's song "Lindsay Quit Lollygagging" the singer is coming from the second version of this perspective.
Bite my tongue, right now the perfect time
Do anything to make her happy
Even if it means my being miserable
As long as she's loving life
Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" subverts this trope with the opening lines: "I want you to know/I'm happy for you./I wish nothing but/The best for you both." followed by an extended F-U to the guy she's singing to.
"Teardrops on My Guitar" by Taylor Swift. Inspired by a guy she knew in Real Life before she became famous.
Almost Lovers by A Fine Frenzy. The narrator dumps her boyfriend because she believes he's un-happy.
The Frou Frou song "It's Good To Be In Love" is about the long, slow path toward this.
Cat Stevens' "Wild World," though it is mainly about finding peace in such a crazy world.
John Mayer has an unreleased song called "Man on the Side" that invokes this:
I fell in love with the dream that I built of you
Playing the part of the queen
Taking my own advice
I'm giving up tonight
Good luck to you and the king.
Snow Patrol's "You Could Be Happy".
This trope is implied in the chorus of Journey's "Separate Ways":
Someday, love will find you Break those chains that bind you One night will remind you How we touched and went our separate ways If he ever hurts you True love won't desert you You know I still love you Though we touched and went our separate ways
"Please Remember Me" has undertones of this trope, too.
"She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5.
"Say Good-bye" by Skillet is a man begging his girlfriend to put off "saying good-bye", but the bridge says
But if it's over
It hurts but I'm giving you my word
I hope that you're always
Happy like we were
Happy like we were
Robert Schumann's setting of Antonio von Chamisso's Frauenliebe und -leben, in the second song "Er, Der Herrlichste von Allen". Some of the lines translate as:
Hear not my silent prayer, consecrated only to thy happiness,
thou mays't not know me, lowly maid, lofty star of glory!
Only the worthiest of all may make happy thy choice,
and I will bless her, the lofty one, many thousand times.
I will rejoice then and weep, blissful, blissful I'll be then;
if my heart should also break, break, O heart, what of it?
The pathetic thing here, though, is that at this point in the narrative, the Man of her Dreams has made NO indication that he was interested in, or involved with, anyone. The protagonist is merely assuming she's unworthy a priori.
Sister Hazel's "Champagne High" both uses and subverts this trope. It's about a man who's realized that he still loves his ex-girlfriend, but he's realized this at her wedding to someone else. He says he'll "smile and remember" the good times they had, then turn and go. However, he also won't toast to the couple's future, suggesting that he may hope things won't work out for them.
Blue October's "Hate Me" is this in spades. The whole song is the speaker leaving his girlfriend, asking her to hate him because he recognizes that he's a terrible person, and he'd rather her be happy than let him drag her down. In fairness, it sounds like he's right.
"She's in Love" by Mark Wills, as indicated in the second verse:
Told everyone I'm doing fine
Learned to get on with my life
I just want what's best for her, so I lied...
Chuck Berry's "Have Mercy Judge" is about a guy who knows his girlfriend will cheat on him while he's in jail; he's okay with it, and says he'll love her all the more once he gets out.
Adele's "Someone Like You", the whole song is heartbreaking, how much she wants her love back, then includes these lines at the start of the chorus
Nevermind I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you two
"I'll Be Around," by The Spinners:
This is our fork in the road. Love's last episode There's nowhere to go. You made your choice. Now it's up to me To bow out gracefully.
David Cassidy's "I Think I Love You" mentions this toward the end of the song:
I only want to make you happy And if you say, "Hey, go away," I will But I think better still, I'd better stay around and love you.
"Good Life" by Francis Dunnery. The first verse is about how he cares about her but the relationship clearly isn't working out. The second is about how she's now married, and that's great even though how he feels hasn't changed.
"I Will Always Love You," originally by Dolly Parton and covered by Whitney Houston.
A-Hole by Bowling for Soup, while mostly being about a guy reminiscing about how he messed up his relationship, features this.
And I can’t help but think of how things could be (how things could be)
And I hope she’s happy, happy with out me
And please don’t think I’m complaining
I was just happy to have her for a time
And if you see her tell her I said
”hello and that I’m doing just fine”
Mythology and Religion
Many tellings of the legend of King Arthur have him tolerate the love affair between his wife Guinevere and champion knight Lancelot because he loves them both too much to see them suffer.
Likewise, Guinevere refuses to run off with Lancelot because she still loves Arthur.
IIRC, in the TV adaptation of The Mists of Avalon, Arthur's solution to this problem is a threesome.
In season 2 of Merlin, Lancelot refuses to return to Camelot because he believes Prince Arthur and Guenevere are the One True Pairing. This is after they've agreed that a romance is out of the question.
This is the central plot of the webcomic Arthur, King of Time and Space. Currently, Arthur has banished Guenevere and Lancelot in the Space and Fairytale arcs, but at least partly because he thinks they'll be happier without him. He's wrong.
In Celtic Mythology, Emer and Fand both loved Cu Chulainn so much that they BOTH were willing to give him to the other.
King Solomon's judgment regarding a child in dispute by two women - he proposes to simply cut the kid in two for each mother to have an equal part, and one of the women says to just give the child to the other. This proved to Solomon that she was the mother, for being that selfless.
Cyrano de Bergerac is about the original Cyrano helping the handsome Christian win the heart of the woman they both love, Roxane. He does this because Roxane is already fond of Christian (who's genuinely a decent guy, just lacking in wit), and Cyrano himself believes he's too ugly to ever have a chance with her. Unfortunately for them both, Roxane does fall in love with Christian, but only because of the words Cyrano gave him to use. She eventually learns the truth, but only after Christian has died in battle, and while Cyrano is dying from a mortal wound, denying it all.
In Martin Guerre, when Arnaud is arrested for impersonating Martin Guerre and sleeping with his wife, a judge decides that Bertrade is still married to Martin, and leaves Arnaud's fate in his former friend's hands. Martin realizes that Bertrande and Arnaud really love eachother, and frees Arnaud from jail, and attempts to lead Arnaud and Bertrande away from the villiage to start a new life together.
Twelfth Night: Viola loves Orsino, but tries her best to set him up with Olivia, the girl he professes to love, instead.
The Phantom of the Opera: Most of the movie, the Phantom tries his hardest to keep Christine for himself, but when she kisses him at the end, he has a change of heart and tells her and Raoul to 'Go now and leave me!'
In one of the Cristina Memories of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Ezio threatens to hunt down and kill Manfredo (Cristina's fiancé) if he ever does anything to hurt her. (Cristina had been Ezio's girlfriend 2 years prior)
Both Bianca and Nera in Dragon Quest V do this with the main character when he chooses either of them, or Deborah.
It's more out of guilt than anything - Camus decides to leave Nyna be, probably feeling too guilty about what happened to Hardin, her husband...thing is, Hardin died during the events of Mystery of the Emblem, and Nyna has nowhere to go. Instead of appeasing her, he has this in mind and vanishes, presumably returning to Valentianote The setting for FE 2, where he wound up after the first game and be with Teeta, a priestess he himself fell in love with. This actually backfires, as Nyna decides to pursue him, leaving Archanea in Marth's hands.
In Blazing Sword, should Priscilla reach maximum support/fall in love with either Heath or Guy, both of them choose to leave her in their respective paired endings, as she's a noblewoman and they are a traitorous mercenary and a swordsman from the Sacae Plains, respectively. They have this in mind when leaving her, but she winds up sad anyway...
Cordelia in Fire Emblem Awakening seems to want this at first for Chrom, as she feels unworthy to be with him. Thing is, she keeps talking about her unrequited love for him and will still pine for him, even if you pair her up with someone else.
Vincent Valentine does this in Final Fantasy VII to everyone on the planet's lasting regret.
In Final Fantasy VI, Locke's beloved Rachel returns to life just long enough to release him and tell him to be happy with his new love, Celes.
Snake's jealousy of Naomi for her relationship with his best friend is quite clear in Metal Gear Solid 4, but at the same time he becomes furious with her when she breaks his heart.
In Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, Tia tries to talk Maxim out of being a warrior, because she cannot endure the thought of something happening to him in battle. She decides to give him up when she realizes that this is a part of Maxim which makes him happy, surrendering him both to his passion for battle and his future wife Selan.
Mass Effect 2 had quite a few of these - Thane was reluctant due to his illness, Garrus due to the physiology differences, Jack because... well, she's had some bad personal experiences.
If you romanced Liara in the first game, in the DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker, she will tell Shepard that she does not want to burden him/her and that if s/he wants to move on, she won't hold it against him/her. It's a part of Liara's character. She'll say the exact same thing when she thinks Ashley is in love with you.
Liara gets this a lot; in the third game, if you romanced Liara in 1 and Tali in 2, then commit to Tali and take Liara on the Geth Dreadnought, after a few moments where it appears touch-and-go, she'll tell Tali that she simply hopes the two of them are happy together.
In Dragon Age II, if the PC takes up with Anders after Fenris breaks it off, the latter says simply to the former: "Be good to him/her. Break his/her heart and I will kill you." Considering that Fenris and Anders hate each other with the burning of a million suns, and that he's still very much in love with the PC, this is especially touching.
Eventually, Kain towards his best friend Cecil and his love interest Rosa in Final Fantasy IV.
In Kingdom Hearts, Riku lets Sora and Kairi be together through four words: "Take care of her."
In Persona 3Portable, if you're playing as a girl you have the option to start a romantic relationship with Shinjiro Aragaki. He knows he's going to die soon in one of 3 different ways, so even though he loves the protagonist, he knows that starting a relationship would cause her nothing but pain, so he does his best to deter her for her own sake. With enough persistance you can get him to overcome this (ending in an implied Optional Sexual Encounter), but even when you talk to him after that he still tries to keep telling you that you're better off with somebody else.
Implied to be the reason GLaDOS sends Chell away at the end of Portal 2; hints in the tone and contents of the ending songs indicate she lied about deleting Caroline to drive Chell out of the Aperture Science Testing Facility because she knew the machine would drive her into an amoral testing frenzy again, and wanted Chell out of her reach before she lost control.
The ending of Fate/Stay Night's Fate route and the Anime falls under this trope, with Shirou allowing Saber to destroy the Grail even if it means their separation. In the game's last route, Sakura is shown to be resigned to Shirou and her sister, Rin, getting together, and is surprised at Shirou reciprocating her feelings.
Also deconstructed: This is basically Shirou's default state towards anyone. To clarify, unlike normal people who can somewhat create their own happiness, Shirou, thanks to his lack of any concept or sense of self, always places the need of others before his own and is completely unable to create his own happiness and has to live through others.
Shima-kun from CLANNAD, who wishes for Misae to find her happiness, since he's worried about her.
The Kyou route revolves around deconstructing this trope, showing just how awkward and painful it would be in reality.
In almost all endings to Frozen Essence, Zareh helps Mina be with her chosen love interest and bids her farewell in spite of having been in love with Mina for a thousand years and being the one who unsealed her from her prison in the first place. This is the most prominent in Rune's path where he tells Mina that she will never be happy if she doesn't see Rune again, risks being captured and exposed to let Mina reunite with Rune, and tells Mina in the Light End to let go of him and focus on her future with Rune instead. What really makes this sad is that Mina doesn't even realize the full significance of this because she's lost all her memories of her past - and by extension, Zareh - so she doesn't even know who this person comforting her in her dreams is. However, this is subverted in Zareh's own Dark End where he snaps after being rejected by Mina and keeps her captive to prevent her from leaving him.
In Katawa Shoujo, this is the reason why Misha helps Hisao get together with Shizune in the latter's route. The big twist here is that her beloved is not Hisao but Shizune. Eventually however, especially after the first time Hisao and Shizune have sex, her feelings start to come to the surface and put a strain on everyone's realtionships with each other.
Rather surprisingly, Saya in Saya no Uta displays this at one point: she reveals to Fuminori that she has the ability to restore his distorted senses back to normal and offers to do so for him. If Fuminori says that he wants it, she willingly does it even though she's visibly saddened by how this will effectively force her to separate from the one human who she could truly connect to forever because his normal human senses wouldn't be able to bear the sight of her true Eldritch Abomination form.
Torahiko Ooshima in Morenatsu is shown to be this if you don't pick him.
Every route in Princess Waltz ends with this. in the first half of the game, Chris sacrifices herself for Arata. And in the second half of the game, Arata and whichever partner you choose fall in love, but that girl ultimately steps out of the way so he can be with Chris after she is saved.
Rumy in Fans!! exemplifies this trope, having seemingly made it her life's mission to ensure that Rikk is happy with Alisin as a way of dealing with the fact that she's been hopelessly in love with him since before Rikk even knew Alisin's name. At the end of the strip, however, Alisin and Rikk care too much about Rumy to let her sacrifice her own happiness for them, and they convince her to join them in a three-way relationship, which works out well for all of them.
Subverted with another character, Ashley. She approaches Elliot to warn him about her Manipulative Bastard ex-boyfriend trying to woo Susan. Despite liking Elliot herself, Ashley acts while believing that Elliot likes Susan. The subversion comes when Elliot explains he and Susan are Just Friends, and the scene ends with Elliot asking her out.
Sarah and Susan's reactions to Ashley are pretty much straight examples of the trope. Although in their cases he's not exactly "my beloved", more "the person I've concluded probably isn't my beloved although we're still friends" and "the person who I might consider being my beloved if anyone was going to be, which is unlikely", respectively.
Happens to Ping as she is programmed to help lonely young men gain confidence with women and support them in forming relationships. She briefly attempts to 'protect Piro from being hurt' and tries to convince him that a relationship with an android programmed to provide emotional support would be much safer, in the end however she is forced to stand aside for Kimiko.
In Namir Deiter, Twofer (Hispanic lesbian) Gabby tries to fix her best friend, main character Tipper Namir, up with her Jerk with a Heart of Gold cousin, partially to ease the tension developed after Gabby confessed her feelings for Tipper and Tipper gently put her down. Resolved later when Gabby hooks up with a fellow Twofer art student (to whom she'd confided the previous situation).
And Gabby proceeds to go through it again , when she endures Jacinda's Anything That Moves attitude, before finally getting fed up with being taken for granted and breaking things off herself.
Occurs fairly early on in Questionable Content: Faye finally explains to Marten why she's been putting out such drastically mixed signals towards his romantic overtures and why she can't have a relationship with anyone right then, especially the kind Marten wants. She agrees to seek help for her issues, but only on the condition that Marten doesn't try to wait for her.
Homestuck has an example in the form of Karkat Vantas. He doesn't have a very good relationship with Dave, but when his love interest Terezi chooses him over Karkat, he accepts it despite innitially protesting. Later, when Terezi is upset, he comforts her as a friend, and actually gets angry over the prospect of Dave breaking up with her.
Inverted with Dirk- he's incapable of being with Roxy even though he loves her because of his orientation. Even so it's still sort of for her own good, he knows she deserves someone who can properly reciprocate.
Torg has had a crush on Zoe for most of Sluggy Freelance, but he never tells her how he feels, and at one point even resolves never to speak to her again, because he's worried that Oasis (a crazy jealous, immortal assassin) will kill Zoe for getting between her and Torg. Currently, Torg is actively searching for a way to permanently stop Oasis, in part so that he and Zoe can finally be together.
In 1/0 Ghanny helps Terra break her self-imposed fourth wall and come out of the closet to confess her love for Zadok as talked about here
Sabrina Online: Zig Zag isn't so much in love with the title character as she's infatuated with her. And she knows it. There's also the fact that Sabrina is straight, a tad prudish, and is rather Squicked by Zig Zag's Anything That Moves attitude. Zig would settle for getting Sabrina to come out her shell and enjoy life.
In General Protection Fault, Nega-Ki is shown developing some feelings for Nick, having been repulsed by Nega-Nick's cruelty, and after charging him to distract him and getting mortally wounded in the process, tells her counterpart to love him and promise her they will be happy together. Trudy also has this mindset for Nick, combined with being The Atoner, in the To Thine Own Self arc.
In The Order of the Stick,Therkla confesses her love for Elan, who's already dating Haley, though she's been missing for months and may well be dead. Therkla says that if Elan will be with her now, she'll willingly step aside if Haley ever comes back into the picture. Elan still declines, however.
Happens twice in Something Positive - Davan lets Branwen leave to go to Canada, even though they are very much in love, because he knows that she really wants the journalism job she was offered. Pee Jee actively helps Jhim go to D.C., lending him $1,000, despite the fact that it's tearing her up to watch him go. In the second case, however, Jhim is gay, and oblivious to PeeJee's feelings.
It happens often in Sonichu where Chris-Chan and some other characters say that.
In Nerf NOW!!, Heavy Weapons Guy and Heavy Weapons Girl compete for the Medic's attention during a battle. Then they are shot at by a soldier, and Medic uses the medigun on HWGirl first, basically choosing her over HWGuy. During the celebrations after the battle, HWGuy spies on them...and his only reponse to seeing them kiss is a small smile before he leaves so as not to come between them.
In an alternate story plot to the Mario Series by SylentNyte called Super Mario: Royal. Bowser, despite his many attempts to win over Princess Peach. Finally decided to let her go and allow her to marry Mario because he wanted her to be happy.
Bittersweet Candy Bowl has this in numerous characters; many members of the secondary cast, such as Sue, are okay with Mike being happy with someone else, but object to his long-distance relationship with Sandy, wanting him instead to date their friend Lucy. Lucy herself has this to some degree with Mike, though she still wants him as a friend - something he is now resisting after having the idea put in his head that Lucy was just using him rather than being clingy and Tsundre because she is in love with him. Augustus has this for Daisy, who in turn, like Sue, likes Mike but wants him to be happy with someone else - but preferably Lucy if not herself. Abbey expressed similar sentiments to Daisy before they started dating, though Daisy herself may be dating him to make HIM happy, as well as to have someone for herself - but she doesn't care for him the same way she does for Mike.
Margaret does this with Dave. He's madly in love with her, and while she does love him, it's mostly platonic. More importantly though, Satan enjoys murdering anyone who gets too close to her. So she does everything she can to drive Dave away, to the point of even calling up her love rival, Blue, to give him some Intimate Healing when he desperately needs it.
Blue pairs this with Dogged Nice Girl. She makes no attempt to hide her feelings for Dave, and believes very strongly that they'd be happy together, but is also willing to wait and see if he'll be happier with Margaret. In the end, she was right. When they finally get together, he's the happiest he's ever been. Although, he's the comic's Butt Monkey in a Crapsack World, so there is something of an upper limit.
Split Screen: Jeremy is as in love with Jan as she is with him. He pretended not to notice (and just ended up giving mixed signals in the process), because he thought with his issues, he'd just drag her down. He feels this way even after she comes back to down a decade later as a successful fashion designer.
In Greek Ninja, Dawson has his heart trampled on but pretends to be alright, as to not upset his love interest who was interested in someone else.
The Legend of Korra has this with Korra. Korra is often portrayed as stubborn and even a bit selfish. In a heartwarming gesture, she shows that she can be selfless by allowing Mako, who she is in love with, to be with his girlfriend Asami. Korra even goes so far as to befriend Asami and tell Mako to go to her when she needs him. The show is not shy about showing Korra's heartbreak, though.
In a twist, Mako admits to having strong feelings for Korra as well and knows how much it hurts her to see him with Asami.
In The Simpsons, near the end of the episode where a woman replaces Krusty. They're about to get married, when Bart shows her a compilation of clips showing how he used to treat his previous wives. She is unbothered by this, however Krusty realises he'd only hurt her and leaves the altar.
Krusty: You're the only woman I love enough to abandon at the altar.
Futurama: In "Bender's Big Score", Fry acts at first to disrupt Leela and Lars' budding relationship, because he is desperately in love with Leela himself. He eventually learns the trope lesson to a T, and goes so far as to reunite the two even after they've broken up on their own. Complicated because it turns out that Lars is Fry, a duplicate created by time travel that lived in the past for twelve years before learning the lesson, having his hair burned, voice changed and freezing himself again.
Ironically, Lars himself does this. Upon learning that as a duplicate created from time travel he was inevitably doomed to die soon, he calls off the wedding because he wished to spare Leela the pain of her husband dying.
"Lars" also does this back in the past and the narwhal he bonded with, which is what helps him realize and grow as a person enough to start this whole chain of wanting his beloved to be happy.
In the episode "Bendless Love", Bender dates fellow bending unit Angline long enough to drive her back into the arms of her ex-husband Flexo. After Flexo gets pinned under an unbendable girder, Bender bends it off of him so they can be happy together.
In American Dragon Jake Long, the Huntsclan has finally gathered together the artifacts they needed and in the configuration required for the Huntsmaster to wish away all magical creatures. Rose promptly interrupts him and instead wishes away all of the Huntsclan members in lieu of the magical creatures, in her ultimate act of betrayal. Jake obviously doesn't want Rose to be annihilated with the rest of them, so he takes over and wishes that Rose was never a part of the Huntsclan to begin with. So, she is saved, but since he only met her because she had been in the Huntsclan, their romance is deleted from history. However, she somehow manages to remember it later anyway...
In the Teen Titans episode "Things Change", Beast Boy encounters a Schoolgirl bearing a striking resemblance to his once petrified former girlfriend Terra. Eager to resume the relationship, he is met with considerable resistance on the part of the Schoolgirl when she repeatedly explains to Beast Boy that she does not wish to be associated with Terra, or Terra's bad deeds. Ultimately, Beast Boy realizes the strain he has put The Schoolgirl through when she explains that, though he may enjoy being a Titan, shejust wants to be normal, and he leaves the Schoolgirl to enjoy a normal life, and attend to his responsibilities.
A variant happens in the Teen Titans Go! comics continuing the series, when Terra's brother shows up looking for her. Beast Boy tells him about the Schoolgirl and he goes to look at her from afar, recognizing her as Terra, he is amazed that she looks happier now than she ever did in her life. He leaves without speaking to her, but she notices him out of the corner of her eye and seems happy to see him.
Discussed and ultimately defied in the 1947 Disney shortDonald's Dilemma. In it Donald Duck gets hit on the head with a flower pot and becomes a successful singer - but as consequence he gains amnesia and forgets everything about his past life, including his girlfriend Daisy Duck. When Daisy consults a psychiatrist about what to do, he gives her two options:
Psychiatrist: Do you want the world to have him and his beautiful golden voice... or do you want him back again for yourself? It's either the world, or you.
Daisy: Me! Me! Me! MEEEEEE!
AndrAIa in ReBoot couldn't leave her game world with the boy she fell for (that would be Enzo, in case you can't tell), so she created a copy of herself and hid her on him in icon form, making this a rare example of a character conceding their beloved to their self.
Hexadecimal does this too in season 4. She is the only one that can stop Daemon's infection from destoying the entire Net, but only goes through with it because destroying the Net means destroying Bob. She even tells Dot to take care of Bob right before performing her Heroic Sacrifice.
Cody on Total Drama Island. He liked Gwen, but was a bit oblivious to the fact that Gwen was clearly the Official Couple with his friend Trent. Once he figured it out, though, he decided to help set them up together.
Interestingly averted in Season 3. By this point Gwen and Trent have broken up, and Cody makes it clear that he's hoping she'll give him another chance. However, he's once again oblivious to the fact that she likes somebody else—Duncan, a friend of hers who's Troubled, but Cute at best and a Jerk Ass at worst, and already involved with someone else. When the two secretly kiss in the bathroom and later get found out, Cody's reaction is to punch Duncan in the face and make it clear to both of them that he's still holding out for Gwen, even as she and Duncan begin a (semi-)relationship.
In an episode of Family Guy where Peter was lost at sea and presumed dead, Lois ended up remarrying Brian (who has always held a torch for Lois), When Brian discovers that Lois and Peter are having an affair behind his back he goes to confront them, but overhears Lois breaking off the affair with Peter because of the commitment she made to Brian. In response, Brian promptly agrees to end the marriage so Lois can go back and be with Peter.
When Peter was turned gay by an experimental gay gene treatment, he decided to leave his family and live with Scott, his new boyfriend. Brian and Stewie kidnapped Peter and sent him to a Straight Camp to turn him back. However, Lois learned about this and decided to get Peter back to Scott since he would be happy with him and she can't change who he is.
There's a direct-to-DVD movie called "Pollyworld", which is based on the "Polly Pocket" toyline. When Polly and her friends find out that Polly'snote almost future stepmother was trying to trick Polly's father into having her sent to a boarding school, they catch the whole confession on camera and save it to a DVD. However, Polly invokes this trope be deciding not to show the DVD to her father, even though it would mean that she wouldn't have to leave her friends. She decides that it wouldn't be fair to get in the way of her father's happiness. Moreover, she drives this point home by destroying the DVD. Luckily, her father finds out anyway, and everything turns out right in the end.
Galaxy Rangers had a heart-breaking one. Shane couldn't admit his feelings to his fellow Supertrooper, Darkstar. She ends up running off with Jerkass Stingray and becoming a wanted criminal while he was spared a de facto execution by becoming a Hunter of His Own Kind. A couple years later, Darkstar and Stingray are hired thugs for a corrupt Cattle Baron, and Shane is sent to take them down. Shane tries to rebuild things with Darkstar, but Darkstar makes it very clear that she's staying with Stingray. Shane and Stingray have a classic Showdown at High Noon (we ARE talking about a Space Western). Shane defeats Stingray...only to turn and walk away, sparing them both. Darkstar is holding her lover and sobbing, unable to understand why Shane isn't arresting them. Lucy Martin and Doug Pries managed to act the hell out of it.
Darkstar: Goose! Why are you letting us go? I don't understand...
Shane: I know, Darkstar. I know you don't. Take care of yourself, Darkstar. Take real good care of yourself...and take care of him, too...
Mocked at the very end of season 4 of The Venture Bros.. When The Outrider tells Dean "you should be happy as long as she's happy", he curses him back with a Precision F-Strike.
Almost occurs during Kim Possible: So The Drama. Ron Stoppable becomes increasingly jealous of Kim's new crush, Eric, leading him to the realization that he was in love with her... and had been for some time. On the night of the junior prom he decides to tell Kim how he really feels... before realizing that if she did not feel the same way and wanted Eric instead, it could potentially ruin their friendship. The next we see of him, he is visiting Bueno Nacho... apparently having decided not to go through with telling Kim, leaving her to attend the prom with Eric and him feeling sorry for himself. However, whilst there, he uncovers Dr. Drakken's latest scheme, leading to the revelation that Eric is a synthodrone, designed for the sole purpose of luring Kim into a trap and thus giving Ron his chance to confess to Kim. She returns his affections, and marks the Relationship Upgrade between the two.
Then we have Yori, basically a Japanese version of Kim. She was really keen on Ron, who was oblivious to her affections. When Kim tells him he is blown away by the revelation, then after he and Kim are a couple Ron tries to tell Yori, who stoically accepts this. Kim does a better job of explaining, and Yori is perfectly happy for them.
Interpretations vary, but Søren Kierkegaard basically did this to his fiancée Regine when he abandoned her. He went as far as to destroy his own public reputation so that people would think that she had broken up with him, that he was the problem. In the time they lived in, a man breaking off an engagement with a woman reflected really badly on the woman, and could ruin her reputation for years. Kierkegaard didn't want to see this happen to Regine. The emotional fallout became the backdrop for his writings about philosophy and religion.
This type of love for another is referred to as agape by most Christian churches: to love others to such a degree that you place their needs above your own, even if you don't benefit from it or suffer because of it. It is regarded as the highest form of love.
"If you truly love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it's yours forever, if it doesn't, it never was to begin with." - An old proverb.