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Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them

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"I hate and I love. Why do I do this, perhaps you ask? I do not know, but I feel it happening and I am agonized."

"You can't live with 'em; you can't live without 'em.
There's something irresistable-ish about 'em."
Rowlf the Dog, "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along", The Muppet Movie

A development often used in buddy films and romantic comedy. One person, often a loner type, is paired off with someone else against their will.

They can't stand the person/situation and wishes for his old routine. When they gets their old routine back, they suddenly realizes they miss that person a lot and does everything in their power to get her back. Usually, happens when a bickering pair become Vitriolic Best Buds, or generate an Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other situation, whether it's a fraternal sort of love among buddies, or romantic love.

The phrase is a common magnet for [Popular Saying], But... jokes, such as changing the message to "Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em" or leaving it at just "Can't live with 'em", since depending on who the subject is about it's perfectly possible to live without 'em.

See also Odd Couple.

Compare We Want Our Jerk Back! (when the resident Deadpan Snarker's presence is sorely missed), Belligerent Sexual Tension.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Jeremy and Ian from A Cruel God Reigns. Jeremy tells Ian that he needs to see him because Ian is the only one to know that he is a murderer and why he did it. To the point that when they do not see each other Jeremy just about loses it. Additionally, Ian, though knowing their relationship is not a healthy one, cannot focus his studies or anything else when Jeremy does not see him.
  • Light Yagami of Death Note seems to have this relationship with L to some degree. He spends much of their time together monologuing about how much he hates L and how many of L's strange quirks drive him crazy, until he actually manages to kill L. After that... Light doesn't hate him anywhere near so much and even seems to miss him to some degree.
    • Not only that, but L is the person Light sees standing by his side as he's dying.
  • Natsu and Gray, from Fairy Tail. They pretty much complain and fight but do admit to themselves they respect the other. Heck in the Galuna Island arc when Gray twice tries to use Ice Shell, a spell that will turn the user into ice to trap their opponents. Natsu stops him both times spelling out that he doesn't want Gray to die.
    • Gray also has this dynamic with Juvia. He constantly spurns her romantic advances and reminds her that he's not interested. However, as time goes by he shows that he truly cares for her, which culminates on the time Invel forces them to fight each other to death, and they choose to commit suicide rather than killing the other. When Juvia saves him, he begs her not to die, promising to take her feelings more seriously.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • The most predominant example would be England and France. The two have known each other since the beginning of time and despite all of their bickering, they are quick to defend the other when a third party intervenes.
    • Another example is Spain and Romano, who actually did live together for a while. Despite Romano constantly referring to Spain as a 'tomato bastard' the two do look out for each other.
  • Tomoe and Nanami from Kamisama Kiss. Tomoe is a Kitsune that has been forced to serve Nanami against his will and is typically very rude and condescending towards her. Nanami thinks he's a Jerkass in return. However, should anything happen to Nanami he freaks and should another man take interest in her watch out. Meanwhile, Nanami hasn't bothered to hide the fact that she has developed feelings for Tomoe.
  • March Comes in Like a Lion has a downplayed variant of this. Due to his past, Rei's very persistent in living independently. He's also reluctant to get close to the Kawamoto family, despite their willingness to welcome him into their home, and will sometimes abstain from visiting when he has the choice. However, when he returns to his apartment after staying in their house and living with them for several days due to sickness, he's become much more aware of how empty and quiet his own place is.
    Rei: "That house is like a kotatsu. When you go inside, it's so warm it feels like you're about to melt...But when you leave, you'll be reminded that your everyday life that felt fine before is freezing cold."
  • Mazinger Z: For all what argue when they are together -and claim they don't need each other-, Kouji and Sayaka tend to lose it when they are apart.
  • Midori Days. Midori becomes Seiji's right hand and remains this way for the majority of the series. Eventually in the manga, however, Seiji does become quite capable of living with Midori and acknowledges this, although she ends up disappearing anyway.
  • Eva from Monster spends a good bit of time plotting to make Tenma's life a living hell (getting him imprisoned and such), although every now and again she'll remember that she loves him and beg him to come back to her. She broke up with him, incidentally.
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun:
    • Hori's relationship with Kashima often consists of him yelling at her or complaining about her, but if she ignores him for less than a day his mood plummets enough for his peers to start worrying about him.
    • Wakamatsu, in a distinctly divided example, gets extremely stressed out by the way Seo treats and acts around him, and yet he's outright said he can't live without "Lorelei" (Seo's voice) to help him sleep. Even in regards to Seo herself, he's considerably less stressed when she's gone on her school trip (to the point of being overly nice to everyone at school) but starts to feel down when he thinks about how much fun she's having without him.
    • Seo is treated as The Dreaded by the boys' basketball club, so their initial reaction is of pure joy when she goes off on her school trip. However, the captain watches the other members train and realizes that they're way too carefree now that Seo isn't there to put them on guard, and immediately wishes for her to come back.
  • In Naruto, this is Sakura's friendship with the titular character.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. So very very true with Shinji and Asuka. Up to the point that Shinji ends the world when he discovers' Unit 02, and probably Asuka's half-eaten corpse as he just arrived to try and save her. The series ends with Shinji and Asuka looking out over a devastated earth, as the last two people in existence and the first two people in the new world.
    • Word of God said Asuka returned together with him because- in spite of how much they had hurt each other- he did not want to live in a world without Asuka.
  • In the Jdrama, Nobuta Wo Produce, Shuji says he hates Akira, but the two are actually very good friends. Maybe too good...?
  • Rozen Maiden. The protagonist just wants to be left alone, and he hates little kids. Before you can blink, he's got a small army of childlike, living dolls hanging out in his room, one of whom enjoys ordering him around like a servant, while the rest tend to merely be noisy with a penchant for wanton property damage. Of course, in the end, when they all leave, it gets rather lonely all of a sudden... Fortunately, they're only gone for 'bout half an hour.
  • In one episode of Samurai Pizza Cats, Francine comments, "Tomcats! You can't live with them, and you can't throw them down a well and drown them!"
  • In Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech, Misa Hayase/Lisa Hayes despises cadet pilot Hikaru Ichijo/Rick Hunter, and he returns her contempt...yet when she thinks for a moment he was killed in a Valkyrie/Veritech hit, she panics, and later when she's threatened by a Zentraedi, Hikaru/Rick berserks. When Cadet Ichijo/Hunter becomes Lt. Ichijo/Hunter and then begins to rise up the ranks, the tension gets worse because they're always encountering each other...and discovering to their dismay that they work well together. Pretty much everybody that knew them saw what was happening before they did, though.
  • This is pretty much a staple of Rumiko Takahashi's works.
    • Urusei Yatsura: Ataru constantly chases all girls other than Lum. Yet whenever Lum disappears from his life, he'll instantly drop his perverted maneuvers and go to great lengths to get her back. That doesn't stop him from immediately resuming his lecherous ways the moment she's safely back.
    • Ranma ½ has Ranma and Akane. Once he had disappeared she was depressed and cried when she thought nobody was looking. When Ranma thought Akane was dead after touching one of Saffron's devices, he was completely apathetic and emotionless.
    • Inuyasha: Pretty much the same example as the above for InuYasha and Kagome. All they ever do is fight, mostly leading to Kagome storming off after a massive sit. However, anytime they're separated for too long, all Kagome can think about is InuYasha, while InuYasha will be unbearable to be around until Kagome's back. And in any fight, they will put themselves in any kind of danger to save the other (which more than half the fight is of InuYasha taking all those moutain busters to keep everyone else safe).
  • The morning after Morinaga takes advantage of a doped-up Souichi in The Tyrant Falls in Love, the extremely homophobic Souichi attempts to murder Morinaga, and yells that he doesn't want to see his face again. When Morinaga takes his declaration to heart and disappears from his home and university for weeks, Souichi predictably falls apart. Of course, with his tsunderish personality, his first action upon seeing Morinaga back is to punch him hard and scream at him for hiding himself for so long.
  • In The Wallflower manga, womanizer Ranmaru tries to get out of a date with a sweet, timid girl, as he prefers assertive women. Of course, after he succeeds, he realizes that he actually likes her.
  • In Wild Rose, Kiri and Mikhail don't get along initially and like to anger the other. Since Kiri literally can't live without Mikhail because he otherwise loses his sanity around humans, they are stuck together. Over time they both come to appreciate each other in spite of their differences and in the end Mikhail hesitantly admits "You are necessary to me" in response to Kiri's Love Confession.
  • In ×××HOLiC, Watanuki is normally extremely frustrated with Yuuko and keeps yelling that he can't stand the way she is. And then... she disappears, and he completely breaks down, tears and all, revealing exactly how important Yuko had become to him. This results in him getting extremely depressed, and making a pact to wait for her in the shop forever, never aging, and never being able to leave, until she comes back to him. He even takes on some of her traits like smoking from her pipe and dressing in her extravagant clothes, as if he's trying to cling onto whatever he's got left of her.
  • In Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai, this is more or less how the baseball team feels about their pitcher Yugami. In a slight twist, Yugami is both the loner and the person that others have to put up with, instead of the other way around. Most of his teammates can't stand him due to his personality but they rely heavily on him to win because Yugami is The Ace.
  • In Zettai Heiwa Daisakusen: Euda is stuck in an awkward love-hate relationship with her 'fiance', Johanne, although she herself ain't fully aware of her feelings...

  • Subverted by Emo Philips:
    Women: You can't live with them, and you can't get them to dress up in a skimpy little Nazi costume and beat you with a warm squash or something.

    Comic Books 
  • Cable & Deadpool: Can't stand him, can't bodyslide without him.
    Cable: For two people who say they don't need each other, both of us keep doing a lot of stupid things to try and stay together.
  • Halo: Blood Line: The Covenant warrior Thon 'Talamee is constantly annoyed by his younger foolish brother Reff, but has protected him from harm all his life in the belief that Reff is destined for greatness. Unfortunately for him, Reff doesn't return his affection and thinks of his brother's care as condescending. When Reff decides to turn on the Covenant, Thon tries to stop him, but Reff kills him first.
  • In Legion of Super-Heroes The Great Darkness Saga, Phantom Girl and Shadow Lass wonder about the paradox of simultaneously loving and hating someone when their boyfriends -Ultra Boy and Mon-El, respectively- refuse to wait for them during their mission in Takron-Galtos.
    Phantom Girl: Is it possible to hate someone you love, Shady?
    Shadow Lass: I'm not sure, Phantom Girl— but I know what you mean.
  • In Pierre Tombal, the Grim Reaper would love nothing more than to reap Life, but it's been shown that without her, the world would be lifeless and he'd be left with nothing to do, so he tries to tolerate her existence.
  • Transmetropolitan: Spider Jerusalem. "Editors. Can't live with 'em, and the mass grave by my compound is getting full."

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Hinted at with Calvin and Susie.
  • Garfield and Odie. Garfield even says this line after Odie saves him from being bitten by another dog.
  • In one arc of Peanuts, Lucy and Linus move out of town and Schroeder finds that he can't play his music without Lucy present.
    Schroeder: Don't tell me I've grown accustomed to THAT face!

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: This was Shinji and Asuka's relationship’s state at the beginning of the story: they were so damaged and traumatized that they failed to open up and make a connection; and at the same time neither of them would think of leaving because they thought that no one else in the world would be able to understand their pain, and they could not stand to be apart.
  • Advice and Trust: Subverted. Gendo thinks his son and Asuka's relationship consists of Shinji being infatuated with her and dependent on her in spite of her abusing him and detesting him. He is very wrong. They used to fight and need each other simultaneously, but they got over the "Can't live with them" part when he was not paying attention.
  • This is how Alphard Black from The Black Sheep Dog Series regards his family. He finds himself succumbing to homesickness when Walking the Earth, only for his relatives' bickering to quickly get on his nerves and make him leave when he visits.
    Alphard: I always miss this house when I'm away. And then when I'm back in it, I never remember why.
  • Calvin and Socrates fit this role quite well in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series.
  • The Child of Love: While watching the fireworks during the Obon festival, Shinji and Asuka talk and realize even if they often argue and fight and find each other’s attitude and behaviour exasperating and overbearing they really like each other and would hate being apart.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Beth Lestrade in "Dynamics of a Point": Holmes can't handle Beth's independence, and Beth can't live with his need for control. But she also makes it tear-jerkingly clear that leaving him will be painful. He tries to say something along the same lines, and ends up telling her that she shouldn't think he'll be glad to see her go.
  • Evangelion 303: Since they met Shinji and Asuka had become very co-dependent on each other. However, when Asuka's started to fall apart their relationship became very abusive for several weeks. And still, even though Asuka claimed that she hated everything and Shinji got emotionally hurt constantly, neither of them ever thought of breaking up. Put simply, neither of them thinks they can possibly be happy without each other.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion:
    • Shinji and Asuka argue a lot… but they are unable to live without each other. It was repeatedly shown, stated, and ultimately and literally proved: Shinji died barely three days after his wife.
    • In a discarded chapter Asuka told Misato that Shinji could survive without her, but the opposite isn't true.
    • When Asuka has to babysit Ryuko for the first time, she is gloomy because Shinji is on a business trip. She mutters that he usually pisses her off, but when he is gone she feels very lonely.
      Asuka: (shrugging) I can barely stand that idiot most days, but when he's gone…
    • When Asuka passes away in 2080, Shinji dies shortly after. Sixty-five years of arguments, fights, and reconciliations, and he could not live three days without her.
  • HERZ: Shinji and Asuka had greatly hurt each other… and yet they could not live without each other. Asuka never stopped loving Shinji, no matter what she said or did. Shinji never wanted another woman, and when he thought Asuka was leaving and she hated him he was so grief-stricken that he tried to kill himself.
  • Once More with Feeling: While Shinji sleeps for the first time -again- in Misato's apartment, he recalls that sometimes he begged for someone -anyone- getting Asuka out of there... and now he feels terribly alone without her, he misses her and he needs her.
  • Scar Tissue:
    • Shinji and Asuka developed a co-dependent relationship during the series, but the war against the Angels and the Third Impact scarred their minds further. Due to Shinji's actions, Asuka abused him constantly and Shinji was torn between blaming himself and resenting her. However, Shinji refused being apart of Asuka, and as soon as Asuka thought that she could lose him or never see him again, she was utterly terrified and mortified and stopped abusing him.
    • In one scene, Fuyutsuki modifies the sentence:
      Fuyutsuki:"Can't live with them, can't successfully control the Armageddon without them."
  • The Second Try: Shinji and Asuka. This was apparent in the series to everybody except them, but in the fanfic, they became aware of the fact during the After the End chapters (and Asuka is particularly hit hard by it). When one of them is missing, the other gets worried and upset. When they are neither talking to each other nor sleeping together cause a fight, they miss each other. And both are terrified of the possibility of breaking up and going separate ways after a dispute.
  • Thousand Shinji: When they met, Shinji and Asuka fought and argued for weeks. Soon it was evident, though, that they were unable to live without each other. When one of them was hurt, the other crumbled down.
  • In Children of an Elder God, Shinji is this to Asuka. Sometimes he drives her mad, and sometimes he makes her happier than nobody ever. In chapter 16:
    "Sometimes you drive me nuts. But then you do something that changes my mind, like dancing wonderfully. I had a lot of fun tonight, Shinji."
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Shinji and Asuka argued a lot... but when she was in a coma, Shinji thought that he didn't mind Asuka called him names because it meant she was fine.
    A part of him thought it was ridiculous question—saying that he missed Asuka was like saying that he missed having a toothache. But another part, the part surprised at the look on her face earlier, the part that had pushed him into that tunnel when the Angel was descending into Central Dogma, knew that he did miss her, very badly.
    Suddenly, even the silence reminded him she was gone.
  • Last Child of Krypton: At the beginning of the story Asuka complained about Shinji constantly, but whenever he was missing, she was restless and worried.
  • The Pirate's Soldier: At first Kiyone was trying to rejoice over the possibility of Mihoshi being dead, meaning that she'd be free to advance in her career as a police officer. Later when she finds her alive, and after talking to Heero, Kiyone admits that, for all the woes Mihoshi brought her, she's genuinely fond of her and considers her a little sister.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Land Before Time, Despite constantly complaining about them, Cera seems to genuinely value her friends.
  • In Shrek, the titular ogre has this happen after he rescues Princess Fiona when he believes she can't care for him because he's an ogre. He receives the deed to his swamp and returns to it, but feels very empty inside. Eventually, Donkey makes him realize he does love the princess. Cue a rush to beat her Wedding Deadline to Lord Farquaad.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Flipped: In the beginning, Bryce was so annoyed by Juli's pursuing him that he wishes her to stop loving and leaves him alone. However, when he finally got his wish (Juli ignoring him out of anger ever since she found out he's been throwing her eggs since and especially when he laughed along with Garrett over insulting her retarded uncle, David/Daniel, as well as her family, he regrets and misses interacting with Juli.
  • Hello, Dolly!: After Dolly Levi has spent the whole movie trying to maneuver Horace into marriage, he angrily tells her that he 'wouldn't marry (her) if she were the last woman on earth!', she promptly bids him "So Long, Dearie". Cue Horace grousing to himself the very next morning about how he doesn't need her, what a horrible woman she is, he'd never do it, etc. It's clear to the audience that he's firmly in this trope, as he proposes to her the moment she comes back.
  • The Miss Congeniality sequel plays with this trope in the following exchange:
    Sam Fuller: Men. You can't live with 'em, you can't...
    Sam Fuller: ... no, that's pretty much it.
    Gracie Hart: Yeah.
  • The Muppet Movie has a song called "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along", sung by Kermit and Rowlf and referring to Miss Piggy (and, by extension, women in general). It opens with the lines, "You can't live with 'em / You can't live without 'em..."
  • My Fair Lady: Henry and Eliza seem to have this problem.
    Henry: I was serenely independent and content before we met.
    Surely I can always be that way again, and yet
    I've grown accustomed to her looks, accustomed to her voice,
    Accustomed to her face.
  • In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Neal Page keeps trying in vain to lose Del Griffith. When he finally does, he finds he actually misses Del's company and ends up going back to invite Del to come home with him.
  • C-3PO and R2-D2 throughout the original Star Wars trilogy.
  • The Shining has this theme throughout, especially in Jack's actions after about halfway through the movie. Accentuated in Jack's conversation with a ghostly bartender about halfway through, in which the bartender echoes this trope.
  • Jokingly subverted by Tom Arnold's Gib in True Lies: "Women. Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em."

  • Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. This trope occurs despite the fact that the titular character spends most of her time "accidentally" killing the male lead and then reversing the process (and that's "accidentally" with a large helping of sadistic glee). When she temporarily leaves Sakura's life, he realizes he really does miss her in spite of how she treats him.
  • In Carry On, Simon constantly proclaims his hatred of his roommate Baz and how he makes his life a living hell but when Baz is mysteriously absent from school for two months, he grows increasingly worried and spends pretty much all of his time trying to find out what happened to him.
  • In the Discworld novels, Granny Weatherwax is less than thrilled with having to take part in a witch's coven, not least of all because the maiden of the coven, Magrat, keeps annoying her by being a Genre Blind Wide-Eyed Idealist. Yet, when Magrat leaves the coven after Lords and Ladies she grows despondent with the whole thing since she hasn't got anyone to boss around or quarrel with, which sets in motion the events of Maskerade.
    • In a meeting of all the local witches, it's noted that Granny "couldn't be having with other witches, and certainly couldn't be having with Nanny Ogg, who was her best friend."
  • Haplo and Alfred from Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Deathgate Cycle due to not only being from different fantasy races but also having completely contradictive personalities.
  • Tasslehoff Burrfoot and Flint Fireforge's friendship from Literature/Dragonlance seems to be one-sided at first, but flint really does show care for the kender at some key moments.
  • Full Metal Panic!: Kaname Chidori spends every waking moment berating Sousuke for whatever screw-up he made. The second he is redeployed and out of her life for good, she suffers bouts of depression, paranoia, and a horrible sense of insecurity. Of course, she was being marked for death at the time, which makes this a literal case of "Can't live without him." She spends a similar amount of time trying to prevent and/or renumerate his mess-ups, and the remaining time is spent dreading what will happen next. She's also pretty moody when Sousuke is called away for a long mission to Helmajistan ("The Wind Blows at Home, Part 1-3"), even sitting outside his apartment until he returns.
  • Cruelly played with in Gone Girl. Nick wants to leave his controlling, emotionally empty wife, Amy. However, Amy sets things up to where Nick practically begs her to come back, because he would go to prison and possibly face the death penalty for her murder, which Amy fakes to set Nick up. In the end, Amy comes back and makes this trope clear to Nick, much to his and his twin sister's horror.
  • Sasha and Daichi end up like this in Greek Ninja.
  • Hank the Cowdog: Hank and Pete the barn cat may not like each other, but when Pete doesn't show up for dinner scraps that they'd usually fight over, Hank feels like eating scraps is no good without having a rival to fight over them.
  • Karal uses this trope to get out of what could have been a very uncomfortable conversation in Storm Breaking. After Altra tells him about Firesong's near-fall into insanity (specifically, that Firesong was close to injuring/killing Karal), Karal deflects any questions from Firesong about what made him look odd with the line:
    Cats. You can't live with them, and the fur's too thin for a rug.
  • Fisk seems to have this relationship with Michael in the Knight and Rogue Series (Michael is too sweet to not stand Fisk). He spends his time alternating between griping about Michaels naive, cheerful, chivalrous attitude, and fretting about Michael's wellbeing. According to Michael, Fisk will try to protect him from anything from the noose to chills, all while being insultingly sarcastic.
  • Kyon from the Haruhi Suzumiya series constantly, constantly complains, rants and grumps about Haruhi and the SOS Brigade. In the 4th novel of the series, he is finally freed from Haruhi and the SOS Brigade, only to realize that he actually misses her. After a Red Pill, Blue Pill decision, he returns.
  • Yuuri and Wolfram in Kyo Kara Maoh!. Yuuri spends the first two seasons trying to back out in an engagement that he accidentally caused in the second episode when Yuuri first enters the other word. Both of them hate the idea at first but Wolfram accepts his role as he constantly tries to get Yuuri to accept his as his husband. Yuuri constantly plots breaking the marriage on multiple occasions but always fails because Yuuri simply doesn't understand the demon world. However, the small things that piss Yuuri off at the beginning of the series, which range from Wolfram calling him "Wimp" (this was originally his Berserk Button at the beginning when the two argued each other) and Wolfram going everywhere declaring himself the spouse of Yuuri and accusing him of Yuuri cheating on him with every girl he meets. However, as the series goes on, the small things that annoyed Yuuri at the beginning is met with indifference as he slowly gives up on trying to break up the engagement. However, once Season 3 hits and Wolfram calls the engagement off, this actually shocks Yuuri to the point where he works to get Wolfram back and then finally declares that he's not allowed to break it off. This is a sign that Yuuri is still confused with his feelings for Wolfram but won't let him design things on his own. Shortly after though, they fall right back into the roll.
  • Mahiro from Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! gets easily annoyed by how clingy and off-the-wall his alien Pretty Freeloaders Nyarko, Cuuko, and Hasta are, but in the finales of both TV series he gets a harsh reminder of what life would be without them. In the first season finale, he's put in a "Last Man on Earth" situation and realizes how lonely he is; in the second, the trio is about to be reassigned away from Earth, and hearing a heartbroken Nyarko say "Does this mean I have to leave Mahiro forever?" makes him realize that he's about to lose them for good. After the latter situation is resolved, Mahiro remarks "I get the feeling you three will always find a way to stick around me," but it's obvious he views that as a good thing.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: This seems to happen between the Vigilantes and their boyfriends. In one book, Jack Emery makes a comment about women and how you can't live with them and you can't live without them. A short time later, Nikki Quinn makes a comment about men and how you can't live with them and you can't live without them. At least the feeling is mutual!
  • Somewhere in Star Wars Legends, Mara Jade tells her husband Luke: "Sometimes I can't stand you, and I love you for it." Awwwwww.
  • Sunny Randall has this relationship with her ex-husband Richie, and though they've divorced they still see each other and have hooked up a few times since the divorce, to the detriment of both of their other relationships.
  • A darker twist on this appears in Thérèse Raquin where Thérèse and Laurent find Thérèse's husband Camille to be more of a roadblock than anything, but once he's dead they find that being constantly haunted by his memory is far, far worse.
  • Interview with the Vampire sees this trope reflected in the relationship between Lestat and Louis. They live together and share a quasi-romantic relationship for like seventy years— during which Louis constantly complains about how much he despises Lestat, and Lestat insults and denigrates Louis. Expanded upon in The Vampire Lestat.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The actual line was parodied twice on 3rd Rock from the Sun. In the pilot, Harry declares "Women, you can't live with 'em... and yet they're everywhere." In a later episode, Dick declares "Women, you can't live with 'em and you can't have heterosexual sex without 'em."
    • To which Harry responds, "That's probably true."
    • Also in one episode Judith says to Mary, "Men, can't live with 'em" [beat while Mary waits for the rest] "Goodbye, Mary."
  • George Bluth's relationship with his family in Arrested Development. It's particularly apparent in the Netflix revival, where we find that after finally wrenching himself away from them at the end of Season 3, he didn't have the great time you would have expected; if anything he seems to be worse off without them.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, when Sheldon and Amy end their friendship over an argument as to whether Neurobiology or Theoretical Physics is the more important science, Howard offers the opinion: "Women, can't live with 'em, can't successfully refute their hypotheses".
  • Bridgerton: Anthony Bridgerton initially found Kate Sharma elusive and a nuisance as she constantly blocks his ways in courting her younger sister, Edwina. But, when she tells him about her plan to return to India once Edwina is married, he is visibly shocked. After a constant denial of his feelings all along, he eventually acknowledges that he can't imagine his life without Kate.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Cordelia and Xander are oh so very much like this in Seasons 2 and 3.
    • Buffy and Spike regularly cycle through this in Season 6. Lampshaded in the Musical Episode.
    "First I'll kill her, then I'll save her / No, I'll save her, then I'll kill her!"
  • Norm, of course, subverts the line in Cheers: "Women. Can't live with them, pass the beer nuts."
    • Sam and Diane, however, play it horrifically straight. Together, they're miserable, with even the slightest disagreement turning into a feud that lasts for days, and Sam figures if they'd ever got married he'd have eventually killed Diana. Apart, they're miserable. One of the (many, many) problems they have is Diane's refusal to admit this.
  • In Dexter, the title character says of his adopted sister who crashed at his place for a while after some troubles: "Can't live with her, can't kill her." As Dexter happens to be a serial killer, the second half of the phrase takes on a different meaning. He was joking though because he is "rather fond" of her.
  • Carlos towards Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun. As much as he complains about her getting him into trouble, he feels worse without her around.
    Carlos: When she's around I tell her to get lost, but when she does I go looking for her!
  • Ross and Rachel from Friends. If they're with other people, they want each other: If they're together they argue constantly and break up. Rachel is especially bad as at one point she manipulated Ross into breaking up with his current girlfriend and then refused to get back together with him unless he took all the blame for a past break up. (He didn't). Ross takes his turn later on, however, when he refuses to divorce her (going so far as to lie to her and hide the fact that they're still married) after a drunken Las Vegas wedding, but also refuses to admit any romantic feelings for her.
  • Invoked almost word for word in Hannibal by Bedelia when talking to Will about his plan to escape with Hannibal. Will starts the show by being hostile to Hannibal who becomes his therapist, his friend, and his enemy successively and eventually his intellectual soulmate. They are constantly drawn to each other throughout the seasons even though Hannibal is a murderer and Will tries to neutralize him in various manners. They take the trope next level in Season 3 after Will finally admits that he finds killing "beautiful", pulls Hannibal into an embrace and pushes both of them off the nearby cliff, possibly to drown the both of them, although Word of God says they did indeed survive.
  • Referenced in an episode of I Love Lucy. When Lucy is getting up to yet another Zany Scheme, her husband Ricky remarks, "Women. Can't live with 'em, but it sure would be hard to live without 'em." Fred — who has a No Accounting for Taste marriage with Ethel — adds, "You could still try." This show is parodied in a sketch on Nickelodeon's All That, in which Fred (played by Kenan Thompson) declares, "Women; can't live with 'em...can't stand 'em".
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022):
    • "...After the Phantoms of Your Former Self": Lestat de Lioncourt tells Louis de Pointe du Lac that he's very difficult to live with and it drives him nuts, but he wouldn't change a single thing about his lover.
      Lestat: No one as angry, as stubborn, as unaccommodating, as maddening—
      Louis: Sound like trash to me.
      Lestat: As loving, as dedicated, as thoughtful, as imperfectly perfect as you've become. You're a challenge every sunset, Saint Louis, and I'd have it no other way.
    • "Like Angels Put in Hell by God": Louis ultimately takes Lestat back six years after the latter savagely attacked him, acknowledging that despite the pain his boyfriend had caused him, their "vampire bond" is difficult to break. In "The Thing Lay Still", Louis lampshades his love-hate relationship with Lestat:
      Louis: I wanted him dead. I wanted him all to myself.
  • The IT Crowd parodies this, with Moss, resident nerd among nerds, trying to deliver the line to Roy. He begins nobly, 'Women — can't live with them...' before trailing off and realising he has absolutely no idea how to talk about romantic matters or advice to give thereof. Later on, he delivers the gender-flipped version:
    Moss: Men, can't live with 'em...
  • Killing Eve: This is ultimately Eve's feeling towards Villanelle, who is openly in love with her. Over the course of the series, it becomes obvious that Eve does love her back, but is deeply afraid of her own darker qualities that come out when she's around, and struggles with the fact that Villanelle is an unrepentant murderer. (Specifically, the fact that, while Eve is bothered by it, she's well aware she's not nearly as bothered as she should be.) However, at the end of Season 3, when Villanelle truly attempts to let her go and walk out of her life forever, like Eve claims she wants, Eve finds that she can't give her up.
  • Pretty much the reason why Al in Married... with Children hasn't just up and left his ungrateful life parasite of a wife and kids. Among Al's immortal quotes:
    "Women. You can't live with them, you can't shoot them".
    "Women, can't live with 'em, can't herd 'em all into Canada"
    "Women. Can't live with 'em... The End."
  • Oz. A black inmate on Death Row is subject to constant racist taunts by a redneck in the next cell. After first breaking his hand when he punched the wall in frustration, he then gets smart and carefully digs a hole into the wall, then after one comment too many punches his fist through what's left and throttles the redneck to death single-handed. Unfortunately, that means he's the only inmate left on Death Row, and the episode ends with him looking sadly into a hand mirror, with only himself for company.
  • Scrubs:
    • Dr. Kelso initially couldn't stand his wife's snoring. She got the operation, but (this being Scrubs) only exacerbated the problem. Cue this trope:
      'Kelso: Here's the twist. Now, whenever she goes out of town, I can't fall asleep without the sound of that gasping, wheezing woman lying right next to me. Trust me. If I ever met a Japan air stewardess who snores like Enid, I'd marry her tomorrow.
    • Dr. Cox and his ex-wife Jordan have this sort of relationship. Both are snarky, jerkass misanthropes who can't stand each other...and it's made abundantly clear that they'd never be happy with anyone else.
  • Jerry and Elaine in Seinfeld, in that they are no longer interested in each other sexually but still hang out with each other because they don't have many other friends.
  • Smallville: Both Tom Welling and Erica Durance have said of Lois and Clark: “They can’t stand being around each other, but they can’t stand NOT being around each other.”
  • In Taxi, Louie explains to Zena, who won't take him back, that "love is the end of happiness": he used to be happy staying home and watching the Mets; now, even though everything about watching the Mets is the same, he can't enjoy it without Zena. She very reluctantly, like, to the point of self-disgustedly, takes him back. For a season or two.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Mind and the Matter", Archibald Beechcroft initially revels in his solitude after he makes everyone else disappear. However, after several hours, he becomes incredibly bored. Archibald decides to solve the problem by creating a world full of people he likes and respects—namely, clones of himself. Unfortunately, the clones turn out to be just as rude, misanthropic, and unpleasant as he is, sparking a Jerkass Realization and making him realize that he can't even live with himself unless he changes his attitude. So humbled, Archibald resolves to become a nicer person.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Damon and Elena, until the last four or so episodes of the first season. After that, they drop the "can't stand them" part.

  • P!nk's song "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)" is all about the bi-polar affections of a girl wanting some space, promising cuddling later.
  • The song "That's a Woman" is sung by Ryan Kelly and Paul Byrom of the group Celtic Thunder and is about a misogynist who finally falls for one of the women he so greatly disdains.
  • Celine Dion's "I Hate You Then I Love You." The title should be self-explanatory.
  • Senator John Dean's seminal dubstep/dubhop song, "Can't Live Without Em," a staple of the new genre. "Can't Live Without Em"
  • The Three Days Grace song "I Hate Everything About You".
  • Queen's "I Can't Live With You."
  • Stacie Orrico's song "Stuck" - "I hate you, but I love you. I can't stop thinking of you"
  • The U2 song "With or Without You"
  • French Canadian singer Jean Leloup song "I lost my baby" has the lines (translated) "I can't live with you / I can't live without you / But you can very well live without me /" ending up with "I'm screwed either way".
  • Rihanna and Neyo's duet "Hate That I Love You."
  • The Coral's "Dreaming of You" has lyrics of "I still need you, but I don't want you now."
  • The Voltaire song "Stuck With You" is narrated by a married couple venting about all the things each partner has done to piss the other one off and how much they drive each other crazy. At the end of the song, after this long litany of complaints, they mutually agree that "I'm not sad I said 'I do'/I'm just glad I was stuck with you."
  • Reel Big Fish's song "I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore" is a couple trading insults with each other and basically listing all the reasons why they should break up, but then we get this part:
    I don't like you
    But I love you
    Please stay
    Nobody makes me more miserable
    So please don't go away
  • Saliva’s "Always" centers around a narrator and his love/hate relationship with a lover.

  • Amanda and Elyot in Private Lives. They fight both physically and verbally, to the point of having divorced, but as they find when they actually meet again after remarrying different people, they are perfect for each other.
  • In RENT, during "Take Me Or Leave Me", Maureen and Joanne share a moment of this: "Women/What is it about them?/Can't live/With them or without them."

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and Barret constantly fight about their politics and their generally opposite outlooks, but soon begin to respect one another as allies. During the portion of the game where Barret attempts to go off to deal with his old friend Dyne alone, Cloud insists on coming with him because he can't stand the thought of Barret dying on him; during Cloud's significantly longer and sadder absence, Barret goes into a deep, fuming depression.
    • In Final Fantasy VIII, Squall spends the first two discs of the game grimly resisting Rinoa's efforts to get him to open up to her. When she falls into a coma at the end of disc two, however, he realizes how much he doesn't want to lose her, and abruptly she becomes his main priority.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist has a pair of estranged twins, Dys and Tang, who can potentially be reconciled by the player's actions. If Dys is left to his own devices, he eventually goes missing and never returns. Players who let this happen all while becoming close enough to Tang to see her fate in the Modular Epilogue will learn that Tang goes into a mental breakdown over Dys' fate.
  • Multi Versus: Just like in their source cartoon Tom and Jerry are more focused on fighting each other and the damage they deal to the oponent is merely Collateral Damage. However, if Jerry is thrown out of the arena, Tom's attacks will be a lot weaker until Jerry returns.
  • Nageki of Hatoful Boyfriend seems taken aback and annoyed when the player character makes an effort to befriend and spend time with him. In his diary he calls you "the nosy girl", he says you won't leave him alone... but he's glad, in the end. In the second game, some of your friends also make an effort to spend time with him, and later he complains to someone threatening them that they exhaust him and are unpredictable, but he's happy to have them.
  • Played for Drama and justified in Super Robot Wars: Original Generation regarding Arado Balanga and Seolla Schweizer: Bronzo-class students of The School program function in pairs and are more combat effective when both partners are with one another. When Arado is erroneously believed to be Killed Off for Real, Seolla immediately undergoes Heroic BSoD, forcing The School "instructors" to sedate and reprogram her for single combat.


    Web Original 
  • At least one AstroLOLogy short demonstrates that the Gemini twins can't agree on what activities they think are fun to the point where they split up based on their disagreements, but they legitimately can't stand not being in the other's company and ultimately care about each other as siblings.
  • Parodied, to great effect, in The Guild.
    Vork: Women. Can't live with them — they will not go out with me.

    Western Animation 
  • The The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 episode "Oh Brother" centers on this trope, with Mario and Luigi getting on each other's nerves and "disbrothering" each other. After Mario gets kidnapped and brainwashed by Koopa, however, Luigi takes it upon himself to save his brother, and the two reconcile, for the most part. Mario even says the trope word-for-word.
    Mario: Brothers. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.
  • Francine and Stan to their sponsored African child, Tungee, in American Dad!. He shows up on their doorstep and quickly aggravates them with his overly sunny disposition. They ditch him at Costgo, only to realize how much they miss him. They go back to get him but he annoys them again on the car ride home so they jump out of the car to get away from him... only to immediately complain that they miss Tungee again.
    • This is also the general relationship between Stan and Roger, as is especially shown the episode "You Debt Your Life" where Stan saves Roger's life repaying him for when Roger did the same years prior and kicks him out, it soon becomes clear Stan misses him and, reaching to a point where he rents the attic out to Andy Dick who acts just the same as Roger and eventually (after losing and regrowing both of his legs) Stan finally admits that despite Roger bugging him he likes having him around just didn't want to admit it, and until Hayley pointed it out he didn't even remember the debt.
  • Animaniacs
    • Parodied in the episode "Turkey Jerky" when Yakko, Wakko and Dot tell their latest victim, who is begging them to leave, that he'll "be lonely when they're gone". Predictably, after they leave, the man bawls "I'm lonely!"
    • This was also done to the Warners in the episode "Chairman Of The Bored": they are followed around all day by an extremely dull man who continually tells a long, rambling story in a monotone voice. No matter where they run, they can't get away from him. Finally, at the end of the episode, he suddenly finishes his story and leaves. The three of them just sit in stunned silence for a few minutes, then declare "It's too quiet!" and go running after the man begging him to come back.
    • A similar twist occurs in "Dot's Quiet Time." Dot wants some peace and quiet to read a book and searches all over the world to find a spot where she won't be bothered. However, when she finally discovers one, she realizes that she actually liked having some distractions and begins blasting loud music on her stereo.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Mark Hamill describes the relationship between The Joker and Harley Quinn this way.
    "Expressing emotion in any way that's real and meaningful is alien to the Joker, but he's learning those parts of himself, however unconsciously, through Harley. On a physical level, they're dynamite together. A lot of relationships are defined by that. Two people may be really horrible for each other, but physically they push each other's buttons so clearly they can't get enough of that person."
  • Dan Vs. holds the distinction of giving us a dark take on this phrase in "The Lemonade Stand Gang":
    Dan: Children. Can't live with them, can't hunt them for sport.
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • In "Spacecase", Dexter volunteers Dee Dee to go with the aliens in space. Along with realizing she may get harmed by the aliens, he begins to miss her and admits he can't even work at his lab without her presence. This prompts him to go and rescue her from the aliens.
    • In the episode "Dee Dee and the Man", Dexter 'fires' Dee Dee and joyously works in his lab without her interference. After a montage of repeatedly doing the same thing, his energetic joy fades until he's depressed and starts looking for a new annoying sister. Eventually, Dee Dee is rehired at the end of the episode.
  • The Disney Afternoon
    • Scrooge (DuckTales (1987)) and Darkwing (Darkwing Duck) both have this relationship with Launchpad McQuack. Both initially start working with him just because they need a pilotnote  and are exasperated by his Cloud Cuckoolander side. But whenever Launchpad leaves (even if they told him to leave) or some kind of danger threatens to take him away from them, they don't like it at all. Launchpad is not an example as he rarely gets annoyed with either of his bosses/friends.
    • A major theme in the relationship between cargo pilot Baloo and his boss Rebecca Cunningham or "Becky" as he likes to call her on TaleSpin. They argue over various things during the series at least half of it stemming from the old Snobs Vs Slobs theme but Rebecca is so physically and emotionally dependent on Baloo to help her run the company Higher For Hire that whenever he isn't there to do the long term heavy lifting the operation tends to fall apart or at least come to a halt.
  • Family Guy: Stewie sings "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" in a Shout-Out to My Fair Lady when Lois leaves him home alone to campaign for the school board.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Though she'd never admit it, Mandy feels this way about Billy and, to a lesser extent, Grim. They frequently infuriate her with their antics and schemes, but whenever they're gone for too long, it's clear that she misses them. She also goes out of her way to save them from trouble, often using a flimsy excuse to justify why she's helping. It's most apparent in Billy and Mandy's Big Boogey Adventure, when it looks like Billy might actually be in danger of drowning; Mandy pretends not to care, but nervously mutters "Billy's always fine..." while staring at the water, waiting for him to surface. When he finally does, she lets out a quick but noticeable sigh of relief.
  • Hey Arnold!
    • Helga and Arnold technically have a one-sided version of this. At least Once an Episode, we see Helga slip off into private to deliver a flowery, romantic, poetic rant about her yearning for her one true love, usually following a statement to the tune of "What a twerp, what a loser, what a football-headed dweeb. How I hate him. And yet..."
    • And then we have the episode where Helga drinks an 'anti-love potion' to erase her feelings for Arnold, and stops bullying him. Cue an extremely disturbed Arnold.
    • In another episode, Helga performs stand-up comedy at a school coffee house and does unflattering imitations of her classmates. At first, they're all angry with her and deliberately play up the things she mocked them for as revenge. But when she instead recites an incredibly boring poem about how much her friends mean to her, they all get more upset and decide that they liked it better when she was at least trying to be funny. The episode ends with everyone learning to laugh at the imitations and thus be in on the joke.
  • One of the unfinished episodes of Invader Zim, called "Mopiness of Doom", has something like this. Dib decides to drop paranormal investigation and pursue "real science." Zim, finally being free of the one person that constantly ruins his plans, enjoys his newfound freedom for a while, but soon becomes unmotivated to continue coming up with new evil plans without someone trying to stop him. Meanwhile, Dib has a hard time concentrating on "real science" since he still loves para-science and eventually gives that up and goes back to hunting Zim. Zim is confronted by Dib again and is overjoyed that he's back. The episode concludes with the two happily slinging insults at each other.
  • In KaBlam!, despite being his friend, June seems to get a kick out of hurting or watching Henry get hurt. However, in an episode where he leaves the show, June finds herself crying over missing him.
  • Kaeloo: Mr. Cat claims to find Kaeloo too annoying and talkative, but in the episode "Let's Play Courtroom Drama", when Kaeloo decides to leave Smileyland, he tries to stop her, even if doing so meant confessing to a crime he had previously claimed to be innocent of.
  • Subverted in one episode of My Gym Partner's a Monkey. Principal Pixiefrog starts saying "Women! You can't live with 'em..." He pauses, and we expect him to say "You can't live without 'em," but then he says "That's all. You can't live with 'em."
  • In Oggy and the Cockroaches (see image above) has a cat trying to stop three roaches from ruining his life. You'd think in "So Lonely" that Oggy'd be happy... right? Nope. He's bored and wants them back!
  • The Owl House: Principal Bump has never said it aloud, but it is apparent he does like the chaos that some of his current and former students, like Eda and Luz, cause at Hexside. When he has to expel Luz for an episdoe, he's very much unhappy about it, and is more than happy to have her return at the end of said episode.
  • Pinky and the Brain. Brain insults Pinky frequently and takes every opportunity possible to bop him with whatever solid object is convenient, but should Pinky wind up missing or genuinely hurt, Brain truly feels bad for his companion. In the Halloween episode, Pinky gives himself up to a malicious supernatural entity so that Brain can take over the world, and Brain gives it all up in order to get Pinky back.
  • Recess: Spinelli says this about boys in one episode:
    Spinelli: Boys! Can't live with them, can't grind 'em into chalk dust!
  • In the Rugrats episode, "Together At Last", Betty separates Phil and Lil when they fight over their Reptar doll, following advice from Dr. Lipschitz about separating twins every now and then to help them maintain independence, courtesy of Didi. At first, the twins are glad to be away from each other, but it isn't long before they begin to miss each other, and they spend the rest of the episode trying to get back together. When they finally reunite at the end of the episode, they hope they never separate again, but soon argue over which one of them started the fight that got them separated in the first place.
  • The Simpsons
    • One of the later Sideshow Bob episodes shows Bob realizing that he can't kill Bart. He's grown accustomed to his faaaaace...
    • The titular family is also a great example. They love each other, but they drive each other crazy.
  • In the South Park episode "Smug Alert", it turns out that this is how Cartman feels about Kyle. Of course, typical Cartman being Cartman, this isn't because he secretly cares for him but rather misses the amusement their rivalry brings (generally due to how Kyle reacts).
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squidville", Squidward is tired of SpongeBob and Patrick bothering him and ruining his day, the last straw for him being when they accidentally destroy his house. He sees an ad on TV for Tentacle Acres, which is full of octopuses like him, and moves there. At first, he finds it relaxing and comfortable but after a while, he gets bored of it. Later, he pines for SpongeBob and Patrick to come back and cause a little chaos. When they don't, he starts causing the chaos and eventually decides to leave.
  • Steven Universe: On one hand, the members of the Great Diamond Authority fit the definition of being Royally Screwed Up and are always at odds with each other. One the other hand, because of the Gem hierarchy, the only close bonds that they have left are with each other.
  • Tom and Jerry: The titular duo are pretty much like this by default. One example is the short "The Lonesome Mouse" has Tom getting evicted from the house. Jerry is initially delighted but comes to realize that he's bored stiff without his adversary, and schemes to get him back in Mammy Two Shoes' good graces.
  • This is what defines Larry and Tuddrussell's relationship in Time Squad.
  • Transformers: Animated:
    Ratchet: Young Bots... Can't live with them, can't melt them down for spare parts.

Alternative Title(s): Cannot Stand Them Cannot Live Without Them, Cannot Live With Them Cannot Live Without Them, Cant Stand Them Cant Live Without Them