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Dysfunctional Romance Index

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Romance isn't always lovey-dovey, for there are couples who don't always get along well.

See Discord Tropes and Frenemy Tropes for the platonic versions. See also Abuse Tropes and Infidelity Index, which include similar and/or overlapping tropes.


  • Abduction Is Love: A person kidnaps their love interest to show their affection.
  • All Take and No Give: An unequal and parasitic relationship, where one person receives all the benefits while giving back nothing.
  • Am I Just a Toy to You?: A character confronts the other about how serious they think their relationship is.
  • Awful Wedded Life: A marriage where the couple are miserable together.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Although they fight a lot, the couple prove they actually do love each other.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Two people who are secretly attracted to each other constantly clash.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: An Action Girl will only marry or have sex with someone who has defeated her in combat.
  • Bickering Couple, Peaceful Couple: A couple that constantly argues are contrasted with a couple who get along very well.
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them: Can sometimes apply to romantic relationships; a character is forced to hang around with another person they find annoying, but when they're apart they find they miss them.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: A woman who gets very paranoid and jealous about her partner and other women.
  • Contraception Deception: A character lies to their partner about their fertility or contraception use.
  • Crazy in the Head, Crazy in the Bed: Someone's eccentricity or outright insanity makes them a passionate lover.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: A man who gets very paranoid and jealous about his partner and other men.
  • Criminally Attractive: A member of law enforcement or a government agency becomes romantically involved with someone connected to a crime (it varies as to whether they're guilty).
  • Dating Catwoman: A protagonist and antagonist are unambiguously in love with each other, which is bound to cause problems.
  • Destructive Romance: A relationship that is depicted as very unhealthy and dysfunctional (not always necessarily abusive, but still not a romance to aspire to).
  • Differing Priorities Breakup: A couple breaks up because they don't want the same things in life.
  • Domestic Abuse: A person harms their significant other either physically or emotionally (or both), often to control them.
  • The Ex's New Jerkass: A character's ex's new significant other is a Jerkass to them and possibly others.
  • Fatal Attractor: A person who tends to attract admirers that are no good for them (if not outright dangerous).
  • Fetishized Abuser: A person who treats their love interest poorly, but it's portrayed as romantic and/or sexy.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: A pair of rivals/enemies are intentionally given romantic subtext in their interactions.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: An unhappy married couple pretend everything is fine when other people are around.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: A character believes they can make their love interest a better person; they're usually mistaken.
  • Kichiku: Anime Fanspeak for a male Fetishized Abuser.
  • Kichiku Megane: Anime Fanspeak for a male Fetishized Abuser who wears glasses to indicate that he is smart, sophisticated, and successful.
  • Kiss-Kiss-Slap: A couple start out kissing/being intimate, then start fighting.
  • Love at First Punch: Falling in love with someone you physically fought.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: A character decides they cannot be with their significant other despite still loving them, sometimes because they find their behavior intolerable.
  • Love Forgives All but Lust: A character is willing to put up with all their partner's flaws except for infidelity.
  • Love Martyr: A character stays with their love interest even when they mistreat them.
  • Loving a Shadow: A character is more in love with an idealized version of a person than who they actually are, which doesn't tend to make for happy relationships.
  • Loving Bully: A person bullies someone they have a crush on.
  • The Masochism Tango: A couple who frequently alternate between being affectionate and fighting.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: Falling in love with someone who kidnapped you, and vice versa.
  • No Accounting for Taste: A couple who are so obviously miserable that people wonder why they stay together.
  • Power Dynamics Kink: Power, subjugation and punishments serving as the sexual "turn-on". Not always inherently a sign of a relationship being dysfunctional, but it can explain why someone stays in an unequal relationship and/or could be exploited.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: An ex girlfriend (or less commonly, ex boyfriend) who isn't taking the break-up well at all.
  • Relationship Labeling Problems: Characters are in some sort of romantic/sexual relationship, but can't describe exactly what they are.
  • Relationship Revolving Door: They just can't decide whether they want to be in a relationship.
  • Rivalry as Courtship: Two rivals develop romantic feelings for each other.
  • Romanticized Abuse: Abusive behavior in a relationship is depicted in a glamourized manner.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: A couple starts out fighting then ends up kissing/becoming intimate.
  • Stalking Is Love: The Stalker with a Crush actually gets with the object of their affection/obsession, who finds their behavior romantic instead of creepy.
  • Too Much Alike: When applied to a romantic pairing; a couple clash because their personalities are too similar.
  • Tsundere: They're sometimes quite rude and/or abrasive with their Love Interest, but they do care really.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: An accomplished female character complains about the shortcomings of her male love interest, who is usually considered out of his league.
  • Yandere: They're crazily obsessed with their love interest (if they manage to actually get into a relationship with them), often to the point of committing violence.
  • Yandere Couple: A relationship where both people are dangerously obsessed with each other.