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Destructive Romance

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"I love you I hate you I kiss you I rape you
and I cheat and deceive but I need you."

A romantic and/or sexual relationship that is truly destructive, breaking down at least one of the lovers, probably both. While they may eventually recover, it can also be an emotional counterpart of Defiled Forever.

The characters may or may not be aware of how bad their relationship really is, but, in either case, the author is very aware: this severe form of Love Hurts is not portrayed as amusingly wacky or Romanticized Abuse, no, it is Played for Drama as well as Nightmare Fuel. However, Romanticized Abuse or The Masochism Tango can morph into this trope through the power of Mood Whiplash or Cerebus Syndrome.

If the relationship doesn't contain outright Domestic Abuse, then they are still dragging each other down on an emotional level. This is sometimes done on purpose as a calculated move to make the partner stay. If your partner doesn't have any self-esteem, they'll believe that they don't deserve any better then being with a creep like you. They'll simply fall into Despair Event Horizon and accept the pain. However, please note that the partner does not have to be malicious or abusive; it depends on how sensitive the other character is.

These relationships can sometimes be caused by situations such as A Match Made in Stockholm and messed-up beliefs such as Marital Rape License and Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny. They might lead to situations such as Love Makes You Evil and a Destructo-Nookie.

If only one of the partners suffers, then that partner is likely a Love Martyr.

For platonic variants, compare With Friends Like These....

Compare Woman Scorned for when the destructiveness is caused by the termination of the romance rather than the romance itself. Contrast Safe, Sane, and Consensual and Casual Kink for stuff that might look like destructive romance without actually being it. A Deadly Affair is a subtrope for when the romance involves infidelity and leads to death. See also Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Chise and Elias's relationship in The Ancient Magus' Bride starts out this way, with Chise having low self-esteem and Elias becoming quite jealous of the bonds his 'bride' forms with people uninvolved with magic. Elias crosses the Moral Event Horizon before things can truly go in this direction though, prompting Character Development on both ends to ensure they have more of a healthy relationship going forward.
  • Very much so in Future Diary between Yuno and Yuki. The best example is probably when Yuno drugs Yuki, takes him to an abandoned hotel, and keeps him chained down in a basement so that the 'happy end' her diary predicts can't be interfered with. Then, when Yuki's friends finally track him down, she traps them and then tries to gas them to death. Thankfully, their relationship gets sorted out by the end of the series. It's brought up that the relationship is also abusive on Yuki's part, although he's nowhere near as bad as Yuno. He admits to only using her in order to survive the game and move ahead, and is just exploiting her devotion for his own needs. Yuno later acknowledges that she understands this, and is content with him using her so long as they can pretend to have a real relationship. Though later in the game, Yuki does come to genuinely care for her and stops using her.
  • Goodnight Punpun has the eponymous protagonist and his love interest, Aiko. The only thing uniting the two is an unhealthy obsession and the fact that they're two damaged, broken people. They keep hurting each other more and more, and the realization that their romance has no real foundation and is fundamentally destroying them both may be a big reason why Aiko eventually killed herself.
  • Karim and Zagi in Jyu-Oh-Sei. Their relationship is described at least once as Zagi "ruling" her, and while they have expressed pretty genuine feelings for each other, it's clearly unhealthy.
  • In The Love and Creed of Sae Maki, Sae is a Psycho Lesbian who's wildly, madly in love with Misao, "expressing" it by abusing and controlling her. She's loved two previous girls this way before; Ena and Madoka, resulting in one dead, supposedly Driven to Suicide, and the other disappearing along with her family.
  • Loveless is absolutely full of this, with almost every relationship (romantic or otherwise) being faintly dysfunctional. The most blatant example is probably Soubi's utter devotion to Seimei, who doesn't care about him in the least and is both verbally and physically abusive. Despite the fact Seimei doesn't love Soubi, Soubi will still do anything he says.
  • Mirage of Blaze: Kagetora and Naoe's relationship when Naoe starts proving himself to be a Yandere, tries to rape Kagetora, and Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The relationship between Asuka and Shinji quite literally causes The End of the World as We Know It. Despite their mutual attraction, she's too much of a Tsundere and he's too much of a Shrinking Violet for them to truly understand each other, much less be open with each other about their feelings. Their failed attempts at doing so throughout the series is one of the biggest causes of Angst for both of them. This finally comes to a head during The Movie, after Rei blows off Gendou and leaves the ultimate outcome of the Human Instrumentality Project in Shinji's hands. Shinji and Asuka are two of the first to be absorbed by the LCL, and when their souls meet together it's essentially the first time in the series that they're open about their feelings for each other. Only by this point, Asuka is so angry and disgusted with him (assuming it was not a Flashback, the infamous masturbation scene was probably the last straw for her) that she rejects him, which causes him to jump at her and choke her. However, Shinji does reject Instrumentality at the last minute, and in the last scene it is implied that they may or may not be getting over their issues and reaching out to each other.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena has a lot of creepy, unhealthy relationships, but the one that best fits this trope is Anthy and Akio/Dios - she used to love him as a brother, but after she sacrificed herself for him he became bitter and selfish and pulled her into a mutually manipulative, codependent incestuous relationship from which she couldn't, or wouldn't, escape for who knows how long. Touga also uses 'joking' romantic behaviour to manipulate and control his younger sister Nanami, but they're not actually in a relationship.
  • An interpretation of Chiaki and Hatori's relationship in Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi. While it's obvious they're an Official Couple from the two openings from the anime, their relationship in the series doesn't seem to work. What could have been a Childhood Friend Romance ended up becoming this due to how different the two are in work ethics and personality. (Chiaki is a childish, lazy person despite being one of the top manga authors in Japan while Hatori is serious, hard working and has to force Chiaki to do almost everything.) It gets to the point that neither can live without the other supporting them. This has shown to backfire though as once they do get together after Hatori brutally rapes Chiaki, mind you, and it's not played for fanservice or laughs, the episodes after that show them fighting more than making love to each other to the point where it seems like both of them can't seem to trust each other to not cheat on them and snap whenever one accuses the other of cheating. And even though they reconcile at the end of the episode, it ends up being repeated in the next episode simply because the only reason they're in a relationship to begin with is the fact they can't function without the other. And of course, both drag in Chiaki's friend Yanase into the picture who always ends up suffering from their arguments and disagreements physically and emotionally.
  • Tokyo Babylon, and its sequel-of-sorts X1999, has Subaru Sumeragi and Seishirou Sakurazuka. Subaru is the epitome of morality and empathy, Seishirou is a cold, sociopathic assassin. Under the disguise of a nice vet, Seishirou manages to get Subaru to fall for him but he proclaims to feel nothing for him, breaking Subaru's heart at the same time he tries to kill him. When he fails to kill the boy, Subaru's sister gives herself to Seishirou in order for him to spare her brother's life, in that way managing to gain Subaru's hate. But then X/1999 reveals that Subaru, despite all that happened, still loves Seishirou and wishes to die by his hands; Seishirou, on the other hand, pretty much commits suicide by tricking Subaru into killing him, because he realizes he does actually loves Subaru. Or so we assume.
  • Vampire Knight: Yuuki and Kaname, being prone to bring out the worst in each other. With him, Yuuki changes from her determined, energetic, joyful, and relatively action-driven self to being a needy, insecure, whiny, and timid Stay in the Kitchen girlfriend, being "reminded of her place" and how weak she is, should she ever oppose him. In turn, Kaname keeps manipulating and killing whoever he sees fit “for her sake” (awaiting no request from her), leaving her with the guilt and sadness from it afterwards. There are also very few, if any, cases of the two looking happy together (unless you refer to five-year-old Yuuki.)
    • Although, they waver between this and Romanticized Abuse, given how the author still portrays them in a romantic light despite all the unhealthy aspects.
  • This trope is extremely common in Yaoi Genre manga in general; the main couples in Maiden Rose and Sakura Gari are good examples, as are Soubi and Seimei above. To a lesser extent, it's also present in Yuri Genre manga (mostly older works such as Dear Brother). Makes sense when you consider the Melodrama-driven nature of most Yaoi Genre and much Yuri Genre.

    Comic Books 
  • A case of this trope without excessive abuse is the one between Mai and Zuko in the Avatar comics; in particular Smoke and Shadow. The more the relationship goes on, the more apparent they are both in a toxic relationship. the two are really shown just not to be able to work out. Mai and Zuko are having constant fights and breakups while suffering from Poor Communication Kills. In the comic continuity, Zuko gets along better with Suki (nothing overt from the two of them; but there's some light teasing) and Mai generally grew to love Kei Lo (though it doesn't last). It's becoming incredibly implausible that they ended up Happily Ever After with a child (Izumi, from Legend of Korra).
  • The Avengers: The relationship between Ant-Man (Hank Pym) and the Wasp was portrayed this way, with Wasp being somewhat immature and self-centered and Ant-Man being prone to swinging between bouts of mania and depression. This culminated in the infamous slapping incident, when a misscommunication between the writer and the artist of the issue caused what was originally intended to be an accidental strike caused by Ant-Man wildly waving his arms about while not paying attention to Wasp's proximity into an act of deliberate spousal abuse.
  • In Bitchy Butch, one of the main sources of the protagonist's permanent foul mood is that she got her heart broken by her first serious girlfriend. First the girlfriend was unfaithful, sleeping with another woman without asking for an open relationship first. When discovered, she declares an open relationship retroactively, and Butchy accepts it on a theoretical level. On an emotional level, she obviously never got over it.
  • In Fables, the relationship between Jack and Rose Red has more than a hint of this even from the start, with Rose Red eventually realizing that they only brought out the worst in each other. When she later reconnects with him, it's out of pure self-hatred. Their new relationship drags her down even further.
  • In The Feeling Prince Charles Had, love itself is portrayed as a destructive force that is bound to break people down emotionally.
  • Issue #11 of the comic series Flinch features a short story titled "Red Romance" (illustrated by Bruce Timm, of all people) where a man and a woman, both sociopathic lowlifes, fall in love and begin a relationship that involves sickening amounts of Masochistic Tangoing until even this violence isn't enough to satisfy their desires. It leads to the jaded man hiring a specialist to torture and kill her while he watches, only to discover she hired the specialist for the exact same reason. The story ends with the couple in orgasmic ecstasy as they watch one another get horribly brutalized before the specialist finally kills them and leaves them in each other's arms on the bloodstained bed. A story that manages to be touchingly romantic AND incredibly disturbing at the same time.
  • In Lucifer, Lady Lys' spirit gets permanently broken by her mortal lover Cristopher Rudd. And you thought a romance between a demon and a human would be bad for the human?
  • Requiem Vampire Knight: Heinrich and Rebecca's relationship turned into this when he joined the Nazis and later found out she was Jewish. They remained together, but they became abusive towards each other where he would beat, insult, and degrade her up until she was discovered by other Nazis and sent to a concentration camp while he joined the Eastern Front to die. They were reunited in Résurrecion where Heinrich feels shame over his actions and they briefly rekindle their love. He eventually realizes that if Rebecca remained with him, she'd be in torment and opts instead to release her from Résurrecion so she can ascend to Heaven.
  • Roy Harper and Cheshire's relationship in Teen Titans and other related series is this, on the part of the former. No one can understand how Roy could possibly have any sort of feeling of love towards Cheshire, who is a Psycho for Hire genocidal maniac and the mother of his daughter, Lian. Although there is the fact that most of it stems from him not wanting Lian to see her mother be caged like an animal. In the first Titans series Roy's conflicting feelings towards Cheshire were causing problems with his relationship with Donna Troy, which Donna eventually ended. Not long after Roy finally came to terms with the fact that Cheshire would always be a heartless murderer and eventually put his feelings to rest after she was convicted. That hasn't stopped Cheshire from multiple attempts at exploiting their past relationship to manipulate Roy for her own ends. The Villains United miniseries lends strength to the argument that Cheshire is incapable of love unless it's a means for her goals.
  • The Morrigan and Baphomet in The Wicked + The Divine are well on their way. Persephone also breaks up with Baal to prevent this from happening to them.
  • X-Men: When mishandled, Cyclops and Jean Grey's relationship can come across as this, oscillating between possessiveness and infidelity from one or both of them. Scott is very jealous, especially where Wolverine is concerned; but is himself less than totally loyal and has cheated or come close to cheating on Jean more than once. Jean meanwhile went so far as to attack Psylocke for making eyes at Scott; but, while never technically being unfaithful to him, has a history of enjoying male attention and flirting or being physically affectionate with other men, sometimes right in front of Scotty.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dominoes, Shinichi is the son of a Batman Expy called Night Baron and his girlfriend Ran and all of their friends are his father's superhero apprentices. None of them tell him, and the information disparity quickly descends into power abuse as everyone takes advantage of his lack of knowledge with the justification that it's For the Greater Good and the assumption that he'll never know of the slight anyways. Ran's constant lying at his father's request "for Shinichi's own good" probably wouldn't be so bad if Shinichi had other, more stable relationships—but when compounded with everyone Shinichi knows cooperating with Night Baron's information blackout and Big Brother Is Watching tendencies towards Shinichi and her omission of support for Shinichi in the face of his family's abuse (and her casual reinforcement of their abusive rhetoric), Shinichi is deprived of any healthy, trusting relationships, and she becomes just another thing that hurts Shinichi rather than makes him happy. Their relationship makes him feel so miserable and trapped by the time the story begins that Shinichi describes her grip on his hand as a "shackle." After Shinichi finds out their secret identities and realizes how much of an inferior burden her actions imply that he is to her, Shinichi dumps her in chapter 10.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug fic Heart Thief has Marc's relationship with his ex Lucien. While the relationship seemed perfect at first, Lucien soon became emotionally abusive, separating Marc from his friends, threatening everyone who either tried to hurt or flirt with him (and apparently sending at least one guy to the hospital), treating him like his property, and slowly exerting complete dominance over him; the fact that he was a Villain with Good Publicity didn't help. Eventually, Marc managed to break up with him and transfer to a new school to escape him, but he still has his scars from the relationship — and even worse, Lucien ended up transferring to the same school, and upon discovering Marc has a new boyfriend, went full Yandere and got akumatized. Fortunately, his good reputation gets torn down at the end of the story and he disappears from Marc's new school — and life — for good.
  • I Thought I Wanted This portrays Adora's relationship with Catra this way. Adora finds herself suffering from PSTD-fueled flashbacks to how Catra treated her during the war, while Catra tries to pretend that the past simply didn't happen, lashing out at Adora when she tries to work through her trauma.
  • L and Light from Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything. They've been having a secret off-and-on affair for years, one that is rife with every form of mutual Domestic Abuse you can imagine: physical, emotional, even sexual. Even when they try to break away from each other, neither can stay away for long.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 9˝ Weeks: Elizabeth and John's relationship is not a healthy one and takes a toll on Elizabeth's mental stability in particular. John's BDSM-themed behavior and mind games border on or cross into physical and emotional abuse, as Elizabeth is clearly uncomfortable with and openly protests some aspects of the relationship. She becomes increasingly dependent on him for emotional stability despite him holding her at arm's length emotionally speaking, while he begins controlling all aspects of her life. John treats it as a game, apparently oblivious until the very end to the fact his behavior is having a serious negative impact on Elizabeth. John finally admits he does truly care about Elizabeth, but his manipulative and cruel behavior has already prompted her to leave him.
  • Bad Timing: The film charts the emotional, spiritual, and physical ups and downs of a young couple's relationship that is fueled by their compulsion to attack, manipulate, and humiliate one another.
  • Beast (2017): Particularly in the second half of the film, Moll and Pascal's relationship becomes this. At one point, they get into a nasty, alcohol-fuelled fight, during which Pascal actually chokes Moll in a rage. It ultimately culminates in her strangling him to death after learning he's a murderer.
  • Clash by Night: Mae is married to Jerry but has an affair with Earl, Jerry's best friend. It's an ugly relationship that breaks Jerry and Mae's heart.
  • The Darjeeling Limited: A defining feature of Jack Whitman is his propensity to enter these kinds of relationships, first with his girlfriend (played by a short Natalie Portman cameo) and later with Sweet Lime. This seems to be a motif of Wes Anderson.
  • Fallen Angel has Stella and Eric, who are trying to get married, but it's more of an unhealthy obsession, than love. And then Stella is murdered...
  • Gilda is all about the love-hate relationship between Johnny and Gilda. The entire plot revolves around the psychological, emotional, and physical abuse they inflict on one another, which gets increasingly nasty, violent, and bizarre, to the point where both of them are practically mentally unhinged by the end of the film.
  • In I Shot Jesse James, the relationship between Cynthy Waters and Robert Ford is largely based on Cynthy's fear of Robert after he kills Jesse James. Her fear that he'll hurt her in some way makes her grow more distant until she dumps Robert for his rival John Kelley.
  • Ruby Sparks: Calvin is a self-centered writer who creates the character Ruby, who is written to be his ideal Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Then Ruby comes to life. The difference between Ruby-the-fictional-character and Ruby-the-real-person, however, is that Ruby-the-real-person wants a life outside of Calvin, which Calvin doesn't want. Not to mention, while Ruby is written to be perfect for Calvin, Calvin is not perfect for Ruby, and is rather controlling. And then he realizes anything he writes happens to Ruby, meaning he can basically control her every move if he wants to. Cue things going steadily downhill. In the end, he sets her free, realizing that Ruby is truly her own person, and deserves to be treated as such.
  • Star Wars: As sweet as it can be at times, Anakin and Padmé's relationship wasn't healthy. When you have two people trained from a very young age to live a life of nothing but duty, and essentially forbid them normal, healthy relationships, there's no way it can end in anything but this trope. It's especially bad for Anakin because this prohibition is one of the seeds that would lead him to The Dark Side when he becomes obsessed with protecting her at any cost. After Anakin turns to the Dark Side in Revenge of the Sith, the relationship becomes blatantly abusive – he twists the truth or just straight-up lies to Padmé to cover up his crimes, starts treating her more like a possession than his wife and lashes out at her with the Force, ultimately causing her death. Anakin is horrified at this once he comes to his senses, but by then it's too late.
  • Thirst (2009): You have a vampire priest struggling to keep his humanity and ethics and a woman who can't wait to indulge in the powers and menus of vampirism.
  • The War of the Roses walks the line between hilarious and genuinely scary. The film follows the courtship and marriage of a nice-but-shallow couple, followed by the most un-amicable divorce imaginable.

  • Surprisingly, the 365 Days trilogy ultimately comes to this conclusion about Laura and Massimo's relationship. Massimo is initially portrayed as a Fetishized Abuser — a legitimate love interest despite his many flaws. However, the books increasingly present Massimo's aggression, manipulation, jealousy and Control Freak tendencies towards Laura as being something negative. Both are often miserable around each other and are driven to substance abuse to cope, as well as cheating on each other. After Massimo tricks her into choosing him over Nacho, only to drug her, imprison her, and attempt to impregnate her against her will, Laura escapes and ends their relationship for good.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses: Feyre's relationship with Tamlin turns out this way, as though he loves her, his trauma and fear of losing her means he becomes very possessive and controlling while dismissing what Feyre wants, which gradually erodes her feelings for him.
  • Devil Venerable Also Wants To Know: Baili Qingmiao's relationship with He Wenzhao consistently leaves her feeling miserable and heartbroken because she repeatedly sacrifices everything she has for him, including even her ability to become a powerful goddess again, but he keeps sleeping around with other women and prioritizing his own needs and feelings over hers. The book that tells their romance from her perspective is even titled Abusive Romance and the book series God of Annihilation that continues their story from his perspective shows that their relationship ultimately destroys the entire universe when her sacrificing his life to save him causes the cosmos to collapse back into formless chaos due to her unknowingly being a Cosmic Keystone. Fortunately, the main narrative has her slowly realize this and ultimately break up with him.
  • The English Patient: Katharine cheating on her husband with Almasy is portrayed as a highly destructive obsession that ends in the pointless deaths of all three.
  • Gone with the Wind features Rhett and Scarlett's marriage starting okay, but due to Scarlett's obsession with Ashley Wilkes taking prevalence over Rhett and her family, the marriage becomes destructive.
  • The Joy Luck Club: Ted's and Rose's marriage is built more on rebelling against their parents and cultural norms, and Rose grows to realize that Ted relies on her passive and submissive nature to blame her for his emotional insecurities.
  • The Mark of the Lion: Julia goes through at least two of these: the first man she falls in love with turns out to be brutally abusive; the second gives her a baby she really doesn't want and the STD that eventually kills her, before abandoning her and leaving her totally disillusioned. The various affairs she had in between certainly didn’t help her slide towards total cynicism or excruciating death by syphilis.
  • Nightmare Alley: Two heavily one-sided destructive romances appear:
    • Firstly between the innocent Molly and the manipulative Stan who constantly mistreats her, cheats on her, and coerces her into criminal acts she doesn't want to take part in.
    • Secondly, Stan's extra-marital relationship with the evil psychologist Lilith also counts. She mentally and emotionally manipulates him to the point where he becomes completely infatuated with her and his mental state begins to deteriorate significantly as a result.
  • Norwegian novel Nothing Grows Of Moonshine is built around this trope, with a nameless teenage girl (the narrator), being physically and emotionally abused by the one man she gave her heart to in good faith. Not that the man in question always acts rationally. The trope is almost mentioned verbatim, and the girl ends up as a Broken Bird Defiled Forever.
  • Skippy Dies: The Love Triangle between Carl, Skippy, and Lori, who's sort of dating both of them, doesn't end well for any of them. Carl is a violent psycho who constantly pressures Lori for sex; their relationship is very unhealthy. When he non-consensually sends out a sex tape of her to the whole school and Skippy finds out, this evidence of her infidelity pushes Skippy over the edge and he's driven to suicide. Skippy's death brings a lot of unwanted attention to Lori over their romance, and this combined with a pregnancy scare from Carl causes her to develop a severe eating disorder and try to kill herself. Meanwhile, Carl decides he's responsible for Skippy's death and develops hallucinations that drive him to burn down the school and also try to kill himself.
  • The novel The Story of O exists in two versions. These versions have very different endings, casting the rest of the story in very different lights. In the most popular version, which most adaptations are built on, the relationship is simply Casual Kink and Property of Love. The other version is a Destructive Romance presented as Romanticized Abuse during most of the book but then abruptly changes tone at the end. It ends with the protagonist and her boyfriend agreeing that she should commit suicide... and she does.
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Helen and Huntingdon's marriage. Huntingdon associates love with complete submission and compliance, Helen associates love with trying to improve her husband's faults. At first this only causes a few spats, but later Huntingdon starts going out of the way to be horrible just to spite Helen and Helen stops giving him any affection and encouragement at all. It's more Huntingdon's fault than Helen's, but after a few years, their marriage crumbles completely.
  • The Villainess Lives Again: The (relative) Beta Couple, Artezia's older half-brother Laurence and her best friend and lady-in-waiting, Lisia. Artezia arranged to have them married in the first timeline in order to give Laurence the legitimacy he needed in order to become Emperor. While the two ended up genuinely falling in love, their relationship was a disaster because they couldn't understand each other at all. Laurence is a narcissistic, psychopathic Control Freak who frequently abused Lisia because of his inferiority complex. Lisia is a literal saint who tried to change Laurence for the better, but all her attempts were met with confusion, distaste and more abuse, until she eventually dropped dead. In the second timeline, after they both regain their memories, it's clear Laurence learned nothing from her death and will never change, so Lisia ends up killing him in the end.
  • Wuthering Heights: Most of the characters think Heathcliff and Cathy are a terrible match, though there is something to be said for how their trademark brand of selfishness, vindictiveness, contempt for others, and mutual obsession makes them kind of perfect for each other. While their relationship may well have turned out disastrously even if they had been together from the start, it would probably not have gotten to quite the level of vengeful spite it did when they tried to live apart.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Better Call Saul: Jimmy's relationship with Kim. Jimmy helps bring out the self-destructive streak hidden within Kim, and Kim's tolerance of Jimmy's schemes has also made it easier for Jimmy to rationalize and act on his worst impulses. This gets terribly deconstructed late in the series. The two have so much fun in their joint attempt to discredit Howard Hamlin, planting fake evidence and espionage to discredit him and make him come off as a drug addict, all due to a mutual grudge shared towards him between Jimmy and Kim. This leads to Howard confronting them at their apartment over this, when Lalo Salamanca shows up as well, also due to being associated with Jimmy and Kim. He kills Howard on the spot for realizing his involvement with the two lawyers, which utterly shocks Jimmy and Kim. Later, they have to attend a funeral wake for Howard at his law firm, which is downsizing because the last remaining founder of it is gone, and are forced to lie to his widowed wife to deflect blame off of them and make her view her deceased husband as an addict who killed himself. All of this culminates in Kim realizing how much trouble they have caused and leaves her fully convinced that the two together ruin people's lives around them as a couple. So she decides to break up with Jimmy, move out of the apartment they shared together, and leave Albuquerque.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike's interest in Buffy started as Stalker with a Crush, but she regarded his advances with contempt. But after Buffy falls into depression in Season 6 she secretly starts sleeping with him. Unfortunately this only ends up making things worse—Spike is convinced Buffy wants to come over to The Dark Side and is frustrated by her unwillingness to either return his love or abandon her friends, while their Interplay of Sex and Violence, her lust for a soulless monster who's supposed to be her enemy and her guilt over using Spike without respecting his own feelings only increase Buffy's self-loathing. At one point she savagely beats an unresisting Spike, describing him in terms that are clearly referring to herself ("There is nothing good or clean in you! You are dead inside! You can't feel anything real!"). The In-Universe Values Dissonance between the two reaches a point where after she ends the relationship, Spike tries to rape an injured Buffy; fortunately Buffy is able to fend him off and Spike realises that, even for him, this act is crossing the Moral Event Horizon, and motivates him to go on a quest to regain his soul.
  • Cheers: At its darkest points, Sam and Diane's relationship turns into this. There is little or no trust between them, little actual compatibility, Diane routinely insults Sam apropos of nothing and Sam does things just to upset Diane even though he himself admits he doesn't know why. Their break-up at the end of season 2 leads to Diane checking into a mental hospital (of her own free will!) and Sam going on a months-long alcoholic bender. Sam even admits a few years after Diane leaves that if they had managed to get married, he probably would've killed her. Unfortunately, Diane also refuses to acknowledge their relationship is unhealthy, and becomes seethingly jealous if Sam's with another woman.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Matt Murdock and Elektra Natchios. When they dated in college, Matt nearly ruined his future because of how much of a bad influence Elektra was on him. When she comes back into his life on Stick's orders to bring him into Stick's war against the Hand, his career and budding relationship with Karen Page are shattered as a direct result. And it's a two-way street: Matt's positive influence has a negative effect on Elektra; she struggles with self-loathing because Matt's restraint makes her feel like a monster, her strive to be better because of him causes her to reject her teachings and puts her in the crosshairs of the Chaste (who, by virtue of her being the Black Sky, consider her too dangerous to leave as a Wild Card), and ultimately results in her death and resurrection by the Hand when she chooses to side with him against them.
    • Wilson Fisk and Vanessa Marianna, at least from the eyes of Fisk's allies. Leland Owlsley and Madame Gao think that Vanessa is a bad influence on Fisk and is causing him to be a bit too soft and distracted from business at hand, and even make an attempt to kill Vanessa in an attempt to get Fisk to focus more on the criminal enterprise. When she comes back from her exile in season 3, we see that this plays out both ways as Fisk's desire to keep Vanessa safe is what drives his actions with the plot, while his agreeing to let Vanessa give the order for Ray Nadeem to be killed ends up being his downfall.
  • Degrassi has Miles and Esme in season 15. Pre-relationship, he already had a lot of trust issues and mental health problems that stemmed from his abusive father. Then he met Esme and they became friends with benefits and he got even worse. She seems to be just as messed up and in an attempt to help him got him hooked on pills. Together they isolated themselves from everyone else and encouraged each other in their destructive behaviour. When he decided to get clean and become friends with his former boyfriend/best friend again, she faked a suicide attempt to get his attention, scared of being alone.
  • Elementary reveals that Sherlock and Jamie Moriarty had one. She's the abuser in this case, as she invented an entire identity whole-cloth in order to study and break him. And succeeded, because it drove him into a drug-fueled downward spiral and a stint in rehab, which kicks off the series. The show also does not shy away from showing that, even from prison, Jamie is still exerting her abusive influence over him by writing him letters.
  • Euphoria:
    • Maddy and Nate are agonizingly unhealthy. Nate is a poster boy for toxic masculinity, belittling Maddy and physically attacking her at points. Maddy is unable to separate herself from him and frequently goes back.
    • It's implied Rue and Jules are headed this way, as Jules makes herself into Rue's emotional crutch, taking far, far too much on herself, a weight only furthered by people saying how much she is responsible for Rue improving. Rue is pointed out to not have stopped being an addict, she just shifted her addiction from drugs to Jules, and another recovered addict tells her that, asking what Rue pretends to do once they inevitably separate after high school.
  • Fi: All of Can's romantic relationships eventually fall into patterns of abuse and manipulation. Some women, like Sıla, are lucky to escape relatively unscathed. Duru and especially Billur, on the other hand, are far less fortunate.
  • Frasier: Niles and Maris's marriage was depicted as this, only being stable when Niles was miserable and cowed and Maris was wrapped up in her own pursuits, and erupting into vicious fights, break-ups, and various forms of abuse (on Maris's part) whenever this status quo was shaken up. It was hinted that the main reason that it lasted as long as it did (and the amount of backsliding that occurred during their drawn-out breakup) was because of Niles's insecurity and codependency and Maris's enjoyment of having someone to control.
  • Glee: Terri spells out to Will that the only reason their marriage works is that it's one of these. Will, actually wanting to be in a healthy relationship, leaves.
  • Goodbye My Princess: Xiao Feng and Cheng Yin. Twice. The first time they get married, he kills her grandfather and attacks her people. Their second marriage is even worse and ends in her committing suicide to escape him.
  • Grimm: Monroe and Angelina's relationship is presented as this. Though it is clear that the two characters care deeply about each other, by the end of the episode, it is made clear that the relationship simply would not be good for Monroe. This is mostly due to Monroe having been through Monsters Anonymous program and consequently trying to stay clean and live a normal life, but being around Angelina causes him to lose control and go back to his old ways.
  • Hannibal plays with this with Hannibal and Will Graham's relationship. By the latter half of Season 3 their relationship is arguably less destructive towards each other, and moreso towards the people around them.
  • Heroes: Sylar and Elle, as she's a sociopathic Company assassin broken by years of Company experimentation on her powers and he's a psychotic serial killer with serious mental issues. They both try to reform for the better, but when the Company lies she's told surface, including how she manipulated his feelings, Sylar kills her.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): Daniel Molloy describes Louis de Pointe du Lac and Lestat de Lioncourt's romance as an abusive one, labelling it as "classic Stockholm [Syndrome]." Lestat is a classic example of a Domestic Abuser, and Louis is a victim of intimate partner violence who still loves his abuser. The last few episodes of Season 1 play out the "cycle of abuse" — tension culminating in an incident of abuse (Lestat almost killing Louis), followed by apologies (Lestat is thrown out until he grovels and is allowed back home), reconciliation, a calm "honeymoon" phase, until tension starts to mount again. There's an uncomfortable scene in episode 6 where Louis is Unfocused During Intimacy because he doesn't actually want to have sex, but he's so frightened that Lestat will punish him again for not loving him enough that Louis simply lies on their bed and lets Lestat have his way with his body. Louis later has a bout of suicidal ideation when he imagines himself as a pile of ash because he dreads returning to the "crypt" of the "undeserving Lestat." By episode 7, Lestat has enclosed Louis in a Gilded Cage and keeps his lover on such a tight leash that the only escape route that's available to Louis is to murder his boyfriend. Louis almost does, but his love for Lestat is stronger than his hate, so he's unable to perform the final step, which is to burn Lestat's body. Louis flees to Europe, but Lestat is Not Quite Dead.
    Daniel: You took Lestat back.
    Louis: The vampire bond. There is no human equivalent.
    Daniel: Lover, murderer, maker. (incredulous) invokedYou took him back.
    Louis: It's a bond that can never fully be severed. A bond like that makes you believe there are only two of you on the planet.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has portrayed many of these over the years. In one episode, Olivia tries in vain to convince a woman to report her husband for Domestic Abuse. Of course she refuses to betray her beloved like that and eventually ends up dying in Olivia's arms, stabbed to death by her husband.
  • Killing Eve: Eve and Villanelle are unambiguously attracted to each other, but their Foe Romantic Subtext is so toxic, it slowly undermines their respective factions, and poisons them individually to the point they can no longer maintain relationships with other people.
  • The King's Woman: Ying Zheng and Gongsun Li's marriage starts with him threatening to kill her because she's pregnant with another man's child. It just goes downhill from there.
  • Moonlight: Josef describes Mick's relationship with his sire/ex-girlfriend Coraline as this to Mick's current love interest, Beth.
    Josef: You have to understand, Mick and Coraline's relationship was one of those terrifying, completely self-destructive freakshows that you spend your whole life searching for knowing it can only end in one or both of you dead.
    Beth: That's your idea of love?
    Josef: What can I tell you, I'm a romantic.
  • In the North and South (U.S.) miniseries, Madeleine is married off to the villain Justin—who gradually breaks her down over the years, eventually turning her into a drugged down empty shell of a human being. It lasts until the hero saves her with his love.
  • Orange Is the New Black: Alex and Piper's relationship has been described as "epic, if psychotic".
  • Oz: Beecher and Keller. Keller is in love with Beecher to the point where he kills himself and makes it look like Beecher murdered him when Beecher rejects him. Keller was also obsessed with remaining in Beecher's life despite Beecher shutting him out numerous times.
  • Robin Hood: Guy of Gisborne and Marian have one of these, born out of the fact that she was a spy for Robin Hood, and he genuinely fell in love with her (thinking that her attention toward him was real). It ends with him stabbing her to death when he finds out the truth.
  • Supernatural: Despite being brothers who don't have that kind of relationship, Sam and Dean probably fall more under this trope than With Friends Like These... simply because their relationship is so close that it functions more like they really are a couple than like a normal sibling relationship. It is blatantly obvious that Dean and Sam have a very messed-up, tangled, codependent, unhealthy relationship. The two simply cannot live or function without each other—which really isn't a good thing, considering what they've gone through and what they have done to keep each other alive, especially Dean in regards to Sam. Dean's one and only serious girlfriend straight-up acknowledged that she knew she would always be second place to Sam. Their codependency has literally gotten them both killed, as well as several other people around them and nearly ended the world multiple times.
  • Most of the romantic relationships on The Vampire Diaries have a destructive element to them. Damon and Elena in particular have a hard time, even post-Damon's Heel–Face Turn.

  • Alice Cooper:
    • "Poison":
    I hear you calling and it's needles and pins (and pins)
    I want to hurt you just to hear you screaming my name
    Don't want to touch you but you're under my skin (deep in)
    I want to kiss you but your lips are venomous poison
    You're poison running through my veins
    You're poison
    I don't want to break these chains
    • "Bed of Nails":
    You can make me die
    I can make you cry
    Opposites attract
    That's the reason why
  • "Sea of Sorrow" by Alice in Chains is a Break-Up Song from the perspective of a narrator escaping a toxic codependent relationship who reminds his ex that without him, their problems are now theirs alone and they no longer have him to lean on and prop them up while they drown in their own dysfunction.
  • Blutengel has several songs on this theme, often from the point of view of a former boyfriend who realizes how horrible he has been.
  • Chelsea Collins's "Happy Together" is about one of these; the singer and their partner are both miserable with each other, but neither can bring themselves to leave.
    I'm an indecisive lover, I keep hurting you again
    But you're not any better, baby, so it never ends
    I know we'll never be happy together
  • Clawfinger milks this trope in songs such as "I Need You" (see page quote) and "Love Is Just A Four Letter Word".
  • Eminem:
    • Eminem and Rihanna's hit "Love the Way You Lie". The relationship is "mutually destructive".
    • By the same token, every one of Eminem's songs about his wife Kim Mathers.
  • Days of the New's "Touch Peel and Stand" is a disturbing example:
    Yes, I've finally found a reason
    I don't need an excuse
    I got this time on my hands
    You are the one to abuse
  • Fiona Apple's "Werewolf" could be the theme song of this trope:
    I could liken you to a werewolf, the way you left me for dead
    But I admit that I provided a full moon
    And I could liken you to a shark, the way you bit off my head
    But then again, I was waving around a bleeding open wound
    But you were such a super guy, 'til the second you get a whiff of me
    We're like a wishing well and a bolt of electricity
    But we can still support each other, all we gotta do is avoid each other
    Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key...
  • Florence + the Machine's "Kiss With a Fist" is either this or Romanticized Abuse:
    You hit me once
    I hit you back
    You gave a kick
    I gave a slap
    You smashed a plate over my head
    Then I set fire to our bed
  • "Go to the Mattress" by Get Set Go features a couple who are just terrible together.
    I'm a lecher, she's a cheater
    I'll let her cut me, she likes to let me beat her
    I'm a fucker, she's a screamer
    I may be tougher, but she's definitely meaner.
  • "Laid" by James is another that could either be about this or Romanticized Abuse:
    Caught your hand inside the till
    Slammed your fingers in the door
    Fought with kitchen knives and skewers
    Dressed me up in women's clothes
    Messed around with gender roles
    Line my eyes and call me pretty

    Moved out of the house so you moved next door
    I locked you out, you cut a hole in the wall
    I found you sleeping next to me, I thought I was alone
    You're driving me crazy, when are you coming home
  • Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You", especially since it's about an off-and-on relationship.
    Being with you is so dysfunctional
    I really shouldn't miss you
    But I can't let you go
  • "Heart to Break" by Kim Petras is about her giving her heart to someone whom she knows will probably lead her to ruin.
    Even if it means that I'll never put myself back together
    Gonna give you my heart to break
    Even if I'll end up in shatters, baby it doesn't matter
    Gonna give you my heart to break
    I tried to fight, but I can't help it
    Don't care if this is my worst mistake
    'Cause no one else could do it better
    That's why I give you my heart to break
  • Marilyn Manson has two entire albums based on this: Eat Me, Drink Me and The High End of Low. Both were written during Manson's relationship with actress Evan Rachel-Wood. EMDM starts okay and starts to spiral out of control (which is exactly how things were going in their relationship) and The High End of Low, which was written in order, starts with Manson begging her to let him love her in the song "Devour" and slowly turns from desperate love to hate, to homicidal hate (not hyperbole, he said in an interview that if he hadn't made the album, they both would be dead), to moving on and acceptance. With a few tangents against both America and himself (Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon being a parody of the album Anti Christ Superstar, and We're From America being as critical as you'd expect).
  • Maroon 5's "One More Night" is about a guy that keeps arguing with his significant other, but he can't leave her due to her excellent love-making in bed. He regrets doing it, but he keeps coming back for more, thus being unable to break out of the abusive relationship.
  • Megadeth's Dave Mustaine had an infamously turbulent relationship throughout the '80s. In fact, several songs — most famously "Last Rites/Loved to Deth" and "Tornado of Souls" are about this woman. Needless to say... the lyrics paint quite a picture. Just take a peek at some choice lyrics.
    You'll grow to loathe my name
    You'll hate me just the same
    You won't need your breath
    And soon you'll meet your death
    Not from the years, not from the use
    Not from the tears, just self-abuse
  • "Ga1ahad and Scientific Witchery" by Mili tells the story of a pair of doomed lovers who do their best to kill each other.
    The magical potion of reanimation
    Rise from bed my darling
    So I can see you again
    So I can kill you again
  • Miranda Lambert's "Bring Me Down," about trying to leave a toxic relationship but being pulled back in.
    Sweet like a kiss, sharp like a razor blade
    I find you when I'm close to the bottom
    You can't appreciate the time it takes
    To kick a love I always knew was kinda wrong
    And as I'm putting out the flame
    Somebody brings up your name...
  • the Mountain Goats:
    • "The Alpha Couple" is this all over. Even their inevitable, final reconciliation has threatening undertones:
      Oh sing, sing, sing, for the dying of the day.
      Sing for the flames that will rip through here
      And the smoke that will carry us away
      Yeah, sing for the damage we've done
      And the worse things that we'll do
      Open your mouth up and sing for me now
      And I will sing for you
    • Their song "No Children" is also probably about this, though it could also be interpreted as a marriage that simply lost its passion.
      I hope that our few remaining friends give up on trying to save us.
      I hope we come up with a fail-safe plot to piss off the dumb few that forgave us.
      I hope the fences we mended fall down beneath their own weight.
      And I hope we hold on past the last exit,
      I hope it's already too late.
      And I hope the junkyard a few blocks from here
      Someday burns down.
      And I hope that the rising black smoke carries me far away
      And I never come back to this town again
      In my life.
      I hope I lie,
      And tell everyone you were a good wife.
      And I hope you die.
      I hope we both die.
  • Pink Floyd: In The Wall, the track "Don't Leave Me Now" sees Pink reflect on his collapsing marriage by portraying it as this, with him as the destructive party. Pink notes how he would "put [his wife] through the shredder in front of [his] friends" and "beat [her] to a pulp on a Saturday night," though the film adaptation clarifies that he was simply exaggerating his faults out of anger and self-pity. In actuality, he was emotionally distant from his wife rather than aggressive. This contradiction is consolidated in "The Trial", where Pink envisions his now-ex-wife giving him a tremendous The Reason You Suck speech about how much pain his lack of warmth and commitment caused.
  • Poets of the Fall's "Kamikaze Love" has a pair reveling in their illicit, volatile and presumably doomed romance.
    Take me where the angels fall
    You take it all
    You give no quarter for my love
    You raise me high to tear me down
    Leaves you reeling, feels like stealing
    Frantic moments of kamikaze love
  • The lyrics of Sara Bareilles' "Gravity" may count as a mild version of this trope, as the song appears to be about a genuine but not-terribly-healthy passionate relationship.
  • Sharon Van Etten: "Your Love Is Killing Me"'s lyrics are clear that the relationship is incredibly toxic:
    Break my legs so I won't walk to you
    Cut my tongue so I can't talk to you
    Burn my skin so I can't feel you
    Stab my eyes so I can't see
    You like it when I let you walk over me
    You tell me that you like it
    Your love is killing me
  • Much of Stabbing Westward's catalogue is made up of songs about toxic relationships, playing the True Art Is Angsty trope to the hilt. To wit, "Lies" from Ungod:
    Hatred runs through me marrow deep
    I long to tear your eyes out in your sleep
    This passion can lead to evil crimes
    Do I kill you or do I choose to die?
    Acid burn etched in my brain
    Someone dies before I go insane
    I was searching for some answer in your eyes
    I find malicious laughter and a love that has died
  • "Games We Play" by Stream of Passion is about lovers who constantly hurt each other.
  • Sufjan Stevens:
    • "Drawn to the Blood", about Domestic Abuse.
      The strength of his arm, my lover caught me off-guard
    • "The Owl and the Tanager", about a secret, emotionally painful relationship (also involving some violence).
      I'm bleeding in spite of my love for you, it bruised and bruised my will
    • "All of Me Wants All of You", about a relationship that's lost all passion and intimacy.
      I'm just a ghost you walk right through
  • Big Red Machine ft. Taylor Swift: The central love of "Renegade", where the singer's lover has mental health issues that they take out on the relationship, and in turn, the singer.
    Are you really gonna talk about timing in times like these?
    And let all your damage damage me
    And carry your baggage up my street
    And make me your future history, it’s time...
  • "(I Hate) Everything About You" by Three Days Grace is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • "Circles" by American Idol alum Will Makar is told from the point of view of a broken man who is trapped in an unhappy relationship. Fighting over nothing in particular is commonplace, and he is regularly getting calls from this woman begging for forgiveness for whatever she's done. He knows very well that he needs to get out of the relationship, but he just keeps finding himself going back to her, and he spends sleepless nights contemplating the hopeless situation he's in.
  • "Concrete Wall" by Zee Avi is about a relationship gone sour and bordering on a break-up.

    Music Videos 
  • Miserable by Lit is all about this type of relationship, as exemplified by its chorus "You make me come/You make me complete/You make me completely Miserable". Judging by the video it is far more destructive for the (male) singer than for the woman he's with. As while she is enormous and very casually in control of him the whole time, he's small and very much at her mercy. Once she's done using him for her amusement, she happily devours him by tossing him into her mouth like a grape while he flails helplessly, then strutting off into the horizon.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Pacific Mythology gives us Kamapua'a, a trickster demigod, and Pele, the goddess of fire. Their fighting almost destroyed both of them.
  • In Classical Mythology, Aphrodite's marriage to Hephaestus and her subsequent affair with Ares got all three of them humiliated and punished in different ways.

    Tabletop Games 
  • All relationships between other vampires are assumed to be this by default in Vampire: The Requiem. It's not surprising.
    • Best example: the Honeymoon Hijackers, Charles and Charlene Greengrass. They were kidnapped and turned into vampires on their respective wedding nights by cruel sires, with their spouses killed. Charles and Charlene meet one another ten years after their abductions, instantly recognize the predicament of the other, and fall in love. They diablerize their sires, escape vampire society, get into a scary codependent relationship, then perform netorare scenarios and serial killings on any recently-married couple they can findnote .
      Mess with their heads. Get it so the victims love their keepers, will do anything for them (even better if they can work one of the couple against the other—so sweet, that betrayal).
      Night Horrors: Immortal Sinners, pg. 74
    • Coming full circle, Charlene cheats on Charles. He doesn't know, but she wants him to.

  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Even though she's trying to take her stand against him, Nan still isn't completely over Kyle - and he knows exactly how to manipulate her feelings for him, sending her from vengefulness to questioning her motives to a breakdown to submission to falling in love all over again in the course of a few pages.
  • Eddie and May in Sam Shepard's play Fool for Love. For over a decade, their relationship's been a nonstop violent power struggle consisting of one trying to run away from the other only for the two to come back together time and again. For extra Squick, they also happen to be half-siblings...and even after finding this out they still kept seeing each other. They're also mirroring the dysfunctional dynamic their father had with each of their mothers.
  • J.D. and Veronica in Heathers are a hot mess. Veronica knows it. J.D. doesn't. They're only seventeen, and start dating barely twelve hours after they first meet (when J.D. beats up two guys Veronica hates, which gets her very interested...), and the relationship becomes very serious and intense very quickly. When J.D. finds out an Alpha Bitch is giving Veronica trouble, he decides to solve the problem by murdering her. Then, when two Jerk Jocks spread hurtful rumors about her, he kills them, and manipulates Veronica into helping. Despite this, Veronica stays with him, pleading with him to stop the killings, and he listens — for maybe a week. Finally, Veronica decides enough is enough and dumps him, but he still remains madly in love with her, and she clearly still has some affection for him in spite of herself. In the end, J.D. blows himself up to save her, and his last action before being blown sky-high is to simply reach out for her, and she reaches back... Jeez.
  • Tom and Sara in Murder Balladtheir affair is what causes the titular murder and is implied to ruin a marriage.
  • Othello: The romance between Othello and Desdemona ends badly, mostly because of Othello's flaws being exploited by Iago. The couple do love each other, with Desdemona notably rebelling against her father and societal conventions to marry Othello (he's regarded as unsuitable due to being much older than her and a Moor). Unfortunately, Othello's jealousy and insecurities make it all too easy for Iago to convince him that Desdemona is unfaithful to him. Othello grows to resent her, while the naïve Desdemona doesn't even understand what she's supposed to have done wrong and continues to defend her husband. It culminates in Othello murdering Desdemona, only to realize she was innocent, at which point he commits suicide.
  • Norma and Joe's relationship in Sunset Boulevard: and oh, what a dysfunctional one it is, with Norma's outbursts and Joe's passive-aggressive BS. Close to the end, it turns out that Norma's relationship with her butler is even worse.

    Video Games 
  • Bloodwash: The few hints we get about Sara and Liam's relationship suggest it's not a healthy one. Liam is extremely lazy and unsupportive of Sara, even though she's studying full-time, trying to find a job, and pregnant with his child. Sara is so angry with him at the start she can't bring herself to talk to him. Sara also indicates he drinks a lot; Stan expresses concern he could become abusive towards her and offers to help her leave him if she needs to. Post-game, it's revealed that Sara broke up with him afterwards because she realized he was a risk to her child.
  • Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time: Penelope only hooked with Bentley because she believed he held the key to power and fortune, but since his childhood friends are in the way, she intends to murder them both to keep Bentley to herself. When Bentley finds out, the revelation of being in an abusive relationship with a sociopathic Gold Digger who insults him in private causes him to tuck into his shell in heartbreak. By the time Bentley confronts Penelope about her sins, she ignores his words and attacks him.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Melody, the protagonist starts out at the end of a very damaging relationship with Bethany. His confidence in standing up for himself seems to be completely destroyed.
  • Nameless: All of Tei's bad endings portray his relationship with Eri as this, as he's never addressing his underlying issues and enjoys mentally or physically harming her, while she chooses to indulge in this and letting him do whatever he wants. There's also one bad ending for Yeonho where Eri becomes the destructive one. She becomes obsessed with Yeonho and doesn't want to share him with anyone, and Yeonho's trauma leads to him doing whatever his current owner wants of him because he doesn't want to be abandoned again.
  • Dahlia Hawthorne in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations does this to just about everyone she gets romantically involved with, but no one worse than poor Terry Fawles, a dim prisoner whom she tries to set up for a murder she herself committed. When the trial doesn't go her way, she gets him to commit suicide on the stand just to avoid suspicion.
  • Saya no Uta: The central relationship between Fuminori Sakisaka and the titular Saya is mutually loving and happy between the both of them, but it's also very toxic. First off, it's between a Misanthrope Supreme and an Eldritch Abomination who looks like an underage girl, and both have a very unconventional sense of morality which leads them to commit worse and worse actions in the name of their love- a love that potentially dooms humanity. The more they fall in love, the worse they become, and the best ending is the one where they split up halfway through.

    Web Animation 

  • Dear Children has one of these between Eric Saddler and Vallory King. He is in it for sex and the opportunity to psychologically abuse her; she is in it for expensive gifts and a boost to her modeling career. They do not love each other; they don't seem to even like each other.
  • In Erfworld, the romance between Wanda and Jillian is shown to be unhealthy, tinged with abuse, and possibly sanity-damaging for both women. Wanda uses their BDSM sex as an opening to lace Mind Rape spells on Jillian, turning her into an unwitting mole who would willingly betray her side time and time again in order to return to the pleasures of Wanda's dungeon sessions. When Jillian becomes aware of the spell, she forcibly breaks it and calls Wanda out on abusing her like that. Despite this, both women remain obsessed with each other. Jillian first endangers herself trying to slay Stanley, then offers to help Wanda sack the kingdom of Jetstone — her ally and the kingdom of Jillian's boyfriend, Ansom — if she will defect to Jillian's kingdom, despite knowing that this will bring her other allies screaming after her head. Though she shakes this off when she realizes that Wanda will never allow her any autonomy, in the bedroom or outside of it, that just makes Wanda sink deeper into obsession. Once Jillian makes it clear that she has truly chosen Ansom over her, that's when Wanda really snaps: she makes it her new dedicated goal to kill Jillian and revive her as a Decrypted, forcing her to mindlessly love and obey Wanda alone.
  • Homestuck:
    • Troll Romance includes a quadrant based on mutual hatred (the caliginous quadrant, known as kismesissitude and symbolized by a "♠") to the point where one would at least try to kill the partner. Gamzee and Terezi get together under one, which demonstrates how unhealthy it can be if the pairing isn't right. After one year of the relationship, Terezi's had her self-confidence shattered and admits that, while she hates Gamzee, being with him makes her hate herself even more. She compares him to a drug, and notes that she now takes every insult personally, but she can't leave because she's drawn to the wretchedness and she's disgusted by her dependence. This was part of the reason that she had her eyes fixed, but having her blindness, which was a proud part of her self-image, cured devastated her. When Karkat tells her Gamzee will likely end it, she breaks down crying and says that if he throws her away, she really will be pathetic.
    • It's heavily implied if not outright stated that this pairing is too vitriolic and abusive (including Gaslighting and outright physical abuse) to be a healthy kismesissitude, in comparison to other caliginous ships like Vriska♠Eridan or Jack Noir♠Black Queen. We see the latter at one point, and it turns out that they hate each other just the right amount (in every universe; Spades Slick and Snowman had a thing as well) to have an actually healthy kismesissitude. Doc Scratch is not amused when they start hate-kissing in front of him.
  • Lore Olympus: Hades knows his relationship with Minthe is toxic and unhealthy but decided that since they're both unhappy people they might as well be unhappy together. When Minthe thought Hades might be leaving her for Persephone, she admits that what they have might not be love but she doesn't want it to end, showing that she's emotionally dependent on Hades to some extent.
  • My Deepest Secret: While the series has never exactly shied away from showing that Emma and Elios’s relationship is not what you should aspire to have, there were still some chapters devoted to showing their relationship as quite adorable, namely Emma’s sick day episodes. However, later chapters show just how disturbing it truly is. After finding out that much of Elios’s kindness depends on how much value he places on someone, Emma grows afraid that if she weren’t his girlfriend, he wouldn’t care about her at all, which makes her even more quiet and less talkative with him. It comes to a head where, after a truly terrible day, she confides in him, he comforts her...before telling her to depend on him and only him. Burr.

    Web Original 
  • Between Frank and Courtney on The Cry of Mann. The two of them are implicitly having an affair, with Frank even calling her "princess" and the two being very physical with each other...but they both also spend the whole time bitter and angry, mocking and threatening each other and dragging each other down. Frank even betrays Courtney by giving her Gergiev's "medicine".
  • In Twig, Sylvester confesses to Lillian that his fear of engaging in one of these is why he hasn't acted on his and Mary's mutual attraction. Mary, a Laser Guided Tyke Bomb who has been defused by The Power of Friendship, is both deadly and emotionally vulnerable enough to push Sy's Manipulative Bastard button so that he starts pushing her by instinct, while she in turn eggs him on, which Sy fears could culminate in them making each other into the worst possible versions of themselves.
  • All of Romeo's romances in the Whateley Universe. He's an incredibly handsome mutant and a member of the Bad Seeds (at least one parent must be a supervillain to be admitted). He picks dowdy girls who feel unattractive and tries to turn the ugly duckling into a swan. No matter how successful he is, he always creates someone who doesn't feel attractive enough compared to him and so they mistreat him and then break up with him.
  • In you could make a life, Nikita broke up with Luke while they were teenagers in such a callous manner that Luke never emotionally recovered from it. Their ensuing on-and-off relationship of hate sex and brutal beatdowns for the next seven years only serve to drag the embittered Luke down even further.
    • From the same universe, ex-boyfriends Robbie and Georgie still have lingering feelings for each other but the incredibly bitter way their past relationship ended (Georgie drunkenly cheated on Robbie and Robbie never forgave him for it) causes any attempt by them to rekindle what they once had to only result in Robbie using his intense bitterness as a blunt weapon to make Georgie feel miserable and himself miserable too for being unable to let go of a long-failed romance. They eventually come to realize that clinging to the tattered remnants of something they can't repair isn't doing them any good and the healthiest thing to do is to move on from each other.

    Western Animation 
  • Season 3 of Love, Death & Robots gives us the short film "Jibaro" which depicts the destructive and incredibly brief flirtation between a jewel-adorned siren and a deaf knight. After she kills the knight's companions by luring them into the water where she resides, the siren pursues the knight, who is immune to her call. Though she tries to seduce him, her body is covered with razor-sharp jewels that slice his flesh. Eventually, he knocks her out in order to strip the treasure from her body in a scene almost reminiscent of rape. The blood from her body gives him the ability to hear, and once the siren regains consciousness, she takes her revenge.
  • South Park gives us Heidi Turner and Eric Cartman, which started out very sweet and loving in Season 20, before it devolved into this in Season 21. Eric Cartman becomes miserable in his relationship with Heidi but doesn't want to end it because of his constant need for attention and is emotionally manipulating her into staying with him. Likewise the only reason Heidi is still with him is that she doesn't want to admit to her friends she made a bad decision, even if his influence turns her into his Distaff Counterpart. The relationship has also affected other people as well, especially Kyle who was upset that he wasn't able to convince Heidi to leave Cartman blaming Canada for this, which resulted in him getting the country nuked. Eventually Heidi realizes how much of a negative impact her relationship with Cartman had and how they only saw themselves as the victim of the other spouse's emotional abuse and decides to end the relationship herself, not letting Cartman's emotional manipulation affect her anymore.
  • In Steven Universe, Malachite is quite literally an abusive relationship personified. In "Jail Break", Lapis Lazuli is persuaded to fuse with Jasper, but then she drags them both under the ocean, forcing Jasper to stay fused with her for months. This takes a heavy psychological toll on them both. In "Alone at Sea", Lapis admits that she was abusive towards Jasper, even while in the fusion ("I liked taking everything out on you [Jasper]. I needed to, I-I hated you! It was bad!"). However, Jasper seems too attached to the relationship they had, begging Lapis to become Malachite with her again. Lapis declines, saying that "what we had wasn't healthy" and that she never wants to feel like she did with Jasper again.
  • Total Drama Island 2023 gives us Chase and Emma. Chase has previously caused Emma and her family a lot of harm, making their relationship very toxic but no matter how much she complains about him and calls out his flaws, all it takes is the slightest hint of decency for her to come crawling back to him.

Alternative Title(s): Dysfunctional Duo