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Break His Heart to Save Him

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"You're a great actress, Satine. Hurt him. Hurt him to save him."
Harold Zidler, Moulin Rouge!

So, you've got someone you deeply care about, and who cares just as much about you. However, you know the two of you cannot stay together: being near you, or just the fact that he loves you is putting him at risk. You tried telling him, "It's Not You, It's My Enemies", but it didn't work—he knows he'll be in danger, and he's okay with that, but you're not. So, you lie to him. You pretend to be mean, callous, and completely disrespectful of his feelings. You say you never loved him. You do everything you can to make him hate you, because you know that's the only way he'll stay away from you and, in turn, from danger: you have to break his heart to save him.

The human version of Shoo the Dog, quite possibly the most extreme manifestation of I Want My Beloved to Be Happy; this is when a character does ostensibly hurtful things to their beloved because they know it's the only way to protect them from some sort of even greater harm. Cruel to Be Kind is the supertrope. Can lead to a character regretting taking an action that they now believe Was Too Hard on Him. Note that when this trope is done poorly, it will often collide with the Idiot Ball if there's an obvious solution to the problem that does not require such a drastic step or your deprivation of key information is actually going to put that person in greater danger than being honest would have. In particular, it's likely to backfire spectacularly when the pain of the breakup just drives the other person to do exactly the thing you needed them not to do (and especially if you skipped the "It's Not You, It's My Enemies" step).

Unsurprisingly, while it usually works temporarily, in many cases, it doesn't hold up for very long.

Compare Inspirational Insult, Break Up Demand and Motivational Lie. A sub-trope of Hidden Heart of Gold. Contrast Unnecessarily Cruel Rejection.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan gives us a rather gut-wrenching one: In Chapter 112, Eren (Yes, that Eren) verbally assaults Mikasa over her devotion to him, claiming it was only due to her Ackermann genetic programming and likens her to a slave, to the point that it reduces her to tears and causes Mikasa to stop wearing the scarf Eren gave her when they first met. Come Chapter 130, and it turns out the Ackermann programming story was all a lie Eren made up, and that he had known she was in love with him for a long time, and even reciprocated her feelings; however, due to his Titan-Shifting powers slowly killing him and his own plans to destroy all of humanity outside the walls to protect Paradis with the Rumbling he knew spurning her and driving her away was the only way to keep her from going down with him.
    • Add in another layer of sadness when it was revealed that he wasn't just trying to push her away, but was also purposely giving her the drive to kill him, which she eventually does.
    • Just to hammer the point, Eren spends his final moments asking Armin to maintain the masquerade, forever painting Eren as the villain and Mikasa as the heroine of humanity and adding that he deeply regrets not having been able to love Mikasa as she deserved, but he was left no choice.
  • In one of the last chapters of Beastars, Louis coldly rebuffs Juno despite the growing mutual attraction between then, as he realizes that his inherited position in the Horns Conglomerate and plans for the future wouldn't fit her. Juno for her part accepts the rejection and parts with him on good terms, though she also remarks that he'll probably never be satisfied with a fangless kiss ever again.
  • In Case Closed, a killer presents herself as a vile person and mocks her fiancé for failing to realize what she really was. However, she sheds a tear while being arrested, implying she was trying to break off the relationship so he would be free to live his life. The fiancé sees right through the attempt and promises to wait for her.
  • In Castle in the Sky, Sheeta makes a deal with Muska to let Pazu go free. It involves telling Pazu to return to his home town and forget about her, which he reluctantly does. Fortunately the Sky Pirate Ma Dola points out to Pazu that Muska will undoubtably dispose of Sheeta once he finds Laputa so Pazu joins with her gang to get her back.
  • Chainsaw Man: In Part 2, Yoru tasks Asa with killing Denji to turn his body into a weapon. When Asa starts falling In Love with the Mark, she tries to push Denji away by saying that she hates him and asked him out only because she was bored. It doesn't work for long before Yoru takes control of her body and escalates the seduction with a kiss.
  • Code Geass:
    • Lelouch Lamperouge does this a couple of times to Kallen in R2. In the first instance, he pretends that he was merely using Kallen as a pawn to drive her away, when in reality he was trying to save her from being killed by the rebelling Black Knights. He betrays his intentions with a soft, barely audible, "Live on, Kallen." In the second instance, when Kallen confronts the newly-crowned Emperor Lelouch about his parting sentence and kisses him, he feigns a lack of emotion to again drive her away and make sure that when he dies as part of his planned Zero Requiem, Kallen will not die with him.
    • Ironically, she caught on as she saw the Requiem in action, but by that point there was nothing she could do except watch and let it unfold.
    • The third Compilation Movie implies he was also doing it for the other Black Knights, as this time, they aren't as convinced by his act and try reasoning with him to tell the truth. Schneizel’s men are the ones that try to kill him, much to the Black Knights’ objection, but Lelouch probably still doesn’t want to put them in danger along with Kallen.
    • C.C. abandoned Mao with this in mind when she felt he was becoming too obsessed with her. It ended up backfiring big time, when Mao went insane due to his Geass incontinence.
    • Lelouch also does it to his sister, Nunnally, when she asks if everything he did was for her. Though granted, she was also with Cornelia and Schneizel, so it's not like he could have answered it truthfully anyway.
  • Cyberpunk: Edgerunners mercilessly deconstructs this in Episode 8. After David attacks "Doc", Lucy pleads David to downgrade his cybernetics, leading him to consider breaking up with her. This causes her to panic and begs for them to stay together... only to be interrupted by her detecting a netrunner getting close to finding out about David. Rather than telling David the truth about Arasaka targeting him for his tolerance of cybernetics or providing him a firm answer on the future of their relationship, she runs off in the middle of their conversation. This is all however worsened when it's revealed that the "netrunner" was a deliberate trap by Faraday designed to bait Lucy in, creating a situation that necessitates David to voluntarily install the Cyberskeleton and rescue her from Arasaka at the expense of his own life. In trying to keep the love of her life safe, Lucy's actions inadvertently destined him to die, a fact that hits hard on her when she reaches the moon.
  • Daimos: To get closer to Olban and accomplish her mission to ensure peace between Earthlings and Balmians, Erika shot Kazuya with a real gun. She pretended she had only been toying with him and that she was willing to get the power from being with Olban, leaving Kazuya utterly heartbroken. If she didn't do that, she wouldn't be in a position to attempt to assassinate Olban and cause the chain of events that led to Olban's death, with their mission accomplished and Kazuya learning the truth.
  • Dear Brother: While Kaoru isn't a jerk to begin with, she does this to Takehiko after she shows him her scars from her mastectomy as a result of breast cancer because she doesn't want him to suffer for her illness. They make it up years later and they eventually got married (in the manga, she dies from her illness a few years later and in the anime, they had a child).
  • In a particularly extreme example, Chikane's rape of Himeko in Destiny of the Shrine Maiden.
  • A Dog of Flanders (1975): A downplayed example. In one episode, Nello, Georges and Paul visit Alois, but when they knock the door, Alois' butler informs them that Alois doesn't want Nello to see her when she's Delicate and Sickly. She does, however, ask that he give her a drawing, because they're a source of joy for her, and Nello obliges and draws a beautiful landscape with flowers and a windmill. Even the butler is impressed and when he shows it to Alois, she loves it.
  • In Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan, despite harboring genuine feelings for her, Yukata deliberately makes a total ass of himself, even lying and saying that he was only nice to her because he wanted to sleep with her, towards Hoshino to make her despise him, so she could fly with her dragon without distraction. After the Ritual is over, Hoshino finds out the truth and they make up.
  • Miaka tries doing this to Tamahome in Fushigi Yuugi because, as she found out, as the priestess of Suzaku she cannot be involved with her bodyguard. Later on, Tamahome in turns tries this on Miaka when he finds out that she will never be allowed to stay in the book, even if she wishes it to Suzaku.
  • In Gintama, Hijikata knows that his life choices involve a lot of danger and will probably kill him. So he rejects Mitsuba (Okita's sister) to spare her that grief and give her the opportunity to find happiness with someone else.
  • Haou Airen: Once Kurumi's Stockholm Syndrome sets in, Hakuron tries this technique on her a lot because he realizes that his enemies will do horrible things to her if he appears to care for her. He even goes so far as to make her be Fuuron's mistress instead of his own. It doesn't work very well.
  • Kiznaiver: This trope is invoked twice in separated occasions, by Nico and Tenga. Both of them believe that the best way to deal with the fact that you have an Unrequited Love for someone is to properly declare your feelings and then, be properly dumped, no matter how painful that is. It'll hurt, but it'll also help both to move on from that.
  • One that ends disastrously in The Lunacy Of Duke Venomania: Gumina pretends to be disgusted with her friend Cherubim because her betrothed, Cherubim's brother, thinks they're in love (which they are) and was planning to kill him. Cherubim thinks that it's genuine hatred, and in response slaughters his entire family, steals his brother's identity, makes a Deal with the Devil to charm every woman he wants in order to get her back, becomes the titular Duke and goes slowly insane with lust before being murdered by the lover of one of his victims.
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: This seems to have been Heero's intention when Relena approached him with an invite for her birthday party, and he replied by shredding it in half, and then threatening to kill her. However, he never follows through with that threat, and several times goes out of his way to protect her despite how that poses a danger for his mission, which leads credence he only acted that way so she'd stay away and not get hurt because of him.
    • A straighter example in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury: After Miorine confronts Prospera over using Suletta as part of her revenge plot, Prospera agrees to leave Suletta out of her plans… if Suletta loses her next duel, and Aerial along with it. So Miorine ropes Guel (who's also developed feelings for Suletta) into challenging Suletta to a duel, with Aerial as the prize. After Miorine sabotages the duel by shutting Aerial down remotely, she coldly ends their engagement as Suletta loses her status as the Holder.
  • Musuko ga Kawaikute Shikataganai Mazoku no Hahaoya: After Chiharu nearly dies from catching demonitis, Lorem and Merii attempt to coldly dismiss her to protect her from the dangers of living around demons. Although it seems to succeed at first, Chiharu returns even more determined than ever to help, going so far as to move into the demon-human compound with them and join a highly-exclusive program to foster demon-human relations.
  • In My Hero Academia, Izuku asks All Might if it's possible to become a hero without a Quirk. All Might reluctantly informs him that it simply isn't practical for a Quirkless kid to be sent out into a world of a superpowered villains because of how dangerous it is. He instead recommends that Izuku look into becoming a police officer if he wants to help people. This tears Izuku's heart in two, but All Might did it to keep Izuku from being killed. Then it's subverted when Izuku's reckless attempt to save Bakugo when no one else would inspires All Might to name Izuku his successor and tell him that he can become a Hero.
  • Naruto:
    • Possibly what Sasuke intends to do when he rejects Sakura's offer for her to join him to defect from the village (which fans still aren't entirely sure about to this day). He calls her an "idiot", before flash-stepping behind her, saying "thank you", then knocking her out. The "idiot" part is not a harsh rebuttal as it seems; it is a reference to an earlier conversation they had, implying that, contrary to his loner persona, Sasuke actually considers his relationship with Sakura (and by extension, the rest of Team 7) as important, and not merely a distraction to his vendetta. The rest of the actions imply that he doesn't want Sakura to defect because he doesn't want to drag her down with him. It is also worth noting that Sasuke bothers to put her unconscious body on a bench afterward, rather than just leaving her on the street.
    • This is what Sakura truly meant when she gave her infamous fake love confession to Naruto, hoping that he wouldn't keep hurting himself for her and Sasuke. It really didn't work how she wanted it to—he easily sees right through her, calls her out for lying, and rejects her outright by telling her that he hates people who lie to themselves.
    • Two years later, in The Last: Naruto the Movie, Hinata reluctantly decides to do this to Naruto by "rejecting" his first Love Confession and "accepting" Toneri's marriage proposal so that she could have a better chance at saving her younger sister Hanabi and the whole world. This time it works, albeit with a few bumps, and she immediately apologized to Naruto for it when he came to save her.
  • In the shoujo manga The One, the male lead seems to attempt to rape the female lead, who's explicitly told him that she has a crush on him, in order to protect her from being followed and perhaps harmed, either physically or in terms of her career as a model being ruined, by the minions of a very powerful person who is out to get his brother and him, by misleading the stalkers into thinking that he has no feelings at all for the female lead. Yes, it's convoluted.
  • One Piece:
    • When Nami had returned to Arlong Park, she tried to act coldly to the then forming Straw Hats in order to keep them from Arlong's wrath. (Going as far as pretending to stab Usopp in front of Arlong). It doesn't work of course and in fact, against all odds, they end up beating Arlong and his crew.
    • In Chopper's flashback, his father figure Hiriluk does this to spare Chopper from seeing him slowly die from an incurable disease. Chopper later follows Hiruluk and learns the truth, but his attempt to save him only hastens his death.
    • And later in the series during Robin's flashback, her mother Olvia tries to do this to spare her from the World Government, but she can't deny Robin's pleas to her and breaks down. In that same arc, Robin does this herself to the Straw Hats to protect them from the World Government. They respond by declaring war on the World Government, showing that they didn't care about what she had done, and that they were willing to do anything to get her back, because they loved her.
    • Ace attempts to do this for Luffy as Luffy plunges headfirst into the battle at Marineford and is attacked on all sides by the Shichibukai and Marine officers in an attempt to rescue Ace from his execution. Ace shouts for Luffy to go away, stating that they have their own crews and Luffy is under no obligation to rescue him. He even states that it would be "humiliating" to be saved by a "weakling" like Luffy, all the while silently begging for Luffy not to involve himself in Ace's mistake. Luffy of course just ignores this and shouts that he's Ace's little brother and promises to save Ace even if it killed him.
    • Platonic example for Sanji in the Whole Cake Island arc; in Chapter 843, he turns down Luffy's attempts to bring him back from Totto Land because his abusive family blackmailed him into marrying Pudding, and if he defied his purpose, his loved ones (especially Zeff) will be killed. Luffy understandably doesn't take it well, to the point that he punches Sanji in the face to get him to come back to the crew.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • In Sailor Moon R, when Mamoru starts to have horrifying images about the future where Usagi is in grave danger if they stay together, so he decides to break up with her to protect her. Usagi doesn't take it so well at first since Mamoru refuses to give her at least an explanation as to why they shouldn't stay together, and Mamoru can barely keep up the facade of not liking her since he can still assist her and the other Senshi in fights against Droids. Not shockingly considering the themes of this show, it doesn't stick when Usagi eventually figures it all out and Mamoru finally can't keep up the charade anymore. The real kicker? The visions were actually being sent by his future self, who set up the scenario to ensure the two had a love that was strong enough to withstand the trials ahead.
    • A much lighter version is done in the manga, when Mamoru gets sick. While he isn't cruel, he still rebuffs her attempts to comfort him and bring him food and medicine, repeatedly driving her away and causing her to feel hurt and lonely. The real reason he keeps doing it is because he knows that there's something unnatural about his disease, and he's afraid that she'll catch it if she goes near him. It turns out that he's right on both counts. The disease is basically caused by an evil power and Usagi does eventually catch it, but doesn't care because she'd rather stay close to him.
  • A particularly weird example happens in a filler arc of Shadow Star. A boy who's in a coma but can still use his Dragon uses it to impersonate a friend and tell his young aunt that neither of them ever really liked her. His reasoning is that it'll help her overcome her incestuous crush on him and find new friends as well as soften the blow when he fakes his death to go into the sea with his Dragon and become one of the Virgins.
  • In Talentless Nana when Rentarou is hunting down Michiru, Nana tries to save her. When Michiru refuses to leave her side and run away Nana harshly yells at her that she was never her friend and only used her. It seems to work at first.
  • In The World God Only Knows, Keima was forced to resort to this during his date with Chihiro, when he realizes that she does not contain one of the Jupiter Sisters. The fact that he was not used to generic character types like her, and that he needs to protect his previous "capture targets" from a looming threat, made him push through with this trope in the worst possible way.

    Comic Books 
  • This was common in Silver Age Superman and Batman comics, usually to explain plot twists that would otherwise make the characters out to be total jerks.
    • In "The Batman Plays a Lone Hand", Bruce tells Dick that he's becoming too much of a bother and he cannot remain Robin any longer. At the story's conclusion, he confesses that it was all a trick to protect him. A gangster named The Thumb warned Bats to keep his nose out of his business or his gang would shoot Robin on sight. To keep his young sidekick safe and catch the crooks, he momentarily tried to put him out of action.
  • 52: Renee Montoya has gone to an ex-girlfriend, Katherine "Kate" Kane, for information on an abandoned property that her family might own. When Kate reveals that her family does own the property, and gives Renee the name of its last occupant, she demands to know what this is about and why Renee needs this information, explaining that Renee at least owes her an explanation. Renee, however, explains that this situation has nothing to do with her and she does not owe Kate anything. Kate is visibly crushed, but Renee's narration reveals that, if The Question's theories are correct and Intergang is behind everything, it is not just themselves who are in trouble, but all their friends and loved ones as well. Renee does not want to drag Kate into this. However, unknown to Renee, Kate has her interests in the game.
  • Fantastic Four: An odd variation from John Byrne's run; when Sue Richards was being mind-controlled by Psycho-Man into becoming the murderous Malice, Reed was able to free her from Psycho-Man's control by berating her (and even slapping her across the face) in order to make her hate him, however briefly.
  • Ghostopolis: According to her uncle, Frank left Claire because he was afraid his bosses would find out and banish her back to Ghostopolis.
  • Gold Digger: The Mall Rats in the miniseries Throne of Shadows. Lydia McKracken sends away her friends Moisha Rich and Romeo Ellis by insulting them. She knows that as Gothwrain's heir she's the target of every criminal overlord on the planet, and that her friends are as doomed as she is if they stay with her.
  • Ninja High School: In the Ninja High School: Shidoshi series, Tetsuo goes against his grandfather in hopes of becoming the clan leader and getting out of an arranged marriage so he can marry his true sweetheart, Nanashi. However his grandfather is too strong and, realizing that he'll kill Nanashi if he continues to defy him, Tetsuo puts on a jerkass performance in order to drive Nanashi away and keep her safe.
  • Runaways: Chase tells Gertrude that sometimes it's necessary to lie to someone a person loves, in order to protect them. She keeps this in mind later, when Chase is in danger of being sacrificed by the past self of Geoffrey Wilder. She pretends to hate Chase for kissing Nico, and tells Wilder exactly how much of a scumbag she thinks Chase is. When she's dying from a knife wound, she is able to tell Chase that she still loved him and lied about him being a bad person.
  • Supergirl: In Action Comics #317, Supergirl thinks her friend Lena's boyfriend is an enemy spy so she sets out to break them up and save Lena from a future heartbreak, even if she ruins their friendship.
  • Teen Titans: When Raven of New Teen Titans turned down Beast Boy, he asked if she was doing this. She denied it. He... took it well.

    Fan Works 
  • In the doujin Alice and Yuuka at Marisa's grave it's implied that the reason why Yuuka tells Alice that she killed Marisa out of jealousy, and subsequently almost rapes her was that she wanted to snap Alice out of her depression, even at the cost of being hated and remembered as a monster by Alice for the rest of her life. Whether this is true or not (or even if she actually killed Marisa out of jealousy and not by accident) is left ambiguous.
  • A flashback in Another Fate has Sakura do this to her brother Rin, saying that she is now a Matou and no longer sees him as family. She does this so that Zouken would not make an example of him or force him through the horrific training Sakura had went through.
  • Professor Layton attempts this in Beautiful Nightmare, claiming to have never wanted to be Luke's mentor in hopes that Anton (here actually a vampire) will leave the boy alone if he thought Layton had no attachment to Luke but Anton quickly averts it by casually saying that this just means the Professor shouldn't care if he kills Luke and prepares to start feeding on Luke, which naturally prompts Papa Wolf Layton to beg him to stop.
  • Causes several of the disasters in But You Alone, a Hermione/Snape story, in which Severus repeatedly (and at one point, violently) tries to convince Hermione that he doesn't care about her, in order to protect her relationship with Harry (and her life). They eventually reconcile, only to die together. The entire situation really was doomed from the start.
  • A variant in Cat-Ra, where Catra does this to Glimmer in front of their captors. Since the latter was mainly caught to act as bait for the former, Catra tries to convince Shadow Weaver to let Glimmer go, and insults and dismisses Glimmer as being a nuisance so she wouldn't argue or attempt rescuing her in turn. While it does work on Glimmer, Shadow Weaver notices that Catra seems to be hiding feelings of guilt when Glimmer starts crying and calls her bluff.
  • A Chance for a New Dawn: After Bernadetta is subjected to Mental Time Travel, she transfers over to the Golden Deer and claims that she never cared about the rest of her former classmates in the Black Eagles. She does this primarily because she witnessed all of their deaths in the original timeline, and is hoping to prevent them from getting as involved this time around.
  • In Cinderjuice, BJ tries this in order to get Lydia to go back home because she has what the villains are after, and he can't protect her.
  • The Delinquent and His Lover: In darxed's Continuation, Akira breaks up with Makoto due to his fears that she'll get targeted by the conspiracy. He then starts treating the rest of the Phantom Thieves and other friends poorly for the same reason, helping Makoto realize what he's doing and convince Ann of what's happening. She eventually confronts Akira directly about this during their trip to Hawaii.
  • Dominoes: Hakuba and Ran both use this to justify their treatment of Shinichi, believing that it's better to keep him Locked Out of the Loop and out of harm's way. Shinichi turns this tendency against them and breaks up with Ran.
  • In The Engagement, the stress of fighting against the extreme elements of her clan makes Hinata attempt to cancel her engagement in order to protect Naruto.
  • Equestrylvania has White Dwarf attempt to do this to Pokey Pierce, though it doesn't seem to work.
  • In Fever Dreams, Light attempts to do this with Misa (not because he cares for her, but because Rem is making him protect her) and then Misa says something incriminating and now Light has to create a distraction for the investigators. Played for Laughs:
    Light: Misa, I admit I've been having sex with Ryuzaki, but it's only because he's so much better looking than you.
    Misa: What!
    Light: Well, to begin with you're too skinny. You should put on some weight. Also, you shouldn't dye your hair. And I hate the gothic lolita style. You should wear regular clothing, like Ryuzaki does. There's nothing wrong with a t-shirt and jeans.
    Misa: But he's a guy! That's disgusting. And he looks horrible. I don't think he even brushes his hair... It can't be. Why would you do this? Light, how do I stop you from seeing him? Is he blackmailing you?
    Light: Misa, I'm not breaking up with you. I can't resist Ryuzaki because I have very exact sexual requirements that he meets, but there is no need for us to stop dating because of this.
    Misa: You'll leave him?
    Light: No, Misa. I told you I can't resist him. The real reason I couldn't leave headquarters is because he always wants to have sex and I give in every time. We're almost constantly doing it. It started before I ever met you. We had sex while we were going to college together. That first night I met you, when you came to my home, and I kissed you, I was thinking about fucking him while we kissed.
    Misa: Light! Light!
    Light: But we don't need to break up, Misa. Let me talk to him. We've had threesomes before, so maybe he'd be willing to let you join in, if I phrased it just right. However, you definitely have to gain some weight first. You don't turn me on at all the way you are now.
    Misa: Threesomes! Threesomes!
    Rem: Light, you're tormenting her!
    Light: Yes, Misa. Matsuda has joined us quite a number of times, and a few other people as well on rare occasions. In fact, I think this would work best if you seduced Matsuda, and then I introduced the idea to Ryuzaki. Yes, why don't you gain a little weight, and seduce Matsuda, and then after that I'm sure Ryuzaki won't object to you joining us. We'll all become a nice stable foursome. You want me to be happy, don't you, Misa? This will make me very happy, and you'll be able to have sex with me that way.
    Rem: Light Yagami, you're giving Ryuk more time, aren't you? This is... necessary.
    Light: Misa, don't worry. Soon everything will be good. Just seduce Matsuda for me, okay? And, one more thing I just thought of. I've never been in anything bigger than a foursome. I'd really like it if you could seduce one of the girls from your modeling agency and bring her along too. Any of them would work. They're all more attractive than you are.
  • Growing Up Haddock: After Brandyn threatens her, Adrianna tries doing this to Erick.
  • In Guardian, a Final Fantasy X fancomic, Lulu joins Zuke's pilgrimage even though (in this story) summoners are not allowed to journey together, which means leaving Yuna behind. Lulu knows it will upset her, but she'd rather leave and possibly die than have Yuna die on a pilgrimage of her own.
  • How angel met imp: Millie attempts to break off her budding romance with Moxxie in Chapter 7, as she knows he's running the risk of becoming a Fallen Angel. Yet she's ultimately unable to follow through with it, having already grown too attached to him and the compassion he shows her.
  • In All the Ways There Were: Frodo is an Insecure Love Interest convinced that Sam deserves a better, happier life than he could possibly have with him, and repeatedly urges Sam to leave for his own safety. Not just due to the dangers of their quest, but because of the presence of homophobia in the Shire.
  • in dreams you follow (but I dream in the dark): In order to infiltrate the Akatsuki as The Mole, Kiba kills Danzo and becomes a missing-nin. All of his former friends, family and allies are Locked Out of the Loop, and in order to maintain his cover, Kiba has to pretend he's happy to be fighting them, spitting out insults and hitting them where it hurts the most.
  • In Juxtapose, All Might breaks Izuku's heart by telling him that he can't become a hero with his limited Quirk. While speaking with Izuku as Toshinori, Izuku says that he doesn't resent All Might for saying that because he knows that the hero only wanted the best for him. But that's when Toshinori tells Izuku that if he worked hard enough, he could apply to Yuuei's General Course and get the recognition necessary to enter the Hero Course by winning the Sports Festival.
  • A Downplayed version sets up the premise of More than Meets the Eye. Ash rejects Misty's Love Confession by telling her that they're Better as Friends, even though she can tell he's lying to himself, and while she ultimately accepts his excuses, it leaves her heartbroken. Much later, the two once again talk things out, and Ash confesses that his reasons for rejecting her were a mix of thinking that he wasn't good enough for her, and fear of losing their friendship, which he held very dear.
  • New Game Plus (One Piece): After getting his grandfather to train him under the pretense of preparing for a career in the Marines, Luffy ships out to become a pirate. When Garp comes after him, Luffy delivers a Breaking Speech about how he could never become a Marine due to the corruption and extremism of the Marines' highest ranks. No matter what he did, they would always see him as nothing more than the son of the World's Most Wanted Man. Realizing that his efforts to save Luffy were All for Nothing completely shatters Garp.
  • One and Only Son has a variant where Villetta is breaking both her and Graham's hearts by ending their relationship; however, she's hopeful that they could start over if she survives the coming war.
  • One Bad Day After: After the events of The Killing Joke, Barbara breaks off her friendship with Supergirl because she believes it's the only way to ensure that she won't be used to hurt her. She breaks not only Kara's heart but her own.
  • Pray for Us, Icarus: After Aziraphale's relationships with Crowley's human reincarnations keep ending in tragedy no matter what he tries to do, he begins avoiding Crowley's future reincarnations as much as he can to prevent further heartbreak for the two of them even when it visibly bewilders and saddens Crowley who can still sense that Aziraphale is someone precious to him. However, Aziraphale misses Crowley so desperately that he ultimately can't stick to his resolution to leave him alone.
  • In Volume IV of The Private Diary of Elizabeth Quatermain, Elizabeth is blackmailed into marrying the villain, Ben Everett. If she didn't go through with it and put on the happy bride act, he would have her surrogate brother Tom killed and have Skinner, who loves her but Cannot Spit It Out, framed for it. Unfortunately for the villain, the rest of Elizabeth's True Companions figure out what's up.
  • The Rest Of The Pieces: Maya attempted to do to to Phoenix, only for him to immediately cotton on to what was happening:
    Phoenix: Oh, I understand perfectly. You're trying to build a wall. You're trying to shut me out. You're the Master of Kurain and you've resigned yourself to a sad and lonely existence. You're doing this to protect me. Send me away so I don't try to solve your problems by making them my own.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Draco catches Harry in the middle of destroying everything that might be used to trace her preparatory to running away, once the Ruse is exposed, and he tries to persuade her to stay and brazen things out. She ultimately manages to make him stand and stare long enough for her to get away, by telling him that their whole friendship was just an elaborate lie. It's only once she's Apparated away that she lets the tears fall and vomits into a nearby bush.
  • RWBY: Reckoning has a unique variant: Yang is blackmailed into doing this to Darrel by Cardin, otherwise, he goes after Ruby and Darrel. It's clear she doesn't want to do it, but she doesn't want Ruby and Darrel hurt either. Thankfully, Cardin gets his just desserts.
  • RWBY: Scars: In the past, Qrow attempted this with Summer. The two were High-School Sweethearts raising a baby, but Qrow feared his semblance and affiliation with Salem would harm Summer and Ruby. He lied to Summer and told her that he never loved her, which led to Summer moving out and ending up with Taiyang. This tactic didn't work in the long run as Summer still got involved with Salem and was killed by Qrow.
  • In spiraling, Cyrus Drake explains to Ryan that he tried to drive them off on their first day because he met Ryan's future self in the past and knew they would experience many horrors.
    "At first, I wanted to warn you off.” Drake’s face is somber. “The flow of time cannot be undone so easily, but I had to give it a chance. I saw you on that day. The changes, the scars…and before my desk when you came to Ravenwood, a child. I had a glimpse of what you would become. To let a child endure whatever made you into the wizard I saw? It would be unconscionable."
  • In the Smallville fic En Tempus Veritas, Lana marries Lex with the goal of protecting Clark from Lionel, but this theme is downplayed on Clark's side as he actually made the decision to commit to his new relationship with Lois on the day of the wedding, with the result that Lana's actions are less emotionally painful than they might have been.
  • The Touch of Green Fire: Shego does this to Kim at the end of The Healer's Touch. Their lives are too different and she doesn't want to see a hero like Kim corrupted by her, so she forces Kim away and pretends that their budding relationship was a meaningless fling.
  • In Two And Ten, Sandor remembers how his sister once took a stray cat in as a pet. He set it loose in the woods, as her heartbreak over this was more bearable than what would have happened if Gregor got his hands on it and killed it.
  • In Unraveling Emotions, The Power of Love has the undesirable side-effect of negating Sinners' Resurrective Immortality. So when Vox confessed his feelings to Alastor, the Radio Demon promptly began pushing him away, aiming to break his heart so that he wouldn't retain that dangerous attachment.
  • In Washed Down The Drain, Joon-yeong allows his boyfriend, Woo-jin, to believe he has died (which leads to a grief-fueled depression that includes Woo-jin temporarily developing an eating disorder) because of Joon-yeong becoming a hambie, as he fears physically hurting Woo-jin.
  • In Weightless (Mass Effect), Shepard decided to push Garrus away because she thought if she let him love her, she would lose him to death. Her fear of ruining his life, combining with Nihlus and Kaidan's death beforehand also cemented this decision of hers.
  • Notably averted in Worth of a Soul when Prince Vince tells Beetlejuice that he should break up with Lydia since he's always getting her into trouble, not to mention almost getting her killed as an indirect consequence of his actions during a recent altercation. To put it simply, she's just too good for him, and if he really loves her he should let her go and allow her to move on to bigger and better things. Beetlejuice responds that he knows she's too good for him, and that's why he'll never stop pursuing her.
    Beetlejuice: Look, I don't know the way you read it in those sappy romance books, kid... But someone's too good for you, and loves your ass anyway? You don't fucking let them go.

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm has Andrea Beaumont do this to Bruce Wayne, breaking off their engagement with a "Dear John" Letter, as her father was in deep with The Mafia, and she didn't want to involve him in it all.
  • In Frozen (2013), Elsa keeps as much physical and emotional distance from her little sister Anna as possible. She does this to avoid harming Anna with her ice powers, like she did accidentally when they were little. Unfortunately, Anna doesn't know this because her memories had to be altered to survive the initial curse. When Elsa runs away, Anna goes after her anyway, believing that Elsa won't hurt her. Three guesses as to what happens when Anna finally catches up to her.
  • In Happy Feet, Gloria follows Mumble after his exile so that she can confess her love for him, and Mumble, not wanting to put her in danger, tells her that she would probably be better off with a penguin who can sing. She's aware of what he's doing, just disgusted by it.
  • Johnny does this in Hotel Transylvania to Mavis, at the behest of her father.
  • In The Little Mermaid (1989), it's bad enough for King Triton to discover his daughter Ariel has a secret grotto chock full of artifacts and trinkets belonging to humans, whom Triton perceives as barbaric, soulless fish eaters (And given the prequel reveals Triton's loving wife Athena lost her life being crushed by a pirate ship, it's not hard to see why the guy thinks Humans Are the Real Monsters). But when his daughter reveals she's fallen in love with a human, Triton flies into a rage and uses his trident to violently destroy Ariel's collection, believing it is the only way to keep her safe from humans. The crushed look on his face after he finishes the deed and reducing her to inconsolable sobs, shows he isn't too happy with what he's done, but nonetheless believes it is for the best, until Ariel swims away from home, much to Triton's utter despair.
  • Shrek the Third: Shrek tells Artie that he was only pretending to like a loser like him, so he'll stomp off in a huff rather than be killed by Charming as one of the ogre's allies, who point this out as he leaves.
  • Silver claims he was trying to do this to save Jim in Treasure Planet when his crew start questioning his loyalty.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, King Candy convinces Ralph that Vanellope was never intended to be an actual Sugar Rush character, and that allowing her to participate in the races will put the game out of commission which, in turn, will kill her permanently as she is not able to leave it. Ralph proceeds to destroy Vanellope's kart to prevent her from ever racing again, despite it being her dream for her entire existence. Upon seeing Vanellope's picture on the side of the Sugar Rush cabinet, however, Ralph realizes that breaking her heart was a big mistake and, via interrogation, discovers that King Candy was lying.
  • In Wolfwalkers, a more platonic example occurs. Robyn is told by Mebh's mother Moll that Mebh and the other wolves must leave her behind and leave the forest before it's destroyed. When Mebh goes into town to find Robyn herself, Robyn confronts Mebh telling her she must leave with the wolves, discouraging Mebh from searching for her mother and leaving her feeling betrayed. Later, when the townsfolk gather to watch Moll being humiliated, Mebh tries to stop them and Robyn, who was told by Moll to keep her daughter safe, tells the wolf-hating kids Mebh is a wolf and has them trap her in a cage so she doesn't get on stage. Robyn explains to Mebh that her mother told her to keep Mebh safe, which understandably further upsets Mebh as her new best friend was lying to her the whole time.

    Films — Live-Action 

Trope Namer:

  • The Trope Namer is Moulin Rouge!, when Zidler tells Satine she has to drive Christian away so that the Duke won't kill him out of jealousy.

By Title:

  • In The Adjustment Bureau David Norris does this to Elise. After hearing from Thompson that if he stays with her, she won't become a world famous dancer, he leaves her without explanation in the hospital.
  • In The Adventures of Pinocchio Pinocchio causes a mess at a bakery and Geppetto is risking to go to prison if he doesn't pay the fee. Lorenzini steps in and offers to pay Geppetto's debt if he can receive Pinocchio in exchange, and he also argues that Geppetto's poverty won't offer Pinocchio a good upbringing, thus living with him at his prestigious puppet theater is a better prospect. Reluctantly, Geppetto tells Pinocchio to go with Lorenzini. Pinocchio refuses, wanting to stay with his "papa", and thus Geppetto is forced to snap at him saying that he cannot be his son as he's not even a real boy.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy's father makes Peter promise to break it off with Gwen as his Last Request. Peter does so, but Gwen quickly figures out that her father put him up to this. Peter later hints that he might not be able to keep the promise.
  • Bleach: In the finale, Rukia calls Ichigo a lowly human and saying that she's sick of living with him in order to try and save him from Byakuya. Her being on the brink of tears undermines her credibility.
  • Bonnie & Bonnie: Kiki, after being injured and afraid she'll slow down Yara from escaping, tells her to go while claiming she doesn't really love her. Yara refuses to believe it however, staying with her.
  • In the theatrical cut of The Butterfly Effect, Evan finally decides that the best course of action is to go back to where he and Kayleigh first meet and be mean to her, so she never befriends him, moves away with her mother and avoids the sexual abuse by her father which ultimately leads to her suicide.
  • At the end of Candy, Dan gives up on Candy because he knows that if they stay together, he's going to drag her back into addiction.
  • In Casablanca, instead of fleeing Paris with Rick when the Nazis invade, Ilsa sends him a note (that Sam gives to him at the train station) saying she loves him, but she can't go with him, she can never see him again, and she can't explain why. When Ilsa sees Rick in Casablanca, and after they've made up, she explains to him she found out Victor, her supposedly dead husband, was still alive and was hidden away, and if she had told him the truth, Rick would have insisted on staying and it would have put him in danger.
  • In Crazy Rich Asians, even though it's been made clear that nearly his entire family, including his mother Eleanor, opposes their relationship, Nick still proposes to Rachel. Rachel turns him down and goes to leave Singapore to return to New York, having realized that Nick was stuck between either forever resenting his family, especially his mother, or losing the first person to love him for something not related to his family's immense wealth; she essentially chooses for him so that he wouldn't have to deal with that Sadistic Choice, herself unafraid to lose Nick in order to preserve his happiness. This turns out to be what convinces Eleanor to approve of their relationship, as Eleanor believes that Americans are too self-centered for the more family-oriented Chinese culture in East Asia but Rachel's willingness to sacrifice her own happiness to preserve Nick's tells her otherwise. Nick chases after Rachel just as she was boarding the flight to New York and proposes again, this time with the fancy jade wedding ring belonging to his mother.
  • In Dangerous Liaisons, The Vicomte does this to Madame De'Tourvel, but not to protect her—he did it at the order of the Marquise.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises Alfred reveals Rachel's true choice in The Dark Knight before her death in an effort to force Bruce to move on with his life without Batman. Alfred acknowledges this will likely earn him Bruce's hatred but that doesn't matter to him as there's a chance it could save his life.
  • In the Film of the Book Day Of The Dolphin, Dr. Terrell has taught several dolphins to speak English, and has come to love them as if they were his own children. At the end of the movie the evil government representatives are coming to take them away. He has to tell the dolphins that he doesn't love them any more to get them to leave him, so they can be safe.
  • Definitely, Maybe: Emily thinks Will would be better off not tying himself down at a young age, and refuses his marriage proposal. When he insists, she informs him that she cheated on him, and it's suggested she did so to make breaking up with him easier.
  • There was an interesting variation in Ever After. Danielle attempts to explain her true identity to Henry, but he doesn't really give her the chance. Later, his mother explains that "Nicole" is engaged to a Belgian, which is what Danielle's stepmother has told her, and he thinks that what she was really trying to tell him was goodbye.
  • Seen in Harry and the Hendersons when John Lithgow not only says mean things to their Sasquatch friend, but also punches him.
  • Baloo from The Jungle Book (2016) is convinced by Bagheera to persuade Mowgli to go back to the man-village or else Shere Khan will kill him. So he walks up to Mowgli and tells him to take a hike, saying that he only used him to get honey and he doesn't need him anymore. When Mowgli leaves in a rage, Baloo looks very guilty about what he had to do.
    Baloo: Well, I did it. And that's about the hardest thing I ever did.
    Bagheera: (solemnly) I know.
  • In Keith, Keith does this after Natalie learns that he's dying, knowing that she's fallen hard for him. He dishes out his most scathing insults, claiming that he planned everything that happened between them as a final act of spite. The trope is subverted, however, as Natalie sees right through his ploy, refuses to let him have the last word, and insists on making him admit what he really feels. He finally confesses that he's fallen for her too, and that he couldn't admit it because he had already resigned himself to his imminent death.
  • Will Ferrell's character does this to his love interest in Land of the Lost.
  • Liberal Arts: Realizing that Zibby still has her life ahead of her to be in an Age-Gap Romance with a man pushing middle age like him, Jesse backs out on making their Relationship Upgrade official. She didn't take it well at first but they eventually get better.
  • Logan: When Laura is reunited with the other X-23 kids, Logan intends to leave her with them and head out on his own again. The two get into a fight and Logan tells her that he is not what she thinks he is, making snide remarks about having done what he agreed before pointedly telling her the people he cares about tend to die. Hurt by this rejection, Laura snipes back that it means she has nothing to worry about, and leaves.
  • A downplayed example occurs at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo tries to set off on his own, knowing his quest to Mordor will probably kill him and hoping the others will find a safer way to help save the world. Even when Sam catches up to him, Frodo first refuses to look at him and then explicitly commands him to return to shore. Sam ignores him, and Frodo ends up having to save him from drowning. Afterwards, he gratefully accepts that there's no way he's getting rid of him.
  • Lost in Alaska: This is part of why Rosette initially refuses to marry Joe — this way, Stillman can't force her to claim his money when he dies and then give Stillman half of it.
  • The Lover. The Chinaman tries to do this to himself, making the Girl say that she was only ever sleeping with him for money, from the moment they first met. Given that The Girl doesn't want to admit any romantic attraction herself, she plays along willingly.
  • In A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More is in serious trouble with the King, and his friend the Duke of Norfolk is feeling the heat. More can't convince Norfolk to break off their friendship, so instead, he attacks him verbally until Norfolk actually lashes out. It pains More terribly to do this, but it works: his friend stays away from him after that and is spared the King's wrath.
  • In the pre-code film, Midnight Mary, Mary wants to save Tom from being implicated with her crimes, so she lies to him, saying that she was taking him for a ride and how he's a sucker for falling for her line.
  • In Only Love, Silvia does this to Heller after making a deal with her father to save his life after he was seriously injured during a trip to Gomba, a fictional African country, due to lack of hospitals in the immediate area and her father had her marry Nico as part of the deal.
  • In the silent film The Plastic Age, Hugh's academic and athletic performances decline due to his relationship with the wild party girl Cynthia, played by Clara Bow. Eventually, she dumps him so that he will focus on school again, telling him upfront that this is her motive.
  • Robocop 2. Worried over a lawsuit from his distraught 'widow', OCP lawyers convince Alex Murphy to cut all ties with his family, pointing out he could never be a proper husband and father to them.
    Ellen Murphy: (sees Robocop without his helmet) Alex, is it really you?
    RoboCop: (gets up and walks to her, mesh metal fence separating them)
    Ellen Murphy: (crying) Don't you remember me? Whatever they've done to you... whatever has happened, we can work it out... start again...
    RoboCop: (leans forward) Touch me.
    Ellen Murphy: (she touches his lip, downhearted) It's cold.
    RoboCop: They made this to honor him.
    Ellen Murphy: (crying) No...
    RoboCop: Your husband is dead. (walking away) I don't know you.
  • The Slipper and the Rose: When Lord Chamberlain convinces Cinderella to leave Prince Edward for the good of the country (so he can make a political marriage), she asks him to make Edward believe she was being cruel to him, to make him glad she left him. It doesn't work; he sees through it immediately.
    Cinderella: Tell him that it wasn't love; say I tried, say I lied. Make him hate my memory, make him glad he's free.
  • Peter ultimately rejects Mary Jane's Anguished Declaration of Love in the end of Spider-Man after realizing his future enemies might target them again. In Spider-Man 3, Harry Osborn forces Mary Jane to break up with Peter to save him.
  • Stella Dallas: Stella decided that Laurel should live with Stephen and Helen, because they are fancy society folks—and because, for some reason, Stella is unable to do basic things like stop dressing like a hooker. But she knows that Laurel will never leave her mother. So she pretends that she doesn't care about Laurel and tells Laurel that she's tired of being a mother and is going to marry Ed and have good times. Stella breaks down crying after a distraught Laurel leaves for good.
  • Joe does this to Betty in Sunset Boulevard. Though they've fallen in love, Joe realizes that he can't provide Betty with the kind of life she deserves. There's also the fact that Joe's in a complicated relationship with the mentally unstable Norma Desmond, who's obsessed with him and could potentially become violent (and she later does, killing him). Joe acts like a Jerkass to Betty so she'll leave him and follow through with her original plan to marry her fiancé Artie.
  • In Teen Beach Movie, Mack breaks up with Brady when she is about to leave for an academic preppy school across the country to fulfill her late mother's Last Request. They get back together at the end of the film after she changed her mind and decided not to go after all.
  • Hartigan does this indirectly to Nancy at the end of That Yellow Bastard—he doesn't break her heart upfront, but lies to her and kills himself afterward. If he had stayed with her, Senator Roark would have most likely attacked Nancy to get revenge on him.

  • Ai no Kusabi. Guy has just "saved" Riki by kidnapping him back from Iason whom had been keeping Riki as a Sex Slave. He now wants Riki to confess his true feelings about him. Instead Riki tells Guy they can't ever be together again because of Iason's Pet Ring on him to deter Guy away since Iason had threatened to Brainwash Guy beforehand. Guy completely misunderstands and makes matters even worse.
  • This trope shows up a number of times throughout J.R.Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Example: Rehvenge revealing his life as a coldblooded drug-dealer/pimp to his Love Interest Ehlena in order to drive her away so she wouldn't find out he's half sympath and, worse still, marked for torture and certain death. Thankfully, she saw through the act eventually and helped to save him.
    • Another example occurs in Lover Enshrined, wherein Qhuinn is basically marked for death after cutting open his cousin, Lash's, throat so he plans to go underground. On the way he's caught by his best friend Blay, who says he'll never abandon Qhuinn. Qhuinn resorts to outing his buddy and confronting Blay about watching him, making it sound as though he's disgusted by his friend. Like Rehv's ploy, this is thankfully seen through and at least partially resolved after awhile, leaving the two on friendly terms again, albeit Nothing Is the Same Anymore thanks to newfound UST.
  • These Broken Stars: When Tarver approaches Lilac in front of her Girl Posse, she puts him down in the most humiliating fashion possible. She does this so that her bodyguards and Anna don't report on him to her father, which would result in him having an unfortunate accident.
  • In the Chance And Choices Adventures series, Noah Swift Hawk tries this on Ann Williams, after they get in trouble with Judge Daniel Hall of Little Rock for having a Maligned Mixed Marriage. Not wanting Ann to be punished, he claims he never loved her and "just wanted to have his way with a white woman" and even keeps up the ruse in private for fear of anyone listening in secretly. He keeps it up for the entire month of hard labor they're sentenced to. Ann refuses to acknowledge it, though, as she knows the truth.
  • In Death In The Spires, a messy love triangle between Oxford students in 1895 devolves into this. Nicky's cruelly flippant dismissal of his relationship with Jem is an attempt to protect him from the violent jealousy of their abusive mutual friend Toby (who isn't even interested in Nicky romantically, but feels he deserves Nicky's adoration nonetheless). As homosexuality was still illegal at the time, punishable by two years of hard labor, Toby could destroy Jem's life with one call to the authorities, so Nicky's desperate to stop him even if it means savaging Jem's feelings. Unfortunately, this does nothing whatsoever to calm Toby down, so they get all of the heartbreak and none of the saving. Nicky has to prevent Toby from going to the cops in a more final sort of way.
  • In Dance of Death, D'Agosta, under Pendergast's advice, ends his blossoming relationship with Laura Hayward when he begins investigating Pendergast's brother Diogenes, in order to protect her from becoming a potential target. The kicker to that? As it turns out, she personally isn't in any danger, as Diogenes is framing his brother for murder and is tricking her into arresting him, meaning he needs her alive.
  • Done by Ella to Charmont in Ella Enchanted, as she fears that her curse would make her a danger to him. However, when she realizes that her ability to decline his proposal is actually an indication that the curse has been broken, she un-breaks his heart by proposing to him instead.
  • Robin Hobb has a variation in her Farseer trilogy: it's not an active lie, but the protagonist decides not to reveal the fact that he is still alive.
  • A young adult series called Haunting With Louisa featured a modern girl named Dee who moves into an old inn with her after her mother died and discovered the inn was haunted by the ghost of a girl named Louisa who had died in the 1880s. Dee soon considers Louisa her best friend and does all she can to help her reunite with the spirits of her family. Louisa also thinks of Dee as a friend, but is worried that it isn't healthy for Dee to spend all her time hanging out with a dead girl. Eventually, Louisa tells Dee that as a ghost, she wants to enjoy her special powers rather than be friends with a worthless mortal and disappears, hoping that this will force Dee to make some mortal friends and move on with her life. The plan seriously backfires when Dee decides that Louisa's disappearance means something horrible has happened to her, and Dee nearly gets herself killed trying to find her.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Vanyel does it to Stefan in the Last Herald Mage series by Mercedes Lackey, believing (rightfully) that Stefan will be targeted by Vanyel's powerful Mage enemies. It doesn't work.
  • In The Last Human Getaway innkeeper Yves breaks off his relationship with protagonist Annie and tells her to leave the glen and never return. It's because he fears the villain has terrible plans for her and he doesn't want to see her hurt. (It doesn't help that Annie had a run in with the local banshee while she was washing in the ford, and neither can remember if she said her name or not.)
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen Apsalar tries this to keep Cutter from following her further down the road of becoming a murderer for hire and possibly getting himself killed in the process. So she just up and leaves, prompting him to go on a journey seeking for her that proves to be much more dangerous.
  • In Mistborn, Elend does this with Vin, and then promptly saves him from an assassination team.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany: Anticipating his death, Owen does this to Hester towards the end of his life. Unfortunately, after his death, Hester's life spirals into wild abandon.
  • The Riddle Master Trilogy: Deth to Morgon, multiple times. Unusually for this trope, it's actually relatively effective.
  • Alix does this twice in the first two books of the Samuel Carver series, first in The Accident Man and then in The Survivor. She genuinely loves Carver, but keeps winding up in situations where she needs to pretend otherwise to save his life, and she's too good of an actress.
  • The Shadowhunter Chronicles:
    • In City of Glass, Jace Herondale deliberately picks a fight with Clary Fairchild so she will go back home. At this point, they still think that they are siblings, and Jace already made up his mind to become a proper brother to Clary, so breaking her heart is the only way for her to stop pursuing him, even though it hurts him too.
    • At the end of Clockwork Angel, Tessa Gray attempts to get close with Will Herondale, only for him to coldly rebuff her. It is revealed in the next book that Will suffers from a curse which targets his loved ones. In reality, Will reciprocated Tessa's feelings, but was forced to drive her away so she would not become a victim of his curse.
    • In The Dark Artifices, Emma Carstairs strikes a fake relationship with Mark Blackthorn to stop Mark's brother, Julian, whom she actually loves, to stop pursuing her. Emma and Julian are parabatai, who are forbidden by Shadowhunter law from forming a romantic relationship.
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty: In the third book, it is revealed that the reason Conrad has been treating Belly like crap all this time is because he thought of himself as a screwed up asshole and deliberately pushed Belly away so she would not fall down with him. In reality, Belly is the only girl Conrad genuinely loves (and that's including the fact that he had dated other girls before, meaning he didn't see them as serious relationships), but he chose to let her go because he thought she would be happier without him. However, when Belly seems to have taken this hint too well and is ready to marry another man, Conrad slowly breaks down until he practically begs her not to marry anyone else, because he still wants her.
  • Sweet Valley High: Steven's girlfriend Tricia begins acting distant towards him. He concludes that she's seeing someone else and confronts her with this. When she doesn't deny it, he dumps her. Little did he know that she was dying of leukemia and, of course, was pushing him away so as to spare him the pain of watching her suffer.
  • Richard and Kahlan from The Sword of Truth series when Kahlan tells him she doesn't love him in order to save his life by forcing him to leave with a priestess of the light, Verna. Later on, Richard breaks out of his depression when he does the same thing to his pet Gratch and realizes Kahlan was doing the whole thing for Richard's sake.
  • Toyed with in The Truth-teller's Tale. In order to save Roelyn, both the twins say things they know will stay her father's hand, but break their friend's heart. Eleda, who cannot lie, says Roelyn will marry, not the man she loves, but the Prince. Adele, the secret keeper, reveals that she saw the love interest secretly wed the previous day. It works, and Roelyn's father frees his daughter... Only to reveal that Roelyn was the one wed to the love interest, and that the love interest was keeping his identity as prince a secret.
  • The Twilight Saga:
    • Edward attempts this in New Moon, because he feels that he's put Bella in too much danger. Bella responds by having a Heroic BSoD for four months.
    • Bella also does this to her father to some extent, shouting at him and basically calling him a loser in every way. She does it so she can justify her flight from the "evil" vampires in order to protect him (by leading the vampires as far away from him as possible). To twist the knife further, she uses the same words her mother used when she left him — leaving him stunned, staring, and unable to chase after her, just like she wanted. Then, as soon as she's out of sight, she bursts into tears.
  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, the protagonist Rand al'Thor tries to pull a platonic version of this with his friends Mat, Perrin, and Loial, to get them to leave so they will be safe should the Red Ajah or the Dark One come hunting him (or he just plain goes crazy from channeling the tainted male half of the One Power). It doesn't work (and in fact his ex-girlfiend Egwene completely calls him on it), but the end result is Mat resenting him and wanting nothing to do with him for at least half the series, a bad development when Rand really ends up needing him later.
  • In the Wild Cards books, Tom Tudbury, The Great and Powerful Turtle's Secret Identity, had a girlfriend that he loved a lot. But she had a dormant form of the wild card virus, meaning that any children they had would get at best a one-in-ten shot at survival (since he, unbeknownst to her, had the virus). He knew that she really wanted kids, so he manufactured a big fight that led to them breaking up but remaining friends so that she could find happiness with someone else (even though it was killing him to do so). Tom holds the Idiot Ball and never asks if adopting children would work for her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: Parodied, when Jack does this to Frank to prevent him from becoming a lawyer (and subsequently killed by the Mafia). Notable for being a direct reference to Harry and the Hendersons.
  • Altered Carbon. Takeshi Kovacs is reunited with his long-lost sister, only to find she's now a ruthless crime boss who won't tolerate any rivals for her brother's affection. She also makes it clear that she'll have Kristin Ortega, her brother's current Love Interest, tortured until she goes insane if Takeshi doesn't go along with her Evil Plan. When Kristin turns up searching for Takeshi, The Dragon makes it clear that he's to get rid of her or he'll start killing people on the spot. So Takeshi has to respond coldly in the face of her relief that he's alive, accusing her of only being glad that his body is intact (he's wearing the sleeve of her former boyfriend) and claiming their relationship meant nothing to him. Ortega doesn't fall for it, but is visibly hurt.
  • Angel
    • In "Double or Nothing", Gunn is doomed to a fate that will destroy his relationship with Fred, so he dumps her as cruelly as he can. She quickly runs crying to Angel—not because of what he said, but because she knew what he's doing and realizes that he's in real trouble. Fred later makes him apologize for handling the problem that way.
    • Also, when Angel fired Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia in the episode "Reunion". He had been getting darker, especially when he let Drusilla and the re-sired Darla massacre the Wolfram & Hart lawyers for turning Darla back into a vampire and destroying his chance of redeeming her. This did not sit well with Wes, Gunn and Cordy, who insisted on watching him so he doesn't do anything that horrible (or worse) again.
  • Arrested Development: Parodied in an episode with GOB driving away George Michael for similar reasons, and again in Rita's first appearance, where Michael utterly misinterprets her statement "I'll make you blue."
  • Arrow
    • In the pilot episode, Oliver Queen gets "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Laurel Lance for cheating on her with Laurel's sister Sara and getting her killed. Laurel later tries to apologize but Oliver curtly brushes her off, telling her he's the same self-centered hedonist he was before. This is partly to drive her away so he can carry out his vigilante crusade, and partly because he no longer thinks he deserves Laurel after what he did. He realises he might have overdone his Jerkass Façade however, and apologises in the next episode.
    • In Season 2 Oliver convinces Roy Harper to break up with his sister Thea, because he might endanger her with his Super Serum-induced rages. Roy lets Thea catch him with another girl; Thea knows full well what he's doing but is still distraught because Roy refuses to tell her why he's breaking up. This backfires badly because not only is Roy not there to protect Thea when Slade Wilson kidnaps her that very night, it's also one of several trust violations that eventually drive Thea away from both Oliver and Roy.
    • Invoked at the start of Season 3, when Oliver breaks up with Felicity Smoak, who begs him to say he never loved her so she won't be tormented by the hope that they might get together again. Oliver responds with a "Shut Up" Kiss. "Don't ask me to say that I don't love you."
  • The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem: Ephraim and Victoria call off the wedding after he cheats on her. He later explains that he's joined the Irgun, and might be killed fighting the Arabs or the British. Given her first husband died, he doesn't want to put her through that again. Of course, he could just be making this all up as justification after the fact.
  • Being Human (UK): In the third series finale, Mitchell insults George and tells him their friendship was simply emotional manipulation to try and convince George to kill him. George figures out what he's doing and tells him as much.
    • Later, Tom tries to do it to Allie, telling her that he actually hates her and thinks that she's annoying. Given that he all but breaks down crying while saying this, no one is fooled. Allie still leaves though, because she knows that he's trying to save her from being made a worse person by his influence.
  • Better Call Saul: In the season 4 finale, Werner tries to convince his wife on the telephone to fly back to Germany so that she will be safe from Gus, making up a story that he had to leave New Mexico for work. After she refuses, Werner shouts at her that he does not want to see her and orders her to fly back, which she then does.
  • In Boy Meets World Eric flat-out tells a young orphan named Tommy, that he'd been acting as Big Brother Mentor for, he won't adopt him in order to get Tommy to go with the family in California that had adopted him. In the sequel series, Girl Meets World, T.J. Murphy, a political activist who helps Eric run against a corrupt senator and founder of a website called Thorn in Your Side, turned out to be Tommy and said that it was the best thing Eric did and the family that took him in was a good one.
  • In The Boys (2019), Butcher becomes a surrogate father to his stepson Ryan but fears that he'll end up being a bad influence like his own father. After he has a falling out with Mallory for keeping the team Locked Out of the Loop about a potential method of killing Homelander, she gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about his Destructive Savior tendencies and tells him he's just like his father. Butcher storms out and when Ryan tries to stop him he tells him that he doesn't want to look at him for his Accidental Murder of his mother and Butcher's wife, prompting Ryan to tell Butcher he hates him and run off. This backfires horribly as it just ends up driving Ryan back into Homelander's arms.
  • In the third-to-last episode of Breaking Bad, the Wham Episode of the series, Walt does this with Skyler, pretending in his phone call to be a psychotic abuser who terrorized her into complicity with his crimes, so she would not get ostracized by the remaining family, and that the police and DEA would (hopefully) not treat her as harshly. He's playing it up hard, crying as he delivers the more evil lines, and you can see when she realizes what he's doing.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Angel does this, though, interestingly enough, he is more concerned about the long-term implications of their relationship, rather than the immediate danger they face on a daily basis.
    • Likewise, Giles in Season 6 (in a platonic love version of this trope) leaves Buffy to force her to become independent.
  • Castle: In the Season 8 opener, Beckett becomes very secretive towards Castle, and eventually leaves him, not really saying why (it's because she has a super powerful enemy that could kill both of them, and she needs to take them down alone). Naturally, Castle being Castle, this just makes him redouble his efforts to "save his marriage".
  • Chinese Paladin: Ling'er, motivated by a mix of a sense of duty and Leaving You to Find Myself, does this to Xiaoyao. He eventually gets the point and agrees to let her go.
  • Chuck: Jill was forced to break up with Chuck when she was recruited into Fulcrum.
  • Cold Case: Seen in the episode "Sandhogs". The victim of the week was an avid union activist, but this had made him very unpopular. When his opponents began to make threats against his girlfriend, he abruptly told her he was going to reconcile with his wife and that their racial difference (he was white, she was black) would have doomed the relationship anyway. The woman spent DECADES believing that he had never loved her and was using her, taking comfort only in the existence of the son conceived during the affair until the detectives told her the real reason he had pushed her away.
  • The Decoy episode "Night Light" contains a parental example, where a jewel thief rejects his thirteen-year-old son to prevent him from following his footsteps.
  • Dexter
    • Dexter Morgan
      • Dexter fakes his own death to leave Hannah's and Harrison's life for good, as he believes he will destroy their lives too if he stays with them.
      • He's proven right by the end of Dexter: New Blood, and has to break Harrison's heart again; this time for good, having Harrison shoot him after Dexter realizes his continued living will only serve to damage Harrison's well-being even more.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Fourth Doctor does this to Sarah in "The Ark in Space", when she is stuck in a pipe and panicking. He pretends to give her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, in order to make her angry enough to push her way out of the pipe.
      The Doctor: "Oh, Doctor." Is that all you can say for yourself? Stupid, foolish girl. We should never have relied on you. I knew you'd let us down. That's the trouble with girls like you. You think you're tough, but when you're really up against it, you've no guts at all. Hundreds of lives at stake and you lie there, blubbing.
      Sarah: You wait till I get out! I can manage. I don't need your help, thank you!
      The Doctor: Yes you do, yes you do. [Sarah is fully out] Splendid. You've done marvellously, Sarah. I'm very proud of you. I really am very proud of you.
      Sarah: Conned again. You're a brute!
      The Doctor: Oh, don't be ungrateful. I was only encouraging you. Come on.
    • The Seventh Doctor does this with Ace in "The Curse of Fenric". He specifically needs to break her faith in him in order to save the world, so he convinces her that her life means nothing to him and he only traveled with her as part of a bigger plan.
    • "The Parting of the Ways": The Ninth has a Shoo the Dog moment with Rose, faking an "eureka" moment so he can get her into the TARDIS and send her home while he stays to face a Dalek army, fully expecting to die.
    • "The God Complex": The Eleventh Doctor does it to Amy Pond, for almost exactly the same reasons as Seven to Ace.
      "I can't save you from this. There's nothing I can do to stop it... I've stolen your childhood and now I've led you by the hand to your death. But the worst thing is, I knew. I knew this would happen; this is what always happens. Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored — I'm not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And it's time we saw each other as we really are."
    • Amy tried doing this to Rory immediately prior to "Asylum of the Daleks", booting him out of their home, moving forward with divorce proceedings, and generally acting caustic and unfeeling toward him in the mistaken belief that he would be happier without her. She knew he wanted to be a father and, due to injuries sustained during the events of "A Good Man Goes to War", she could no longer have children.
      "I didn't kick you out, I gave you up."
    • The Eleventh Doctor does this to Clara Oswald in "The Time of the Doctor", repeating the same gambit the Ninth Doctor did with Rose — tricking her into entering the TARDIS and sending her home and out of harm's way. She is heartbroken as a result, but fortunately an ally of the Doctor's is able to reunite them.
    • The Twelfth Doctor's plan to erase Clara's memory of himself in "Hell Bent" is a misguided example. He knows it'll break her heart, but he plans to do it whether she wants it or not. Fortunately, she is able to talk sense into him. Sadly, her heart still ends up breaking when the Doctor loses his memories of her instead.
    • "It Takes You Away" puts a twist on the trope: When just the Doctor and Erik remain in the Solitract's universe, the Doctor entices it to pick her because of her far greater range of experiences compared to him, noting that it can only keep one of them. When the Solitract chooses her, Erik is finally convinced that it's not really his dead wife, which it had taken the form of, and is ejected.
  • Farscape: A staged version. Crichton blows Aeryn off and then asks Pilot to check the comm system, which will take them offline for a minute or so. He then explains that Scorpius is eavesdropping using the comms, and if they rekindle their relationship, Scorpius will use both Aeryn and the baby she's carrying as leverage. Aeryn dismisses him as paranoid until Scorpius is heard asking about the comms. They then continue what sounds like a breakup and end it by kissing. Unfortunately, the Scarrens kidnap Aeryn two episodes later, forcing Crichton to offer Scorpius wormhole tech in return for his assistance in rescuing her, making the whole thing completely pointless.
  • Forever (2014) has a Break Her Heart to Save Her. Dr. Henry Morgan makes this choice in "The Last Death of Henry Morgan" trying to protect Detective Jo Martinez. Even though she might hate him for it, Henry believes he has no choice but to break Jo's trust and steal the pugio Adam was first killed with from Evidence because if he doesn't, Adam may go through her to get it, and Henry's seen the remains of multiple people Adam has tortured to death in pursuit of it. Whatever his feelings for Jo, he can't put her at risk by letting her get involved in dealing with Adam.
  • Game of Thrones. Tyrion lies to his mistress Shae in "The Lion and the Rose", saying he never loved her, and delivers an absolutely brutal diatribe against her to drive her off to Pentos before his father Lord Tywin has her hanged. It seriously backfires when a bitter Shae turns up as the Surprise Witness at Tyrion's regicide trial, perjuring herself to get Tyrion convicted. To cap off this Humiliation Conga, Tryion later finds Shae in his father's bed and strangles her.
  • General Hospital: Emily tells boyfriend Zander that she's engaged to someone else to spare him the pain of watching her suffer from cancer—and she ends up falling in love with the other guy anyway.
  • Guiding Light: Similarly, wanting to protect boyfriend Jesse from the mobsters who are after her, Michelle tells him she's going to marry someone else. Sure enough, by the time she admits the truth to him, he's moved on, and so has she.
  • Haven: Nathan and Audrey are on the brink of a Relationship Upgrade when Audrey finds out she's going to disappear in six weeks. Her way of dealing with this is to immediately put on the brakes and start pushing him away, but without really explaining herself, leading to a season-long estrangement that hurts him anyway. Eventually, she realizes it's not working and they're a better team together than separate and ends up apologizing... right before being kidnapped by the Bolt Gun Killer and ultimately being forced into the Barn to end the Troubles.
  • House of Cards (US): In 2x12, Posner makes Lisa go away to eliminate any threats towards her from a constantly opinion shifting Stamper.
  • In the Dark: In "The Trial of Murphy Mason, Part Two" Murphy tells Max that she doesn't really love him or want to stay with him, as she's going to become a police informant so her case is dropped, something that will endanger not only her but also her loved ones.
  • Subverted in Jessie. Jessie considers doing this to Brooks when Mrs. Chesterfield cut off all of his money and rendered him broke to force them to break up. Fortunetly, just when she was about to go through with it, Mrs. Chesterfield changes her mind after a talk with Bertram and gives Brooks his money and job back finally accepting their relationship.
  • The Last Man on Earth: Phil's brother gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech while apparently dying of the apocolyptic virus so that Phil won't stick around to watch him die. It doesn't work, so he makes it his "dying wish" for Phil to leave.
  • Lost: Pierre Chang does this to his wife, because pretending to turn into a total asshole to drive her away from the island is the only way to persuade her to leave in time before everyone's lives become endangered by The Incident.
  • Deconstructed and eventually averted in Mahou Sentai Magiranger. After having a premonition of his upcoming death, Hikaru attempts to abruptly cut the Ozu family off, hoping to not leave behind any memories or attachments that could hurt anyone, but it's immediately obvious to both the audience and everyone in-universe that there's no way in hell they could just forget him after all he'd done for them. On top of that, Urara's fallen in love with him, and the feeling is mutual, but he continues to convince himself that cutting it off is for the best. He's conflicted about it until a pep talk from Miyuki gets him to realize that doing this will only inflict more emotional pain than the alternative, so he goes ahead and proposes to Urara, acknowledging that pushing her away was no better than following assumptions in his head and belittling her by assuming she wouldn't be strong enough to handle it.
  • Merlin: (in a way) In 2x09, Freya tries to leave Camelot without telling Merlin so that he won´t leave the good life he has there, and to prevent him from finding out she´s a Bastet.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: Enlisted witches are forbidden from consorting with civilian men, so the first episode sees Abigail dumping her boyfriend and using magic to make sure he forgets about her.
  • NCIS: DiNozzo wooed Jeanne Benoit as part of a black ops plan to get at her arms-dealer father. After his cover was blown and Jeanne confronted him, he claimed that the relationship was entirely fake...even though he had really fallen in love with her.
  • Novoland: Eagle Flag: Ji Ye tells Yu Ran he never cared for her and to leave him alone, because he's now a prisoner who expects to be executed for treason and she'll be in trouble if she talks to him too much.
  • Once Upon a Time: Snow White has to do this to Prince Charming so he will continue with the Arranged Marriage to prevent his father from killing him.
    • Grumpy also does this to his fairy girlfriend Nova so that she can have a better future.
  • The tearful Heartfelt Apology of his teacher Obi-Wan Kenobi after of their second battle for ruining his life visibly broke what was left of Darth Vader's blackened heart. To help save him from living in pain for his own mistakes, the Dark Warrior forced a pained, monstrous smile through the crack Ben cut in his helmet and took full responsibilty for the downfall of Anakin Skywalker; thus absolving his friend's guilt and accepting his apology the only way his pride would allow him to.
  • One Life to Live: Sloan abruptly tells Vicky that he's going to marry his childhood sweetheart Beverley, when in truth, he's just learned that his Hodgkin's lymphoma is terminal. It doesn't work of course—Vicky's just as devastated by his inexplicably dumping her and refuses to let the matter rest until he finally admits the truth.
  • Penny Dreadful: Ethan does this to Vanessa at the end of season two, believing that his lycanthropy and murderous past has doomed him, and wanting to spare Vanessa the agony of seeing him hanged. Of course, he doesn't actually tell her any of this, and instead of being hanged, he is extradited back to America, leaving Vanessa believing that he abandoned her.
  • The Princess Wei Young has a variant. Xin Er pretends she doesn't care about Tuoba Jun to save the Li family, because if the "witchcraft" incident was revealed it would mean the entire family's execution.
  • Roswell: Liz does this to Max twice. Once in "Destiny" after hearing that being with Tess was his destiny and again in the "End of the World" after being asked to by time-traveling future Max.
  • Invoked in Saved by the Bell: after finding out that Slater's dad may be transferring to Hawaii, Zack - looking to eliminate his competition for Kelly - tells Kelly, Jessie and Lisa that Slater is terminally ill and can only be treated at a clinic in Hawaii, so they need to be mean to him and convince him that he has no reason to stay at Bayside. It seems to work, until Kelly suddenly declares that she will also go to Hawaii to nurse Slater, leading him to figure out what's really going on.
  • Sherlock: In "The Reichenbach Fall", Sherlock tells John that his entire life was a lie, that he made up Moriarty to look clever, that he researched John before their meeting to impress him, before faking his suicide so that John, Mrs Hudson and Lestrade won't get shot by snipers. John doesn't believe a word of it, of course.
    • Sherlock's earlier attempt to do this was, sadly, a lot more successful. John receives a phone-call telling him that Mrs. Hudson has been shot. Sherlock refuses to go with him to see her and acts as if he doesn't care about her when previous events have clearly shown otherwise. Throughout the episode, people have been slowly turning against Sherlock, all except John, who has been fighting in his corner all the way until this moment, which causes him to snap and call Sherlock a "machine" before abandoning him as well. It turns out Mrs Hudson was fine all along and the whole thing was a ruse set up by Sherlock to get John to leave him so he could face Moriarty alone.
  • In Star Trek: Discovery, in a platonic variation, Michael Burnham left Sarek's home in an attempt to keep her foster brother Spock from being targeted by Vulcan logic extremists for associating with a human. When young Spock tried to follow her, Burnham, in desperation, told him she never cared about him and called him a "half-breed". They didn't speak for years. When they finally reconnect in Season 2, Spock is bitter and treats her with hostility. He also calls her selfish for constantly trying to shoulder the responsibility for everything. He explains that the logic extremists would have targeted him anyway because he's half-human.
    • Incidentally, Spock himself did this to an old flame named Leila in The Original Series. In the episode "This Side of Paradise" Leila is being controlled by drug-like spores. The spores are killed by emotional extremes, note  so when he tells her he can't be with her anymore, her abject grief snaps her back to normal.
  • Supernatural:
    • In Season 8 Castiel does this to Dean in Purgatory, running away so that the Leviathan after him will only target Cas himself at the cost of risking Dean will think he's in distress or has outright chickened out and abandoned him.
    • He then does it again in the same season, letting Dean believe they'll get out of Purgatory together only to stay at the last possible moment, because he knows if he tells Dean he doesn't intend to come along, Dean will refuse to get out until he comes around. This particular stunt does its job of getting Dean to safety and back on Earth, but it screws Dean up so much, his brain fabricates fake memories to rationalize the event as himself failing to save Cas, or Cas giving up and his grip slipping.
    • Towards the end of Season 15 he does it again in an unusual way in "Despair". When Billie is on the warpath about to kill both him and Dean, he tells Dean the Empty will take him away at his happiest moment, and that comes with him admitting to his love for Dean, which causes the Empty to appear and take both him and Billie away, leaving Dean a shocked and sobbing mess alone on the floor, although he is said to have been revived offscreen later.
  • In A Tale of Thousand Stars, Chief Phupha pushes Tian to return to Bangkok this way. Though Tian has matured considerably, he’s still a young man who hasn’t figured everything out. Phupha pretends that he only cares about Tian because of an order from Tian's father, so that Tian finishes his studies and lives the life his parents have laid out for him.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In the episode "The Trouble With Templeton", the title character's obsession with his dead wife propels him back to a speakeasy in the 1920's when they were first in love. However, her shrewish, callous treatment of him there forces him to flee back to his present time. After he's gone back, his wife drops the act and breaks down in tears; it was all to make him let go of his obsession with her memory and continue to live his life. He figures it out, too, when he finds her acting script in his hand, back in the present day.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Stefan occasionally does this to Elena throughout the series. Stefan breaks up with Elena or turns his back on her in order to protect Elena. This is especially evident in season three when Stefan leaves Mystic Falls with Klaus and becomes a Ripper in order to protect Elena and the rest of the town. Elena also did this with Stefan in season two by breaking up with Stefan in order to protect Stefan and her family and friends from Katherine Pierce.
  • Without a Trace: After taking a boy hostage because the kid reminded him of his dead son, a man finally agrees to let him go. However, the boy refuses to leave, so the man begins screaming at him, telling him he's a "brat" and "I was just using you". The kid still refuses to leave, being savvy enough, even at his young age, to guess what the man's trying to do and that he's planning to kill himself once the boy leaves.
  • Wonderfalls: Jaye basically treats Eric like crap and breaks up with him because the animals told her to and she thinks there will be grave consequences if she doesn't.

  • "The Hardest Thing" is a 98 Degrees song about a guy who has to break up with a girl because he's already made a commitment to another girl.
  • "Hate Me", by Blue October, is from the viewpoint of an alcoholic/drug addict singing to his mother.
    An ounce of peace is all I want for you, will you never call again?
    So I'll drive so fucking far away that I never cross your mind.
    And do whatever it takes in your heart to leave me behind.
    Hate me today. Hate me tomorrow.
    Hate me so you can finally see what's good for you.
  • "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" by Marvin Gaye (later covered by Paul Young) plays with this trope; the song is about a guy essentially telling a girl that he's a philandering jerk and that the best thing she can do is just walk away from him and forget all about him. However, where Gaye's version is more upbeat in tempo and style, as if the guy's tone is casually along the lines of "hey, baby, that's just the way I roll", Young's version is a lot more melancholy, as if the guy has actually fallen deeply in love with the girl but is trying to push her away because he ultimately knows he's no good for her.

  • In La Bohème by Puccini, Rodolfo leaves a distraught Mimì, ostensibly because she flirts with other men and he is jealous, but the true reason is that Mimì is suffering from lung disease and Rodolfo is too poor to afford medication or even firewood, so he sets her free, hoping that she will fall into more capable hands.

    Video Games 
  • Viconia tries this in Baldur's Gate II several times, at least once citing her enemies as an excuse. The other times it seems to just be her Tsundere tendencies.
  • Deconstructed in Detention when Mr. Chang breaks up with Ray. He's secretly helping out with an illegal book club, and his fellow leader Ms. Yin convinces him to break up with Ray so that her life isn't in danger if they get caught. However, Ray overhears the conversation and misunderstands it as Ms. Yin and Mr. Chang being in a relationship, and is so overcome with jealousy that she rats out the book club herself, planning on the government removing Ms. Yin from the equation. It backfires horribly; Ms. Yin has enough connections to flee the country with her life, but eventually dies in exile, while Mr. Chang is arrested and executed.
  • Disco Elysium has a platonic example, if you're willing to dig. The Wild Pines Corporation usually had a stand-by negotiator for talking with the Dockworkers' Union, who was unusually sympathetic to the workers and favoured by the heads of the union. The current strike, however, is not meant to be a reasonable negotiation — the heads of the Union are intentionally provoking a shit-show so they can seize the dock itself and run it as a co-op. In order to prevent the reasonable negotiator from being remembered as "that guy whose softness cost us the dock", Evrart intentionally pre-empted him from the negotiation by insulting him and referring to him as a midget and forcing Joyce — someone the Union has no respect for whatsoever — to step in instead.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Morrigan of Dragon Age: Origins tries to drive away a Warden who completes her romance path, partly out of fear of such unfamiliar feelings and partly because a real relationship complicates her own plans. At one point she flat out begs him to say he doesn't love her. The Witch Hunt DLC is based on Morrigan having ghosted the rest of the party after the events of Origins, and if the Warden and Morrigan were in a romance their meeting during the DLC will be heavily flavoured by this trope (if they were friends, colleagues or in an Enemy Mine situation in Origins, the meeting is slightly different).
    • In between Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition, Hawke did this to his/her love interest, despite going on the run together. S/he knew that said love interest would give their life to protect him/her (noting Fenris in particular), something s/he wasn't going to give them the chance to do. If Hawke is in a relationship with Anders, there is the additional concern that the Big Bad has already taken over Anders's mind once before, and they need to prevent that from happening again. If Hawke survives, the separation is temporary.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Solas does this to a romanced female elf. Unable to reveal his true identity, he breaks up with her instead. Then in Trespasser he returns, still very much in love with Lavellan, but refuses to let her join him and 'see what he becomes' if she asks to leave with him after he reveals his plans to remove the Veil, breaking her heart for a second time.
  • In Elden Ring, Melina, the player's closest ally, sacrifices herself by burning near the end of the game unless an extremely convoluted series of steps have been taken to obtain the Frenzied Flame, initiating the process to bring about The End of the World as We Know It, in which case she disowns and abandons the player instead. Proceeding from here will normally lead to a Bad Ending, unless another ridiculously complex method is used to destroy the Frenzied Flame after using it to avert Melina's sacrifice, allowing a regular/good ending to be achieved. However, the game never acknowledges this in regards to Melina, who is not seen reacting to the player's unexpected redemption even though she is seen reacting to the apocalypse in the bad ending (provided she's still alive, as it's possible to allow her to sacrifice herself, then go get the Frenzied Flame and bring about the apocalypse anyway).
  • Inazuma Eleven: Mahoro started avoiding Amagi after he started getting bullied for standing up to his friend when he was bullied because he didn't want to drag him into his mess. Years later, they eventually make amends.
  • A non-romantic example occurred in Insanity. Yanase told Toshiko she was being relieved of her position and let her believe it was because she was too old, in order to spare her from the same fate as Takahashi who was murdered by their master Shigeki after he went insane.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Belle is held captive by Maleficent, who's hoping on stealing Belle's heart. Belle coldly pushes the Beast away and denies she needs rescuing in order to keep Maleficent from stealing her heart, but he refuses, giving a speech about how much she changed him and refusing to abandon her, even if she hates him. Maleficent then decides to steal his heart, and Belle pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save Beast. During the final confrontation, it's revealed that Maleficent was also after Beast's heart, and she tells the truth about Belle in order to remove the Beast's doubts and take advantage of his love for Belle. After Maleficent is defeated and Belle is restored, Belle apologizes to Beast.
    Belle: Please forgive me. I had to be cruel to you. But no matter how I tried, I couldn't hide my true feelings.
  • An odd example Played for Laughs in Kraken Academy!!, Broccoli Girl had to break up with her ex, Dimitri, after she was cursed and turned into a living peice of broccoli. It just so happens, Dimitri is allergic to broccoli, so being together would have literally killed him.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Done rather well in the end of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Rose told Raiden that their child had died before birth and pretended to have married Roy Campbell, so the Patriots could not use her and the child as leverage against him. Being somewhat unstable before, he didn't take it well at all, but he's very quick to forgive her when she explains her motives and he meets his son for the first time.
    • Done again in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, where Paz acts cold and distant and then repeatedly insults Chico while he is being forced to torture her, so as to make Skull Face think that she hates Chico and he is therefore of no use in trying to make her talk. She only reveals the truth to Chico in a recording she left him while he slept, telling him that she meant none of it and was actually really happy that he had come to rescue her; that he has given her hope of survival and that she is grateful to him. One day before her death.
  • A meek variation can happen in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer. If you romanced Gann, were unable to completely get rid of the curse and chose to remain in the City of Justice for all eternity as a vessel for the Spirit Eater, Gann chooses to stay with you. You can try to convince him not to by lying that you don't want him there, but when he realizes you're trying to deceive him for his own good he only becomes even more determined to stay with you.
  • At the end of Persona 5, Joker must turn himself into the police in order to make absolutely sure that Masayoshi Shido is convicted of his numerous crimes and can't come after the Thieves. That night, Joker and his Love Interest (whoever that may be) spend the night together. Joker's girlfriend picks up that something's wrong (particularly if she's one of the female Thieves), but there's no option to tell her what's going on so she won't try and stop him.
  • Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure has a non-romantic version with Duchess Elizabeth coldly rejecting her daughter Marie to keep her safe from the conspiracy she's part of. They clear things up in the climax, when Marie ends up falling into the villains' hands anyway.
  • In Sonic Rush Adventure, Blaze does this to Marine so that she won't get hurt by the pirates, even if she had to call her a nuisance, she is later shown regretting saying that to her, but Marine won't take no for an answer.
  • You have the choice to do this to your personal ghoul, Heather, in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. She is head-over-heels for you after you use your blood to save her life, and anytime after she moves in with you, you have the opportunity to either keep her around for money and blood, or kick her out. She'll tearfully cry and beg to stay if you go for the latter option, but it's the only way to free her from a life of servitude. If you keep her until the end, she is eventually killed by the Sabbat. Thankfully, the Unofficial Patch allows you to avoid this fate by ordering her to stay indoors as the streets become more dangerous.
  • In Wadanohara, Samekichi is forced to do this for Wadnohara herself to prevent her from regaining her memories from a curse which could break her mind, and to prevent the Dead Sea from manipulating her.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the second Fragment's Note, Kyoichi tries to call out Yukitsuki for snooping into his life after she asks about his diagnosis after a hospital visit, since he doesn't want to hurt her by telling her about his terminal illness. Yukitsuki is so shocked by his shouting that she doesn't notice that it's not sincere, despite the fact that she's usually able to perceive peoples' emotions really fast. Afterwards, Kyoichi ends up seriously regretting it.
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, this happens on several routes. Regardless of the situation or character, it never works for very long.
    • Yukimura's route: Yukimura breaks up with the main character after learning that they're working for opposing sides because he doesn't want her to get caught up in a war by getting involved with him. His Dramatic route also has the main character trying to enact this trope on him after she learns that he will die protecting her if she continues to stay in the past and decides she needs to return to her time to avoid this fate.
    • Ieyasu's route: His Dramatic route has him try to make the main character hate him enough to return to her time because they're being besieged by their enemies and can't hold out much longer, and he fears that she'll die if she doesn't escape to her time.
    • Shingen's route: Shingen sends away the main character despite having fallen in love with her because he's Secretly Dying of an illness and thinks she deserves a better life partner than a man who doesn't have long to live.
  • In Mystic Messenger, Seven does his absolute damnedest in his route to be cold and vicious towards you in order to make you stop loving him and leave, fearing that his job as a secret agent/hacker would only put you in danger, or he'd have to disappear one day and leave you abandoned. If you play your cards right, you can manage to convince him that he deserves to be loved, and that you'll stick with him through anything.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has a non-romantic version in the bonus case. The defendant Lana purposefully acts like an aloof big sister to keep her sister from investigating the case because Lana at the time thinks Ema is herself responsible for certain events of the case and she doesn't want her sister to find out.
  • In Piofiore: Fated Memories -Episodio 1926-, Henri Lambert believes, with good reason, that people are getting killed because of his past associations and that the safest thing for the heroine is for her to leave him. Specifically, Henri, despite realizing by the end of the first game that he romantically loves the heroine, pretends to only have familial feelings. After coming in contact with the main villain of the route, Henri realizes people close to him will be in danger. To keep the heroine safe, Henri makes a deal with his former enemy, the Falzones, to take the heroine under their custody in exchange for his life. He does ask them to give him time to find the kill the villain, which the mafia agree to. Because he plans to be killed by the Falzones after the incident is over, Henri repeatedly deflects the heroine's advances. However, he's unable to completely keep his feelings in check, and their romance continues to progress. As expected, their romance is obvious to everyone else. They have a beautiful ending in the true route.
  • In Sunrider, Ava Crescentia and Kayto Shields used to have a relationship back in high school, which they cannot resume due to being officers aboard a military starship. As such, when the latest attack by the PACT dreadnought Legion leaves the Sunrider badly damaged, several of the crew dead, and Kayto both maudlin and desperate for what they once had, Ava is forced to do this—telling him that she doesn’t remember the promise they made to be together—in order to get Kayto’s head back in the game. Depending on the player’s subsequent choices, this may or may not work.
  • In War: 13th Day, Ambrosia does a variation of this. Night blackmails her into giving herself to him everyday in exchange for keeping Arsenik out of jail. While Ambrosia doesn't have to split up with Arsenik, she feels like it's a form of cheating and tells him that they shouldn't see each other anymore.

    Web Animation 
  • The end of the third volume of RWBY, it's pretty much implied that this is what Blake did to Yang, when she left in order to protect her and the rest of their team from Adam. Yang is obviously heartbroken over being abandoned by Blake and continues to be upset throughout Volume 4.

    Web Comics 
  • In College Roomies from Hell!!!, Margaret spent several years pulling this maneuver on Dave. It's not him, it's her enemy...who happens to be THE Enemy. But unlike Ally in Fans!, she did it perfectly, convincing not just Dave but most of the readership that she didn't love him—to the point that when Roger figured out her real motives and told Dave, the forum was less inclined to believe him than to be mad at him for getting Dave's hopes up again. Unfortunately, Margaret's efforts to spare Dave included pushing him into Blue's when the truth came out, it was too late.
  • In The Croaking Scra pretends not to know and generally acts coldly towards Ky, his new roommate in military college, despite them meeting daily for weeks before. He does this to keep Ky out of murder business and to keep him away from the racism directed towards him as a crow.
  • Ever Blue: Seta, when told in no uncertain terms that if he won't kill Luna, somebody else will, obediently gets his sword and enters Luna's house in the dead of night. Then he proceeds to chase her out of town, so she'd be safe.
  • In Fans!, when the rare terminal disease that she had lived with for much of her life was progressing to its final stage, Rikk's wife Alisin "seduced" (ahem) Meighan and bragged about it to Rikk, hoping that he wouldn't waste any time mourning her. This plan went wrong on every level: Rikk was devastated and realized what she was doing, and then Alisin was cured just in the nick of time.
    Rikk: Sorry, Ally. I still love you. You can't stop me.
  • Mom, I'm Sorry: After Henry gives up his lifespan for his mother, he runs into Sarah, his girlfriend from before he went off to military service. Knowing he is going to die soon, he acts like a jerk and tries to dump her so she won't be heartbroken. It doesn't work, so Henry tells Sarah the truth and gets her involved with his bucket list.
  • In Myth: A Promise, Hades willingly made Zeus hate him forever and destroyed the bond he had with his precious little brother to make him stronger and avoid that Zeus offered him the crown everybody knew it belonged to Zeus.
  • In Shortpacked!, Mike finally gives into Amber's request for a marriage proposal by arranging for her mom to sleep with their recovering sex addict friend, then edit a tape of it into a proposal. He was hoping that she would finally realize what a Jerkass he is and leave him. Didn't work.
  • Space Boy: After Saito threatens to have Amy killed when she and Oliver begin to get close, he ends their friendship immediately, with absolutely no warning and without giving a reason.

    Web Original 
  • Averted in Twig, where when Sylvester learns that his romantic relationship with Lillian is holding back her career and presenting an easy way for enemies to hurt them both, he goes to her and explains the situation, and together they come up with a plan on how to present their break-up to the outside world to best benefit Lillian. They're both still heartbroken, of course, but there's no deception involved.

    Western Animation 
  • In Danny Phantom, Sam does this to Danny after he is brainwashed by Ember into being so in love with her he can't think of doing anything else, including save them. She kisses Dash (something she found disgusting) in front of Danny to finally snap him out of it. Luckily, he could then take out his rage on Ember, and in the end, Danny, having broken free of Ember's spell, understands why she did it and forgives her. Valerie also does this to Danny, thinking that he's in danger because of her ghost hunting job. In a way, he is, but not how she expects.
  • Darkwing Duck: In "Steerminator", Taurus Bulba returns as a powerful cyborg and vows revenge of Darkwing Duck. Knowing that he'll come after Goslyn to get to him, Darkwing has no choice but to ground her under false pretenses so she can't go outside, leaving her angry and hurt.
    Launchpad: Poor kid. She's sure taking it hard.
    Darkwing: Well, I refuse to feel guilty. I don't want her out there where Bulba might find her. He nearly killed her once to get to me, and I won't risk that again.
  • Duckman starts dating Angela, an emergency operator, after talking with her on the phone, only to discover that she's The Grotesque - to the point that Fluffy & Uranus are disgusted from looking at her. He continues dating her in dark environments, as he genuinely loves her company, but the conditions convince her to undergo plastic surgery - and she then becomes the total package. Because he feels like he's now beneath her, he stands her up and refuses to answer the phone, and even his sister-in-law comforts him over his decision.
  • Lars does this to Leela in the Futurama movie, "Bender's Big Score", once he learns that duplicates created through time travel are doomed, and him being a time duplicate of Fry, calls off their wedding to spare her from the heartache of losing him.
  • In Gargoyles, Macbeth does this to Gruoch, who has been betrothed to somebody else:
    Macbeth: Frankly, you're not worth the effort.
  • The Incredible Hulk (1996): In "Innocent Blood", Bruce was dying from poison and his only chance to survive was to become angry enough to hulk out. Because fighting with Doctor Samson and Ghost Rider wasn't enough, Rick and Betty, the two closest people in Hulk's life, were forced to yell at him that they hate him, that he destroyed their lives, and that he should have never been born. It worked and hurts Hulk, hard. Ghost Rider even invokes the trope by name.
    Ghost Rider: Break his heart in order to save him. I don't know if I would be able to do such a thing.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In the episode "Cat Blanc", in the Alternate Timeline where Marinette is dating Adrien. Gabriel forces her to break up with his son or he will take him out of school. Cue to heartbroken Marinette having to pretend to Adrien that she don't love him anymore. They're devastated, and that's exactly what Gabriel intended.
  • The Owl House: Raine pretends to have amnesia as they coldly tell Eda off by claiming they want nothing to do with the wild witch since they're the head of the Bard Coven now. It was their way of protecting Eda from getting involved in Raine's plan to stop the Day of Unity.
  • In the Grand Finale of Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, when Rippen decides to save the multiverse by trapping himself in The Most Dangerous World Imaginable, he gives a really scathing speech towards his minion Larry about how much he wants him to get out of his doesn't work, as Larry (whether Rippen would ever admit it or not) is his Only Friend and immediately realizes what Rippen is trying to do. He's instead moved to tears by the veiled admission of friendship and resolves to stay by the villain's side no matter what.
  • Rick and Morty: In Season 2, Rick turns himself into the Galactic Federation and is given a life sentence to a maximum-security prison, all so his family won't have to be on the lam.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: In "My Pretty Seahorse", after deciding Mystery would be better off free in the wild, Spongebob takes her outside and prepares to make her leave, unaware that Mystery had left seconds after he turned his back. Spongebob then yells with his eyes closed "just get out of here you stupid dump animal!" towards Patrick, who quietly walks away.
  • Steven Universe:
    • After the events of the season one finale in "Full Disclosure", Steven becomes convinced that his best friend/Love Interest, Connie, and other human loved ones would be better off without him. He tries to break off their friendship through sending her a breakup by text message, but when she challenges him to say that he doesn't want to be friends to her face, he's completely unable to do so without breaking down into tears and they remain friends, with Connie offering to go on adventures with Steven and be a part of his "universe".
    • At the end of season 4, this trope is played completely straight, when Steven intentionally outs himself as his mother to two powerful Homeworld gems in exchange for Connie, the Crystal Gems, and a handful of other Beach City residents going free. After he returns from Homeworld by the start of season 5, it takes five episodes for him to make up with Connie in particular, who was understandably upset with this choice and tried the Silent Treatment approach, even when Steven was oblivious of Connie's feelings and went solo. In "Kevin Party", Steven and Connie reconcile and get back together as a team.
  • You could consider Robin's assault on the other Titans in Teen Titans this. Considering Slade had a way to kill them all with a push of a button, his only viable response was to do as Slade asked for their sake...including not holding back against them when he commits crimes for Slade.
  • As a Trollhunter, Kanjigar the Courageous from Trollhunters was deliberately distant with his son Draal as a means to keep him safe. Kanjigar is quick to berate Jim for instead keeping people close to him and putting them in danger, particularly his son Draal, who lost his arm protecting Jim. Over the course of the second half of the first Season, Kanjigar warms to the idea of a Trollhunter having companions to enough of a degree where he apologizes to Draal for pushing him away in the Season finale.
  • Brock Samson does this to the titular The Venture Brothers to get them out of harms way after he's been marked for death by the OSI:
    Brock: I don't love you boys! It was a job! Nothing more! And now that it's over you'll only get in my way!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Break Her Heart To Save Her


Gumball Gets Penny To Shrink

To keep from being hit by a truck, Gumball tells Penny that she's nothing to him so she'll turn into something small and they'd both slide under it. She says she understood this later, but doesn't seem any less upset about it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / BreakHisHeartToSaveHim

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