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Loved I Not Honor More

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It ain't just Amazons that want Hercules.

"I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more."
Richard Lovelace, "To Lucasta, Going to the Wars"

How can The Hero balance his love life with saving the world, especially when Love Hurts and Love Is a Weakness? Some heroes conclude that the only solution is to leave the love life out of the equation and become a Celibate Hero. Others (usually of the reluctant or adolescent variety) take the opposite approach and Always Save the Girl whenever love and heroism conflict. Finally, others Take a Third Option — this trope: love, even marry if you want, be fruitful and multiply, but always put your higher calling first.

Instead of becoming a Celibate Hero, heroes who say "loved I not honor more" enter a committed relationship and accept the strain that their role will put on that relationship. They allow themselves to fall in love, but the romance must take a backseat to duty. They'll dislike having to leave the wife or girl home alone to go save the world, but they won't hesitate (long) to do it. Making a Heroic Sacrifice to save the girl is perfectly acceptable, but turning to the Dark Side isn't. There will be times when the lovers can't spend as much time together as they want, when the girl will get jealous of her non-human rival, and when he will have to make a Sadistic Choice. There will be tears for his safety on her part, guilt on his part for making his beloved suffer, and periods of believing that she would be better off without him. But in the end, she will have to admit that his devotion to a heroic cause is one of the things she loves and admires most about him, and they will have the satisfaction of knowing (but not necessarily making sure their enemies know) that withstanding so much tension and danger, especially with The Lady's Favor as an indicator, makes their love all the stronger.

Many writers, naturally, take a more cynical view of such cases, and are not averse to depicting such heroes as selfish jerks who are not only too weak to handle their burden alone but willing to make others miserable instead of declaring I Want My Beloved to Be Happy. Note that cynical and more optimistic approaches to this trope both sympathize heavily with the girl. And, sorry, Aeneas, but sleeping with the girl and then splitting the morning after to continue The Quest doesn't count; try that, and you're asking for a Woman Scorned.

Classic gender flipped cases usually revolve around the girl being more sensible in a struggle with passion, telling the guy that since it's impossible for them to be together, whether due to an Arranged Marriage or a Virgin Power, they should be practical and accept that instead of sacrificing everything to satisfy their passion. Reason and morality are higher callings than love to her. Modern variants of this trope often cast the hero as a soldier kept away from his/her family by the demands of the service.

The most obvious modern solution to this trope is for The Hero to pick a girl who can be his partner (or who has at least lived that lifestyle, i.e. a soldier marrying another soldier) rather than be forced to sit at home waiting for him, but this wasn't always an option throughout history. Not that many Violently Protective Girlfriends haven't said, "Screw it, I'll go with you anyway!" to that Double Standard, of course.

This trope can be particularly hard on villains who make a Heel–Face Turn while in a committed relationship. They'll have to rely on Love Redeems to get their significant other to understand why he suddenly left her to side with the enemy.

Doesn't overlap with The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life because your significant other has to be in on any masquerade in cases of this trope. May overlap with It's Not You, It's My Enemies but not necessarily, unless the hero leaves his love interest to protect her (then it becomes It's Not You, It's My Enemies); if the hero could recite Lovelace's poem in context, it's this trope (too). Compare Married to the Job and Wet Blanket Wife.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Code Geass: Kallen comes to accept that she loves Lelouch beyond his Zero persona. However, when Lelouch becomes an Evil Overlord, she makes it her personal mission to kill him and end his tyrannous reign. However, although she ends up choosing duty to her people over love in the end, it is interesting to note that Kallen has admitted that if Lelouch had been honest about his feelings for her (i.e. that he sees her as more than a friend), she would have followed him to hell. Lelouch was fully aware of Kallen's Undying Loyalty to him, and thus refused to answer truthfully, if at all, when asked what she means to him, wanting to make sure she got to live on peacefully after the revolution, and not be dragged down by his Zero-Approval Gambit.
  • Fate/Zero: Kiritsugu loves Irisviel deeply, but still puts The Needs of the Many ahead of her. Kiritsugu predicts his actions will eventually result in her death, but she accepts this and wants to help him realize his ideal.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Roy Mustang is very much a Father to His Men, but he and all his subordinates have a mutual understanding that their goal of reforming Amestris' military takes precedence over any of their individual lives. Riza Hawkeye, his subordinate and probable romantic interest, promises to kill him if her were ever to become corrupt. When Riza is taken hostage, Roy (with her approval) prioritizes the mission and refuses to advance Father's plans to save her (though she does end up surviving anyway).
    • King Bradley loves his wife but places his duty as Führer and his service to Father before her without question. When asked if he has a message for her while dying, he responds that she understood his priorities and knew the dangers he faced.
      Bradley: My wife understands. She is the woman that I chose to live by my side. There are no more words that need to pass between us now. That's what it means to be the wife of the Führer.
  • Fushigi Yuugi: A good part of Miaka and Tamahome's conflict comes from this trope and Bodyguard Crush clashing with the fact that she'll have to return to her world once Suzaku is summoned and he'll stay in the Four Gods Universe forever. They get their happy ending anyway.
  • Red River (1995): Since a major theme is people in authority having a duty to serve their people as best they can, it stands to reason that this trope comes up more than once. As the man expected to rule the Hitte Empire one day, Kail has many responsibilities to his country and everyone in it. While Yuri can deal with him not being around for her personally, she does have trouble understanding some of his decisions (for example, him having to calmly ask Nakia about Tito being held captive in her castle, instead of forcing his way in as Yuri wants). Later, this trope applies both ways to Yuri and Kail, as Yuri is named Commander-in-Chief of the military and begins to handle her own set of responsibilities.

    Comic Books 
  • Empowered and Thugboy have a relationship like this after Thugboy's Mook–Face Turn.
  • Pictured above is Marvel Comics' Hercules and his wife Hebe. They have a spat concerning Hercules' abandonment of their home on Olympus as well as his tendency to be unfaithful. Hercules states that Hebe herself is never the problem, but he himself is addicted to heroism, hedonism and adventure. She tells him that this is exactly why she loves him and she doesn't resent him for it, but she only wanted to say that it'd be nice if he came home every once in a while.

    Fan Works 
  • Bait and Switch:
    • The Verse toys with this between Captain Kanril Eleya and Lieutenant Commander Reshek Gaarra. Technically they're not even allowed to be in a relationship because she's his direct superior (he being the operations officer of her ship). Her first officer, Commander Tess Phohl, lets it slide on condition that they put the welfare of the ship and crew first. This gets put to the test in Reality Is Fluid when Gaarra is badly injured and Tess threatens to remove Eleya from command rather than let her leave the bridge during a crisis.
    • In Two Sides of a Coin, Eleya encounters Jerrod Dalton, her ex from the Academy who ran off in the middle of the night to take an assignment. She angrily points out to him that, as he's a science officer and she a space warfare officer, it's unlikely at best they would've gotten assigned to the same post in the first place, so she probably would've accepted this trope and a long-distance relationship as a solution.
  • Cultivating Empathy has Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue's awareness that they need to lead their respective sects instead of indulging into a relationship. They still hold a Metaphorical Marriage and it's made very clear how deeply in love they are.
  • In The Desert Storm, this is discussed as part of the problem the Jedi have with attachment by Ben (a temporally displaced Obi-Wan), as if this mentality is not upheld, then good intentions can turn into Jumping Off the Slippery Slope remarkably quickly. Even when Obi-Wan ends up leading the Order's reforms on marriage, in light of his own marriage to Satine - where they do their best to handle the strain of him being a Jedi Knight, and then one of its youngest Masters, and thus very busy, and her being Jorad'alor a.k.a. Prime Minister of a rebuilding Mandalore, which means that a) she is even busier, b) she has to be a Morality Pet and a Morality Chain to Jango Fett. In the end, the duties of a Jedi must come first, and you can't swear contradictory vows, but that doesn't have to be the only thing in your life.
  • Facing the Future Series: Initially, Danny's ghost-wrangling duties repeatedly ruined his date plans with Sam. Fortunately, she was very understanding about this. Later, she becomes his partner, which seems to solve the issue to some degree.
  • Fate/Reach Out features a Double Subversion when Yosuke decides to keep putting rescuing Kanji aside in order to make time for his girlfriend. Eventually, Shirou catches them together right at the start of the rainy days preceding the deadline, decides enough is enough, and drags Yosuke to the next trip to the TV World
  • Inheritance of Cards and Demons: Rin repeatedly turns down Manabu and Naoko's offers of friendship since he doesn't want to risk either of them getting caught in the crossfire.
  • Origin of a Non-Hero: Toshinori warned Izuku that if he became the next Symbol of Peace, he wouldn't be able to fully commit to having a relationship, much less raising a family. Izuku and Ochaco attempted to prove him wrong, only to find themselves struggling to balance both, which ultimately results in their divorce. Ochaco then gets blasted with bad publicity for "breaking Izuku's heart", and their son Shikinori winds up so utterly miserable that he wants to get his Quirk removed in hopes of that stopping the pressure to follow in their footsteps. Tragically, the disconnect between them is so strong that when Izuku thinks Shikinori actually had his Quirk removed, he intends to give him One For All before Toshinori talks him out of it, even though that would just add to his son's supposed obligations.
  • In Resonance Days, Mami Tomoe would love nothing more than to continue her domestic and happy life with her wife, Charlotte. However, when Mami's old protégé Kyoko needs help saving her sister from the Big Bad, Mami's guilt over having let her and Kyoko's relationship fall apart in the past and fear of losing Kyoko again compels to go with her, even knowing that she will never be able to return to the happy peaceful life she's built. Charlotte is not happy about it and develops a resentment towards Kyoko for it, but knows that doing anything to stop her wife from going would only strain their relationship. So she goes with them as well.
  • Deconstructed by Salvage The Remnants — Shen Qingqiu knew Yue Qingyuan needed to be the Emperor before he could be his lover, but he nonetheless suffered from their ever-growing distance and their relationship ultimately imploded.
  • Double Subverted in "The Silence Ends". The fic starts off with Lieutenant Commander Tyria Sark actually avoiding this trope by having requested shore duty so she could be with her husband and their daughter: in the present day she's a naval history instructor in a Starfleet ROTC program. However, Starfleet requests her to return to field service as first officer of the USS Warsaw, which she accepts after talking it over with her husband. This continues after the Time Skip, at which point she's the captain of the USS Black Prince and hasn't been able to visit Jolin and Sameen in a year and a half.

    Films — Animated 
  • Bruce Wayne expresses his contempt for this trope in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm when he decides he can either marry Andrea Beaumont or become Batman but not both, refusing to go out on his nighttime vigilante missions if there's someone worriedly waiting for him to come home.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Attack of the Clones, Padmé at first says no to Anakin's wooing because she thinks that as a senator and a Jedi knight during a dangerous time for the Republic they would not be able to live with themselves if they betrayed their responsibilities for love. This is especially an issue for Anakin, as the Jedi order requires its members to be celibate to prevent any conflict between feelings and duty. By the film's end they get married in secret and continue to serve the Republic, accepting the strain that this will place on their relationship. In Revenge of the Sith Anakin tries very hard to put his duty first, even when tempted by Palpatine, but at the critical moment he succumbs to Always Save the Girl and turns to The Dark Side as a result of his desperation to save Padmé's life. Tragically, he interprets her subsequent unwillingness to condone his actions as betrayal and kills her in a fit of rage, and when he wakes up as Darth Vader he is overcome with grief that he caused her death through his attempts to prevent it.
  • Bridge of Spies: James Donovan's efforts to defend accused Soviet spy Rudolf Abel puts him and his family at risk of bad publicity and violence. His wife implores him to stop, but he continues, and later attempts the prisoner exchange without telling her because he thinks doing the right thing is what's most important. When she finds out what he did she isn't pleased at first, but ultimately she smiles as if to accept that she loves him precisely because he stands up for what he believes in.
  • The Exception: Subverted. Brandt is caught between his affections for Mieke and his duty to his country, though he chooses her ultimately.
  • Joshua Chamberlain in Gods and Generals. His wife even recites the Lovelace poem to him in its entirety before he enlists, right after he says that he dare not presume to quote it to her.
  • There are shades of this in the beginning of the third of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy movies. Peter and Mary Jane are having a pretty serious discussion about their relationship, when Peter hears of a crime in progress on his police scanner. He looks at Mary Jane and says, almost hopefully, "Go get 'em, Tiger?" She nods, a bit wistfully, and he takes off to go fight crime with nary a backward glance.
  • Katyń: When Anna finds Andrzej in a Soviet POW camp in September 1939, she is carrying civilian clothes. She notes that the guards aren't watching too closely and that he can quickly change and flee. He refuses, saying that he has to stay in uniform due to his honor as a Polish officer. It's a mistake, as he's one of 22,000 Polish officers murdered by the Soviets in the Katyn massacre the following spring.
  • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan plays with the trope somewhat, indicating that both Kirk and Carol were too devoted to their respective careers to think a relationship could work in the long run. That said, Kirk is upset about how this has affected his relationship with his son, David:
    Kirk: I did what you wanted. I stayed away. Why didn't you tell him?
    Carol: How can you ask me that? Were we together? Were we going to be? You had your world and I had mine. And I wanted him in mine, not chasing through the universe with his father. Actually, he's a lot like you. In many ways. Please tell me what you're feeling.
    Kirk: There's a man out there I haven't seen in fifteen years who's trying to kill me. You show me a son that'd be happy to help him. My son... My life that could have been, and wasn't. And what am I feeling? Old. Worn out.
  • Top Gun: Maverick: Just days after swearing to his longtime love Penny Benjamin that he'll never leave her again (their relationship having been on-again, off-again for decades due to his commitment issues), Maverick is put in command of the Airstrike Impossible mission at the center of the plot because he's by far the best person for the job. Penny, the daughter of a Navy admiral, is clearly terrified for his safety but accepts without question that this is something he has to do, and their poignant, wordless goodbye makes it clear that she doesn't consider him to have broken his promise at all and knows full well just how much he loves her. He makes it home to her in the end.

  • The Belgariad: In Polgara the Sorceress, Polgara wants more than anything to stay by the side of her beloved champion, Count Ontrose, and fight for the city (and him) during the fall of Vo Wacune — but as Ontrose himself reminds her, they both have greater responsibilities, and hers aren't to Vo Wacune but to the people of her own Duchy of Erat, which is still at risk but might yet be saved if she leaves him behind and organizes its defense. It nearly kills her to leave him, but she does, and manages to save her duchy. He dies during the siege, but she carries his memory with her for the rest of her life, even after she's married and a mother two thousand years later.
  • Belisarius Series: This is a recurring theme of Belisarius and Antonina's marriage; Antonina customarily spends the morning after Belisarius leaves for a campaign without her in their estate's stables, staring at a horse (but not actually getting on it to ride out after her husband... at least not after the first time).
  • InDagger Eyes, Princess Alanitora rejects her childhood best friend after his Love Confession because she has more important moral dilemmas to deal with, most notably the fact that her kingdom is in danger of collapse. When he fights her against this, she goes so far as to abandon him in the woods, before leaving with the rest of her traveling party.
  • Discworld:
    • Captain Carrot has shades of this in his relationship with Angua. Not that Angua is lacking ways to protect herself. And as a fellow police officer herself, she's involved with the same things that Carrot is. But he demonstrates the trope whenever a conflict between his relationship and his duties as a policeman does arise:
      Vimes: He killed Angua. Doesn't that mean anything to you?
      Carrot: Yes. But personal isn't the same as important.
    • Commander Samuel Vimes, Carrot's commanding officer, generally abides by this trope. Not even his wedding ceremony is spared when he chases after a criminal who comes across his vision mid-ceremony. The only break to this trope is when it comes to his son Samuel Jr. and reading the boy his favorite book at 6 o'clock each night. Nothing will stop him. Even Carrot will reroute traffic so Sam's coach can reach young Sam by the appropriate time, resulting in a massive delay in traffic on the detour. Even when Commander Vimes is miles away and fighting against an abomination of vengeance that is driving him mad and to kill unarmed villains he starts reciting the book by memory, bellowing at the top of his lungs. Interestingly, his crying son seems to hear him.
    • Death, the anthropomorphic representation of that state of existence, has a daughter by adoption he cares for in his own way, and by his daughter a granddaughter named Susan. However, his duties as Death sometimes conflict with his mortal loved ones.
      • When it came for his daughter and her husband to die, he didn't forgo his job, and escorted them into what comes next, for he cannot give more time to people. The only choice he gave them was to spend their moments before dying in his time-less realm allowing them to live for as long as they desire.
      • In the Thief of Time when some mortal is setting off events that will lead to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding out causes conflict with his granddaughter who doesn't want the world to end. While he doesn't like the idea of the Apocalypse happening, he must follow his Duty and over the course of the book, finds his fellow Horsemen to complete their Duty as well. And when they are gathered together, the do ride out to protect the world from the oncoming Apocalypse because the prophecy said nothing of which side they would need to support.
      • War, one of Death's fellow Horsemen, in Thief of Time, is revealed to be a Henpecked Husband by his Valkyrie wife. However, when the times comes, he finds himself, placed his helmet upon his head and joins the Horsemen to their Duty, impressing her, making his wife blush a little, and reminding her of who her husband used to be.
  • In The Dresden Files:
    • Michael Carpenter is a modern day Paladin who wields a real holy sword Amoracchius. note  And he will take missions from God that take him away from his wife and seven children. He doesn't always like it, but has faith in God's plans. So he always puts God first. This no longer applies at the end of Small Favor when he is retired by being crippled to the point he can no longer carry the sword.
    • The elder Queens of the Unseelie Court, Queen Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, and her mother, Mother Winter, embody this idea. Both have a caring side, a loving side even. Mab genuinely loves her daughter Maeve, the Winter Lady, but the duties she holds as Queen, and Mother Winter in her own, take precedence. Mab will complete her duties, even if she must die herself or sacrifice 10,000,000 soldiers. If she is needed, her job as Queen takes first priority. Her job? Besides ruling over a kingdom of cutthroat psychotic murderers and monsters is defending the gates of Reality itself, to prevent the cessation of all Existence. And when Mab discovers her own daughter has become a willing agent of the forces she fights, she is unable to truly commit to her duties, prolonging Maeve's life and freedom when it is clear she must be stopped. For this reason, Mother Winter calls Mab a romantic.
    • In Skin Game Waldo Butters takes up this role. He made a choice to help protect a friend's house while the friend was away. The Bad guys are attacking and the hero realizes he won't be able to stop them from killing his friend's family and burning the house to kill all inside. So, he makes a choice and chooses to sacrifice himself in hopes of buying time for help to get there. He tells his spirit ally to depart after a few minutes, to return to his primary base, where the woman he loves is waiting, and tell the woman what happened and that he loves her.
  • Discussed by C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves.
  • Gone with the Wind: Rhett himself quotes this just before he leaves Scarlett, Melanie, the two children, and Prissy, to finally (and belatedly) join the war against the Yankees.
  • A standing issue in the Heralds of Valdemar series, since the average Herald doesn't live long enough to die of old age. Many Heralds, for this reason, never settle down with a single partner (though all viewpoint characters do, of course) and many minor Heralds instead go for promiscuity and short-term liaisons; it's also mentioned that people who married before being called to become Heralds often find their marriage suffering as a result. On the other hand, many Heralds do manage to form lasting relationships with other Heralds or with non-combatants, and simply accept that their duties are likely to often separate them from their lover and that they will probably die first.
    • Healers suffer a milder variation of this. A Healer has a calling, and so will often have to drop everything to solve an emergency or be assigned somewhere on a moment's notice, which tends to put a cramp on alone time with her spouse. Probably for this reason, there are actually a few Healer-Herald couples in the series which work out well.
    • It's addressed directly in Magic's Pawn when Tylendel and Vanyel discuss their future. It seems that when Tylendel becomes a full-on Herald Mage, his passion for justice ("the hunger," other characters call it) and for using his powers to help others will cause him to put his calling as a Herald first and foremost. Vanyel is willing to accept that, even though (at the time) he doesn't understand it. Unfortunately, they never get that far, as shortly after this discussion, Tylendel's twin brother is assassinated, causing him to go mad.
  • From the Honor Harrington novels come Eloise Pritchart and Javier Giscard. He's an admiral in the People's Republic of Haven's Navy, and she is the People's Commissioner assigned to watch him. Entirely unexpectedly, they mutually discovered that they were both dedicated to the long-dead original Constitution of the Republic of Haven, and subsequently fell in love with each other. Despite the risk of a traitor's execution if they were found out, they hid their relationship from State Sec for years, until they finally became part of the coup that overthrew the Committee and restored the true Republic. She then became Haven's first genuinely elected President in two centuries, while he was the military's highest-ranking serving officer. All throughout their relationship, both unflinchingly accept that their duty to cause and country must come first, which only serves to make the moments where they can be together all the more poignant.
    • Eloise forgives Honor for killing Javier at the Battle of Lovat, in order to forge a lasting peace between the Republic and Manticore and allow them to ally with each other against their real enemies, the Solarian League and its puppetmasters in the Mesan Alignment.
  • Jane Eyre: Once Jane learns about the Madwoman in the Attic, she refuses to sacrifice her morals and live with Mr. Rochester as his mistress if they can't get married.
  • In The Mill on the Floss Maggie Tulliver refuses to marry Stephen Guest even though they are mutually in love and he has ruined her reputation by spending the night with her (no sex!), because he is already engaged to her cousin who loves him deeply.
  • Nightside: Invoked in A Hard Day's Knight, complete with the Trope Namer quotation.
  • In later books of The Old Kingdom, it seems that Sabriel and Touchstone, as Abhorsen and hands-on King, have constantly put their callings above their marriage and their duties to their children (although they can always slay Dead together). The first book showed in lavish detail what happens when the Abhorsen and King are not active in the Kingdom, so they're not shown as being selfish or mean — it's just a bad situation. Sabriel does look forward to her son Sam taking on the mantle of Abhorsen-in-Waiting, as that means they'll get to spend time together.
    • Sabriel's own father, Terciel, sent his daughter to a boarding school in another country/world/dimension (not really clear) because he couldn't afford to put his Abhorsen duties on hold enough to raise a child. Also the Clayr told him to.
  • RCN: In Death's Bright Day, Daniel is recruited for a covert mission at his own wedding reception, and has to leave for the mission from the end of his honeymoon. His new bride Miranda talks about it some in the first third of the book: it's far from the first time during their relationship that they've been apart due to Daniel's naval career, but she laments that it will probably always be like this for them.
  • Saint George and the Dragon: The brave knight tells the king that he can't stay because he has sworn to give knight's service to the Fairy Queen for six years. He marries Una, but still rides away to fulfill his oath at the end. It says he came back later to be with her and rule after the king.
  • This issue comes up frequently in The Scarlet Pimpernel sequels, with Sir Percy even quoting Lovelace's poem a few times. Sir Percy's "loved I not honor more" philosophy is pitted against his brother-in-law Armand's Always Save the Girl philosophy in Eldorado, which also reveals just how much Percy hates himself for the pain he causes his wife Marguerite.
  • Explicitly discussed twice in The Sharing Knife: Legacy. Early in the book as Dag's quasi-estranged mother Cumbia tries to drive off her Farmer daughter-in-law Fawn she points out that once a Patroller has seen a Malice they will hunt them until crippled or dead because they either prioritize that quest over love for any living person or feel they must defend those they love beyond all sense from the greatest threat they can imagine. Towards the end, after Fawn sees what a Malice did to the Farmer hamlet of Greenspring and learns of an effort to force Dag to repudiate her on pain of expulsion from the Patrol or outright banishment, tells Dag of the prior conversation and admits she would be willing (if not by any means happy) to stand aside if he were forced to make such a choice.
    "To keep you, there's a lot of things I'd fight tooth and toenail. Your kin, my kin, another woman, sickness, farmer stupidity, you name it. Can't fight Greenspring. Won't."
  • The Star Wars Legends continuity likes this one.
    • Before Exar Kun's War, which marked the rise of numerous competing force philosophies, this was the policy for Jedi. The Force and the Order would always come first, but marriage and family were not forbidden. Shortly after Exar Kun's defeat, the Order made their rules stricter to avoid the dangers of the other philosophies. After Luke Skywalker took charge, this policy was reinstated… then again, do you want to be the guy telling Han Solo "I forbid you from marrying my sister?"
    • Also applies to Han and Leia. In the The Thrawn Trilogy, Han reflects that as much as he hates seeing Leia go into danger without him, her determination to risk her life in the service of a good cause is a big part of why he loves her. And Leia several times thinks something very similar, though she has to suppress a tinge of protectiveness towards Han that's strikingly reminiscent of her father towards her mother.
    • In Vision of the Future, Luke becomes part of a Battle Couple with Mara; they are wed in Star Wars: Union. The short story "Judge's Call" makes it clear that both of them put the Jedi first - but Luke is entirely willing to put non-emergency things aside to make time for just them together.
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Helen breaks up with Gilbert after the two of them finally make their mutual Anguished Declaration of Love because she's still technically married to an abusive alcoholic.
  • Redcrosse and Artegall in Books 1 and 5 of The Faerie Queene get engaged to Una and Britomart, respectively, and then reluctantly leave them to carry out their knightly missions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The 100 Commander Lexa's duty to her people comes above everything else, even what's best for the person she loves and personal desire for vengeance.
  • Andor: In "Narkina 5" Cinta says she loves Vel but makes it clear to her that the Rebellion will always come first, parting from her after they just reunited for pursuing a lead on Cassian. Vel is seen sadly leaving on her own.
  • Angel's season 4 episode "Habeas Corpses" has Wesley using this as an excuse to break up with Lilah Morgan. She isn't convinced.
  • Delenn talking to Sheridan in Babylon 5 "Lines of Communication":
    "John, it pleases me that you care for what I have become... but never forget who I was... what I am and what I can do."
  • One episode of Blue Bloods has Frank's deceased minister being evaluated for possible canonization. Frank discovers that Reverend Bill was secretly in a romantic relationship with a woman, but as far as anyone can tell the relationship was never consummated (Catholic priests are required to be celibate). Frank eventually concludes that "the church could do a lot worse than Saint Bill from Brooklyn."
  • Chuck plays around with this a fair bit, at least for the main romance. Sarah deals exclusively in this until she doesn't; Chuck, while on the receiving end until Prague, has been known to reluctantly take the high road.
  • Recurs in Criminal Minds:
    • Gideon, Rossi, and Hotch all had serious relationship problems (up to and including divorce) due to the men's need to put the job before the relationship.
    • Morgan apparently found himself in the same situation several times off-screen, as JJ is able to identify when his relationship with Savannah has reached the point where he has to decide between putting actual effort into the relationship and blindly prioritizing the BAU. He's able to work things out with Savannah because, as Garcia points out, Savannah also loves honor more in her job as a doctor. Morgan and Savannah are both willing to drop everything for the sake of their work, so they're more understanding of the situation.
    • JJ herself faced the problem in her relationship with Will. He's likewise understanding, thanks to being in law enforcement himself, only occasionally complaining about her need to constantly travel.
  • Doctor Who zigzags around this with regards to Clara Oswald and Danny Pink. She is tries to maintain a relationship with Danny while adventuring with the Doctor. Danny is reluctant to go along with this, but allows it for a time until the Doctor forces Clara into a Sadistic Choice scenario and she decides to, for want of a better term, "break up" with the Doctor. Unknown to Danny, however, Clara's "higher calling" - or addiction, as she calls it - wins out and, coupled with the establishment of an off-kilter Love Triangle with the Doctor, she continues to adventure with the Doctor in secret, with Danny unaware of this. It does not end well.
  • Genderflipped on Firefly. Wash is the one who’s happy to stay with the ship. He’d be happy to settle down and have less danger in life, but he knows flying with Mal and getting into danger is who Zoe is and he’s willing to accept it to be with her.
  • Inspector Lynley's instincts where his partner-slash-Not Love Interest Barbara Havers is concerned generally trend toward Always Save the Girl; however, he trusts her so absolutely that, although he goes a bit to pieces whenever she's threatened, he follows this trope anyway - partly because he's just that honorable, and partly because if he didn't, he knows full well that she'd give him a tongue-lashing he'd never forget.
  • Lampshaded by Brian Cassidy in Season 1 of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    Brian Cassidy: As long as you have this job, your marriage will only be an affair.
  • In the NCIS episode "Power Down" a USO officer (and spy) is kidnapped and forced to work for enemy agents. She resists and is killed in a place where she knows her body will be found and investigated. Gibbs addresses her bereaved husband thus:
    Husband: Emma had to do it, right? She didn't have a choice.
    Gibbs: No, she had a choice. That's what makes her a hero.
    Husband: A hero...
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, Kirk, while under the influence of the Polywater, talks about how life as a starship captain can be an extreme form of this trope:
    Kirk: This vessel, I give, she takes. She won't permit me my life. I've got to live hers.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the relationship between Miles and Keiko O'Brien is often strained by the demands of Miles' position as the seniormost enlisted man aboard Deep Space 9, but the two stay together. It helps somewhat that Keiko is accustomed to the rigours of life in the fleet (although she's a civilian, they met in Star Trek: The Next Generation when she was a botanist in the Enterprise's science department).
  • Subverted in Supernatural Dean and Lisa make a real go of this. Even after she finds out about just how dangerous the Hunter's life is she still chooses to stand by him. However, being as this is Supernatural, it doesn't end well. His work, as well as his extreme devotion to Sam puts a serious strain on their relationship, as well as the emotional state of Ben who has at this point come to see Dean as a father. It comes to a head at the end of Season 6 where Demons kidnap the two of them and nearly kill Lisa. Rather than put them to any further risk, Dean decides to have Castiel wipe their memories of his existence to protect them, and allow them to move on.

  • The theme appears in the Scottish folk tune Farewell To Lochaber. In a variation, the singer claims to go to war to earn honour, so that he can become worthy of the woman he loves.
    The glory, my Jeannie,
    Maun plead my excuse
    Since honour commands me, how can I refuse
    Without it I ne'er can have merit for thee
    And losing thy favour I'd better not be

  • Racine's Bérénice and Corneille's Tite et Bérénice dramatize the same historical incident: the new Roman emperor Titus must renounce his love for the Judaean princess Berenice to satisfy the Roman people's disapproval of her, and for the good of Rome.
  • Don José tries to do this in Act II of Carmen, resolving to leave the titular gypsy rather than desert the army as she demands. Unfortunately, just as he's about to walk out, his commander Lt. Zuniga walks in to have his own way with Carmen - José attacks him, leaving himself with no choice but to run away with Carmen after all.
  • In Critics Choice, Parker quotes the Trope Namer word for word in the part of The Grovel where he tells Angela that he will never again entertain the possibility of softening his Caustic Criticism to please her.
  • In the climax of The Crucible, when John Proctor chooses death over a false confession that would damn his friends, the Court (and reverend Hale from more benevolent if misguided motives) try to convince his wife Elizabeth that she would convince him to confess and save his life if she really loved him. Elizabeth instead realizes that, as much as she loves her husband and wants him alive with her, she can't ask him to do such a thing (save his life at the cost of his honor).
    Elizabeth: He have his goodness now — God forbid I take it from him.
  • The musical version of Les Misérables gives this trope to Marius. Forced to choose between following his beloved Cosette out of France and staying to join his revolutionary friends in their fight for freedom, he chooses the latter. The revolution fails, but thanks to Jean Valjean's heroism, Marius survives and marries Cosette after all. (This trope isn't present at this point in the novel, where Marius thinks he's already lost Cosette forever and goes to the barricade because he wants to die.)

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate II: Keldorn is in this kind of relationship. He is married, and has two daughters, but his duties as a paladin takes precedence. In his personal quest, though, this trope can end up being deconstructed. He finds out that, in his long absences, his wife has been having an affair with another man. His honor and the tenets of his religion demand that he take them to court, which will end in his wife being imprisoned and the lover executed. You can encourage him to go this route. Fortunately, Keldorn himself is more than happy to find another solution.
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade: Dorcas and his wife Natalie. It helps that their relationship doubles as Childhood Friend Romance, so she knows him very well. Not to mention, he joins Lyndis's and later Eliwood/Hector's Badass Crew is to gather money for Natalie's medicines, and he turns down an offer from Oswin to join the very famous Ostian Knights that he leads, since he only fights for Natalie.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Kairi is more precious to Sora than his own life, but three times he has been compelled by the call to leave her. To be fair she's directly in the crosshairs of the villains most of the time so trying to protect her is one of his reasons for going.
  • Lampshaded in The King of Fighters XIII. If you play as NESTS!Kyo and pit him against Athena Asamiya, their pre-fight talk has her telling him that he shouldn't push himself too far in his quests since his loved ones understand what's going on and they're waiting for him. Kyo correctly guesses that said mini Rousing Speech is actually a message from his girlfriend Yuki, whom Athena is friends with.
    • Also, when NESTS!Kyo is pitted against Flames!Iori, when Iori swears to kill Kyo (again), Kyo's reply amounts to "Nope! I have a date with Yuki next week and you're not gonna stop me!"
  • Pillars of Eternity has the player's boreal dwarf teammate Sagani, who had to leave her husband and their three children at home to go on a traditional quest to locate a village elder's reincarnation. When the Watcher meets her she's been away from the village for five years and complains that her youngest probably won't even know her when she finally returns home.
  • Quest for Glory III delves into the backstory of the Liontaur Paladin, Rakeesh Sah Tarna, happily married to his wife Kreesha, a respected wizard. Rakeesh used to be King of Tarna, before his land was attacked by demons, and he had to turn to paladinhood to obtain the power to defeat them. Once a Paladin, he was honor bound to fight evil wherever it would appear, leading to him leaving his throne in favor of his younger brother, and becoming a Knight Errant. Kreesha explains to the Hero the hardships of being life-mate to a Paladin, as Rakeesh seldom comes home, but she sends him off proudly, knowing his fight is for the greater good of the world.
  • Samurai Shodown: Haohmaru cares for his girlfriend Oshizu, but both of them know what fighting is his priority.
  • Kilik from the Soul Series, to a degree. Confirmed when we learn that one of Xianghua's two children, Xiba, is not just his succesor — but his son. But they didn't last.
  • Several of the participants in the Street Fighter tournament are either married or have girlfriends, and they're more or less able to balance their private lives and their love of fighting. Guile has his wife Jane (or Julia) and their daughter Amy (or Chris), his brother-in-law Ken has Eliza and their little son Mel, Hakan has a cute and petite wife and seven little girls whom he adores, Guy has his fiancèe Rena, Dhalsim has Sari and their son Datta, Rufus has his girlfriend Candy, etc..
    • Averted with Ryu. He knows that Gouken's daughter likes him a lot and it's hinted that Sakura may have a full-blown crush on him... but he feels that he can't return the first's love due to his love for fighting, and doesn't seem to be even aware of the second's (possible) feelings.


    Web Original 
  • Depending on the situation, various sporkers at Das Sporking argue in favor of this trope, often seeing characters who complain that their loved ones ignore them in favor of important matters to be whiny and self-centered. In the Eclipse sporking, for example, Mervin points out that by demanding that Jacob and Edward stay with her instead of fighting the newborn vampire army, Bella puts the lives of herself and everyone else in the fight (and surrounding area, for that matter) at risk, since it means their defense is now short two good fighters.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko faces the asymmetrical Heel–Face Turn complications in regards to his Victorious Childhood Friend, Mai.
    Mai: All I get is a letter? You could have at least looked me in the eye when you ripped out my heart.
    ... ... ...
    Zuko: STOP! This isn't about you! This is about the Fire Nation!
    Mai: Thanks, Zuko, that makes me feel all better.
    Zuko: Mai, I never wanted to hurt you, but I have to do this to save my country.
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold Plastic Man is married to Ramona, a woman with a fairly abusive attitude. One of the episodes, "Long Arm of the Law!", even focuses on his difficulties in reconciling his family life with crime-fighting. The episode incorporates nearly all the tropes associated with Loved I Not Honor More - eventually his family is put in great danger as a result of his past involvement with a criminal group and he makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save his family. Obviously, a way to reverse it is later found - this is Brave And The Bold we're talking about. Different in that it sympathizes more with Plas than Ramona, and Ramona doesn't take her husband's heroic commitment to bringing justice very seriously, mocking him quite a few times onscreen. On the other hand, her attitude is somewhat justifiable - Plas can be rather ineffectual and irresponsible.
  • Number 1 abides by this philosophy on Codename: Kids Next Door, but his girlfriend Lizzie eventually has enough and breaks up with him in "Operation G.I.R.L.F.R.I.E.N.D."
    Lizzie: I'm tired of competing with the Kids Next Door.
    • Of course, this all turns out to be an elaborate ruse. Turns out Lizzie is actually a member of the Galactic Kids Next Door with the implications that her pretending to be his girlfriend was part of an elaborate test regarding his loyalty. Ironically, while Nigel passes, Lizzie would end up turning against the GKND due to their inane ambitions.
  • Invoked on Hey Arnold!Helga's sister Olga is set to get married, but Helga discovers the fiancé just wants to inherit their family business. While she's at first perfectly fine letting Olga throw her life away for a man who doesn't love her, she eventually threatens to expose the man unless he leaves her at the altar, forging a note that claims he left to help solve a crisis in Namibia.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998) actually Gender Flips the male version of this trope in the episode "Superfriends," when the girls' Part-Time Hero work puts a strain on their friendship with their new neighbor Robyn. Their conversation at the end of the episode illustrates the trope almost better than Lovelace's poem:
    Bubbles: Hey, Robyn, we're sorry...
    Buttercup: ... we left you behind all the time.
    Blossom: It was never because we didn't like you, it's just...
    Robyn: (happily) I know — that's your job.
  • Gender flipped in Star Wars Rebels with Hera Syndulla. She loves Kanan but won't allow herself to become too attached to him because she's fighting a war and might need to sacrifice him one day. Kanan grew to understand this and while they clearly love each other both have accepted that their own responsibilities take precedence over each other. When he does die, however, this exact attitude causes her to be filled with regret over not having used the time together better, especially since their next to last meeting was them having a more serious conversation about what they were going to do after the war ended.
  • This is definitely at play in ThunderCats (2011) reboot. Tygra grows jealous over the course of the first thirteen episodes by Cheetara's constant attention with Lion-O. She holds his hand, grasps his shoulder and even kisses him on the cheek. Tygra assumes he's already lost his chance with her and it makes him even angrier at his younger brother... It turns out this was a case of this trope however: Cheetara, as a member of Thundera's cleric order, is tasked with guarding and advising the latest King, who is Lion-O. She reveals that she's been in love with Tygra all along but never said anything and instead was merely doing her duty when it came to the young King.
  • This shows up in, of all places, the 1960s cartoon Underdog. In the episode "The Witch of Pickyoon", Underdog meets a witch who will only wake his love interest from an eternal sleep if he helps her Take Over the World. Proving himself to be smarter than Anakin Skywalker, he flat out refuses (before accidentally saving the girl anyway with a True Love's Kiss).

    Real Life 
  • Too many military families to list, but Sullivan Ballou gets a special mention:
    Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
    • It is worth noting that divorce and infidelity are both major problems in the armed forces, and have been for such a long time that many cadences, the songs American troops sing while marching and running in formation to keep time, reference Jody, a hypothetical man back home who is spending time with their loved ones while they are away. To the point where the songs themselves are also known as "Jodies."
  • Firefighters, paramedics, and police are also subject to this; the strain their profession puts on relationships is known to cause a significantly higher rate of divorce.
  • While Latin Rite Catholic priests are famously celibate, most Eastern Rite Catholic priests are married. However, administering the Last Rites to someone takes priority over all familial duties. Given the choice between tending to his sick baby and answering an emergency call to the hospital, he'll be on his way to the hospital.

Alternative Title(s): Loved I Not Honour More, Duty Before Love