Love Cannot Overcome

"But there's a danger in loving somebody too much
And it's sad when you know it's your heart you can't trust
There's a reason why people don't stay where they are
Baby sometimes love just ain't enough."
Patty Smyth note  and Don Henley, "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough"

Usually, the hero will go to great lengths to protect his Love Interest from the dangers involved in what he does, from keeping secrets from her to breaking up with her for her own good. Sometimes, however, the hero will choose to be honest and tell her everything, trusting her to make her own decisions about what's best for her. Usually when that happens, the love interest will bravely and loyally stay by the hero's side.

But sometimes, the love interest will decide the hero was right: she really can't handle it.

Maybe all that stuff about ghosts, witches, and demons is just a little too scary. Maybe she's sick of being kidnapped by the villains. Maybe the stress of the long nights waiting for the hero to come home from his missions is just too much. Whatever the reason, loving the hero just isn't enough to overcome everything that comes with being part of his life. She's out of there.

This is not necessarily a very 'romantic' trope, but in some situations it can add a tremendous note of Truth in Television. Can overlap with I Want My Beloved to Be Happy if the hero graciously sends her off to another life (and another love) rather than beg her to stay in a situation she's not suited for.

The counterpart to It's Not You, It's My Enemies. A subversion of The Power of Love. See also The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life and All Love Is Unrequited. Contrast Love Transcends Spacetime.


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     Comic Books  

  • This is why Silver St. Cloud breaks up with Bruce Wayne in a famous 1970s Batman arc; She can't handle knowing that he's risking his life against people like The Joker every night, so she abandons him and Gotham. This seems to be the source for many other examples from Batman adaptations in other media.
  • Green Lantern: Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris have done this to each other repeatedly over the years, since his identity as GL and hers as the domineering, villainous Star Sapphire frequently complicate their underlying mutual love.
    • Pointed out to Hal during Blackest Night, when Indigo-1 points out that Hal and Carol contradict the Star Sapphire mantra that "Love conquers all". Hal actually notes that what Indigo's saying doesn't sound like a compliment, to which she retorts that it wasn't meant to be.
    • As of the final issue of Geoff John's run on the title, Hal and Carol will eventually get together and stay together, which would be an aversion of this trope.
  • Being in love with the emotionally withdrawn Bruce Banner is tough enough already, but his onetime wife Betty Ross was often driven away by his monstrous Superpowered Alter Ego, The Incredible Hulk.
  • Villainous example: A few Batman stories before the 1980s showed that Harvey "Two-Face" Dent's fiancée, Gilda, still loved him unconditionally after his transformation, but his criminal lifestyle and tendency to end up in Arkham eventually forced her to move on. The Golden Age story that introduced him was quite different; there, she's immediately repulsed by his disfigurement, but Harvey and Gilda Kent got to keep their happy ending after a skilled plastic surgeon rescued from Germany successfully reforms his face.
    • Batman's own troubled romances with Catwoman and Talia probably count.
  • Spider-Man: As of the One More Day stuff, Mary Jane breaks up with Peter, not because she can't handle being in danger for knowing Spider-Man, but because she can't handle putting other people who are close to her in danger because she knows Spider-Man.
    • Ironically in Spider-Island, when Carlie Cooper finds out that Peter is Spider-Man, she angrily concludes that their relationship was a lie, and breaks it off with him in no uncertain terms. Meanwhile, MJ temporarily has Spider-Man's powers, and realizes fully why Peter continues to fight the good fight as Spider-Man.


  • In chapter 41 of In Flight, Rin states that this is the case in regards to her Pride as a magus. It won't allow her to be part of anyone's harem or share Shirou with anyone other than Saber. Shirou himself mentions that to humans, love just isn't enough at times. To a distorted Love Freak like Musubi, who believes in the absoluteness of The Power of Love, it causes her great anger and confusion.


  • In Batman Returns, Bruce Wayne mentions that Vicki Vale, his love interest from the first Tim Burton movie, couldn't handle being Batman's girlfriend.
  • Similarly, in The Dark Knight Saga, Rachel doesn't want to deal with the issues of being Bruce's love interest until he's done being Batman.
  • Superman II. At the end of the movie Lois Lane can't handle being Superman's girlfriend and Secret Keeper, so he uses his Super Amnesia power to remove her knowledge of his secret identity and their relationship.
    Lois: I didn't close my eyes all night...Do you know how vile it is to hear the first bird of the morning singing when you've been sitting up all night crying?...It's sort of like being married to a doctor. The doctor gets wakened in the middle of the night and the wife has to cope with the fact that he's gone...I am selfish when it comes to you, and I'm jealous of the whole world...Don't you know that this is killing me? Do you know what it's like to have you come in here every morning and not be able to talk to you, not be able to show I have any feelings toward you, not be able to tell anyone that I know who you are? I don't even know what to call you!
  • Played with in Iron Man 2:
    Pepper Potts: Oh my God, I can't take this anymore! My body literally cannot handle the stress! I never know if you're going to kill yourself or...or wreck the whole company...! That's it, I quit.
    • This is a "playing with" because, up to this point, Pepper and Tony have only had Unresolved Sexual Tension and are not in a relationship. In fact, this declaration by Pepper is exactly what starts their relationship at the end of the film. Also, Tony doesn't accept her resignation.
    • It's then played straight in Captain America: Civil War when Tony reveals Pepper broke up with him because she couldn't handle his Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the breakup between Anakin and Padme:
    Padme: I don't believe what I'm hearing! Obi-Wan was right... you've changed! You have turned to the dark side! You're not Anakin anymore!
    Anakin: [with a growing angry look and voice] I don't want to hear any more about Obi-Wan. The Jedi turned against me. Don't you turn against me!
    Padme: [crying] Anakin, you're breaking my heart! You're going down a path I cannot follow!
    Anakin: Because of Obi-Wan?
    Padme: Because of what you've done... what you plan to do! Stop! Stop now... come back... I love you!
  • Twister: Melissa breaks up with Bill before he goes chasing after the final tornado because, in her words, "I can't compete with this."
  • Die Hard: John and Holly clearly care about each other, but their marriage is already strained in the first movie. While Die Hard ends with them back together, ultimately their relationship can't survive John's Chronic Hero Syndrome. They're officially separated by movie three and divorced by movie four, adding to John's Knight in Sour Armor bitterness.


  • Inverted in the Vorkosigan Saga: Ellie Quinn loves Miles and is perfectly fine with his dangerous life as a mercenary and secret agent; it's the prospect of becoming Lady Vorkosigan and being forced to move to Barryar she can't get past.
  • In Every Day, by David Levithan, love doesn't overcome . . . . sorta. The central premise is that A is a genderless being who wakes up each morning in a different body. He falls for a girl, Rhiannon, but she ultimately can't deal with the stress and difficulty that comes along with such an existence. Then A realizes that there's a chance he/she could just pick one body and stay in it. Ultimately, though, he/she decides that would be totally unethical, and doesn't return to Rhiannon. It is, as you can imagine, a major tearjerker.
  • Alex Delaware's girlfriend, Robin, eventually breaks up with him due to his work with the police and her fears that he's becoming an adrenaline junkie.
  • Victor Henry's wife in Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

     Live Action TV  

  • Jamie Reagan's girlfriend in Blue Bloods left him because she couldn't stand loving a cop with Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • Early in the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles has a girlfriend named Olivia. At the end of the episode "Hush", after Olivia learns of the existence of demons, she says, "Scary." Giles asks, "Too scary?" and Olivia responds, "I'm not sure." Since we never see her again after that, we can presume that it was indeed too scary for her.
  • Prue's first boyfriend, Andy, from Charmed admits to her that he can't deal with her being a witch and probably wouldn't be able to no matter how much time he had to get used to the idea.
    • Although later when he finds out again, and learns they used a Reset Button to undo him learning before, he says they didn't give him enough time to accept it before pressing said reset button, though by the end of the episode, he changes his mind and decides that he wouldn't have been able to handle it no matter how much time they gave him. Though he continues to love Prue and may have been on his way to accepting it when he sacrifices himself in order to save the sisters.
  • In Psych, Shawn's ex-girlfriend, Abigail, says she can't take the stress of his job anymore after being kidnapped by Mr. Yin.
  • On Warehouse 13, Pete was about to reveal the true nature of his work to Kelly, but having just had a small sample of that dangerous world, she breaks it up with him and leaves.
  • Cyborg's girlfriend Katherine in Smallville decides (between episodes) that she can't handle what he's become and so leaves him.
  • Happened to an officer in his probationary period in the background of an early 1967 Dragnet episode. While the speech Sgt. Friday gives upon learning this covers most of the potential reasons that this trope would be invoked, he leaves out the "long nights of waiting" reason which was later covered in the first episode of the 1970 Season.
  • Even reality TV isn't safe from this trope: In The First 48, Miami detective Kevin Ruggerio gets dumped by his fiancee - via "Dear John" phone message - saying she needed someone who put her needs first. Something he couldn't do as a homicide detective.


  • The first act of Sunday In The Park With George. Although George Seruat loves his adoring mistress Dot very much, he is too occupied with his masterpiece paiting to pay attention to her. She eventually leaves him with his baby daughter for a more caring partner. Before she leaves, she visits him at the park and fails to tempt him to see his infant daughter. George simply explains to her that the baby will have an attentive father now.

     Video Games  

     Western Animation  

  • Batman: The Animated Series: Similar to the comics example above, Two-Face's fiancée, Grace, never really gives up on him, either.
  • Maria Suarez from El Tigre was unable to see her husband Rodolfo/White Pantera constantly in mortal danger... this is a little strange considering that she herself used to be a superheroine herself, Plata Peligrosa and not exactly of the defensive style on top of that.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Lois Lane breaks up with Bruce Wayne for essentially the same reason Silver St. Cloud did in the comics. Though - as we see in Justice League Unlimited - she doesn't have the same issues in dating Clark/Superman (or has gotten over them).