Love Hurts. Add the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality, and it's just plain unbearable. The Hero has a ready and willing Love Interest who makes him happy, who would be good for him, with whom even the fans want to see him. No Love Triangle, no MayflyDecember Romance, no Virgin Power, no Twice Shy—things could be perfect. It's plain as day that he cares more about her than anything else... plain to everyone, including the Big Bad. The Hero knows that his enemies will never let him have a love life in peace; they'll strike down the people dearest to him first chance they get. The only way to protect his beloved from becoming Big Bad cannon fodder is by letting her go. Despite what a noble, selfless move it is, the spurned Love Interest's reaction will usually be, "Screw the danger! I don't care!", to show they love The Hero just as much.
It never seems to occur to anyone that telling the Big Bad you've broken up is not generally going to get you released from his dungeon with an apology and a consolatory cappuccino. The argument also gets rather silly when the hero spends every waking moment in his civvies in or around said quasi-love interest's company; thus any villain looking at the situation would need Psychic Powers to realize they're not a couple. Of course, anyone with that level of understanding realizes that they are emotionally attached no matter what they say. Justified or not, this fear is why The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life.
Though in all fairness, in a practical sense, this should actually ensure that the hero's loved one should be granted Plot Armor from this method. But the sad fact of the matter is that all too often it doesn't. In fact, the only way that a character would be safe is if they are considered too minor for writers to care about. (And, even then, these characters are not always safe, either.) However, there are also other certain flaws to consider, as villains are normally not known for being discriminate about their potential victims. So sadly, heroes, even if you do convince your enemies that your loved ones are random strangers you never heard of, chances are they will most likely go after your loved ones anyways. (Not to mention that normally heroes save anyone whom their enemies attack, regardless of whether if the Hero personally knows them or not, because it's the right thing to do.)
Usually unnecessary if the Love Interest is a badass too. Compare I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and Hero Harasses Helpers. A sub-trope of It's Not You, It's Me and Celibate Hero. May overlap with Loved I Not Honor More. May lead to Good Is Not Nice. Often the rationale behind passing the "Leave Your Quest" Test. When the love interest is the one who breaks things off for this reason, that's Love Cannot Overcome. See also Superheroes Stay Single. If it's between parent and child, see Give Him a Normal Life and Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You.
- Berserk: Guts is one of the branded, someone who bears the mark of sacrifice, and so ghosts, zombies, and the legions of hell are drawn to him, which means ANYONE near him is a target (as shown by a priest and his daughter who get murdered just for being near him). This is exacerbated by the fact that Guts is a Jerkass who doesn't care how many people are killed in the crossfire as long as he gets his revenge.
- A Certain Magical Index: This is a big part of Kaori Kanzaki's decision to sever ties with her comrades and friends of the Amakusa Church in the backstory. Despite (or indeed because of) her powers as a Saint, she was never able to prevent them from being hurt in their battles, so she left in hopes that they would be safer without her drawing more dangerous foes to them. This gets deconstructed in that the Amakusas hate themselves for seemingly being so weak they couldn't support her and needed her to win their battles. This comes to a head in Volume 16 when they fail to defeat Acqua of the Back and can only watch in despair as Kaori fights him alone and force him to lengths they could never dream of...and then promptly turned on its head when Kaori herself realizes she doesn't have the power to defeat Acqua alone and that her desire to "protect" them was in many ways just her being unable to have faith in their own strength and conviction. Cue Kaori calling out to the Amakusa to join her in fighting him, which they do without hesitation and with joy in their hearts.
- City Hunter: This is the true problem in Ryo Saeba and Kaori Makimura's relationship, as he's perfectly aware of the numerous enemies he has as a sweeper, and said enemies had already targeted Kaori during the course of the series since they usually can't beat him one on one.
- Code Geass: At one point during the second season, some of Lelouch's flunkies (rightfully) think he is doing this with Shirley. When a body double mix up at his school leads to problems maintaining his cover, one points out that it could all be solved simply by getting Shirley involved. Lelouch is reluctant, however, as being near him is a surefire way to get killed like his half-sister Euphemia and he had already mucked up her life horribly, both by tampering extensively with her memories and accidentally killing her father. Unfortunately, she dies anyway soon afterward.
- Done again with Kallen later on, twice. When the Black Knights lure Lelouch into an execution, he lies to Kallen in order to be spared his execution. Episodes later, he shoos her away one last time before kicking off his plan for world peace that would make him the most hated person on earth and end in his death to make sure she gets a happy ending.
- This is also the main reason he makes up the masked persona of Zero to lead the rebellion: he doesn't want Nunnally to be in any danger, and she would be if word got out that Lelouch was the leader of the rebellion.
- Fruits Basket: Rin Souma breaks up with the only person who ever actually loved her so that he won't get in trouble with Akito (who has already told Rin he knows about the relationship and pushed her out a window).The only problem? Rin doesn't tell Haru why she's doing this. The reason she gives is not "Akito knows and we'll get in trouble". It's "I'm tired of you". This leads to a really bad case of Poor Communication Destroys the School involving Black Haru and a bucket of water.
- The Gokusen anime tries a slightly less orthodox method in this. Kumiko/Yankumi tries to live a double life as a teacher and as an heiress to a Yakuza clan. She tries VERY hard to not get her lives to overlap one another, but no matter how hard she tries, if she has to fight any bad gangsters/thugs chances are at least ONE of her students will be involved whether they like it or not. But to be fair this was also to protect her teaching job; while it has been endangered, she never actually lost her job in the anime.
- Melody of Oblivion has a Melos warrior using this excuse on a woman even after he has already kissed her 73 times.
- Sia from Metal Heart tried this to get away from Minwoo to protect him but he convinced her stay.
- My Hero Academia: Izuku Midoriya does a (mostly) platonic variation of this, following the Paranormal Liberation War. Since he comes to grasp that All For One is going to hunt him down, he decides to abandon the U.A. High to avoid placing any of his friends in danger just by being near him. It's only mostly platonic because one of those people he tries to keep safe is his Implied Love Interest, Ochaco Uraraka, whose reaction is the one to get the biggest focus. This is ultimately Deconstructed when Class 1-A decide to go after him anyway, knowing that his Chronic Hero Syndrome would just run him ragged, especially with heroes like Endeavour pushing him, and they tell him they want to help him. This turns into a fight as Izuku is utterly terrified of All for One harming them and is trying to get away from them.
- My-HiME: Mai tries to push Yuuichi away because the defeat of a HiME leads to the death of her most important person and she had just watched her brother Takumi die after the defeat of his roommate and girlfriend Akira. She fails and Yuuichi dies after his Unlucky Childhood Friend Shiho is defeated.
- Negima! Magister Negi Magi uses this one when Negi tries to convince his True Companions that it would be a bad idea for them to follow him into the Magic World. Cue them all saying that they wouldn't care less and say that they're going with him anyway, for his own safety. This backfires entirely as everyone takes it as evidence that they need to go with him.
- This is actually portrayed as a character flaw of Negi's: he constantly wants to keep his friends out of harm's way and do everything dangerous himself, ignoring the fact that he probably would be dead by now if his friends weren't around to help him.
- Pokémon Adventures: X is unwilling to add another Pokémon to his team in fear that Team Flare will hurt them trying to get to him. This despite the fact that Chespin obviously likes him.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin leaves to Tokyo to face Shishio on his own and not put the lives of his girlfriend Kaoru and the rest of his True Companions at risk. It doesn't work, they join him anyway.
- Sailor Moon: The Second-Season Breakup revolved around this. Mamoru doesn't give a clear reason at all for why he's dumping Usagi and it takes about 15 episodes until they actually talk about the prophetic dream that caused the whole situation. The kicker — said dream was sent by Mamoru's future self to "ensure their love was strong enough" to take on the Black Moon Clan.
- Sands of Destruction: Morte pulls a non-romantic version on Kyrie and Taupy, attempting to convince them to leave because the World Salvation Committee is hunting her and she understands if they'd rather not get involved. They decide to stay, of course.
- Weiß Kreuz: Yuriko, Sakura, and Aya-chan get this treatment, via the main characters simply disappearing and never seeing them again—for good reason, since the ones who don't get the It's Not You, It's My Enemies treatment (such as Ouka and, in Weiß Kreuz Gluhen, Asami) always end up dead.
- YuYu Hakusho: The reason why Yusuke Urameshi keeps Keiko in the dark about his life as a spirit detective is out of fear that if she knows it then it will only be a matter of time until she is in danger. Naturally, later on in the 2nd arc, it fails miserably and she calls him out on this but, to be fair, at least she wasn't killed off at the end of that arc.
- For decades, this was used as one of the reasons that Superman couldn't marry Lois Lane. Of course, she was publicly known as "Superman's Girlfriend", she had an almost suicidal capacity for putting herself in danger, and he probably spent as much time at the Daily Planet as Superman as he did as Clark. Lampshaded in Superman: Doomsday when Lois points out everyone attacks her anyway because everyone think's they're an item anyway.
- In Krypton No More, Clark has lunch with Lois, and he thinks as he eats that he always resisted a romance due to the danger it might cause Lois◊.
- Non-romantic variant: When Superman first met Supergirl in The Supergirl from Krypton -back in the Silver Age-, she wanted to live with him, but he sent her to an orphanage because he was afraid that his enemies would target her if they found out about his cousin (he was proved right in the Post-Crisis version of that story: as soon as Kara arrived on Earth, super-villains began attacking her and Darkseid kidnapped her).
- In Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Superman tells his cousin that she has to keep her powers secret and learn to control them before becoming Supergirl because his enemies would attack her.
- The storyline Superman: Ending Battle featured Manchester Black learning Clark's secret. To get his revenge on Superman, he uses his mental powers to command every villain in the whole world to kill anyone who has ever shown Clark Kent one iota of kindness. The hit-list includes Lex Luthor, the Daily Planet staff, his parents, his first grade teacher, his old football coach... Lex Luthor is informed of who Superman is as well; he finds the whole thing hilarious and plans to sit back and relax while Superman spends the rest of the day fighting and panicking. Come nightfall, Lex sits down to his computer deciding its time to destroy the Man of Steel utterly...just in time, of course, for Manchester Black to have a change of heart and wipe the knowledge clean again.
- X-23 provides a non-romantic version with her parting from her Aunt Debbie and cousin Megan. Unlike most, she gives them this speech, along with directions to a money stash and instructions on how best to go underground...after their house was blown up and they were nearly tortured to death to punish her.
"How... how will you find us?"I said, how will you find us?"[...]"Goodbye, Megan."
- This is the reason Batman tries to avoid getting serious with anyone, why he has so few friends, and why he's a Jerkass to a majority of his sidekick squad. It's not that he wants to be, he just wants to protect them, because the things his Rogues Gallery does are better not seen by anyone, really. Plus, he doesn't want anyone else growing up like him, bitter and angry at the world, and he's trying to avoid causing anyone pain from when he inevitably falls in combat or finally snaps. Batman's world is not happy.
- And he's not wrong: considering the whole thing about Jason Todd (just for starters; if you want more, try The Killing Joke or Death of the Family), you can see that even in costume, it's hard to hang around Batman.
- Although speaking of Joker, he's actually something of a subversion. While he won't think twice about attacking a Robin or a Batgirl, it's been noted numerous times that Joker's had the ability to discover who Batman really is, and could potentially attack those close to him in their civilian lives, but never has because he simply doesn't care who Batman is behind the mask. Barbara being paralyzed in The Killing Joke was actually totally unrelated to her life as Batgirl.
- In a way, ANY given costumed super hero with a secret identity can be quite susceptible to this. (Even characters who don't have a secret identity are not immune from this as well.)
- An example for the above statement would be Benjamin Grimm, AKA The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing, who left his fiancee at the altar because of this—he saw Spidey, Daredevil, Banner and Namor sitting together talking at the wedding, and realized that all four of them had lost the women they loved.
- In the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book, Peter breaks up with MJ to "keep her safe". It doesn't work, and MJ is still thrown into dangerous situations, so they get back together. Yup, we thought it was stupid, too.
- She split up with him, first, for being Spider-Man and therefore incredibly heartbreaking and high-maintenance.
- In this case, the problem is that Peter Parker and Mary-Jane go to the same school and, in this verse, many of Spidey's enemies know full-well that he is really Peter Parker, so the school and everyone he knows are under constant threat anyway. Probably didn't much help that both Kitty Pryde and Johnny Storm start going to his school as well. If Peter really wanted to protect his loved ones, he should probably have had himself and everyone he knows put into protective custody and his school probably should have been shut down, while Peter continued his education in a secure [SHIELD] facility.
- John Constantine really ought to do this. But often doesn't.
- The only person to survive prolonged exposure to him is his mate Chas. Which makes the fate of Chas' young sidekick namesake in The Movie particularly unfortunate...
- John's young wife Epiphany not only survived prolonged exposure to him, but also outlived him. At least until the Vertigo Universe was affected by a paradox caused by the Flash, and integrated to the New 52...
- Defied in New Avengers. Both Doctor Strange and Daredevil attempt to refuse an offer of membership because they have enemies, people are out to get them, etc. Luke Cage has to remind them that they're all heroes and they all have enemies.
- Strange, at least, has a point though—his enemies are on a completely different scale from the kind of villains the other Avengers usually fight, especially a street level character like Cage. On the other hand, they are also so powerful and evil that they generally threaten the planet/universe and often other heroes anyway, so Strange joining or not doesn't make them any more or less of a target.
- Used in a very interesting way. Up until the "Darkest Hours" storyline in Superior Spider-Man, Spidey had no idea that the person wearing the Venom symbiote was Flash Thompson, one of Peter's dearest friends, but The Avengers did. Captain America uses this knowledge to confirm that Peter Parker is back in the saddle and that Doc Ock was no longer influencing him, knowing the whole "secret identity" bit. Of course, Spidey didn't have to like it.
- Peter also does this to explain to Anna Maria the whole deal with him and Doc Ock. She actually takes it quite well.
- In Astro City, this is the reason Silver Agent gave to his first girlfriend. It was a lie; actually, he was sterile, but knew if he told her that, she would try to stifle her dreams for him.
- In the season 8 Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, Buffy is woken with a True Love's Kiss, which we initially think was from Xander. It turns out it was from Satsu, a Slayer who is in love with Buffy. Buffy tries to dump her due to how much danger she would be in by being her love interest. Then Buffy sleeps with Satsu. She again invokes this trope, then sleeps with her again.
- Subverted in Generations #3: After rescuing Amiko from Sabretooth, Logan tells Laura this is why he can't be in her life when she chides him for not spending a night with his daughter. Laura immediately points out that not being in Amiko's life made no difference, and Creed targeted her anyway.
- A Crown of Stars: In chapter 13 Asuka argues she could not have anyone close to her because Winthrop would have used them against her.
If Id had anyone close to me, Winthrop would just have used them as more leverage against me.
- Played straight and downplayed in Back to the Future Prequel: Doc breaks off his friendship with Marty in order to protect him from a vengeful former schoolmate and from being contaminated by Doc's reputation. Of course, they get back together.
- Played with in DC Nation with the Original Characters. Green Shield only kept her heroing life a secret until she could figure out how to come out to her folks...only for her kid sister to run off with one of the team's enemies. Travis Gray, and the Zukov siblings never bothered - the siblings only care for each other for the most part, and Travis was living on the streets. Fauna keeps hers because the activist movements she works with and her strictly-pacifist Commune would certainly condemn her choice, and she doesn't want them "paying for" her private decision.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Michikyuu Kanae gave a speech about how she's just bringing trouble on the SOS Brigade before attempting to slide to another world... at which point Nagato engages the Dimensional Anchor, trapping her.
- In In Flight, Shirou leaves Rin and Saber behind in England when he runs away before the Mage's Organization does something horrible to him due to this trope, especially as they rely on and belong to said organization.
- This trope and Conflicting Loyalty are responsible for the issues getting between Kagami and Homura in Stars Above.
- In Fallen King, this is Joey's reason for splitting off from Tristan and Tea. Someone will always be after the Puzzle, and by staying apart there's a chance someone else can help before the world ends.
- In Fist of the Moon this is the reason Ranma is reluctant to stay at Rei's shrine—the chaos that follows him will likely wreck the place. S/He ends up rooming with Makoto, because it's easier to fix an apartment or move to a new one.
- Barely averted in the Yu-Gi-Oh! story A Game of Masques - both Yugi and Yami make angsty plans to leave each other behind to protect them from their respective enemies, but just as they start to put them in motion realize they're both doing the same thing and laugh it off.
- This is given as the reason why Cullen puts up with the harassment from admirers at the Winter Palace ball in All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird. He could chase them off by informing them that he's in a relationship with the Lady Inquisitor, but she's afraid someone would hurt him to get to her - and the way some of the ball guests are acting, he's legitimately concerned that one of them might hurt her to get to him.
- Varric contemplates the trope in Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium. The Inquisitor is Bethany Hawke, and he observes her lack of love interest and wonders if she's refusing to get involved with anyone because of this. He's partially correct.
- Deconstructed in Girls Like Us. Laurel is asked to speak to The Flash on Iris' behalf, and learns Barry is in love with Iris, but believes this trope due to Oliver. This hits Laurel's Rage Breaking Point, and she gives him (and by extension Oliver) a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, and spells out it isn't the life and enemies of a vigilante that'll keep him from being with Iris. It's that he doesn't trust or respect her, proven by the fact that he hasn't told her any of this, including his identity.
- In Scarlet Lady, a Kwami Swap AU of Miraculous Ladybug, despite Marinette not being Ladybug, she spends Seasons 1 and 2 still helping Chat Noir deal with the Akumas since the titular character (read: Chloé) is at best incompetent at her job, and at worst either intentionally causing Akumas or trying to help them harm or kill Marinette for being near Adrien. During all of this, Adrien/Chat Noir falls in love with the civilian Marinette, while Marinette in this AU eventually falls in love with Chat. However, during "Evilustrator", after Marinette and Chat Noir barely escape Evillustrator's trap with their lives, Chat reluctantly breaks off his partnership with Marinette out of fear of nearly losing her, since she's been repeatedly put in mortal danger and even nearly killed multiple times, and begs her to avoid participating in Akuma fights. This trope is partially Deconstructed when Marinette vents to both Master Fu and Adrien himself that she feels awful she can't help since Scarlet Lady is "just the worst", and Adrien attempts to assure her it's for the best, unaware he's not helping her calm down.
- This trope, Conflicting Loyalty, the Love Triangle, and being Locked Out of the Loop is responsible for most, if not, all the issues between Orihime and Edward in The Flower Princess and the Alchemist.
- This is why Lori and her sisters stayed out of Lincoln's life for eight years in Stupor Heroics: since they were superpowered beings on both sides of the law, it meant Lincoln had a huge target on his back due to their many enemies who could go after him. Lori felt keeping silent about their relationship was the best way to keep him safe.
- The Amazing Spider-Man: Peter tries to end his relationship with Gwen this way, but ultimately changes his mind.
- Animal Kingdom: Joshua is compelled to dump his girlfriend after his criminal family inform him she knows too much about their dealings. Even this doesn't stop Joshua's paranoid Uncle Pope drugging and strangling her.
- Apache: Massai attempts to use this argument to dissuade Nalilne from accompanying him: telling her that wives are for men who do not have to keep looking over their shoulder. Nalilne ignores him and just keeps following him until he gives in.
- The ending of most Batman romantic subplots. In the original Tim Burton films, though, he took a painfully realistic look on this trope, though technically only one relationship ended this way (unmarked spoilers, for Batman fans might typically view this all as It Was His Sled):
- In Batman (1989), Bruce had originally viewed this as his issue with Vicki, until he told her. This was broken up by The Joker coming in. Vicki ended up dumping him because she couldn't handle it. This ends up haunting him for the rest of the Burton-Shumacher quadrilogy.
- In Batman Returns, his issue had been the way he ended with Vicki, leading him to try to get over it with Selina Kyle. Once again, he is the one dumped, as Selina is Ax-Crazy by the end of the movie and attempts murder-suicide with her ex-boss, which also caused a Tear Jerker.
Catwoman: Bruce... I would love to live with you in your castle... forever just like in a fairy tale... (scratches Batman's face) I just couldn't live with myself, so don't pretend this is a happy ending!
- This trope only presumably worked with Chase Meridian. After the whole Riddler thing, it seems that she and Batman are going to still be together, but for some reason, the next movie had Batman dating someone else. We can assume that either she got bored with him (and given the nature of the character, this is entirely possible), or Bruce pulled this card.
- The Cobbler: Max's father explains that he left his family and went undercover because he feared for their lives and this was the only way he could protect them.
- In the Iron Man movies, Tony Stark subverts this and in doing so shows why it's not necessarily a bad thing. He reveals his identity as Iron Man to the world, and makes no particular secret of his love for Pepper Potts either (though it's not clear if he himself 100% realizes how deep it is)... and what ensues in the subsequent movies shows that secret identities are not necessarily bad ideas.
- The first Spider-Man film: Peter gives Mary Jane the Just Friends excuse when she finally tells him she loves him, after nearly losing her to a Sadistic Choice. (And let's not forget that he did lose a love interest in an almost identical scenario in the comic books.) All three movies nonetheless climax with villains luring Spider-Man by holding Mary Jane hostage, whether they're together or not.
- In Stephen Marley's Chia Black Dragon series, Chia (an immortal lesbian Black Magician Girl) knows that her nemesis, Nyak, will kill any woman she loves, which discourages her from pursuing relationships. Sometimes she does anyway, and the other girl is invariably killed by Nyak. Chia doesn't just have one past girlfriend Stuffed into the Fridge, she has dozens.
- At the end of The Dresden Files: Changes Harry sends his daughter to be placed in a foster home without him knowing where so that his enemies can't find her. In Ghost Story, we find out the person he entrusts this to does one better and puts her in a house guarded by angels. Specifically, Michael's house.
- Griffin's Daughter: Ashinji won't cop to his feelings for half-elf Jelena, partly because of their vastly different social standings (he's elf nobility, she's basically a second class-citizen), but mostly because he fears his sadistic brother, Sadaiyo, will hurt her just to spite him. He's right.
- Harry Potter: Harry gives Ginny this speech in The Half-Blood Prince, right after they get together. Ginny doesn't buy it for a second. Rather than react with surprise or tears, she says she understands what he's doing and patiently lets him get on with it. Her later actions in Deathly Hallows indicate that, as far as she's concerned, they're still a couple. Harry, amusingly, has absolutely no way of dealing with this and gives in, causing Ron to give Harry the If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her... speech when he has trouble letting go. Of course, it's not as though Ginny isn't fighting Voldemort almost as hard as Harry himself.
- InCryptid: Invoked and lampshaded by Enid in No Place Like Home when she asks Fran if Jonathan told her about the Covenant, who are monitoring them and could consider her a collaborator if she stays with them. Defied by Fran when she points out that she can take care of herself and she came to Michigan with Jonathan because she wanted to. She and Jonathan end up getting married and having children.
- InThe Licanius Trilogy, Caeden tries to keep his distance from princess Karaliene despite his romantic feelings for her. Flashbacks reveal his Psycho Ex-Girlfriend Nethgalla has a habit of murdering women he like, then shapeshifting into them to get close to him again. It's already too late, though.
- In the Night Huntress books, this is why Cat leaves Bones when the government vampire hunters are closing in, reasoning that they will be safe without the extra attention.
- Peace Talks: The trope becomes deconstructed, and almost leads to Harry and Ebenezar coming to blows. Ebenezar insists Harry should send Maggie away to avoid making her a target. Harry, on the other hand, believes that being present in Maggie's life allows him to both give her the parental affection she needs to turn into an emotionally functional human being (unlike Harry) and protection. He angrily points out what Ebenezar's parenting style has already done to their family; it turned Harry's mother into the kind of person Demons and Winter Fae speak fondly of and drove her into the hands of the White King, directly causing her (and possibly Harry's father's) premature death. It also left Harry to the tender mercies of the American foster care system and JustinDuMorne and forced him to become a killer before his seventeenth birthday in order to survive. Maggie's time in her first foster home led to her being abducted and nearly killed by the Red Court, and directly caused Maggie's mother's death. Michael's home is well-protected, but that didn't stop Nicodemus from making an attempt on the Carpenter family, and Michael is probably one of the handful of people with an even more impressive list of enemies than Harry or Ebenezar.
- A Shadowrun book by Michael Stackpole ("Wolf and Raven") includes this.
- Luke Skywalker from Star Wars goes through a rare variation of this. In the Expanded Universe, his various love interests have bad things happening to them. He eventually concluded that the time he dabbled in The Dark Side caused this and he had to protect Mara Jade from it (it was about as necessary as you'd think). He only proved his love for her by doing that.
- Twilight: A version of this is done in New Moon, when Edward leaves Bella, telling her she'll never see him again, in order to keep her safe. Not played exactly straight because he's not protecting her from his enemies so much as from his own "insatiable" thirst for her blood. In actuality, he left her unprotected from his enemies.
- The Wheel of Time:
- By the fourth book Rand has three love interests. He is the Chosen One in a Crapsack World. He does not handle being the chosen one well in general, and what would happen to his love interests if his enemies find out about them is one of his many worries. The three of them handle it with varying levels of grace, but they're considering the possibility of polygamy. It helps that one of them is from a culture where that is acceptable.
- The inspiration for his behavior was Lan's treatment of Nynaeve.
- Rand also takes a similar approach towards his father, Tam al'Thor, and his hometown, the Two Rivers. He figures that the less his enemies know about his attachment to them, especially his adoptive father, the safer they will be from the possibility of attack.
- In The 100, Lexa had a girlfriend named Costia who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the Ice Nation because they believed she knew Lexa's secrets. This was what led to Lexa deciding that love both hurts and is a weakness.
Clarke: So you just stopped caring? About everyone? [Lexa nods] I could never do that.
Lexa: Then you put the people you care about in danger, and the pain will never go away.
- Jim Kyle of Wilfred Greatorex's 1990 eventually officially divorces his wife so that the evil government at least can't inflict legal punishments on his wife and children for his part in La Résistance.
- Jack Bauer's reason for not telling anyone other than a select few people that he was alive following the events of the fourth season of 24. Most importantly, Audrey Raines.
- Arrow: Subverted when Oliver tries to distance himself from Sara because Slade intends to destroy everything he cares about. She points out that this is stupid. Their enemy knows he cares about her, has a grudge against her too, and isn't going to leave her alone just because they broke up.
- Oliver pulls this again in the first episode of season three, this time on Felicity, after the restaurant where they are having their first date is blown up. It feels more than a little contrived, since she works with him both in his vigilante career and in his Oliver Queen identity, and spends most of her time with him regardless. She cannot be in all that much less danger just because they are not romantically involved.
- When Oliver sleeps with Isabel, he says it's because it's better if he's involved with someone he doesn't care about (as opposed to Felicity, whom he's giving this explanation to) because of this trope. Ironically Isabel turns out to be a villain, so it's not like this makes things safer.
- Being Human: Neurotic werewolf George falls in love with his coworker Nina, but struggles with how much to tell her about his condition, and when. He tries to dump her several times, with nebulous claims of "darkness" and "a bad side of me", but she sticks with him.
- Bones: Booth breaks up with Camille after the latter was poisoned by a serial killer they were on the trail of, believing their line of work to be too high-risk to be caring for one another at that level.
- The Boys (2019): Queen Maeve with Elena. Or rather, her teammate. After keeping it bottled up for years, Maeve finally tells her ex-girlfriend Elena this is the reason they can't be together. Homelander views Maeve as his, and has violently murdered at least one Hollywood producer who flirted a little too much with her. On finding out that Maeve was with Elena, he outs her spitefully in revenge on live national TV.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy tries this with Riley... after finding out that he fought demons as well.
Buffy: You don't know what my life is like.
Riley: But I'm dying to find out.
Buffy: Dying being the operative word here.
- Daredevil (2015):
- Wilson Fisk is a rare case of this happening to a villain. After Vanessa is poisoned, he tries to send her to another country.
- Matt tries to isolate his Daredevil activities from Foggy and Karen, which doesn't help when Karen is kidnapped by the Hand.
- Farscape: Crichton does this without actually telling Aeryn that's why he's virtually ignoring her. She gets angsty, he starts doing the local equivalent of sniffing pixie dust, and the bad guy knows anyway because it's frelling obvious, especially considering she's pregnant at the time. Eventually he lets her in on his fears and they quietly make out after loudly saying "So it's over, then."
- In The F.B.I., central protagonist Inspector Lewis Erskine avoids romantic entanglements because his wife was killed in an ambush intended for him. He also tells one potential Love Interest that he wouldn't encourage his daughter to marry an FBI agent either.
- General Hospital: Wangst-y hitman Jason Morgan invokes this trope any time a woman tries to get close to him.
- Most notably, his ex-fiancée Sam McCall, whose getting shot prompted Jason to leave her for her own protection. Many Jason/Sam shippers still aren't happy.
- Graceland: Jakes broke up with Cassandra in the backstory so that his job as an undercover agent wouldn't endanger her and their child. In the second season, Jakes tries to give up the job in order to be a father to his son - only to find that it's too late and there's no place for him in their lives.
- Grimm: Nick's aunt Marie tells Nick that he should break up with Juliet because of this trope, and he considers it but doesn't do it. When his best friend (who is part of The Masquerade but should be his enemy) gets beaten up for being his friend, Nick tells him he won't ask him for help anymore, but Monroe tells him he can ask for as much help as he wants. His mother later tells him that he shouldn't live like she did, being afraid of getting to close to people in fear of them getting hurt.
- The first episode of Highlander: The Series played this absolutely dead straight between Duncan and Tessa.
- Knight Rider (2008): This is the (frankly, lame) excuse Michael Knight gives for the fact that the first time he meets his son is at the funeral for young Mike's mom.
- Granted, the Cartwright Curse has bitten Michael before; he was widowed at the altar in "The Scent of Roses".
- In one episode of The Mandalorian, the titular character is tempted to stay on the peaceful planet Sorgan. However, he is aware that word about him helping the villagers will spread and attract unwanted attention. His initial plan is to leave the child with Omera to grow up happy and safe; but a bounty hunter after the child shows that the child won't be safe on Sorgan as long as there is a bounty on him, forcing both the Mandalorian and the child to leave.
- Played with in Misfits. At Nathan's urging, Curtis says this to Sam. They do break up—but only because Sam recognized the line from Spider-Man and got angry.
- Penny Dreadful: Vanessa essentially uses this excuse to break off an impending Coitus Ensues moment with Ethan. In this case, the enemy is as much Satan as herself, as sex is one way of triggering her Apocalypse Maiden status.
- Inverted in Psych. After being kidnapped by Yin, Abigail breaks up with Shawn for good because she has dreams of her own she can't achieve if she's dead.
- Smallville: This is the entire romantic plot line of approximately the first 7 seasons:
- Inverted in season nine, where Lois gives this speech to Clark, about why it was logical that The Blur didn't tell her his identity, based entirely on this trope. Amusing because Clark was just about to tell her he was the Blur.
- Supernatural used this trope in "Provenance". Sam tells Sarah they can't be together, which is wise since everyone he sleeps with dies. Later he sleeps with Madison in "Heart". She almost immediately keels over.
- In season 8 he simply disappears from Amelia's life - twice! - with no explanation or any hint of what he does with the rest of his time.
- Dean pulls this on Lisa when Sam shows back up in the sixth season premiere: he evacuates her and Ben to Bobby's for a few days and then has them move to Michigan to try to keep them safe. It doesn't work.
- Castiel also pulls this on Dean in season 8 while the two of them are trapped in Purgatory, first by fleeing from Dean immediately after they arrive and avoiding him for weeks to prevent the leviathans chasing him from attacking Dean as well, then by deliberately letting go of Dean's hand as they attempt to escape Puragatory, because he believes he deserves punishment and penance and that Dean is better off without him.
- Kreegan, the protagonist of Touching Evil takes this to the extreme towards the end of the series. After the criminals he is investigating attack his family, he arranges for them to be put into Witness Protection to keep them safe- and makes sure he doesn't know where they've been sent. One of the few examples where the couple never see each other again.
- Stefan from The Vampire Diaries distances himself from Elena in order to protect her and her friends and family.
- The X-Files:
- Mulder tries to use this reasoning on Scully. Needless to say, it backfires.
- This is given as the reason why Mulder is not with Scully and William in season 9. This one is actually a subversion, since Mulder didn't want to leave, despite the danger; Scully convinced him to leave because she feared for both his and William's life if they remained together.
- How I Became The Bomb's ''Secret Identity'':
Girl, I know that what you need from me is looooove
But I'm afraid that it's the one thing
I can't, give uuuuup
Cuz my enemies will find you, and kill you
To get to meeeee
- In Baldur's Gate 2, trying to romance drow priestess Viconia will end with this, as she's targeted by Lolth's Handmaidens and doesn't want to drag the protagonist into her mess. However in the expansion she will be amenable to starting over - she realizes that between having your soul ripped out and reclaimed, going to hell, climbing the path to godhood and having to put down your god-blooded half-siblings along the way, the Handmaidens are a minor trifle. Besides, marrying a god...
- In Ensemble Stars!, Kanata tries a mundane version of this with Souma early in the year: as he and the other Oddballs have been made into villains in the public's eye, he worries that Souma might suffer too if he associates with him. He'd rather that he continue to be a good boy and only keep company with the 'right' people, as this way the world would be kind to him. Souma never gets a chance to respond at the time, but he makes it clear through the rest of the year that he does not like this idea, especially since he still feels guilty about his own (mostly unwitting) involvement in Kanata's scapegoating.
- Between Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Rose fakes a miscarriage and a marriage to Roy Campbell to protect herself and her son from the Patriots, who would use them against Raiden. Of course, their relationship was already falling apart before any of this happened, but they worked it out in the end.
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: Raiden himself does this to his wife and son because his latest enemies rip the brains out of children and force-feed them violent training simulations. THIS IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION.
- Soul Calibur: Kilik knows that his longtime traveling companion Xianghua has romantic feelings for him, but his quest to destroy Soul Edge prevents him from wanting to get too close to her (Kilik's first love and Xianghua's long-lost older sister Xianglian was killed by him while he was under possession of the Evil Seed). In Xianghua's SCIV ending, he explicitly tells this to her as he grabs hold of the cursed sword. She's not listening, no matter what. The official Soul Calibur V artbook revealed that they had an illegitimate child, Xiba, together.
- The main plot of Star Fox Command revolved around the fact that Fox kicked his girlfriend Krystal out of the team because life as a Star Fox member is so dangerous. Pretty much everyone calls Fox out on this for being a phenomenally dumb move, and Krystal ends up putting herself in harms way with Star Wolf. Most of the multiple endings wrap this up in some way, sometimes happily, sometimes not.
- It also repeats minorly with Amanda (Slippy's Girlfriend) and Lucy, Peppy's daughter.
- Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town: Iori, one of the marriage candidates, has an assassin after him. His Romance Sidequest eventually reaches a point where he tries to get the Player Character to stop spending time with him for their own saftety. Appropriately, this happens in the last event of his Romance Sidequest before the Player Character can make him their official boyfriend.
- Inverted in Tales of Symphonia: Colette leaves behind The Hero, Lloyd, when she begins her journey of World Regeneration, after lying to him about letting him go with her, the real reason being that she dies at the end of her journey, and she didn't want him around for that. In the end, Iselia is partially destroyed, and Lloyd goes chasing after her.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, you can meet a young woman named Heather Poe in the Santa Monica hospital, bleeding and in pain, but the doctor is tending to another patient, and you have the option to feed her some of your blood, healing her. If you do, you'll encounter her in the street not too long after; she's extremely grateful for your help, and begs you to let her do anything in her power to make your vampire existence easier. You can either tell her to go away for her own good, or take her in, where her behavior will steadily get more eccentric in an effort to please you, from bringing a man home for you to feed from, to dressing however you ask. You're eventually given the option to drive her out of your home for her own safety, since by this point you're enbroiled in a great deal of conspiracy and violence. If you keep her around, the Sabbat, a bloodthirsty vampire clan who is very much not happy with you, will kidnap and kill her, assumedly to spur you into shortsighted retaliation.
- Done indirectly by Goro Majima to Makoto Makimura in the conclusion of Yakuza 0. Rather than revealing her that he's the one who's been protecting her before, Majima would rather let her go and live a happy live with the doctor who taken care of her during her absence after being shot by Lao Gui before and helping her from recovering from her blindness, because he doesn't want her to be exposed to more danger for being associated with an infamous Yakuza like him.
- A platonic version occurs at the end of RWBY season three. In the penultimate episode, Blake has a violent encounter with Adam, who is enraged that she's left the White Fang and gotten out from under his thumb. He not only stabs her, but promises to "destroy everything you love," and gets started by lopping off Yang's arm when she tries to rescue Blake. In the season's denouement, we learn that Blake has run off on Yang and the rest of Team RWBY, presumably due to this trope. Not that Yang knows this, leaving her feeling terribly betrayed after losing so much while trying to save her friend. This is deconstructed in Volume 4 when Blake panics over Sun getting badly injured, Sun calls her out over doing this:
Sun: You think you're being selfless, but you're not. Yeah, that chameleon friend of yours got me pretty good, but I'd do it all again if it meant protecting you. And I could promise Yang would say the same. You get to make your own choices, sure. But you don't get to make ours. When your friends fight for you, it's because we want to. So STOP pushing us out! It hurts more than anything the bad guys could ever do to us.
- This is further explored in Volume 5 when Ruby mentions Blake's name, sending Yang into a furor before she sobs to Weiss about her, implying that whatever damage Adam did to Yang, it was a lot worse with Blake's disappearance. Ultimately in Volume 6, despite Blake coming back to Team RWBY at long last, Yang hasn't forgiven her for her stunt and she needs to rebuild her trust in her.
- El Goonish Shive:
- Girl Genius:
- Agatha hasn't chosen between Gil and Tarvek, but she is quite certain she wants both of them safely out of castle. She doesn't want another -- anyone dying on her behalf.
- A non-romantic version features in the backstory of Tarvek and his distant cousin/assigned bodyguard Violetta. Given that an upbringing in House Strumovarus does not promote open and honest communication it was years before Violetta put all the pieces together, but Tarvek quietly framed her for incompetence and arranged a reassignment to a dead-end position very far from him because he cared for her and knew things were deteriorating to the point where her next twelve replacements survived an average of three months.
- In Leftover Soup, Jamie attempts this on Ellen, but she'll have none of it.
Ellen: Oh my God, you're Spider-manning me, aren't you?
- The title character of The Legend of Lucy hid her career as a bounty hunter from her friend Glenda because of this and thought she would want to break off their friendship after being kidnapped and attacked, but Glenda was all too happy to have the excitement in her life.
- Vaarsuvius in The Order of the Stick #679. V's mate Inkyrius has just filed for a divorce, and V chooses not to contest it despite wanting to. And V has a point; though Inkyrius has good reasons, Vaarsuvius knows that as the quest to save the world continues, V's bound to make more enemies. Enemies that might try and attack Inkyrius and their adopted children, as the Black Dragon did.
- In Rip and Teri, after catching one of his old enemies attempting to seduce Teri, the woman he loves, in an effort to get to him, secret agent Rip Dustin mentally prepares himself to tell her that he hates her in order to drive her away and ensure her safety from his many enemies - but he's unable to bring himself do so, and can only tell her that "I'll always love you." before leaving her. Needless to say, this doesn't have the driving-away effect he was hoping for. When the two are reunited a few strips later, Rip attempts to justify his actions with this trope, only for Teri to point out that it wasn't exactly working; she was in just as much danger as if they'd been together because their enemies still tried to use her to get to him - and in fact, because he wasn't around to protect her, she was out of her depth and therefore in an even more dangerous position.
- In Sluggy Freelance Torg has put any potential romance with Zoe on hold for years (even calling her a "boring, dumpy chick" once) all in order to keep her safe from his psychotic stalker Oasis. This was further encouraged when Torg's Arch-Enemy (one of them, anyway) Lord Horribus killed an Alternate Universe version of Zoe that Torg had been dating.
- Lampshaded and subverted in Sorcery 101.
Mel: You know how in almost every superhero movie, the hero breaks up with his girlfriend to protect her? And then she tells him, he's worth the risk? Well... you're not.
- A platonic(-ish) example happens in Weak Hero. After he starts getting targeted by Oswald's gang, Stephen deliberately distances himself from his best friend Gray so that Gray won't get involved and hurt. Gray stays by his side regardless, leading Stephen to take more drastic measures to protect him.
- Himei tries to do this with Seiki in Sailor Nothing. Tries, and fails.
- Lampshaded, of course, in A Very Potter Musical, when Harry and Ginny use the various Spider-Man movies as evidence for their respective sides of the argument.
- Cracked's After Hours program discussed the Fridge Logic inherent with the "Keep them in the dark" aspect of this trope. By not informing his loved ones, Peter Parker not only doesn't prevent them from becoming targets of villains seeking to hurt his Secret Identity, but also prevents them from preparing for such a threat to occur.
- In Twig, Lillian and Sylvester agree to break up not only because their romantic relationship makes them immediately vulnerable to the predations of the Baron Richmond, who delights in causing them even minor misfortune, but because more broadly it threatens Lillian's ambitions of academic advancement and makes it easy for people to attack her indirectly.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: After his HeelFace Turn in the third season, Zuko leaves behind his girlfriend Mai. As he explains to Sokka in "The Boiling Rock", "Everyone thinks I'm a traitor. I couldn't drag her into it." She is not happy about this and proves how wrongly he underestimated her in spectacular style. Of course, Mai ends up getting thrown in prison — as does Ty Lee —, so maybe he had a point.
- Terry McGinnis of Batman Beyond gives his longtime girlfriend Dana Tan this speech in the Fully Absorbed Finale episode "Epilogue" of Justice League Unlimited. However, the scene appears to be a hypothetical one imagined by Terry rather than actually happening; at the end of the episode he calls Dana to confirm a date they've scheduled, and is clearly planning to propose.
- Ironically it seems his choice is made when someone who knows him and the original Batman tells him not to distance himself from people who love him - so as to have a better life than the old man (Bruce Wayne).
- Carmen Sandiego: This is the reason Carmen gives for standing a now-amnesiac Gray up. Even if he wasn't made into a Sleeper Agent by V.I.L.E., she can't bear to bring him back into her life, since that will make him a target of V.I.L.E.'s wrath.
"For whatever strange reason, Gray has a fresh start now. And having Carmen Sandiego back in his life would only complicate that."
- Inverted on Danny Phantom: Valerie, the "villainous" love interest, decides not to pursue her relationship with Danny so she can hunt his Secret Identity: "There's something important I have to do right now, and I don't want you to get hurt because of it." Hey, you can't please everyone. The irony here is that he's the enemy and already knew her secret identity, making the whole thing rather sad.
- Justice League Unlimited: Diana is flirting with Batman during a stakeout, and he gives a few reasons why they shouldn't. The third reason is the standard superhero wave-off of his enemies being a threat to anyone he's in a relationship with... which Diana answers by casually crushing the head of a stone gargoyle in her hand and asking "next?" It might make more sense to argue that he should worry about her enemies (though maybe not, given his impressive track record at taking on and beating superpowered foes).
- Phineas and Ferb: Along with many other Superhero Tropes rolled into the episode called "The Beak". Phineas and Isabella naturally.
- Steven Universe: After the events of the first Season Finale (a spaceship crashes into the town, and Lapis Lazuli performs a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent Steven and the Gems from being harmed), Steven contemplates cutting his ties with his friend Connie (and humans in general) in "Full Disclosure", but ultimately cannot bring himself to do so and tells her the truth. He tried to end their friendship with a text message but when Connie demanded that he say it to her face, he ultimately couldn't. Then, half a season later, Connie starts training to fight with Steven.