Toilet Seat Divorce

"A Roman divorced from his wife, being highly blamed by his friends, who demanded, 'Was she not chaste? Was she not fair? Was she not fruitful?' holding out his shoe, asked them whether it was not new and well made. 'Yet,' added he, 'none of you can tell where it pinches me."
Plutarch in the first century AD, making this Older Than Feudalism

Situation where a marriage is threatened to be broken up over a suspiciously minor setback or argument, sometimes venting complaints about behavior which just surfaced. This can occur even after the spouses have jumped numerous hurdles in the relationship to be together, and usually smells of the inability of writers to do other plots or as cheap extension. From more capable writers, it's more of a Rant-Inducing Slight, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and unloaded years worth of pent-up frustration.

The archetypical example, which gives this trope its name, is the cliched argument over leaving the toilet seat up or down.

Slightly more tolerated for teenagers who break up, since you expect them to be overdramatic.

In Real Life, before the advent of no-fault divorce laws, it wasn't unknown for a couple who mutually wanted to separate to use these sorts of things so that one or both could claim mental suffering in order to have the legal justification for the divorce.

See also Minor Flaw, Major Breakup, Felony Misdemeanor, Rant-Inducing Slight, Disproportionate Retribution, Sex Changes Everything, Derailing Love Interests. This trope is not about a divorce threat to somebody who by chance happens to be in the john.


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     Comic Books  

  • In the MAD parody of Mrs. Doubtfire, the judge grants the main character's wife a divorce because he left the toilet seat up.


  • On Kramer vs. Kramer, Joanna's decision to abandon Ted (and her child) is explained by her as "Leaving You to Find Myself". While Ted has one possible reason for her to divorce (he starts the movie as The Workaholic), she doesn't really ever elaborates within the film and much drama ensues from her apparent fickleness to just up and leave one day, and return a year later to battle for her son's custody.

  • Book of Esther starts with a party, where a king simply asks for his wife to make an appearance... and she says no.

     Live Action TV  

  • Ross and Rachel from Friends. Since the series depended on them being separated in order to work, their break up was quick and difficult to understand. Ross cheated on Rachel (read cheat as: slept with someone else after Rachel suggested they should take some time), and even after Rachel forgave him, she couldn't be with him because "she would know that he cheated on her with that other woman". This doesn't stop her from wanting him back, which makes all this pretext more useless.
    Ross: We were on a BREAK
  • An episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show had the main couple almost divorcing for some silly reason. They go so far as to get a divorce attorney, who hands them a form to fill out. When they try to put their reason on paper, they both find it so ridiculous that they make up. Apparently, that paper goes on to save their marriage many a time, always by making them realize how trivial their complaints are.
  • Dr. Wilson from House had what seems to have been an example of this trope, given how he and his ex get along when they end up back together. The only difference the second time around is that House convinced Wilson to actually speak up instead of let the irritation build up to Rant-Inducing Slight levels.
    • Also, Cameron and Chase's divorce comes off a bit like this, as though the issue that initially caused their separation was fairly major, in their farewell episode it made it seem as if it was really again because of Cameron's inability to commit, an issue which had already been dealt with earlier.
  • In Spin City, Mayor Winston and an ex-girlfriend from his college days had apparently been driven apart by an overly competitive tennis match.
  • Played with How I Met Your Mother: Ted, Barney and Robin come home to discover telltale signs of a fight between Lily and Marshall. While Robin makes the correct guess that the fight was over Lily's terrible spending habits preventing them from getting a decent loan for the couple's new apartment (which Marshall only found out about when they went in to get the loan), Ted and Barney assume it was because Lily left the lid off of the peanut butter jar. Which makes all the more hilarious when Ted hits redial on the house phone and discovers that the last person called was a divorce attorney. Subverted in that neither Lily nor Marshall want to get divorced: Lily only wanted to get divorced legally so that they could put the loan in Marshall's name and get a better rate; neither of them even considered breaking up their relationship. Marshall eventually nixes the plan, saying that even "divorce on paper" is too much for him; he treasures their marriage too much.
    • This also pops up in season nine. Marshall makes a very big decision without consulting Lily but it is clearly something that a loving couple can work through. Then we find out that Marshall still has deep resentment and trust issues from seven years previously when Lily broke off their engagement and left for San Francisco to pursue an art career. They never really addressed it after Lily came back and they got back together. Over time it has festered with Marshall not trusting Lily and subconsciously trying to "win" in their marriage to punish Lily. It's lampshaded that if they do not deal with this properly, it will wreck their marriage sooner or later.



  • A sketch in That Mitchell and Webb Sound has a woman and her husband half-heartedly arguing about his having an affair. Turns out she's really just itching to pick a fight because she hasn't got over the far worse trauma caused by him leaving the fridge door open a week earlier. She had to throw out almost a whole quiche!
    • And don't forget the milk! All that milk!
    • The same sketch was later adapted to television for That Mitchell and Webb Look (it doesn't go as far as a divorce — the man makes a heartfelt apology for leaving the fridge door open, and they make up. Then they joke about what a scamp he is for not using protection while having his affair).


  • In Mary, Mary, Mary makes her ex-husband Bob recall that he started packing his bags one night when he got into bed with her and she said, "Okay, let's get those colored lights going." His excuse for having divorced her over this "very small straw" is that he had been having a bad day.
  • The title of Barefoot in the Park comes from an argument (which leads to a threatened divorce), nominally about how Paul didn't want to take a barefoot walk in Central Park.
    • In the winter.
  • In the French play Lapin Lapin, the older daughter of the family leaves her husband. Why? Because he told her during their breakfast "Pass me the salt".

     Video Games  

  • Due to the completely random nature of Tomodachi Life, a player's Mii couple can wind up suddenly erupting in to a battle against each other for no reason other then the Random Number God declaring the Miis should fight. Even if a Mii's relationship with their spouse is at maximum, they will still fight. Though they can make up and stay together, if they don't, they will break up.

     Western Animation  

  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Mr. and Mrs. Van Houten have a breakup that's precipitated by one spouse losing a game of Pictionary, though this incident was really only the Rant-Inducing Slight for long held deep grudges.
  • An episode of Arthur has D.W. and Arthur imagining their parents getting a divorce over literally spilled milk.
  • Not a divorce, but Gazpacho in Chowder had a falling-out with his mother over proper tooth-brushing technique.

Alternative Title(s): Silly Reason For Divorce