"Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind, That from the nunnery Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase, The first foe in the field; And with a stronger faith embrace A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such As you too shall adore; I could not love thee, Dear, so much, Loved I not Honour more."
~ Richard Lovelace, "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars"
How can The Hero
balance his love life with saving the world, especially when Love Hurts
and Love Is a Weakness
? Some heroes conclude that the only solution is to leave the love life out of the equation and become a Celibate Hero
. Others (usually of the reluctant
or adolescent variety) take the opposite approach and Always Save the Girl
whenever love and heroism conflict. Finally, others Take a Third Option
— this trope: love, even marry if you want, be fruitful and multiply, but always put your higher calling first.
Instead of becoming a Celibate Hero
, heroes who say "loved I not honor more" enter a committed relationship and accept the strain that their role will put on that relationship. They allow themselves to fall in love, but the romance must take a backseat to duty. They'll dislike having to leave the wife or girl home alone to go save the world, but they won't hesitate (long) to do it. Making a Heroic Sacrifice
to save the girl is perfectly acceptable, but turning to the Dark Side
isn't. There will be times when the lovers can't spend as much time together as they want, when the girl will get jealous of her non-human rival, and when he will have to make a Sadistic Choice
. There will be tears for his safety on her part, guilt on his part for making his beloved suffer, and periods of believing that she would be better off without him. But in the end, she will have to admit that his devotion to a heroic cause is one of the things she loves and admires most about him, and they will have the satisfaction of knowing (and making sure their enemies know, too) that withstanding so much tension and danger makes their love all the stronger.
Many writers, naturally, take a more cynical view of such cases, and are not averse to depicting such heroes as selfish jerks who are not only too weak to handle their burden alone but willing to make others miserable instead of declaring I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
. Note that cynical and more optimistic approaches to this trope both sympathize heavily with the girl. And, sorry, Aeneas
, but sleeping with the girl and then splitting the morning after to continue The Quest
doesn't count; try that, and you're asking for a Woman Scorned
Classic gender flipped
cases usually revolve around the girl being more sensible
in a struggle with passion, telling the guy that since it's impossible for them to be together, whether due to an Arranged Marriage
or a Virgin Power
, they should be practical and accept that instead of sacrificing everything
to satisfy their passion. Reason and morality are higher callings than love to her.
The most obvious modern solution to this trope is for The Hero
to pick a girl who can be his partner
rather than be forced to sit at home
waiting for him, but this wasn't always an option throughout history. Not that many Violently Protective Girlfriends
haven't said, "Screw it, I'll go with you anyway!"
to that Double Standard
, of course.
This trope can be particularly hard on villains who make a Heel-Face Turn
while in a committed relationship. They'll have to rely on Love Redeems
to get their significant other to understand why he suddenly left her to side with the enemy.
Doesn't overlap with The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life
because your significant other has to be in on any masquerade in cases of this trope. May overlap with It's Not You, It's My Enemies
but not necessarily. If the hero leaves his love interest to protect her, it's It's Not You, It's My Enemies
; if the hero could recite Lovelace's poem in context, it's this trope (too).
Anime and Manga
- Kenshin Himura and Kaoru Kamiya from Rurouni Kenshin. He did attempt to leave her behind when he went to Kyoto, but after an Heroic BSOD, Kaoru (and Yahiko) followed him there.
- A good part of Miaka and Tamahome's conflict in Fushigi Yuugi comes from this trope and Bodyguard Crush clashing with the fact that she'll have to return to her world once Suzaku is summoned and he'll stay in the Four Gods Universe forever. They get their happy ending anyway.
- In Star Wars, this is what the Jedi are supposed to do. However, Anakin Skywalker wants to save his wife Padmé, no matter what the cost: even the whole galaxy. The result: Anakin turns to The Dark Side, becoming Darth Vader, who then helps Palpatine to create the evil Galactic Empire by destroying the democratic Galactic Republic, turning the galaxy into a Crapsack World. Oh, and Padmé dies anyway because he force-chokes her for questioning his decision and accidentally leading Obi-wan to him.
- Joshua Chamberlain in Gods and Generals. His wife even recites the Lovelace poem to him in its entirety before he enlists, right after he says that he dare not presume to quote it to her.
- There are shades of this in the beginning of the third of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. Peter and Mary Jane are having a pretty serious discussion about their relationship, when Peter hears of a crime in progress on his police scanner. He looks at Mary Jane and says, almost hopefully, "Go get 'em, Tiger?" She nods, a bit wistfully, and he takes off to go fight crime with nary a backward glance.
- This issue comes up frequently in The Scarlet Pimpernel sequels, with Sir Percy even quoting Lovelace's poem a few times. Sir Percy's "loved I not honor more" philosophy is pitted against his brother-in-law Armand's Always Save the Girl philosophy in Eldorado, which also reveals just how much Percy hates himself for the pain he causes his wife Marguerite.
- Gone with the Wind - Rhett himself quotes this just before he leaves Scarlett, Melanie, the two children, and Prissy, to finally (and belatedly) join the war against the Yankees.
- The Bronte sisters seem to like this trope. Charlotte's Jane Eyre, once she learns about Bertha In The Attic, refuses to sacrifice her morals and live with Mr. Rochester as his mistress if they can't get married...
- … and Helen in Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall breaks up with Gilbert after the two of them finally make their mutual Anguished Declaration of Love because she's still technically married to an abusive alcoholic.
- Redcrosse and Artegall in Books 1 and 5 of The Faerie Queene get engaged to Una and Britomart, respectively, and then reluctantly leave them to carry out their knightly missions.
- Invoked in A Hard Day's Knight, complete with the Trope Namer quotation.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe likes this one. Before Exar Kun's War, which marked the rise of numerous competing force philosophies, this was the policy for Jedi. The Force and the Order would always come first, but marriage and family were not forbidden. Shortly after Exar Kun's defeat, the Order made their rules stricter to avoid the dangers of the other philosophies. After Luke Skywalker took charge, this policy was reinstated… then again, do you want to be the guy telling Han Solo "I forbid you from marrying my sister?"
- Also applies to Han and Leia. In the The Thrawn Trilogy, Han reflects that as much as he hates seeing Leia go into danger without him, her determination to risk her life in the service of a good cause is a big part of why he loves her. And Leia several times thinks something very similar, though she has to suppress a tinge of protectiveness towards Han that's strikingly reminiscent of her father towards her mother.
- In Vision of the Future, Luke becomes part of a Battle Couple with Mara; they are wed in Star Wars: Union. The short story Judge's Call makes it clear that both of them put the Jedi first - but Luke is entirely willing to put non-emergency things aside to make time for just them together.
- A standing issue in the Heralds of Valdemar series, since the average Herald doesn't live long enough to die of old age. Many Heralds, for this reason, never settle down with a single partner (though all viewpoint characters do, of course) and many minor Heralds instead go for promiscuity and short-term liaisons; it's also mentioned that people who married before being called to become Heralds often find their marriage suffering as a result. On the other hand, many Heralds do manage to form lasting relationships with other Heralds or with non-combatants, and simply accept that their duties are likely to often separate them from their lover and that they will probably die first.
- Healers suffer a milder variation of this. A Healer has a calling, and so will often have to drop everything to solve an emergency or be assigned somewhere on a moment's notice, which tends to put a cramp on alone time with her spouse. Probably for this reason, there are actually a few Healer-Herald couples in the series which work out well.
- It's addressed directly in Magic's Pawn when Tylendel and Vanyel discuss their future. It seems that when Tylendel becomes a full-on Herald Mage, his passion for justice ("the hunger," other characters call it) and for using his powers to help others will cause him to put his calling as a Herald first and foremost. Vanyel is willing to accept that, even though (at the time) he doesn't understand it. Unfortunately, they never get that far, as shortly after this discussion, Tylendel's twin brother is assassinated, causing him to go mad.
- Michael Carpenter in The Dresden Files is a modern day Paladin who wields a real holy sword Amoracchius. Exalibur to be exact. And he will take missions from God that take him away from his wife and seven children. He doesn't always like it, but has faith in God's plans. So he always puts God first. This no longer applies at the end of Small Favor when he is retired by being crippled to the point he can no longer carry the sword.
- From the Honor Harrington novels come Eloise Pritchart and Javier Giscard. He's an admiral in the People's Republic of Haven's Navy, and she is the People's Commissioner assigned to watch him. Entirely unexpectedly, they mutually discovered that they were both dedicated to the long-dead original Constitution of the Republic of Haven, and subsequently fell in love with each other. Despite the risk of a traitor's execution if they were found out, they hid their relationship from State Sec for years, until they finally became part of the coup that overthrew the Committee and restored the true Republic. She then became Haven's first genuinely elected President in two centuries, while he was the military's highest-ranking serving officer. All throughout their relationship, both unflinchingly accept that their duty to cause and country must come first, which only serves to make the moments where they can be together all the more poignant.
- In NCIS Power Down a USO officer (and spy) is kidnapped and forced to work for enemy agents. She resists and is killed in a place where she knows her body will be found and investigated. Gibbs addresses her bereaved husband thus:
Husband: Emma had to do it, right? She didn't have a choice.
Gibbs: No, she had a choice. That's what makes her a hero.
Husband: A hero...
- Delenn talking to Sheridan in Babylon 5 "Lines of Communication":
"John, it pleases me that you care for what I have become... but never forget who I was... what I am and what I can do."
- Lampshaded by David Cassidy in Season 1 of Law & Order: SVU:
David Cassidy: As long as you have this job, your marriage will only be an affair.
- Inspector Lynley's instincts where his partner-slash-Not Love Interest Barbara Havers is concerned generally trend toward Always Save the Girl; however, he trusts her so absolutely that, although he goes a bit to pieces whenever she's threatened, he follows this trope anyway - partly because he's just that honorable, and partly because if he didn't, he knows full well that she'd give him a tongue-lashing he'd never forget.
- Angel's season 4 episode "Habeas Corpses" has Wesley using this as an excuse to break up with Lilah Morgan. She isn't convinced.
- Keldorn in Baldur's Gate II is in this kind of relationship. He is married, and has two daughters, but his duties as a paladin takes precedence.
- Kilik from the Soul Series, to a degree. Confirmed when we learn that one of Xianghua's two children, Xiba, is not just his succesor — but his son. But they didn't last.
- Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown. He cares for his girlfriend Oshizu, but both of them know what fighting is his priority.
- Several of the participants in the Street Fighter tournament are either married or have girlfriends, and they're more or less able to balance their private lives and their love of fighting. Guile has his wife Jane (or Julia) and their daughter Amy (or Chris), his brother-in-law Ken has Eliza and their little son Mel, Hakan has a cute and petite wife and seven little girls whom he adores, Guy has his fiancče Rena (though she hasn't been seen for a while already), Dhalsim has Sari and their son Datta, Rufus has his girlfriend Candy, etc..
- Averted with Ryu. He knows that Gouken's daughter likes him a lot and it's hinted that Sakura may have a full-blown crush on him... but he feels that he can't return the first's love due to his love for fighting, and doesn't seem to be even aware of the second's (possible) feelings.
- Sora of Kingdom Hearts. Kairi is more precious to him than his own life, but three times he has been compelled by the call to leave her.
- Lampshaded in The King of Fighters XIII. If you play as NESTS!Kyo and pit him against Athena Asamiya, their pre-fight talk has her telling him that he shouldn't push himself too far in his quests since his loved ones understand what's going on and they're waiting for him. Kyo correctly guesses that said mini Rousing Speech is actually a message from his girlfriend Yuki, whom Athena is friends with.
- Dorcas and his wife Natalie from Fire Emblem Elibe. It helps that their relationship doubles as Childhood Friend Romance, so she knows him very well.
- In City of Reality, Todo acknowledges that despite his feelings for AV, his desire to help people is more important to him. However, as long as they can protect the peace together, he can be happy on both counts.
- In Girl Genius, Gil, explaining his situation to Zeetha, is adament that containing the Other has to take precedence over the way he likes Agatha. (Later, when she's charging the castle with lightning, he makes the same argument, but while acting so oddly that there's a question of whether he's under control, or even not actually Gil.)
- The Powerpuff Girls actually Gender Flips the male version of this trope in the episode "Superfriends," when the girls' Part Time Hero work puts a strain on their friendship with their new neighbor Robyn. Their conversation at the end of the episode illustrates the trope almost better than Lovelace's poem:
Bubbles: Hey, Robyn, we're sorry...
Buttercup: ... we left you behind all the time.
Blossom: It was never because we didn't like you, it's just...
Robyn: (happily) I know — that's your job.
- Zuko on Avatar: The Last Airbender faces the asymmetrical Heel-Face Turn complications.
Mai: All I get is a letter? You could have at least looked me in the eye when you ripped out my heart.
... ... ...
Zuko: STOP! This isn't about you! This is about the Fire Nation!
Zuko: Mai, I never wanted to hurt you, but I have to do this to save my country.
- This shows up in, of all places, the 1960s cartoon Underdog. In the episode "The Witch of Pickyune", Underdog meets a witch who will only wake his love interest from an eternal sleep if he helps her Take Over the World. Proving himself to be smarter than Anakin Skywalker, he flat out refuses (before accidentally saving the girl anyway with a True Love's Kiss).
- Bruce Wayne expresses his contempt for this trope in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm when he decides he can either marry Andrea Beaumont or become Batman but not both, refusing to go out on his nighttime vigilante missions if there's someone worriedly waiting for him to come home.
- Number 1 abides by this philosophy on Codename: Kids Next Door, but his girlfriend Lizzie eventually has enough and breaks up with him in "Operation G.I.R.L.F.R.I.E.N.D."
Lizzie: I'm tired of competing with the Kids Next Door.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold Plastic Man is married to Ramona, a woman with a fairly abusive attitude. One of the episodes, "Long Arm of the Law!", even focuses on his difficulties in reconciling his family life with crime-fighting. The episode incorporates nearly all the tropes associated with Loved I Not Honor More - eventually his family is put in great danger as a result of his past involvement with a criminal group and he makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save his family. Obviously, a way to reverse it is later found - this is Brave And The Bold we're talking about. Different in that it sympathizes more with Plas than Ramona, and Ramona doesn't take her husband's heroic commitment to bringing justice very seriously, mocking him quite a few times onscreen. On the other hand, her attitude is somewhat justifiable - Plas can be rather ineffectual and irresponsible.
- This is definitely at play in Thundercats 2011 reboot. Tygra grows jealous over the course of the first thirteen episodes by Cheetara's constant attention with Lion-O. She holds his hand, grasps his shoulder and even kisses him on the cheek. Tygra assumes he's already lost his chance with her and it makes him even angrier at his younger brother. It turns out this was a case of Loved I Not Honor More however. Cheetara, as a member of Thundera's cleric order, is tasked with guarding and advising the latest King, who is Lion-O. She reveals that she's been in love with Tygra all along but never said anything and instead was merely doing her duty when it came to the young King.
- Invoked on Hey Arnold!—Helga's sister Olga is set to get married, but Helga discovers the fiancé just wants to inherit their family business. While she's at first perfectly fine letting Olga throw her life away for a man who doesn't love her, she eventually threatens to expose the man unless he leaves her at the altar, forging a note that claims he left to help solve a crisis in Namibia.
- Too many military families to list, but Sullivan Ballou gets a special mention:
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
- It is worth noting that divorce and infidelity are both major problems in the armed forces, and have been for such a long time that "Jodies", the songs American troops sing while marching and running in formation to keep time, are named for a hypothetical man back home who is spending time with their loved ones while they are away.
- Firefighters and paramedics are also subject to this, especially firefighters.
- Police officers as well; the strain it puts on relationships is known to cause a significantly higher rate of divorce.
- While Latin Rite Catholic priests are famously celibate, most Eastern Rite Catholic priests are married. However, administering the Last Rites to someone takes priority over all familial duties. Given the choice between tending to his sick baby and answering an emergency call to the hospital, he'll be on his way to the hospital.