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Make Up or Break Up

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"Break up to make up
That's all we do
First you love me
Then you hate me
That's a game for fools."
— The Stylistics, "Break up to make up"

There are probably only so many things a story can examine about a romantic relationship. This is one of the big ones.

For two characters, Will They or Won't They? has gone by, and they've become a couple. Now, something — infidelity, voting for the wrong political party, or even slurping soup in a really irritating way — has happened and one party has to decide if they can bear it for all time.

The cause of the breach is presented here as both serious and silly (Because, brother, that soup thing is just nasty!), to highlight that the instigation is not the thing. The story will examine how the offended party comes to grips with it. Sometimes the decision will come down on the Make Up side, and sometimes it will not.

Also see Feud Episode. Frequently used to reassert Status Quo Is God, or as a way to Retcon a relationship (in that case, they will not only break up, but the relationship will quickly be forgotten as if it never happened.) Compare Toilet Seat Divorce.


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     Anime & Manga  

  • Happens in the first episode of Charlotte to Yu and Yumi. He is forced to transfer to Hoshinoumi Academy, which is really far away from her school. He is also unable to visit her without supervision, and she's unwilling to constantly visit him lest she seem like a stalker. As a result, she feels it's best to cut their losses there, though he doesn't take it too well, and has the same shocked look on his face after going home.

    Fan Works 
  • What It Takes: Oliver/Felicity does not end well in this story. They begin the story seemingly happy in Bali, but after Oliver starts getting homesick, their relationship begins falling apart, as Felicity refuses to go back to Starling or let Oliver go back himself. When Oliver finds out that Felicity has been keeping him Locked Out of the Loop in regards to what's happening in Starling, you can pinpoint the exact moment whatever feelings he had for her die, and they subsequently break up because Felicity refuses to admit her actions were wrong and implicitly claims that in order for the relationship to work, he needs to always put her first. In the final chapter, they have one last video chat, where Oliver apologizes for leading Felicity on and making her believe he was in love with her, but also refuses to absolve her for her actions in keeping him in the dark, making Felicity more than happy to wash her hands of him for not letting her get the last word in. In return, after confirming Felicity is safe and not in danger, Oliver is perfectly content to forget that she was ever a part of his life, being more interested in looking forward to his happy future with Laurel.

     Live Action TV  

  • Scrubs is fond of this trope, with Dr. Cox and Jordan, as well as Turk and Carla, and possibly JD and Elliot as examples.
  • Seinfeld had fun with Elaine and David Puddy, as well as George with Susan.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Lily and Marshall at the end of season 1.
    • Happens to Ted and his paramours as well.
  • Bones: Angela and Hodgins during season 4. Back to Will They or Won't They? for a bit, before getting married and having a kid.
    • With the longstanding UST between Booth and Bones finally resolved (also with a kid, from their first time together no less), they have shifted to this trope when they need some conflict between the main pair.
      • It's even invoked by the recurring villain intentionally in the season 8 finale. After Bones proposes to Booth, the villain (who can't stand not being the focus of their attention, forces Booth to turn her down by threatening to murder random civilians if he doesn't (and he can't tell anyone why either). The two are still together, but after finally letting down her last wall and getting rejected, Bones is obviously crushed
  • Friends: Ross and Rachel.
  • Cody and Bailey of The Suite Life on Deck didn't so much end their relationship as put it out of its misery.
  • Naomily's story for 75% of the fourth season of Skins.
  • On Boy Meets World, every couple in the show, except for Happily Married Alan and Amy, go through this arc, often more than once.


  • Examined in several ABBA songs. One man, one woman ends in makeup, while When all is said and done is on the breakup side.

    Web Comic  

  • In Questionable Content, Marten and Dora's relationship is eventually ended because of Dora's constant insecurities, which by that point had already resulted in numerous petty arguments.

    Video Games 
  • In Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Bentley discovers that Penelope has been working with the villain behind his back for money as well as trying to force him into villainy for her goals of world domination, and makes it clear that he's not going to abandon his friends for her, and tries to convince her to rejoin the people who love her instead of some egotist who's just using her to get Sir Galleth's cane. She rejects Bentley, preferring to remain a villain because of her sociopathy, and they break up on negative terms.

    Web Original  

  • In Tales of MU, four of the main characters are in a polyamourous relationship, with the lead character Mack and the lone man, Ian, considering themselves a couple. However, the various shenanigans Mack finds herself getting into (both of a carnal nature and not) take an increasing toll on Ian, and it comes to a head after Mack and the elven "queen" Glory sleep together, a situation no one else in their group was pleased about possibly happening. They don't completely break up, but Ian does give Mack the "I need some space so I can figure things out" decision.

     Western Animation  

  • This happens more or less once per season between Marge and Homer on The Simpsons.