It's Not You, It's My Enemies
"No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try... the ones I love will always be the ones who pay."
Heroes have a dangerous job. They can accept that—for themselves
. But not for their significant other
. Add Genre Savviness
and the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
, and it's just plain unbearable. The Hero
has a ready and willing Love Interest
who makes him happy, who would be good for him, who even the fans want to see him with
. No Love Triangle
, no Mayfly-December Romance
, no Virgin Power
, no Twice Shy
—things could be perfect. It's plain as day that he cares more about her than anything else...plain to everyone, including the Big Bad
. The Hero
knows that his enemies will never let him have a love life in peace; they'll strike down the people dearest to him
first chance they get. The only way to protect his beloved from becoming Big Bad
cannon fodder is by letting her go. Despite what a noble, selfless move it is, the spurned Love Interest's reaction will usually be, "Screw the danger! I don't care!", to show they love The Hero
just as much.
This adds It's Personal
flavoring to a Story Arc
, as a safe(r) relationship is the reward to look forward to once you've defeated the threat and made the world a safer place.
It never seems to occur to anyone that telling the Big Bad
you've broken up is not
generally going to get you released from his dungeon with an apology and a consolatory cappuccino. The argument also gets rather silly
when the hero spends every waking moment in his civvies in or around said quasi-love interest's company; thus any villain looking at the situation would need Psychic Powers
to realize they're not a couple
. Of course, anyone with that level of understanding realizes that they are emotionally attached no matter what they say. Justified or not, this fear is why The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life
Though in all fairness, in a practical sense, this should actually ensure that the hero's loved one should be granted Plot Armor
from this method. But the sad fact of the matter is that all too often it doesn't. In fact, the only way that a character would be safe is if they are considered too minor for writers to care about
. (And, even then, these characters are not always safe, either
.) However, there are also other certain flaws to consider, as villains are normally not known for being discriminate about their potential victims. So sadly, heroes, even if you do convince your enemies that your loved ones are random strangers you never heard of, chances are they will most likely go after your loved ones anyways. (Not to mention that normally heroes save anyone whom their enemies attack, regardless of whether if the Hero personally knows them or not, because it's the right thing to do.)
Usually unnecessary if the Love Interest
is a badass too
. Compare I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
and Hero Harasses Helpers
. A sub-trope of It's Not You, It's Me
and Celibate Hero
. May overlap with Loved I Not Honor More
. May lead to Good Is Not Nice
. Often the rationale behind passing the Leave Your Quest Test
. When the love interest is the one who breaks things off for this reason, that's Love Cannot Overcome
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Anime and Manga
- This is the true problem in Ryo Saeba and Kaori Makimura's relationship in City Hunter, as he's perfectly aware of the numerous enemies he has as a sweeper, and said enemies had already targeted Kaori during the course of the series since they usually can't beat him one on one.
- Fruits Basket: Rin Souma breaks up with the only person who ever actually loved her so that he won't get in trouble with Akito (who has already told Rin he knows about the relationship and pushed her out a window).The only problem? Rin doesn't tell Haru why she's doing this. The reason she gives is not "Akito knows and we'll get in trouble". It's "I'm tired of you". This leads to a really bad case of Poor Communication Destroys the School involving Black Haru and a bucket of water.
- At one point during the second season of Code Geass, some of Lelouch's flunkies (rightfully) think he is doing this with Shirley. When a body double mix up at his school leads to problems maintaining his cover, one points out that it could all be solved simply by getting Shirley involved. Lelouch is reluctant, however, as being near him is a surefire way to get killed like his half-sister Euphemia and he had already mucked up her life horribly, both by tampering extensively with her memories and accidentally killing her father. Unfortunately, she dies anyway soon afterward.
- Done again with Kallen later on, twice. When the Black Knights lure Lelouch into an execution, he lies to Kallen in order to be spared his execution. Episodes later, he shoos her away one last time before kicking off his plan for world peace that would make him the most hated person on earth and end in his death to make sure she gets a happy ending.
- Surprisingly, this one works! And, thanks to Kallen working out the details of Zero Requiem, she didn't even end up hating him for it.
- This is also the main reason he makes up the masked persona of Zero to lead the rebellion: he doesn't want Nunnally to be in any danger, and she would be if word got out that Lelouch was the leader of the rebellion.
- The Gokusen anime tries a slightly less orthodox method in this. Kumiko/Yankumi tries to live a double life as a teacher and as an heiress to a Yakuza clan. She tries VERY hard to not get her lives to overlap one another, but no matter how hard she tries, if she has to fight any bad gangsters/thugs chances are at least ONE of her students will be involved whether they like it or not. But to be fair this was also to protect her teaching job; while it has been endangered, she never actually lost her job in the anime.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! uses this one when Negi tries to convince his True Companions that it would be a bad idea for them to follow him into the Magic World. Cue them all saying that they wouldn't care less and say that they're going with him anyway, for his own safety. This backfires entirely as everyone takes it as evidence that they need to go with him.
- This is actually portrayed as a character flaw of Negi's: he constantly wants to keep his friends out of harm's way and do everything dangerous himself, ignoring the fact that he probably would be dead by now if his friends weren't around to help him.
- In Mai-HiME, Mai tries to push Yuuichi away because the defeat of a HiME leads to the death of her most important person and she had just watched her brother Takumi die after the defeat of his roommate and girlfriend Akira. She fails and Yuuichi dies after his Unlucky Childhood Friend Shiho is defeated.
- Melody of Oblivion has a Melos warrior using this excuse on a woman even after he has already kissed her 73 times.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin leaves to Tokyo to face Shishio on his own and not put the lives of his girlfriend Kaoru and the rest of his True Companions at risk. It doesn't work, they join him anyway.
- Yuriko, Sakura, and Aya-chan in Weiß Kreuz get this treatment, via the main characters simply disappearing and never seeing them again—for good reason, since the ones who don't get the It's Not You, It's My Enemies treatment (such as Ouka and, in Weiß Kreuz Gluhen, Asami) always end up dead.
- YuYu Hakusho played this trope straight as the reason why Yusuke Urameshi keeps Keiko in the dark about his life as a spirit detective is out of fear that if she knows it then it will only be a matter of time until she is in danger. Naturally, later on in the 2nd arc, it fails miserably and she calls him out on this but, to be fair, at least she wasn't killed off at the end of that arc.
- In Pokémon Special, X is unwilling to add another Pokémon to his team in fear that Team Flare will hurt them trying to get to him. This despite the fact that Chespin obviously likes him.
- Berserk: Guts is one of the branded, someone who bears the mark of sacrifice, and so ghosts, zombies, and the legions of hell are drawn to him, which means ANYONE near him is a target (as shown by a priest and his daughter who get murdered just for being near him). This is exacerbated by the fact that Guts is a Jerk Ass who doesn't care how many people are killed in the crossfire as long as he gets his revenge.
- The Second Season Breakup in Sailor Moon's first anime revolved around this. Similarly to Fruits Basket, Mamoru doesn't give a clear reason at all for why he's dumping Usagi and it takes about 15 episodes until they actually talk about the prophetic dream that caused the whole situation. The kicker — said dream was sent by Mamoru's future self to "ensure their love was strong enough" to take on the Black Moon Clan.
- Played straight and downplayed in Back To The Future Prequel: Doc breaks off his friendship with Marty in order to protect him from a vengeful former schoolmate and from being contaminated by Doc's reputation. Of course, they get back together.
- Played with in DC Nation with the Original Characters. Green Shield only kept her heroing life a secret until she could figure out how to come out to her folks...only for her kid sister to run off with one of the team's enemies. Travis Gray, and the Zukov siblings never bothered - the siblings only care for each other for the most part, and Travis was living on the streets. Fauna keeps hers because the activist movements she works with and her strictly-pacifist Commune would certainly condemn her choice, and she doesn't want them "paying for" her private decision.
- In Kyon Big Damn Hero, Michikyuu Kanae gave a speech about how she's just bringing trouble on the SOS Brigade before attempting to slide to another world...at which point Nagato engages the Dimensional Anchor, trapping her.
- In In Flight, Shirou leaves Rin and Saber behind in England when he runs away before the Mage's Organization does something horrible to him due to this trope, especially as they rely on and belong to said organization.
- This trope and Conflicting Loyalty are responsible for the issues getting between Kagami and Homura in Stars Above.
- In Fallen King, this is Joey's reason for splitting off from Tristan and Tea. Someone will always be after the Puzzle, and by staying apart there's a chance someone else can help before the world ends.
- In Fist Of The Moon this is the reason Ranma is reluctant to stay at Rei's shrine—the chaos that follows him will likely wreck the place. S/He ends up rooming with Makoto, because it's easier to fix an apartment or move to a new one.
- Harry Potter gives Ginny this speech in The Half-Blood Prince, right after they get together. Ginny, always rather Genre Savvy, doesn't buy it for a second. Rather than react with surprise or tears, she says she understands what he's doing and patiently lets him get on with it. Her later actions in Deathly Hallows indicate that, as far as she's concerned, they're still a couple. Harry, amusingly, has absolutely no way of dealing with this and gives in, causing Ron to give Harry the If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her... speech when he has trouble letting go. Of course, it's not as though Ginny isn't fighting Voldemort almost as hard as Harry himself.
- In Stephen Marley's Chia Black Dragon series, Chia (an immortal lesbian Black Magician Girl) knows that her nemesis, Nyak, will kill any woman she loves, which discourages her from pursuing relationships. Sometimes she does anyway, and the other girl is invariably killed by Nyak. Chia doesn't just have one past girlfriend Stuffed into the Fridge, she has dozens.
- A Shadowrun book by Michael Stackpole ("Wolf and Raven") includes this.
- Luke Skywalker goes through a rare variation of this. In the Expanded Universe his various love interests have bad things happening to them. He eventually concluded that the time he dabbled in The Dark Side caused this and he had to protect Mara Jade from it (it was about as necessary as you'd think). Only proving his love for her by doing that.
- By the fourth book of The Wheel of Time, Rand has three love interests. He is the Chosen One in a Crapsack World. He does not handle being the chosen one well in general, and what would happen to his love interests if his enemies find out about them is one of his many worries. The three of them handle it with varying levels of grace, but they're considering the possibility of polygamy. It helps that one of them is from a culture where that is acceptable.
- The inspiration for his behavior was Lan's treatment of Nynaeve.
- Rand also takes a similar approach towards his father, Tam al'Thor, and his hometown, the Two Rivers. He figures that the less his enemies know about his attachment to them, especially his adoptive father, the safer they will be from the possibility of attack.
- In the Night Huntress books, this is why Cat leaves Bones when the government vampire hunters are closing in, reasoning that they will be safe without the extra attention.
- At the end of The Dresden Files: Changes Harry sends his daughter to be placed in a foster home without him knowing where so that his enemies can't find her. In Ghost Story, we find out the person he entrusts this to does one better and puts her in a house guarded by archangels. Specifically, Michael's house.
- A version of this is done in New Moon (the second book of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga), when Edward leaves Bella, telling her she'll never see him again, in order to keep her safe. Not played exactly straight because he's not protecting her from his enemies so much as from his own "insatiable" thirst for her blood. In actuality he left her unprotected from his enemies.
- In Griffin's Daughter, Ashinji won't cop to his feelings for half-elf Jelena, partly because of their vastly different social standings (he's elf nobility, she's basically a second class-citizen), but mostly because he fears his sadistic brother, Sadaiyo, will hurt her just to spite him. He's right.
Live Action TV
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy tries this with Riley...after finding out that he fought demons as well.
"You don't know what my life is like."
"But I'm dying to find out."
"Dying being the operative word here."
- The X-Files:
- Mulder tries to use this reasoning on Scully. Needless to say, it backfires.
- This is given as the reason why Mulder is not with Scully and William in season 9. This one is actually a subversion, since Mulder didn't want to leave, despite the danger; Scully convinced him to leave because she feared for both his and William's life if they remained together.
- Supernatural used this trope in "Provenance". Sam tells Sarah they can't be together, which is wise since everyone he sleeps with dies. Later he sleeps with Madison in "Heart". She almost immediately keels over.
- In season 8 he simply disappears from Amelia's life—twice!—with no explanation or any hint of what he does with the rest of his time.
- Dean pulls this on Lisa when Sam shows back up in the sixth season premiere: he evacuates her and Ben to Bobby's for a few days and then has them move to Michigan to try to keep them safe. It doesn't work.
- Crichton uses this in Farscape, without actually telling Aeryn that's why he's virtually ignoring her. She gets angsty, he starts doing the local equivalent of sniffing pixie dust, and the bad guy KNOWS ANYWAY because it's frelling obvious, especially considering she's pregnant at the time. Eventually he lets her in on his fears and they quietly make out after loudly saying "So it's over, then."
- This is the entire romantic plot
tumor line of approximately the first 7 seasons of Smallville
- Inverted in season nine, where Lois gives this speech to Clark, about why it was logical that The Blur didn't tell her his identity, based entirely on this trope. Amusing because Clark was just about to tell her he was the Blur.
- The first episode of Highlander: The Series played this absolutely dead straight between Duncan and Tessa.
- Knight Rider (2008) This is the (frankly, lame) excuse Michael Knight gives for the fact that the first time he meets his son is at the funeral for young Mike's mom.
- Granted, the Cartwright Curse has bitten Michael before; he was widowed at the altar in "The Scent of Roses".
- Wangst-y hitman Jason Morgan of General Hospital invokes this trope any time a woman tries to get close to him.
- Most notably, his ex-fiancée Sam McCall, whose getting shot prompted Jason to leave her for her own protection. Many Jason/Sam shippers still aren't happy.
- Kreegan, the protagonist of Touching Evil takes this to the extreme towards the end of the series. After the criminals he is investigating attack his family, he arranges for them to be put into Witness Protection to keep them safe- and makes sure he doesn't know where they've been sent. One of the few examples where the couple never see each other again.
- In Being Human, neurotic werewolf George falls in love with his coworker Nina, but struggles with how much to tell her about his condition, and when. He tries to dump her several times, with nebulous claims of "darkness" and "a bad side of me", but she sticks with him.
- In Bones Booth breaks up with Camille after the latter was poisoned by a serial killer they were on the trail of, believing their line of work to be too high-risk to be caring for one another at that level.
- Played with in Misfits. At Nathan's urging, Curtis says this to Sam. They do break up—but only because Sam recognized the line from Spider-Man and got angry.
- Kyle does this to Amanda in the third season of Kyle XY.
- Inverted in Psych. After being kidnapped by Yin, Abigail breaks up with Shawn for good because she has dreams of her own she can't achieve if she's dead.
- Jack Bauer's reason for not telling anyone other than a select few people that he was alive following the events of the fourth season of 24. Most importantly, Audrey Raines.
- Stefan from The Vampire Diaries distances himself from Elena in order to protect her and her friends and family.
- Grimm: Nick's aunt Marie tells Nick that he should break up with Juliet because of this trope, and he considers it but doesn't do it. When his best friend (who is part of The Masquerade but should be his enemy) gets beaten up for being his friend, Nick tells him he won't ask him for help anymore, but Monroe tells him he can ask for as much help as he wants. His mother later tells him that he shouldn't live like she did, being afraid of getting to close to people in fear of them getting hurt.
- Jim Kyle of Wilfred Greatorex's "1990" eventually officially divorces his wife so that the evil government at least can't inflict legal punishments on his wife and children for his part in La Résistance.
- Subverted in Arrow when Oliver tries to distance himself from Sara because Slade intends to destroy everything he cares about. She points out that this is stupid. Their enemy knows he cares about her, has a grudge against her too, and isn't going to leave her alone just because they broke up.
- Oliver pulls this again in the first episode of season three, this time on Felicity, after the restaurant where they are having their first date is blown up. It feels more than a little contrived, since she works with him both in his vigilante career and in his Oliver Queen identity, and spends most of her time with him regardless. She cannot be in all that much less danger just because they are not romantically involved.
- In Graceland, Jakes broke up with Cassandra in the backstory so that his job as an undercover agent wouldn't endanger her and their child. In the second season, Jakes tries to give up the job in order to be a father to his son only to find that it's too late and there's no place for him in their lives.
- In The 100 Lexa had a girlfriend named Costia who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the Ice Nation because they believed she knew Lexa's secrets. This was what led to Lexa deciding that love both hurts and is a weakness.
Clarke: So you just stopped caring? About everyone? (Lexa nods) I could never do that.
Lexa: Then you put the people you care about in danger, and the pain will never go away.
- Sia from Metal Heart tried this to get away from Minwoo to protect him but he convinced her stay.
- How I Became The Bomb's ''Secret Identity'':
Girl, I know that what you need from me is looooove
But I'm afraid that it's the one thing
I can't, give uuuuup
Cuz my enemies will find you, and kill you
To get to meeeee
- Pretty much the main plot of Star Fox Command revolved around the fact that, before the game began, Fox and Krystal had fallen in love, just before Fox kicks her out of the team and breaks up with her because life as a Star Fox member is so dangerous. Most of the multiple endings wrap this up in some way, sometimes happily, sometimes not.
- It also repeats minorly with Amanda (Slippy's Girlfriend) and Lucy, Peppy's daughter.
- Inverted in Tales of Symphonia: Colette leaves behind The Hero, Lloyd, when she begins her journey of World Regeneration, after lying to him about letting him go with her, the real reason being that she dies at the end of her journey, and she didn't want him around for that. In the end, Iselia is partially destroyed, and Lloyd goes chasing after her.
- Between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4, Rose fakes a miscarriage and a marriage to Roy Campbell to protect herself and her son from the Patriots, who would use them against Raiden. Of course, their relationship was already falling apart before any of this happened, but they worked it out in the end.
- Soul Calibur: Kilik knows that his longtime traveling companion Xianghua has romantic feelings for him, but his quest to destroy Soul Edge prevents him from wanting to get too close to her (Kilik's first love and Xianghua's long-lost older sister Xianglian was killed by him while he was under possession of the Evil Seed). In Xianghua's SCIV ending, he explicitly tells this to her as he grabs hold of the cursed sword. She's not listening, no matter what.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines the player has the option to do this to Heather the pet ghoul, after it becomes obvious she's being watched by enemies who have reason to be watching you.
- If you send her away, she lives. If you don't, she makes you some armor...and is promptly murdered.
- In Baldur's Gate 2, trying to romance drow priestess Viconia will end with this, as she's targeted by Lolth's Handmaidens and doesn't want to drag the protagonist into her mess. However in the expansion she will be amenable to starting over - she realizes that between having your soul ripped out and reclaimed, going to hell, climbing the path to godhood and having to put down your god-blooded half-siblings along the way, the Handmaidens are a minor trifle. Besides, marrying a god...
- Himei tries to do this with Seiki in Sailor Nothing. Tries, and fails.
- Lampshaded, of course, in A Very Potter Musical, when Harry and Ginny use the various Spider-Man movies as evidence for their respective sides of the argument.
- Justice League Unlimited: Diana is flirting with Batman during a stakeout, and he gives a few reasons why they shouldn't. The third reason is the standard superhero wave-off of his enemies being a threat to anyone he's in a relationship with... which Diana answers by casually crushing the head of a stone gargoyle in her hand.
- He could probably argue that maybe its her enemies he should be afraid of.
- Inverted on Danny Phantom: Valerie, the "villainous" love interest, decides not to pursue her relationship with Danny so she can hunt his Secret Identity: "There's something important I have to do right now, and I don't want you to get hurt because of it." Hey, you can't please everyone. The irony here is that he's the enemy and already knew her secret identity, making the whole thing rather sad.
- Terry McGinnis of Batman Beyond gives his longtime girlfriend Dana Tan this speech in the Fully Absorbed Finale episode "Epilogue" of Justice League Unlimited. However, the scene appears to be a hypothetical one imagined by Terry rather than actually happening; at the end of the episode he calls Dana to confirm a date they've scheduled, and is clearly planning to propose.
- Ironically it seems his choice is made when someone who knows him and the original Batman tells him not to distance himself from people who love him - so as to have a better life than the old man (Bruce Wayne).
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: After his Heel-Face Turn in the third season, Zuko leaves behind his girlfriend Mai. As he explains to Sokka in "The Boiling Rock," "Everyone thinks I'm a traitor. I couldn't drag her into it." She is not happy about this and proves how wrongly he underestimated her in spectacular style.
- Of course, Mai ends up getting thrown in prison- as does Ty Lee-, so maybe he had a point.
- Phineas and Ferb: Along with many other Superhero Tropes rolled into the episode called The Beak. Phineas and Isabella naturally.