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False Soulmate

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"'Follow your heart.' Ha! – Sometimes the heart sends confusing messages. Contemplation, counseling, friends, and readings can help us sort our true convictions from the false ones, though we flat-out disagree with the advice sometimes. Yet even THAT may tell us a lot. We usually need help sorting it out. But there’s always a lesson!"
Mary Rose, Beware the False Soulmate (California Psychics Blog)
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A False Soulmate is a person who someone has a deep romantic love for, but the relationship is for some reason not meant to be, perhaps because of the Love Interest not sharing the same feelings, incompatibility, or misjudgment of character. Alternatively, the relationship ends up being a failure or catastrophe because the Love Interest's personality or behavior has changed in a negative way (e.g. the Love Interest may be unfaithful, a user, a criminal, mentally unstable, or a drug-addict). This may stem from Puppy Love or personality traits that the Love Interest either had or had more of when they were younger.

This often overlaps with Romantic False Lead. Compare Love Cannot Overcome, Loving a Shadow, Starcrossed Lovers and Unlucky Childhood Friend. Compare and contrast with One True Love.

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Due to the nature of this trope, there may be unmarked spoilers below.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Athrun Zala and Cagalli Yula Athha went down this path in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. In SEED, they ended as the Beta Couple to Kira and Lacus. In Destiny, they eventually grew apart due to Athrun getting involved with ZAFT again, Cagalli's position in the Orb government (and the stress involved), her Arranged Marriage to Yuna Roma Seiran, and differing views on Chairman Durrandal's real goals and motivations.
    • While there seemed to be a bit of hope for the two reconciling near the end of Destiny, Word of God has stated that they're "just friends now".
  • Naruto: There were signs of it at the start of the series, but Naruto's love for Sakura was revealed in The Last Naruto The Movie, to be a shallow crush he had on her. Because of his competitive nature with Sasuke, he wanted to gain something on him, like win the heart of a girl from Sasuke's fanclub, and Sakura ended being that candidate. The shallow crush would end when Sakura gives him a fake confession of love. Despite the well intention to get him to stop focusing on bringing Sasuke back to the Leaf Village like he promised, Naruto sees right through it and tells her off saying that he hates those who lie to themselves. Fast forward to the The Last, Naruto begins to realize his actual romantic feelings of love lie with Hinata, who has been the only one to truly love him since childhood.
  • Most of the first chapter/episode of Yona of the Dawn emphasizes Yona's huge childhood crush on Su-won; even Hak comments that they're perfectly matched for each other. However, Su-won ends up murdering Yona's father and chasing her and Hak from the castle. As such, Yona's idealized image of Su-won shatters and it takes her a while to recover from the heartbreak. As the manga goes on, she slowly and unconsciously falls for Hak, only realizing it until after she's already in love with him.

    Comics 
  • Spider-Man being that it originated as a teenage hero has a problem in that the constant running melodrama that Marvel likes spinning since their adoption of "the illusion of change" corporate mandate makes it difficult for any girl to be Spider-Man's soul-mate for long, at least on the part of editors and executives if not necessarily writers and fans:
    • Gwen Stacy was Peter's first real relationship, the first girl he fell in love with, and both Lee and Romita Sr. thought initially that she would be the Official Couple. But readers never liked the relationship, and saw her as a bland character and didn't care for the fact that she liked Peter but hated Spider-Man and wrongfully blamed her for her father's death. Even Stan Lee admitted that he saw Gwen as uninteresting. The writer Gerry Conway saw Gwen as a false soul-mate but felt it would be interesting and add drama for her to die in a famous storyline, that in his view allowed him to satisfy both groups. Gwen fans could see her as Peter's The Lost Lenore while those who didn't care for her could happily start rooting for Peter to get with his real soul-mate, Mary Jane Watson.
    • Mary Jane Watson is a zig-zagged example. Originally she was established as a Blind Date Peter's Aunt May had set for her nephew who largely avoided her because he didn't like the idea of being such a loser that he needed his Aunt to be his wingman. After early hints that Peter was making a mistake skipping on her (namely that Liz and Betty run into her and their thought bubbles confirm she is incredibly pretty), many thought that she was set up as the Last Girl Wins (in a time when Marvel Comics hadn't adopted Comic-Book Time early readers believed that the story would eventually have an ending) which was buoyed after her iconic appearance. Gerry Conway who had read the comics since the beginning and who like all readers saw MJ as fitting set them up as a couple, and he repeatedly stated that MJ and Peter were made for each other. But a perfect relationship had the problem of potentially leading the story to an end, Marvel has tried to push back even if in practical terms, she is Spider-Man's most common, recurring, iconic relationship and is the most important relationships the pair ever had.

    Film — Animation 
  • Shrek: Played straight when Princess Fiona believes Shrek is her True Love because he rescued her. Cue hysterical laughter from Donkey and Shrek. Shrek solely rescued her for Lord Farquaad so he could get his swamp back. Subverted when Shrek really is her True Love, as evidenced when they kiss and she turns into an ogre.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: Derek to Susan. He is a vain weatherman who is more interested in furthering his career than in his fiancée's needs, and after Susan spends the first half trying to win her freedom and return to him, he rejects her because he isn't interested in having a wife who overshadows him, in more ways than one.
  • In Frozen, Anna is convinced that Hans is her true love, but he turns out to be a scumbag who was just using her to gain the throne.
  • Corpse Bride:
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    Film — Live-Action 
  • Sleeping with the Enemy: Martin is a wealthy investment counselor who's charmingly handsome on the outside, but his true colors don't show until after he and Laura are already married in the beginning.
  • Mrs. Doubtfire: Daniel and Miranda Hillard divorce and never get back together.
  • Forrest Gump: Jenny to Forrest. Eventually subverted when Jenny brings herself to realize that Forrest is the only one who has always been there for her throughout her life, and they get married.
  • Wolf: Charlotte Randall to Will Randall. He separates from her after he discovers she's been cheating on him, but before she gets killed by Stewart Swinton, whom she's been having the affairs with.
  • Stardust: Victoria to Tristan. She's a spoilt and geniunely stuck-up brat who is sweet to Tristan more out of pity than any strong feelings toward him, even though he wants to propose and spend the rest of his life with her. He later falls for (the "star") Yvaine instead, who actually loves him in return, once he realizes this.
  • Enchanted: Towards the end, True Love's Kiss indicates that the couples Prince Edward/Giselle and Robert/Nancy aren't meant to be with each other, but that Prince Edward/Nancy and Robert/Giselle are.
  • Jasper for Iris in The Holiday.
  • Letters to Juliet has Victor and Sophie. Being a bit of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, Victor unintentionally neglects Sophie throughout the whole movie. It wasn't that neither of them didn't love each other but both sides didn't see the other's presence as a necessity. Not to mention they have differences that didn't make their relationship work (Sophie didn't share Victor's passion for cooking and Victor didn't appreciate Sophie's passion for writing as much).
  • Teen Beach Movie: Mack and Brady end up trapped in movie Wet Side Story. By coincidence, Mack is where Lela, the female lead, should be when she met her boyfriend Tanner; and vice-versa with Brady and Tanner. As a result, he and Lela believe wrongly that, respectively, Mack and Brady are their soulmates. The latter two spend the rest of the movie trying to put them back in the right path.
  • Solo: Qi'ra proves to be one for Han Solo (which is pretty much a Foregone Conclusion, seeing as Han's Love Interest in the original Star Wars trilogy is Princess Leia). They're very much in love as teenagers on Corellia and share a dream of escaping the planet and travelling the galaxy together. Even after being separated for three years, Han never stopped loving her or trying to find ways to get back to her. By the time they meet again, however, Qi'ra has changed quite a bit and has different priorities, though Han doesn’t see it (or refuses to). In the end Qi'ra abandons Han to pursue a career in the Crimson Dawn; even before that their relationship was on the rocks, as Han initially assumed she was the one who betrayed him to the Big Bad, while she was potentially willing to kill him to save herself. Interestingly, Qi'ra actually shares some traits with Leia, Han's Second Love.

    Literature 
  • The Great Gatsby has one of the more famous examples. Gatsby pines after Daisy for years, and is sure that if he can build a fortune and win her love, they'll live happily ever after. The fact that she's married doesn't dissuade him, and he never seems to notice how shallow, careless and self-involved she is. Things don't work out in the end.
  • Edenborn has Deuce, who invokes every trope in the book in his long-distance romance of Penny. He succeeds, but later realizes she's massively unstable and manipulative.
  • The Memory Wars has Laura. Nathan spends time in the first book trying to maintain and save their relationship, but it falls apart when she reveals that she is pregnant with his best friend's child.
  • Callista and Luke in Star Wars Legends. There's a period where it seems like they're deeply in love and Luke is doing everything he can to help her, but then she decides to leave him to figure out what's going on with her Force connection. Luke moves on, eventually marrying and having a family with Mara Jade.
  • Katniss is this for Gale in The Hunger Games trilogy. He loves her, and believes that they belong together, but while she loves him too in the platonic sense she never ends up falling in love with him. Any chance of them ever being together is thoroughly destroyed in Mockingjay, after Katniss learns that Gale may have had a hand – wittingly or not – in the death of her beloved sister Prim; she ultimately ends up with Peeta, stating in the epilogue that she feels he is better suited for her than Gale.
  • In Twilight, Bella Swan turns out to be this for Jacob Black. He falls deeply in love with her, but while Bella does admit to loving Jacob, she states she loves Edward Cullen more. It doesn't help that as a werewolf, Jacob's One True Love is his 'imprint' – when a werewolf 'imprints' on someone, they instantly recognise that person as their soulmate and become devoted to them; this doesn’t seem to be the case with Bella. In fact, Jacob wishes he would imprint so that he'd stop pining for Bella. In the end, it's revealed that Jacob's imprint is in fact Bella and Edward's daughter, Renesmee, and the author even hints that part of the reason Jacob fell in love with Bella in the first place was because he was subconsciously 'waiting' for Renesmee.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Surprisingly, the main character Ted was this to his fiance Stella in How I Met Your Mother. In Robin's own words, Ted was "disappearing into someone else's life". Stella would later apologize to Ted for leaving him on the day of their wedding and explained that while she did love and care for Ted because he helped her believe in romance again, she was always in love with Tony.
    • One of the major criticisms for the series finale is The Mother being this for Ted. It probably wasn't intentional but most fans took it that way.
  • Ward is this to Skye during the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: he's a HYDRA agent who has been faking almost his entire personality since they met. When she finds out the truth, she's completely repulsed, and events in the second season, namely her shooting him, plus Word of God from the actor indicate that the ship is totally sunk.
  • Buffy and Angel to a lot of fans, despite the insistence of Buffy's actress. They barely knew each other in the first two seasons, Angel lost his soul and went on to emotionally and mentally torture Buffy until she had to kill him, he came back, they danced around each other until they pointlessly got back together, Angel then broke up with her because he knew it wouldn't last, he left town, they pined after each other until they found other love interests who held their attention (Cordelia for Angel, Spike for Buffy) and even then they felt for some convoluted reason that they still belonged together, despite character development driving them apart. Their relationship should not be the definition of soulmates.
  • Peyton for Mac on CSI NY. They were fairly serious in season 3 and 4, although Mac still struggled with losing his wife. But she eventually leaves him with a Dear Mac letter. When she returns for an ep in season 6, she explains that she knew that she couldn't give up her ties to her home and family in London, and didn't want to force him to choose between her and his life in New York.
  • Stefan and Elena from "The Vampire Diaries" were originally the certain endgame of the show in the first two seasons. There has been a dramatic shift to from Stefan and Elena to Damon and Elena becoming the series's endgame ever since the season 2 finale. Damon and Elena are certainly the fan-preffered ship.
  • Galavant:
    • Galavant and Madalena. The opening song is about how they are so in love and he will do anything to save her, but she quickly dumps him about five minutes in, choosing fame and fortune instead. But Galavant himself won't realize that Isabella is his true soulmate before the sixth episode.
    • Madalena was maybe this to King Richard, as well, as it turns out that she deceives him and Richard sings "Maybe you're not the worst thing ever" to her right in the episode two. In season two, Richard's actual soulmate turns out to be Roberta.
  • The Good Place: In the afterlife, soulmates are paired together. One of the first things that happens is Eleanor explains to her supposed soulmate, Chidi, that she's not supposed to be in the Good Place at all. They spend the rest of the season as platonic friends. Then it turns out they were actually in the Bad Place the whole time; the soulmates were just one of the ways they were being tortured, paired up with people who would annoy them for eternity. The soulmates were switched up in many of the reboots (including one where Eleanor was paired with Tahani), but Chidi and Eleanor did end up in romantic relationships several times. Michael eventually confirms once and for all that soulmates are not real.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • This was weaponized in Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama. Drakken had modified one of his synthodrones to resemble a hot 17-year-old boy, and sent him to the school to start an (abusive) relationship with Kim to keep her distracted during his grand scheme. When Kim finds out the truth, she's heartbroken, and Rufus destroys the synthodrone in retaliation.

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