So you have come to the end of the story. The plot is wrapping up. The villain is vanquished. The good guys are in the lead. And lo and behold, Alice and Bob finally admit to their feelings for each other. The verdict is in, they will. Roll Credits.
Ah, what a great story. And look, there is a sequel, which opens with Alice and Bob... not together. Wait... What? For some reason or another, between the two stories Alice and Bob have broken up. But Alice and Bob are still both involved in the story, and are so obviously still in love. So now you get to watch them dance the Will They or Won't They? tango all over again.
This is a way for the writers to capitalize on what worked in the first film (book, season, etc.) From the audience's perspective, the couple has spent very little time as a couple. Sure, we may sometimes be given background that they were together for some time between stories, but we don't get to see it. In other cases, the original "hookup" only lasts a day or so. Sometimes the audience is shown the breakup. Sometimes it truly happens between the stories. In any case, the result is that we can now spend more time getting the same couple back together. Alternatively, we may get to watch the characters get with different love interests, though it's often inevitable they'll end up with each other again. However, there are some occasions where the couple stays broken up permanently.
It often involves an Offscreen Breakup or a Disposable Love Interest. Compare Super Couple, which is this repeatedly over a long period of time. Contrast Girl of the Week, where the main character finds a new love interest every other installment. Also see Happy Ending Override. If this happens to the same couple repeatedly, it may result in a Relationship Revolving Door.
- Kusanagi and Momiji go through this in the OVA for Blue Seed, which takes place 2 years after the events of the main series. Momiji complains that Kusanagi doesn't really spend time with her anymore and he when does he's really distant. It's later revealed that this is because Kusanagi doesn't think he's good enough for Momiji, as well as being afraid that he can't control himself when he gets "excited" due to his mitama. Unfortunately he never tells Momiji any of this, leaving it up to her to figure it out through what amounts to his female proxy Valencia.
- To the irritation of many, the main couple's relationship is reset in the second season of Shakugan no Shana because the guy didn't hear the Tsundere's declaration of love at the climax of the first season.
- Likewise the OVA of Please Teacher!, the Love-Obstructing Parents show up to "help" the main couple in achieving the level of relationship they had already achieved in the first season, no explanation given.
- The Ruby/Sapphire arc of Pokémon Adventures ends with Ruby telling Sapphire that he "likes" her. Skip forward to the Emerald arc and we find out that Ruby is pretending to have amnesia and now he doesn't remember admitting he has feelings for Sapphire. What makes it worse is that Sapphire practically manages to get Ruby to admit he remembers, but it goes unmentioned for the rest of the arc.
- The situation in Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy is an unusual example in that it's a downgrade without a breakup. Keiichi and Belldandy had a They Do moment at the end of the first season, where Keiichi confessed his love to Belldandy with no intervention, tricks or other means of keeping the UST unresolved. Come Flights of Fancy, however, the anime switched from being a Broad Strokes adaptation of the manga as a whole to a direct adaptation of several manga arcs, and in the manga, Status Quo Is God and Keiichi and Belldandy's relationship is frozen at UST. Accordingly, Keiichi attempts to confess his love to Belldandy several times in the second season, and the fact that he already did so is not addressed.
- Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde fall in love during the second half of Brian Michael Bendis' Guardians of the Galaxy first volume and Sam Humphries Star-Lord first solo series. By the end of their shared super crossover event, The Black Vortex, Kitty and Peter get engaged and agree to live together in space. However by the start of the second volume of both series (after the Secret Wars hiatus), Peter and Kitty have separated. In the coming issues of both books it is slowly revealed what happened between them until the reconcilation arc kicks in and they get back together by the end of Star-Lord's second solo series.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark ends with Indy together with Marion Ravenwood. This is followed by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which begins with Indy and Marion having been separated for the intervening seventeen years.
- National Treasure ends with Ben and Abigail living happily in a historic mansion. National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets opens with Ben having been thrown out of the house.
- Alejandro and Elena are married with a child at the end of The Mask of Zorro. The sequel begins with Elena filing for divorce. Oh, and dating the villain. As it turns out, it was all a ruse to take the villain down.
- Happens between Dana Barrett and Peter Venkman in between Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II. In this case between the two movies she has a baby with something else, though that doesn't stand in the way of their relationship basically restarting.
- The Hellboy films: Hellboy ends with Hellboy and Liz Sherman as a couple. When Hellboy II: The Golden Army begins, they're still a couple, but they're on the verge of breaking up.
- The theatrical trailer for The X-Files: I Want to Believe had fans believing that this happened to Mulder and Scully in the six year interim between the end of the series and the movie.
- In Die Hard, this is a running gag. Film 1: John's marriage is on the rocks, gets wife back. Film 2: Marriage appears stable. Film 3: Marriage on the rocks again, John's botched attempt to get her back probably made things worse. Film 4: Divorced.
- Star Wars. In Return of the Jedi Han Solo got together with Princess Leia. In The Force Awakens, they have been revealed to have divorced, as their son Ben turned to the Dark Side, and they could not cope with that.
- The Naked Gun: The first film ends with Frank and Jane getting together, but by The Smell of Fear their relationship has ended so Jane can be dating the second film's villain. Averted with the third film as the two are now married.
- Played with in Tony Stark and Pepper Potts' relationship in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the end of Iron Man 3, Stark ostensibly retires the Iron Man identity to focus on his relationship with Pepper Potts. Potts gets a Shout-Out in Age of Ultron where Stark has continued his use of the Iron Man identity. Then when we see him in Civil War, he laments that Potts left him offscreen for his continued obsession with saving the world as Iron Man. Then, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, they've apparently resolved their issues and are back together.. At the end of the movie Stark publicly proposes to her, which was confirmed in Avengers: Infinity War.
- Ross and Rachel of Friends did this so many times it was painful. Specifically:
- They are together the first time for one episode before Ross' list ruins things.
- They are together for a season and a half before taking a much debated "break".
- They get back together for a whole episode after spending the weekend at the beach.
- They conceive a child together after a one night stand.
- At the birth of said child, they agree to try again, before something wrecks it again... Is anyone else tired yet?
- It finally ends with them getting together in the series finale
- As do JD and Elliot of Scrubs.
- Leonard and Penny of The Big Bang Theory spend all of season one working up to a first date only to have it fall apart in the first episode of season two. Season two, with a few detours, manages to slowly bring them back together.
- Aeryn and John on Farscape do seem to bounce back and forth a lot
- Shaz and Chris in Ashes to Ashes (2008). At the end of season two, they were getting happily married. By the start of season 3, they are separated with barely a single line from Shaz about being sick of Chris's immaturity or some such reason stupidly contrived by the show's writers.
- Veronica and Logan after the first season of Veronica Mars.
- Justified in Episodes; Sean and Beverly were Happily Married in the first series, but it ends with her having an affair. In series two they're separated, but still working together and clearly in love, so it plays out as a Will They or Won't They?.
- The season four finale of One Tree Hill had Lucas and Peyton finally together as well as Brooke having found love with new boyfriend Chase AND secondary characters Skills and Bevin moving forward with their relationship. Cue the 4 year time jump into the beginning of Season 5. Lucas and Peyton have been broken up for some time now (which leads to a very cathartic fight between the two in the season's sixth episode), Brooke is in NYC and Chase is nowhere to be found (although he does show up later in the season), and Skills makes an off-handed comment in the first episode indicating that not only did he and Bevin break up, but that it was kind of ugly.
- This happens a fair amount in Glee: Quinn and Puck between Season 1 and 2, Sam and Mercedes between Season 2 and 3, and most notably between Kurt and Blaine between Season 5 and 6, as they end the season by avoiding conflict that looks like it might break them up and resolving their issues together, only to be broken up for new reasons at the beginning of the next season.
- In Skins, Cassie and Sid end Series 2 with a Maybe Ever After where he's a hair's breath away from finding her in New York. Come Cassie's Series 7 episode "Pure," and it's revealed that yes, she and Sid did find each other, but it ultimately didn't work out.
- In the 2016 reboot of The X-Files this is revealed to have happened to Mulder and Scully between the 2008 film The X-Files: I Want to Believe and the present. This is surprisingly the most consistent thing about the entire reboot, as much of it RetCons a lot of the original series. The details are never divulged, but it appears that Mulder's depression, already present and having a negative impact on the relationship in the 2008 film, became too much for Scully to handle and she left. At the start of season 10, Mulder is living alone in their farmhouse (and back to sleeping on the couch) and Scully lives in an apartment elsewhere. Both are emotionally devastated by the break-up, with Scully regretful and reluctant to talk and Mulder bitter about the way things played out.
- Star Fox Official Couple Fox and Krystal become romantically involved at the close of Adventures and even have an engagement teased during Assault; however, the intro to Command explains that Fox ended the relationship out of the fear that Krystal might be harmed on one of their missions. Depending on which path the player takes through Command's branching storyline, the two of them may reconcile, retire to raise a family, or become permanently estranged.
- at the end of the first .hack game series, Natsume openly sends a mail to Kite admitting she has a huge crush on him. By the time Natsume is met in GU which is set years afterwards, Natsume makes no mention of Kite whatsoever, and seems to be chasing after his avi.
- Subject of near-interminable discussion among the Mass Effect fan community. Justified given that (a) you were dead for a while and (b) are now working for an organization who were side-quest villains and murdered an Admiral in the first game. And the 'break-up' occurs specifically for reason b, when you try to get back together, because they were completely unaware of reason a.
- Uncharted: Nate and Elena break up between the first three games. However, they remain together by the fourth game.
- The Leisure Suit Larry practically makes this a Running Gag. Most of the games end with Larry thinking he's found true love, only to receive a rude awakening at the start of the next game when the woman's passions have cooled down and she throws him out. Depending on the game it can take a surprisingly short amount of time; Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places) picks up the very next morning, with Eve viewing the hookup as a one-night stand and getting creeped out by Larry acting like they're destined soulmates now.