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Love Cannot Overcome

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"But there's a danger in loving somebody too much
And it's sad when you know it's your heart you can't trust
There's a reason why people don't stay where they are
Baby sometimes love just ain't enough."
Patty Smyth note  and Don Henley, "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough"

Usually, the hero will go to great lengths to protect his Love Interest from the dangers involved in what he does, from keeping secrets from her to breaking up with her for her own good. Sometimes, however, the hero will choose to be honest and tell her everything, trusting her to make her own decisions about what's best for her. Usually when that happens, the love interest will bravely and loyally stay by the hero's side.

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But sometimes, the love interest will decide the hero was right: she really can't handle it.

Maybe all that stuff about ghosts, witches, and demons is just a little too scary. Maybe she's sick of being kidnapped by the villains. Maybe the stress of the long nights waiting for the hero to come home from his missions is just too much. Whatever the reason, loving the hero just isn't enough to overcome everything that comes with being part of his life. She's out of there.

This is not necessarily a very "romantic" trope, but in some situations it can add a tremendous note of Truth in Television. Can overlap with I Want My Beloved to Be Happy if the hero graciously sends her off to another life (and another love) rather than beg her to stay in a situation she's not suited for.

The counterpart to It's Not You, It's My Enemies. A subversion of The Power of Love. See also The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life and All Love Is Unrequited. Contrast Love Transcends Spacetime.

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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Sailor V and Kaitou Ace in Codename: Sailor V are mutually attracted to and love each other, but can never be together because they turn out to be on opposite sides of the conflict. Ace, or rather Danburite, is unable to reconcile his orders to defeat her with his desire to win her heart, and Sailor V knows she will ultimately choose her duty to Princess Serenity and defeating the Dark Kingdom over any personal feeling she has. She ends up killing Danburite.

    Comic Books 
  • This is why Silver St. Cloud breaks up with Bruce Wayne in a famous 1970s Batman arc; she can't handle knowing that he's risking his life against people like The Joker every night, so she abandons him and Gotham. This seems to be the source for many other examples from Batman adaptations in other media.
  • Green Lantern: Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris have done this to each other repeatedly over the years, since his identity as GL and hers as the domineering, villainous Star Sapphire frequently complicate their underlying mutual love.
    • Pointed out to Hal during Blackest Night, when Indigo-1 points out that Hal and Carol contradict the Star Sapphire mantra that "Love conquers all". Hal actually notes that what Indigo's saying doesn't sound like a compliment, to which she retorts that it wasn't meant to be.
    • As of the final issue of Geoff Johns' run on the title, Hal and Carol will eventually get together and stay together, which would be an aversion of this trope.
  • Being in love with the emotionally withdrawn Bruce Banner is tough enough already, but his onetime wife Betty Ross was often driven away by his monstrous Superpowered Alter Ego, the Incredible Hulk.
  • Villainous example: A few Batman stories before the 1980s showed that Harvey "Two-Face" Dent's fiancée, Gilda, still loved him unconditionally after his transformation, but his criminal lifestyle and tendency to end up in Arkham eventually forced her to move on. The Golden Age story that introduced him was quite different; there, she's immediately repulsed by his disfigurement, but Harvey and Gilda Kent got to keep their happy ending after a skilled plastic surgeon rescued from Germany successfully reforms his face.
    • Batman's own troubled romances with Catwoman and Talia probably count.
  • Spider-Man: As of the One More Day stuff, Mary Jane breaks up with Peter, not because she can't handle being in danger for knowing Spider-Man, but because she can't handle putting other people who are close to her in danger because she knows Spider-Man.
    • Ironically in Spider-Island, when Carlie Cooper finds out that Peter is Spider-Man, she angrily concludes that their relationship was a lie, and breaks it off with him in no uncertain terms. Meanwhile, MJ temporarily has Spider-Man's powers, and realizes fully why Peter continues to fight the good fight as Spider-Man.
    • Nick Spencer's Spider-Man puts this through a Deconstruction. At the urging of Carlie Cooper, Mary Jane attends an outreach program for super heroes' civilian friends and loved ones called "Look-Ups". At the urging of its creator, Jarvis, MJ admits her fears and spending all her time away from Peter and she comes to realize that, despite all of this, she really does love him, that running away from his life isn't who she is and that she's happy to be with him.
  • This is played around with regarding the relationship between Arsenal and Cheshire. The two fell in love while Arsenal was investigating Cheshire for the government, and left because he couldn't bring himself to turn her in. Then Cheshire got pregnant and gave birth to their daughter Lian, and things became extremely more complicated and convoluted. There's still an attraction shared between Arsenal and Cheshire even though Cheshire was (understandably) pissed off about Arsenal leaving like he did, but what's really strained whatever love there might be between the two is Cheshire's increasingly horrific actions as a mercenary. After Cheshire dropped an atomic bomb on the country of Qurac to prove she wasn't kidding around, Arsenal now struggles with the guilt of still loving her despite that and has even compared himself to Eva Braun loving Hitler. Eventually, when Cheshire tried to escape from prison and told Arsenal he could join her and take Lian with her, Arsenal refused realizing even if they did Cheshire would never truly change or try to change her behavior.
    • A non-romantic example occurs in Villains United when Cheshire's forced to join the Secret Six because of a bomb in Lian's head. While Cheshire's visibly horrified when told of this, her next course of action was to get her teammate Catman to help her conceive a replacement child. When Cheshire betrays the Secret Six after becoming pregnant, she tells Deadshot it's because she can't stand the idea of being controlled or enslaved by someone else (stemming from her childhood growing up in slavery). Many stories made it clear Cheshire does love Lian, but her extremely traumatic childhood has made it so whatever love she has for her child isn't enough to prevent her from doing anything possible to escape being trapped again.

    Fanfiction 
  • In chapter 41 of In Flight, Rin states that this is the case in regards to her Pride as a magus. It won't allow her to be part of anyone's harem or share Shirou with anyone other than Saber. Shirou himself mentions that to humans, love just isn't enough at times. To a distorted Love Freak like Musubi, who believes in the absoluteness of The Power of Love, it causes her great anger and confusion.
  • The Super Fic Dominoes of the Detective Conan fandom acts as a Deconstruction towards the idea of superhero secrecy. Kudo Shinichi is the son of a Batman Expy and his friends and girlfriend are his father's pupils. All deliberately lock him out of the loop, ostensibly to keep him safe, but keeping him out of dangerous situations that definitely involve him is not only clearly damaging in and of itself, but the methods they use to do so are also very damaging to their relationships with him, despite them excusing this as For The Greater Good. When Shinichi inevitably finds out, it isn't the actual secret that hurts Shinichi, but what it confirms about how those he loves actually see him as a person: his girlfriend Ran, for example, was perfectly content in letting The Masquerade isolate Shinichi from any genuine, trust-reciprocating friendships and pressuring Shinichi to give up his dreams of investigating crime because it's "too dangerous" for him, up to and including shaming him for trying to achieve the same privileges and opportunities she enjoys—all for the sake of "keeping him safe." Having any faith or trust in him as a person apparently was never seen as an option, even by those who claimed to love him the most. After finding out their secret identities, Shinichi still gives each of them time and chances to mend bridges through relationship-focused promises, but after years of treating Shinichi as an object to protect rather than an equal to respect and even then not considering him a high priority, they can't break the habit and all fail miserably at upholding their promises to him. Afterwards, despite expressing deep love for Shinichi and a sincere desire to work through their relationship issues, Ran's attempt to finally openly talk things out accidentally reconfirms her condescension towards him as reality, which becomes the final straw; when she tries to explain how she just wanted to keep him safe, Shinichi dumps her.
  • In the fourth and final story of ''The Anguis Series'', Beyond This Place, it is revealed that Cal and Nat had broke up due to the vastly different demands of their careers and lifestyle. Quite an anticlimatic end for a couple who had spent almost the entirety of their relationship proving their love and even sacrificing their freedom and safety for the sake of the other.
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    Film 
  • In Batman Returns, Bruce Wayne mentions that Vicki Vale, his love interest from the previous movie, couldn't handle being Batman's girlfriend.
  • Similarly, in The Dark Knight Trilogy, Rachel doesn't want to deal with the issues of being Bruce's love interest until he's done being Batman.
  • Superman II. At the end of the movie Lois Lane can't handle being Superman's girlfriend and Secret Keeper, so he uses his Super Amnesia power to remove her knowledge of his secret identity and their relationship.
    Lois: I didn't close my eyes all night... Do you know how vile it is to hear the first bird of the morning singing when you've been sitting up all night crying? ...It's sort of like being married to a doctor. The doctor gets wakened in the middle of the night and the wife has to cope with the fact that he's gone... I am selfish when it comes to you, and I'm jealous of the whole world... Don't you know that this is killing me? Do you know what it's like to have you come in here every morning and not be able to talk to you, not be able to show I have any feelings toward you, not be able to tell anyone that I know who you are? I don't even know what to call you!
  • Played with in Iron Man 2:
    Pepper Potts: Oh my God, I can't take this anymore! My body literally cannot handle the stress! I never know if you're going to kill yourself or... or wreck the whole company...! That's it, I quit.
    • This is a "playing with" because, up to this point, Pepper and Tony have only had Unresolved Sexual Tension and are not in a relationship. In fact, this declaration by Pepper is exactly what starts their relationship at the end of the film. Also, Tony doesn't accept her resignation.
    • It's then played straight in Captain America: Civil War when Tony reveals Pepper broke up with him because she couldn't handle his Chronic Hero Syndrome. And then it's subverted in Spider-Man: Homecoming when they seem to be back together with Tony planning on proposing to her.
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the breakup between Anakin and Padme:
    Padme: I don't believe what I'm hearing! Obi-Wan was right... you've changed! You have turned to the dark side! You're not Anakin anymore!
    Anakin: [with a growing angry look and voice] I don't want to hear any more about Obi-Wan. The Jedi turned against me. Don't you turn against me!
    Padme: [crying] Anakin, you're breaking my heart! You're going down a path I cannot follow!
    Anakin: Because of Obi-Wan?
    Padme: Because of what you've done... what you plan to do! Stop! Stop now... come back... I love you!
  • Twister: Melissa breaks up with Bill before he goes chasing after the final tornado because, in her words, "I can't compete with this."
  • Die Hard: John and Holly clearly care about each other, but their marriage is already strained in the first movie. While Die Hard ends with them back together, ultimately their relationship can't survive John's Chronic Hero Syndrome. They're officially separated by movie three and divorced by movie four, adding to John's Knight In Sour Armor bitterness.
  • I Shot Jesse James: Despite going through the emotional wringer by killing his best friend, Robert Ford learns that his girlfriend Cynthy doesn't want to be with him anymore. The main reason is that she's scared of Bob, as well as embarrassed of his reputation as Jesse James's killer.
  • Inverted in The Fly (1986). When Seth reaches the final humanoid stage of his Slow Transformation into an insect-human hybrid creature, he tells his visiting lover Veronica that because of the accompanying Split-Personality Takeover that is replacing his morals and sanity with those of a ruthless insect, she must never see him again because "I'll hurt you if you stay." Even though her willingness to be there for him has already taken a significant psychic toll on her and she is now dealing with the possibility she's carrying his mutant offspring, she breaks down sobbing as she leaves without revealing the latter point as she intended. Sadly, he finds out anyway shortly afterward, and moreover that she doesn't intend to keep it, setting the stage for an even more tragic Downer Ending than might have otherwise been.

    Literature 
  • Alice Adams: The titular Alice Adams pretends to be an incredibly wealthy socialite to court a wealthy suitor that she's hopelessly smitten with. She knows it's only a matter of time before he learns that her father isn't really wealthy, but she hopes that if she puts it off long enough he'll fall for her deeply enough that his love will overcome it. It doesn't.
  • Inverted in the Vorkosigan Saga: Ellie Quinn loves Miles and is perfectly fine with his dangerous life as a mercenary and secret agent; it's the prospect of becoming Lady Vorkosigan and being forced to move to Barryar she can't get past.
  • In Every Day, by David Levithan, love doesn't overcome... sorta. The central premise is that A is a genderless being who wakes up each morning in a different person's body. S/he falls for a girl, Rhiannon, but she ultimately can't deal with the stress and difficulty that comes along with such an existence. Then A realizes that there's a chance s/he could just pick one body and stay in it. Ultimately, though, s/he decides that would be totally unethical, and doesn't return to Rhiannon. It is, as you can imagine, a major tearjerker. In the film adaptation, at least, A convinces Rhiannon to date one of her friends, and the next day said friend compliments her.
  • Alex Delaware's girlfriend, Robin, eventually breaks up with him due to his work with the police and her fears that he's becoming an adrenaline junkie.
  • Victor Henry's wife in Winds of War and War and Remembrance.
  • Dianora has a passage about this in Tigana. She loves Brandin, and she loves her homeland, which he razed. Both of these absolutely break her heart. Try as she might, she can't make herself not love Brandin. And she can't bear to turn her back on Tigana either.
    But Tigana’s ruin lay between the two of them like a chasm in the world. The lesson of her days, Dianora thought, was simply this: that love was not enough. Whatever the songs of the troubadours might say. Whatever hope it might seem to offer, love was simply not enough to bridge the chasm in her world. Which was why she was here, what the riselka’s vision in the garden had offered her: an end to the terrible, bottomless divisions in her heart.

    Live Action TV 
  • Jamie Reagan's girlfriend in Blue Bloods left him because she couldn't stand loving a cop with Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • Early in the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles has a girlfriend named Olivia. At the end of the episode "Hush", after Olivia learns of the existence of demons, she says, "Scary." Giles asks, "Too scary?" and Olivia responds, "I'm not sure." Since we never see her again after that, we can presume that it was indeed too scary for her.
  • Prue's first boyfriend, Andy, from Charmed admits to her that he can't deal with her being a witch and probably wouldn't be able to no matter how much time he had to get used to the idea.
    • Although later when he finds out again, and learns they used a Reset Button to undo him learning before, he says they didn't give him enough time to accept it before pressing said reset button, though by the end of the episode, he changes his mind and decides that he wouldn't have been able to handle it no matter how much time they gave him. Though he continues to love Prue and may have been on his way to accepting it when he sacrifices himself in order to save the sisters.
  • In Psych, Shawn's ex-girlfriend, Abigail, says she can't take the stress of his job anymore after being kidnapped by Mr. Yin.
  • On Warehouse 13, Pete was about to reveal the true nature of his work to Kelly, but having just had a small sample of that dangerous world, she breaks it up with him and leaves. Since Pete is only allowed to tell his secret to a single living person, it's very fortunate that she stops him before he does.
  • Cyborg's girlfriend Katherine in Smallville decides (between episodes) that she can't handle what he's become and so leaves him.
  • Happened to an officer in his probationary period in the background of an early 1967 Dragnet episode. While the speech Sgt. Friday gives upon learning this covers most of the potential reasons that this trope would be invoked, he leaves out the "long nights of waiting" reason which was later covered in the first episode of the 1970 Season.
  • Even reality TV isn't safe from this trope: In The First 48, Miami detective Kevin Ruggerio gets dumped by his fiancee—via "Dear John" phone message—saying she needed someone who put her needs first. Something he couldn't do as a homicide detective.
  • The sixth season of Schitt's Creek has a heartbreaking example when Ted is offered a permanent job in The Galapagos Islands just as Alexis's PR career is taking off. The couple, who overcame much to be together and still love each other deeply, realize that their futures lie apart.
  • Subverted in The X-Files. In the series proper, Mulder tries to get Scully to leave him because she is constantly put in danger because of his quest for the Truth. She refuses. In the reboot, it's revealed that they broke up, not because of his involvement in the supernatural, but because of Mulder's refusal to treat his severe depression. It's implied it wasn't what either of them wanted, but was needed.

    Theatre 
  • The first act of Sunday in the Park with George. Although George Seruat loves his adoring mistress Dot very much, he is too occupied with his masterpiece paiting to pay attention to her. She eventually leaves him with his baby daughter for a more caring partner. Before she leaves, she visits him at the park and fails to tempt him to see his infant daughter. George simply explains to her that the baby will have an attentive father now.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins: A rather tragic case with your companion Zevran and his old partner and lover, Taliesin. Taliesin shows up near the end of the game and tries to convince Zevran to help him kill you so he can return to the Antivan Crows. If your Relationship Values with Zevran are high enough, his lingering feelings for Taliesin aren't enough to convince him to turn on you. Conversely, if you're romancing Zevran but your Relationship Values are too low, then it's his feelings for you that cannot overcome his feelings for Taliesin.
  • Dragon Age II: By the end of the game, Anders' love for Hawke is not enough to prevent his eroding sanity, nor rising mage freedom extremism, nor prevent him using you to blow up the Chantry. Conversely, the player may decide that their love for Anders cannot overcome his betrayal, and opt to execute him, or at least break up with him.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Oh dear. It should be called "Love Cannot Overcome: The Game."
    • Blackwall: After his true identity and past as a war criminal are revealed, the player may decide they can't look past his deception and/or horrific past actions, and opt not to forgive him or take him back. Blackwall himself doesn't expect you to forgive him, either. He comes publicly forward fully expecting you to reject and dump him, and is deeply surprised if you don't.
    • Cassandra: If she is named Divine, her staunch morals prevent her from remaining lovers with the Inquisitor since Divines must be celibate, and she breaks up with you.
    • Cullen: If you convince him to go back to taking lyrium (a highly addictive Fantastic Drug that gives Templars their magic-negating powers at the cost of eventually eroding their sanity) for the sake of his duty, he decides that fraternizing with you would also constitute distracting him from his "duty," and coolly breaks things off.
    • Iron Bull: If you convince him to sacrifice his Chargers to remain loyal to the Qunari, Love Cannot Overcome Qunari "re-education."
    • Sera: Not if you're an elf who is "too elfy," it can't.
    • Solas: Falling in love with a female Lavellan does not prevent him from breaking up with her or pushing her away to carry out his plan of restoring the world of the ancient elves (that he accidentally destroyed) at the cost of reshaping the current world. Even if female Lavellan agrees with his plan, Solas doesn't want you to see what he'll become.
    • Considering all of the above examples, Josephine comes off as a rather delightful subversion. She tries to break up with the Inquisitor because her parents have gotten her engaged to someone else (not realising that she's spoken for), and insists that they cannot be seen to be together until she's spent years formally breaking up the engagement in a diplomatic manner. You can immediately prove that love really does conquer all by fighting her fiance for her hand and making a grand, public declaration of love to her.
  • In Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, this is how Tia eventually bows out, giving her spot in the party to her rival, Selan.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Similar to the comics example above, Two-Face's fiancée, Grace, never really gives up on him, either.
  • Maria Suarez from El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera was unable to see her husband Rodolfo/White Pantera constantly in mortal danger... this is a little strange considering that she herself used to be a superheroine herself, Plata Peligrosa and not exactly of the defensive style on top of that.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Lois Lane breaks up with Bruce Wayne for essentially the same reason Silver St. Cloud did in the comics. Though—as we see in Justice League Unlimited—she doesn't have the same issues in dating Clark/Superman (or has gotten over them).
  • In Batman Beyond, during a conversation about Terry's girlfriend, an elderly Bruce Wayne admits that he had relationships with a lot of women over the years, including known superhero's like Wonder Woman all the way down to Barbra Gordan during her days as Batgirl, before she moved on to follow in her fathers footsteps as a police officer. He explains that all the relationships ended, because the women gave up him, after realizing he would never give up being Batman and settle down with them. He tells Terry this, now that he is Batman as a warning about his own relationship.

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