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Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends

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"If you can't be with the one you love
Honey, love the one you're with."
Stephen Stills, "Love the One You're With"

Bob, Charlie, Dave, etc. have been chasing Alice. Now it's time for Alice to choose Bob as her one and only.

What a happy couple (hopefully). The audience should also feel happy for them, even though this very act has crushed the hearts of Charlie and Dave.

This is awkward, especially if Alice was being foolish in stretching this situation for most of the series. The audience is supposed to support the final couple completely, but this is difficult if the pairing has "casualties" (or competition that's still floating around). This is especially problematic if the writers had too much fun with too much Ship Tease earlier in the series, which can lead to a fandom rife with Shipping Wars, where you're likely to end up with at least part of the fandom unhappy. It's especially bad if the writer-preferred pairing feels rushed and underdone when other possible partners have a better history, better communication, or just more sparks.

So, the writers tend to quickly whip up some contrivances to deal with this. Given the romantic resolution occurs late in the series, this has to be applied rather quickly, as there isn't much time left. This can create a subset of moderate shippers, who aren't bothered so much at being unfulfilled as it being done in a silly manner.

Common variations have former competitors:

Often the fate of lesbians. As a type of backlash, sympathetic fanfic will often get rid of the heterosexual competition in this fashion as well. Often the fate of the "second" father when First Father Wins.

Some ways of making it so that cleaning up loose ends doesn't have to happen are for all characters to be paired up from the very beginning or reach a mutual Marry Them All solution. Or, of course, simply accepting that they lost and moving on with their life.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Seems to be happening in the last two volumes of Ai Kora, with Tsubame finding a boyfriend, Ayame developing feelings for Haiji, and Kirino becoming an idol singer and moving out of the dorm, with the final volume dedicated to untangling the Love Triangle involving Maeda, Sakurako, and Yukari. Ultimately subverted at the end. Except for Tsubame, the girls never gave up on him, and somehow Maeda gathered an even bigger harem with girls all over the world.
  • Creed from the Black Cat anime, after realizing that Train will never return his feelings (or anyone else's, for that matter), does a Heel–Face Turn and ends up with Echidna. This never happens in the manga.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura:
    • We find out that Syaoran's — and to some extent Sakura's — romantic feelings for Yukito were not simply a crush but in fact caused by magical attraction.
    • Tomoyo from the same series is the archetypal I Want My Beloved to Be Happy-character. Unusual in that Tomoyo acknowledges Sakura is a little dense with subtly and decides to explain more fully when they're older. It doesn't really come up again once Syaoran enters the picture; Tomoyo was both a Muggle and largely defined by her relation to Sakura, so it was a pretty serious Road Cone.
    • Likewise Mei-Ling drops herself out of the race by annulling her engagement to Syaoran now that she sees he has found someone he loves more; this completes her promise she made to him when they were younger. As an aside, Mei-Ling tells Tomoyo later that night that she cannot hate Sakura for it as it is not her fault.
  • DARLING in the FRANXX:
    • Ikuno, whose Incompatible Orientation meant she couldn't pilot with Ichigo like she wanted, is shown in the finale with a recovered Naomi, whose compatibility issues with Hiro were implied to be a result of the same.
    • With Kokoro and Mitsuru together, Futoshi (who carried a torch for Kokoro prior) is paired off with an unnamed Parasite girl in the epilogue.
  • Digimon Adventure 02 played this trope straight as an arrow. Only two couples were official in the epilogue of the series: Ken/Miyako and Yamato/Sora. The last had foreshadowing, as Yamato and Sora were dating in the last quarter of the series; the former had Miyako fangirling Ken first, then having him as her Broken Pedestal, then forgiving him.
  • The Love Dodecahedron of FAKE is sorted out in the epilogue "Like Like Love". First, there's the obvious flagship couple of Dee and Ryo. Bikky and Carol's relationship is solidified (they're seen talking about college). Berkeley finally realizes how important Diana is to him. Finally, JJ is paired off with his partner Drake as consolation for his one-sided crush on Dee. These pairings seem to be sticking in the second season, but a new Love Dodecahedron is promised to form as new characters enter.
  • Fruits Basket: It turns out that Yuki wasn't really in love with Tohru, he has been only looking for his mother in her; then he is quickly paired off with another girl. Seeing that this happened after fourteen volumes of pining and a confession of love, many fans found it less than convincing, and many people regard it as only an excuse to get rid of Yuki so Tohru and Kyo can be together.
  • Inuyasha:
    • The Love Triangle is resolved for good when Kikyo can finally die in peace and her soul ascends to heaven, enabling Inuyasha to finally stop grieving and focus on Kagome.
    • Koga finally leaving Kagome alone in the same book as well. In the anime, he marries Ayame aka the Cute Bruiser girl to whom he made a Childhood Marriage Promise years ago.
  • The extremely melodramatic love triangle in the Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl anime gets resolved when Hazumu finally chooses Yasuna over Tomari - even though she is the girl who turned her down first when she still was a boy. This doesn't bode well for their relationship and Yasuna decides to break Hazumu's heart again by dumping her several months later - which enables Hazumu to go after Tomari in the OVA meant to "fix" the earlier Gecko Ending. With Yasuna helping things along (and remaining friends with the couple).
    • Yasuna originally rejected Hazumu, not because of any of Hazumu's qualities that carried over through the change, but simply because Hazumu was, at the time, a boy, which, due to her odd affliction, made things a no-go. The later breakup was unrelated.
    • Also, it was rather less complicated in the manga, where Hazumu chose Tomari from the start because she was the one who didn't hesitate to save Hazumu's life. She loved him/her in both genders, choosing to change her own sexuality just to be with Hazumu.
  • Kimagure Orange Road had Character C ( Hikaru) rather quickly turned down once they got to the end, with her taking it bizarrely well that the main character led her on for so long "in order to not hurt her feelings." A later OAV subverts this, however, and touches more on the emotional ramifications.'
  • Love Hina:
    • Almost averted; even the day before the wedding of Keitaro and Naru, Suu and Shinobu both admit they still have it bad for the former... and when Motoko chides them for their fixation, Shinobu pulls out Motoko's latest bodice ripper manuscript which involves a swordswoman cutting down the bride at a wedding and ordering the groom to "Take me now!" Fortunately, they all are willing to let the happy couple be.
    • On the other hand, "Character C" Mutsumi goes the "wanting Character A to be happy" route — in a way — earlier in the series (Chapter 82 and 83)... by revealing that she's equally in love with Keitarou and Naru, and wants to make them both happy by helping them get together, thus stepping aside from her own interests to play matchmaker for them instead, ultimately lumping her in with the rest of the group's mutual satisfaction for the happy couple.
  • Macross II: In the first act, Hibiki and Sylvie Gena are clearly antagonistic, and when Ishtar ends up in Hibiki's custody, the OVA drops A TON of hints that Hibiki and Ishtar are falling in love (even outright saying it at some points). However, so they can end with the Marduk taking off into space somewhere, at the end Ishtar feels somehow inspired by Hibiki falling in love with Sylvie out of absolutely nowhere, and they stick in a subplot about Ishtar's second, Feff, falling in love with her so that the two main leads are paired.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth resolves the love triangle between Hikaru, Lantis, and Eagle by killing Eagle off in an Heroic Sacrifice (though then again he was fatally ill). (This does not occur in the manga, where Hikaru does not feel a pressing need to choose just one...)
  • Maison Ikkoku presented a long-running Love Dodecahedron. Protagonist (and dropout) Godai is in love with Kyoko, who is actively pursued by suave tennis coach Mitaka, while Godai reluctantly dates Kozue. All this, while Kyoko pines for her dead husband Soichirou. Eventually, Mitaka discovers an engagement with Asuna, a girl who loves dogs (his crippling phobia), but the girl is so sweet that he ultimately warms up to her. For her part, Kozue outgrows her infatuation with Godai and breaks up with him. Godai's third "relationship," Ibuki Yagami, a high school girl who continually advanced on her ex-teacher was the only romantic complication not to get over Godai, still thinking she will eventually get together with him in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • In MÄR, this is a common interpretation of the ending. Ginta chooses to resolve his tension with Dorothy by not choosing her and instead returning to Earth to be with Snow/Koyuki.
  • Marmalade Boy is the number one example. The anime spends so much time doing this sort of thing after Miki and Yuu pair off early in the series, it's almost impossible to take it seriously. Enter boy C who wants Miki, and girl D who wants Yuu. They team up, agreeing to work together to make Miki and Yuu break up. They fail, but it's okay — because they fall in love in the process and get together! Repeat twenty times, and you have Marmalade Boy. The word "marmalade" has become a standard name for this plot device in the vocabulary of shoujo anime fans. It was a lot less complicated in the manga because there were far fewer characters in it compared to the anime as well as the author herself not wanting to pair all the characters up since she thought it was unrealistic. She actually has commented on how she was slightly annoyed that virtually all the characters did seem to get paired up in the anime.
  • My-HiME:
    • Lesbian Shizuru has had two of these occur. In the anime itself, she goes insane, though a combination of her popularity and the Reset Button nature of the ending save her in the end. The video game based on this, which is aimed at a different demographic, has her committing suicide if the main character chooses to be with Natsuki.
    • In the manga, this is averted, as while Natsuki continues having feelings for Yuuichi after he has essentially chosen Mai, Shizuru does not go insane, kill herself, get together with anyone else, or even seem affected at all by Natsuki's pursuit of Yuuichi.
  • The first post-story Naruto movie, The Last: Naruto the Movie, is the canonical tale of how Naruto realizes his love for Hinata and how they eventually got Happily Married.
  • Around two hundred chapters into Nisekoi the story begins picking off harem members, starting with his 'sister' Yui, who was largely introduced in the first place to help move the romance plot along. After that, Marika gets a lengthy sendoff followed in short order by Raku finally realizing he loves Chitoge and doesn't think it's the same way he feels about Onodera, cementing those two as the frontrunners they have been since the start. Finally, Haru and Tsugumi bow out to support their respective candidates., leaving only the main love triangle intact. None of these other girls ever stood a real chance, but it's the manga's way of heading into the ending.
  • By the end of the manga of Ranma ½, when Ranma and Akane look set to finally marry each other when Akane's dad blackmails Ranma into marrying Akane, Akane's three major competitors have been paired off, with varying degrees of success: Ryoga has chosen to stand aside while he pursues a relationship with Akari. Ukyō has a suitor in the form of Konatsu. Shampoo has Mousse as a suitor. However, only the Ryōga instance is in any way successful, as they went on to summarily ignore their "consolation prizes", while Ukyo and Shampoo outright attacked the bride at her own wedding. Even Ranma and Akane don't get anywhere romantically; not only does Akane never explicitly admit, even to herself, to being in love with Ranma, Ranma denies it when Akane asks if she heard him declare that he loved her, at that time (Ranma has accidentally told her that earlier in the manga when he didn't know it was her and the manga is unclear as to whether or not he did say it in the last arc, it looks more like he was thinking it while yelling Akane). In the anime adaptation, its hinted Tatewaki Kunō, one of Ranma's rivals for Akane(as well as a suitor for female Ranma) actually has some feelings for Akane's sister, Nabiki. Though nothing ever explicitly comes of it.
  • SHUFFLE! does this twice to the main obstacle of the final pairing, both by having her go nuts, and then having a two-second implication that she falls in love with another of the girls in the ending credits.
  • In the last episode of Speed Grapher, Ginza's long-time obsessive crush on Saiga is abruptly pushed aside by a sudden change of heart, after she hears him tell Kagura that he loves her. Later, we hear other characters saying how surprising it was that she decided to hook up with Saiga's close friend Ryougoku, another character on the show whom she hardly knew—presumably so that Saiga and Kagura can be happy together after Kagura comes back.
  • The way Toradora! was going to end was incredibly obvious, but they took such a long time getting there that while Taiga was believable enough, Ryuuji just seemed to randomly decide he loved her and wanted to elope, after spending practically the whole series pining for Minori. Where did THAT come from?
    • There is at least a bit more foreshadowing in both the manga and the light novel since they let you in on Ryuuji's thought process. He is always thinking about Taiga and how pretty she is, among other things.

    Comic Books 
  • How Marvel ultimately dealt with Madelyne Pryor, Cyclops' first wife. She ran off after Cyclops left to check on the recently resurrected Jean Grey, along with their son Nathan. Marvel decided they wanted Scott and Jean back together and that Maddie was a loose end and turned her evil and wrote Nathan out of the story by sending him into the future, allowing Cyclops to be free of his commitments. Eventually, they revealed that Cable was the grown-up Nathan Summers.
  • Fantomex and Psylocke hooked up as part of the long-running romance subplot in Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force, after the Love Triangle between Psylocke, Fantomex and Angel was resolved (Angel had his entire personality and all his memories wiped). Psylocke and Fantomex hook up at the very end of the series, and it's clear that this was presented as a happy ending (those words are even used)... yeah, not even a year later, the new Uncanny X-Force series by a different writer had them break-up off-panel, with the justification that neither truly loved the other; Fantomex used his misdirection to get Betsy to think she loved him and he never loved her... no matter how hard this flies in conflict with what Remender wrote.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Played with hilariously in The Princess and the Frog. Tiana and Naveen fall in love and are married, but this leaves Charlotte as the only "good guy" who doesn't hook up with anyone or achieve her dream of meeting a prince. In the final song of the movie, we see Charlotte dancing happily with Naveen's younger brother - who is six and a half! Charlotte shrugs and says "I've waited this long," suggesting that she can wait until he grows up, but it's clear that she's joking.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A major subplot in Alexander Nevsky has two warriors, Gavrilo and Vasili, as rivals for the hand of Olga Danilova, declaring that whoever is bravest in battle will win her. It ends with Vasili yielding place to Gavrilo, as he has fallen hard for Vasilissa of Pskov (Vasili claims that she was the bravest of all, and Gavrilo was second).
  • One film version of The Count of Monte Cristo has Franz de Quesnel (the young man who was set to marry Valentine de Villefort, which ended due to the minor detail of Valentine's grandfather revealing he was the one who'd killed Franz' father in a duel years ago) marrying Haydée (the Count's adoptive daughter/slave) and Edmond getting back with Mercedes, due to the issues with the Count ending up with Haydée in the novel (it's entirely consensual and Haydée is the one pushing the Count to notice her, but it still reeks of Wife Husbandry to modern audiences).
  • Dan's brother and Dan's date in Dan in Real Life
    • This seemed less like Dan's brother was just part of a plot cleanup, but more part of his character going out with the other lady out of spite toward Dan.
  • In Enchanted, Edward and Nancy hook up through an out of nowhere Cinderella moment after their respective significant others hook up with each other.
    • This is an Aesop breaker for the movie, but a deleted scene tries to justify it by establishing Nancy as a former romantic who gave up on meeting a prince to sweep her off her feet.
    • It isn't like they get married immediately, there is enough time for two of the sidekick characters to get books published and Giselle to establish a successful business. So they were together for at least six months, more likely a year, first. But they aren't the main characters, so it's not like they can spend the extra time to show those two falling in love as well.
  • Kelsi and Jason at the end of the first High School Musical movie: Kelsi, who seemed to have a bit of a crush on Troy, is randomly paired up with Jason, his only other friend (with actual lines) who doesn't have a crush/girlfriend/whatever, despite the fact that they never interacted before in the movie and they have nothing in common.
  • Kick-Ass 2 pushed the hints of a Kick-Ass/Hit-Girl romance and had a temporary new love interest in the meantime for both. What about Kick-Ass's main love interest from the first film, whom he spent the whole film pursing and ended the film in a loving relationship? Well, she has a grand total of one scene in the sequel, in which she is derailed from a Girl Next Door to a bitch that cheats on him before dumping him.note 
  • L.A. Story: Harris K. Telemacher falls in love with a younger woman, but his loyalty to his girlfriend prevents him from going any further. Luckily, he discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him with another man, so he can proceed with his new romance.
  • The deleted scenes on the Special Edition DVDs of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King pair Éowyn, who couldn't win Aragorn from Arwen, with Faramir. Granted, this was in the books, but the films emphasized the Love Triangle far more, making the trope more obvious as a side effect. note 
  • In The Palm Beach Story, Gerry and Tom revive their love but in the process, they leave behind a flabbergasted Hackensacker and his Princess sister. Time to bring in the twin brother/sister plot for everyone to live Happily Ever After.
  • An egregious use of the trope was in the film Pretty in Pink. Originally the heroine was supposed to end up romantically with her offbeat platonic buddy, but the test audiences insisted that she end up in the arms of the superficial rich pretty boy instead. Thus the ending of the film was changed, with poor old Ducky going for some girl who merely winks at him from the dance floor, despite his stalker-like fixation with the heroine throughout the entire damn film. It's speculated that this is why the writer created the film Some Kind of Wonderful the next year with the exact same story (save for the genders switched) with the "original" ending.
    • The ending was changed because the test audiences pointed out that the original ending creates a hell of a Broken Aesop about not crossing class lines. Ducky going with another girl at a single dance just showed that he was able to move on (contrasting with the girl's father, who let his life fall apart because he never did).
  • At the climax Sky High (2005), pseudo-antagonist Warren Peace randomly hooks up with a girl who has ice powers and appears onscreen for exactly ten seconds prior, where she demonstrates said powers on two other students. Zero interaction between the two before this but hey, apparently the bad boys need love too. Plus, fire and ice? What a twist!
  • This trope appears to be Nora Ephron's bread and butter. In Sleepless in Seattle, Annie Reed and Walter come a mutual agreement that they are not all that in love and part amicably, leaving Annie free to hook up with Sam later that very night. Meanwhile, in You've Got Mail, Joe gives the boot to his shrill and unlikable girlfriend Patricia after being trapped in an elevator with her. Kathleen and Frank mutually agree that they are not all that in love and break off their engagement, leaving Kathleen free to hook up with Joe within a few weeks. The fact that the romantic leads in both movies are played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan makes it particularly evident.
  • After inadvertently causing the end of the world, the heroes and their Soviet counterparts from Spies Like Us decide to at least die happy: Chevy Chase pairs up with the gorgeous Donna Dixon, while the two older Soviet techs hook up together. Since there are two male techs and one female left, it seems that Dan Aykroyd's character and one of the other guys will be left out of the fun. Then it turns out the other two guys are gay, leaving Aykroyd to pair up with the very hot Vanessa Angel; win freakin' win. Oh, and the end of the world part? It gets better.
  • Resolved quite nicely in the final words of the original Star Wars trilogy: "It's not like that at all. He's my brother."
    • In the first movie and The Novelization, there's no inkling that Leia is in any way related to Luke (or Vader, for that matter). It's obvious that George Lucas invented it for the later movies because it was the only way to justify the hero not getting the girl.
  • In Team America: World Police, Carson in his Dying Speech tells Lisa to find someone else to love.
  • There's Something About Mary takes the fourth option to a ridiculous extreme, with Pat being a sleazy asshole, Tucker being a loser named Norm who faked being crippled to get close to Mary, Woogie being psychotically obsessed with her, and Brett Favre for playing for the Packers and not the Raiders, leaving Ted as the defacto winner.
  • Virgin Territory: At the end of the film, Dimitri comes to marry Pampinea, driving a wedge between her and Lorenzo - until they discover that Dimitri mistook her for Elissa, with whom he had sex and now loves. Even after that gets cleared up, however, Lorenzo is reluctant to marry Pampinea, as he's still pining for the mysterious "nun" who kissed him. Then this turns out to be Pampinea, so everyone ends up with the one they love.
  • In the Keanu Reeves film A Walk in the Clouds, the leads are pretending to be married so that her family won't learn that she is pregnant from an affair with one of her college professors. The main thing keeping them apart (even though they're falling in love) is the fact that he's married to someone else, whom he barely knows. He finally goes home to his wife - only to find that she's gotten their marriage annulled while he's been away, leaving him free to be with the one he really loves.

  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars, Thuvia falls in love with John Carter. In the end, when he is reunited with his wife, they get to watch as Thuvia and their son are flirting (though they get a book of their own before they actually get to marry).
    • At the end of The Chessmen of Mars, Tara learns, greatly to her relief, that her betrothed — believing her dead — has fallen in love and married, thus freeing her from her word and letting her marry the hero.
  • The romantic tension in The Twilight Saga between Edward, Bella, and Jacob is resolved when Bella marries Edward, and Jacob "imprints" (the werewolf version of discovering a soulmate) on Bella and Edward's newborn daughter Renesmee. It's okay because while Renesmee's going to appear 17 when she's 7, mentally she'll be an adult.
    • Additionally, Breaking Dawn also sees Kate and Garret hooking up with only a few sentences of them spending time together and implies that Charlie and Sue are in the process of hooking up (after, erm... Sue cooks meals for Charlie, it seems). In the first story, Bella casually plays matchmaker for her friends, with no real mention of how well the friends get along before that. In fact, almost all of the protagonists are hooked up with someone, and the characters who are meant to be unsympathetic are left single.
  • Ken Follett's two Kingsbridge historical fiction novels both feature a main couple (Jack and Aliena and The Pillars of the Earth, Merthin and Caris in World Without End) who, for various plot contrivances, can't be together in a practical and/or legal (it's 12th or 14th century England) sense for very extended periods of time. As a result, various stopgap love interests are employed but have to be disposed of when it's time for the main couple to possibly have a shot (which, particularly in World Without End, happens several times before they actually succeed). For example, after Caris is forced into becoming a nun, Merthin leaves for Florence, marries, and has a daughter; then the Black Death kills his wife, and he returns to England, has an affair with a barmaid, who also dies of the Black Death, gets back together with Caris for a while, but circumstances force another breakup, and he has an affair with Lady Philippa, his brother's wife (loveless forced marriage), but Philippa gets pregnant by him and has to pretend the child is his brother's, and her departure coincides with Caris finally getting out of the nunnery.
    • Also seen in Follett's A Dangerous Fortune, where Romantic False Lead Nora takes a rather severe level in jerkass after her husband Hugh loses his fortune (though he's still comfortably middle class), abandoning him and their three kids. There was a bit of foreshadowing of this as Hugh's true love interest Maisie was suspicious from the start that she was a heartless golddigger, but it's still pretty jarring as there was a period where we were meant to sympathize with her being manipulated into causing a scene at a high society party, and root for her fixing the problem it caused.
  • Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt solves this by having the two Romantic False Leads hook up with each other.
  • In The Ship Who... Won, Plennafrey rescues Keff from Chaumel and the other mages. Keff offers Rescue Sex and, because he's much kinder than men she's used to, Plenna falls in love and wants to leave her planet for him. Keff wants a Friends with Benefits situation as he's much more dedicated to his chaste relationship with Carialle. At the end of the book, as Plenna's preparing to leave Carialle gives a biology presentation that concludes with telling Plenna that she wouldn't be safe in space - at which point Chaumel, who's had a rapid Heel–Face Turn, calls Plenna a treasure and asks her to marry him. They've barely spoken, but she's delighted and goes away with him immediately.
  • This is done rather wonderfully in Stardust where Tristran gets home, finds out the girl he went on the adventure for in the first place wants to marry someone else and promptly informs her his heart's desire is for her to have the happiest marriage anyone ever had before going to find his star.
  • At the start of the Modesty Blaise novel A Taste for Death, Modesty is in a relationship with Steve Collier, who she hooked up with in the previous novel, and it's going well enough that she's not immediately averse to the idea of marrying him and settling down. Meanwhile, her Platonic Life Partner Willie starts a relationship with Dinah Pilgrim, which seems to be similarly serious. So what happens but that Steve and Dinah end up falling in love with each other and going off together at the end to get married, leaving Modesty and Willie still as the most important people in each other's lives.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted on Coupling, at first. Susan and Steve are together, as are Patrick and Sally... But Jeff can't get no girly action from Jane. Jeff and Jane get their own love interests, but neither lasts very long. In season 4, however, Oliver replaces Jeff and does end up with Jane.
    • According to Word of God, Jane and Oliver never go any further than we actually saw on the show, but they did end up running his shop together.
  • Discussed in Friends. After Ross and Rachel get back together and Monica and Chandler announce they're dating, Joey asks Phoebe if they should get together, by the virtue of them being the only main characters left. Phoebe reveals that she has a long-term strategy for the two of them in which they make off with Chandler and Monica's money and Rachel's children, and kill Ross.
  • Gilmore Girls has Jess becoming a good boy, trying to rekindle his relationship with Rory but finally accepting she's in love with somebody else. It also has Christopher being OK with not being Lorelai's soulmate (after a lot of frustration over it).
    • Jess actually averts this trope. Yes, he reforms himself but he's still in love with Rory. His final line: "It is what it is. Me. You." is actually them realizing they love each other but their timing's never been right. Not that the ends are cleared up. Plus Rory eventually breaks up with the other guy and Word of God reveals that, had the series continued, she and Jess would have gotten together. So definitely not this trope. The 2016 Netflix revival didn't resolve any of Rory's pairings but it left a door open for Jess, who had a longing look for her just before the end of the show.
  • The last season of How I Met Your Mother is about Ted, learning to let go of his feelings with Robin who is about to marry his best friend Barney before he met the Mother of his children. Alas, the series finale has Barney and Robin divorced with the former becoming a single father and the Mother dying so that Ted and Robin can be together.
  • In the final episode of The Musketeers, a minor character called Elodie turns up in search of Porthos, the only Musketeer that hasn't had a long-term romantic arc. They had only met once before in the series, during which Porthos helped deliver her baby, and promptly get hitched upon their reunion. The actors play it with as much grace as they can muster, but it still feels a little random.
  • One Tree Hill has a couple of examples over the course of the show.
    • During the first season the Official Couple of Lucas & Peyton was slowly built up with the clear goal of eventually putting them together. Come the second season, this was all ignored in favor of Lucas & Brooke, due to the real-life chemistry between Chad Michael Murray & Sophia Bush. Peyton, however, was retconned into being in love with Jake Jagielski - a recurring character from the previous season, who she had a mild flirtation with whilst she was trying to move on from Peyton/Lucas/Brooke love triangle.
    • When the writers eventually pulled the trigger on restarting the Lucas/Peyton relationship in the third season, after subtly leaving hints throughout the season that Peyton wasn't quite as over Lucas she first appeared, they brought Jake for a three-episode stint for no other reason than to show that Peyton never really loved Jake by having her confess her feelings for Lucas to Jake when she said "I love you, Lucas" in her sleep.
      • Similarly, the episode before Lucas & Peyton finally got together in the fourth season featured Brooke & Lucas realising that whilst they cared about each other, they really weren't in love with one another.
    • The character of Owen was introduced as Brooke's new love interest in the fifth season. After the character disappeared from the second half of the season, he was brought back in the following season & had a one night stand with Brooke's assistant in the same episode that began the Brooke/Julian relationship.
  • In Petticoat Junction Steve Elliot was introduced as a possible love interest for the Bradley girls, Billie Jo, Bobbi Jo, and Betty Jo. He and Billie Jo became a couple for several seasons. But then the actor playing Steve married the actress playing Betty Jo, so TPTB decided to have them get married on the show too. Out of the blue, Billie Jo mentions to her mother that she and Steve are "just friends." An episode or two later, Steve and Betty Jo declare their love, and Billie Jo doesn't mind at all. She wanted to focus more on her acting career and wasn't ready to get married like she knew Steve was wanting. And Bobbi Jo, who'd had a crush on Steve all this time, doesn't mind either, because she didn't have that big of a crush on him anyway.
  • Riverdale: At the end of season 5, Veronica, who was in a love relationship with Archie before he left, divorces Chad Gecko, but retakes the relationship she had with Reggie. Archie retakes his relationship with Betty, who was in one with Jughead, who starts a relationship with Tabitha Tate.
  • The last few seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation gradually allowed the Official Couple Riker and Troi to drift apart, even having Troi date Worf with Riker's approval. Later appearances by Worf never acknowledged this plot arc, and Riker and Troi were married in one of The Movie sequels. Exactly how they patched things up is left to the viewer.
  • In Twin Peaks, the undeniable sexual tension between Agent Cooper and Audrey Horne is quickly defused by the introduction of two new characters: Purity Sue Annie Blackburne and male Relationship Sue John Justice Wheeler. This was supposedly done because Kyle MacLachlan didn't think it was proper for Cooper to pursue a relationship with a high-school-aged girl.
  • In addition to the Presidential election, the last season of The West Wing seems dedicated to making sure no one ends up alone. Josh and Donna, C.J. and Danny, Leo and that blond girl, Will and that other blond girl. Possibly the only exceptions are Toby (divorced and, you know, that legal thing) and Charlie (young enough to have a life ahead of him even if he isn't married).
    • Charlie is actually a subversion of this trope as his relationship with the President's daughter was a major plot point in seasons 1, 4 and 6, and at the end of season 6 he actually hinted that they might be considering marriage which would tie up the romantic loose ends of that long story, however in the last season there is not a single mention of whether he and Zoey were still dating let alone if they were planning to get married.

  • Can't forget As You Like It. Four weddings at the end.
  • The Merchant of Venice. After Bassanio successfully courts and marries the wealthy Portia, his friend Gratiano and Portia's handmaid Nerissa also decide to marry each other, apparently for the hell of it.
  • Mamma Mia! features Donna, who encounters the three possible fathers of her (now adult) daughter and realizes that she still has feelings for all of them. In the end, she marries one of them, her friend hooks up with another, and the third reveals that he is gay and has a boyfriend.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream: The fairies repair the damage caused by the Love Potion, and Demetrius sticks with Helena, whom he was "making love to" before his Arranged Marriage to Hermia. There is the question if Demetrius would still have loved Hermia if it hadn't been for the love juice. Couple this with the fact he was threatening to rape Helena in the woods near the beginning of the play, and it does not bode well. Then again, knowing Will, he probably cultivated the implications.
  • The Misanthrope has Philinte and Éliante getting together at the end, providing perhaps the only honest relationship in the whole show.
  • William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night ends with the good guys rewarded, the "bad" guys punished, and everyone happily paired up... except Antonio and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Antonio's constant devotion and implied love for Sebastian goes completely unacknowledged. At least one film version ends with him walking away from the castle all alone. And Aguecheek, well... despite being rather slow in the head, his ending is quite tragic, as he appears smitten with Olivia and, judging by his early comment that "I was adored once too", he's really not got any other existing prospects.

    Visual Novels 
  • Mostly played straight in Daughter for Dessert. Heidi doesn’t like casual sex, and she stops a threesome between the protagonist, Kathy, and herself because she wants the protagonist to choose whether or not to be serious with her. Then, the protagonist has to choose between Amanda and any other girl that he’s seeing at the time. Averted if the protagonist dates Veronica early in the game; their romance just fades into the background without comment.
  • Subverted in Double Homework. In the penultimate chapter, the player will need to choose which of the protagonist’s classmates (Lauren, Morgan, Amy, or Rachel) is the most “trustworthy” - a proxy for choosing this girl over the others. In the final chapter, the player needs to make another choice: this girl, or Johanna and Tamara. However, any epilogue with any of the girls can be chosen regardless of these choices.
  • Mostly played straight in Melody. Becca breaks up with the protagonist if he’s seeing Melody and/or Amy by a certain point in the game, he can’t be seeing both Melody and Amy before a point around the same time without falling into a bad ending, and Sophia and Xianne never do anything more than fool around with him (and maybe Melody too). The aversion is Isabella, who has the last priority of all the romantic interests who get their own endings. Even if the protagonist technically stays in a relationship with her, she’s pushed to the side with no explanation.

    Video Games 
  • In Catherine, you get a different version depending on your ending:
    • Should you choose Katherine, Catherine is written off as an "illusion" created by the Big Bad.
    • Should you choose Catherine, Jonny reveals that he's always fancied her, and now that Vincent is out of the picture, his only reason to not be with her is gone.
    • Should you choose neutrality, Vincent leaves to seek a new life elsewhere, and presumably both the above things happen.
  • In Final Fantasy II, Scott asks Firion and friends to not tell Hilda about his death, as she deserves to fall in love again.
  • Final Fantasy VI has a temporarily revived Rachel telling Locke to stop tormenting himself over her death and find someone to be happy with.
  • Fans of Golden Sun have to wait until they play the 3rd game to confirm the romantic relationship between Isaac and Jenna. Subverted somewhat because while Isaac and Jenna are confirmed, it's heavily implied by the presence of the other children that virtually none of the others married off to each other. The only one that can even be speculated at this point is Felix and Sheba, but it's heavily implied that Felix has gone missing and Sheba wasn't even mentioned.
  • In Mass Effect 3, if neither Garrus or Tali is romanced in Mass Effect and both survive, they'll end up at least hooking up by the end of the game.

  • El Goonish Shive avoids making a mess of this pretty nicely, with romantic loose ends cleaned up right after they appear early on (Nanase dumps Elliot, and Justin doesn't have a chance because he's a gay guy with a crush on a straight guy), but in ways that leave open potential for character development later on. (In one strip, Justin looks at Elliot's girlfriend Sarah and thinks, "How dare you be someone I can't dislike?")
    • Nanase's part in this gets a very interesting solution: Justin suspected Nanase was a lesbian, and Nanase finds out he's right when Elliot's extremely-similar female copy, Ellen, is brought into play.
  • Fans! had a unique resolution to the Rikk/Alisin/Rumy triangle, after Rumy's attempts at I Want My Beloved to Be Happy didn't take: consensual polyamory. Lucky Rikk.
  • Megatokyo's Yutaka Kobayashi seems to serve little purpose other than a potential love interest for Yuki, whose crush on Piro has negative zero chance of resulting in anything.
    • Well, he's also smart enough to serve as Mission Control for Yuki. At least he can recognize the symptoms of zombie infection.
    • Yuki also seemed on her way to getting over her crush on Piro anyway.
  • Tales of the Questor had a different take on it when it is revealed that Quentyn's close friend, Kestrel, has a romantic interest in him, but decides not to reveal it. Since the strongest moment of temptation to do so is on the night before he left on his grand quest and de facto probable permanent exile outside the Raccoonan lands, she felt that it was too cruel to give him yet another thing to sacrifice and keeps the true depth of her feelings to herself. However, it doesn't end too badly since Quentyn, although unaware of Kestrel's feelings, insists that she join him for a dance at the harvest festival and they both have one last merry time together under the circumstances.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • Subverted in "I Dated A Robot", where Fry dates a digital copy of Lucy Liu. In the end, Fry deletes the copy after being asked by the real Liu and hopes that he can get to know the real Liu. However, it turns out that Liu and Bender (who has been against human/robot relationships for the whole episode) have fallen in love. The heart fade-out shows Bender and Liu kissing... then turns to Fry, who is growling at them.
    • In "Bender's Big Score", the Lars/Leela/Fry triangle is sorted out when Lars turns out to be an older copy of Fry, then dies.
    • In "The Beast With A Billion Backs", Fry dates a polygamist, the tentacle monster Yivo dates the whole universe, and in the end, Yivo and the polygamist find what they really wanted in each other. (Also herpes)
    • "Into the Wild Green Yonder" may be this trope, as a very minor Fry/Leela subplot provides fodder for the last scene when Fry and Leela declare their love for each other, to each other. Then they ride off into a Sequel Hook wormhole holding hands and sharing a kiss.
  • In Gargoyles, Brooklyn is the series' romantic Butt-Monkey, falling for multiple femmes and being brushed off by all of them. Creator Greg Weisman finally fixed that in the official comic book continuation where Brooklyn is whisked away for a 40-year journey where he finds his true love and raises a family before they all return to his clan at a time that is five minutes after the moment he disappeared. That journey was originally supposed to be depicted in a Spin-Off series called Timedancer. In addition, in the interim after the original TV series cancellation and before the SLG comic book continuation depicting the results of this, plenty of Brooklyn fans who were Fan Fic writers were happy to supply their own idea of the ideal true love for him.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • The original miniseries spent considerable time on shipping during the second act, only to realize that its substantially more relevant plotlines were getting less attention. In the span of fewer than 7 minutes, Korra's love interest nebulously breaks up with his current girlfriend to be with the Avatar.
    • All loose ends are completely and happily swept under the rug by season 3 during a driving lesson between Korra and Asami finally admitting each's previous actions with Mako and forgiving each other to become closer with only Mako being the one unable to move past the drama.
    • The Grand Finale depicts Beta Couples hooking up (Varrick/Zhi Li, Bolin/Opal, Jinora/Kai), gives some definitive closure to Korra/Mako who decide they're definitely Better as Friends, and then has Korra and Asami head off into the sunset together.

Alternative Title(s): Tying Up Romantic Loose Ends