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Offscreen Breakup

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Last time we saw Alice and Bob, they were dating. Things seemed to be going fine, and they're happily in love. Now we see Bob flirting with Carol. Someone brings up the fact that he was dating Alice, and Bob will respond with "We broke up", or "Things didn't work out".

This is more than a little jarring because it is just freeing up Bob to be in a new relationship (or to be single), without actually showing how the last one ended, or even to repeat the romantic subplot with Alice if she's in the sequel too. Often done to prevent Shipping Bed Death, or because the writers simply don't want to deal with writing out the mundaneness of an actual relationship.

Compare to Downtime Downgrade. Subtrope of Status Quo Is God. A direct inversion to Offscreen Romance. See also Proxy Breakup.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Blue Seed: Koume Sawaguchi and Yoshiki Yaegashi break up between the end of the series and the 2-year OAV Time Skip. When prompted by Momiji as to why, Koume explains that she panicked when she and Yaegashi began talking about getting married and having kids and broke things off. Momiji tells Koume that she shouldn't worry if they love each other and at the end of the second episode of the OAV Koume agrees to marry Yaegashi.
  • The second season of Da Capo subverts this: The protagonist of the first season is constantly minded by his haremettes and there are hints that his first season love interest either broke up with him or died... Only it turns out she just moved away for a bit and comes back at around the halfway point of the series.
  • Bulma and Yamcha broke up between the Freeza and Cell Sagas in Dragon Ball, clearing the road for Bulma's relationship with Vegeta.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Dearka Elsman and Miriallia Haww seem to be headed vaguely in the direction of becoming a couple, and apparently do so following the end of the series - only to have broken up before the beginning of sequel series Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny.
  • Osaragi from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War casually reveals in chapter 158 that she broke up with Kazeno over winter break after less than a week of dating. The whole thing is Played for Laughs since they originally hooked up offscreen as well.
  • In the final episode of Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Hazumu and Yasuna begin dating. Come the OVA and suddenly they're broken up for some vague reason involving Yasuna wanting to not lean on Hazumu anymore. The real, meta reason is because the OVA pairs up Hazumu and Tomari.
  • Touko from Random Walk starts dating Tsukasa offscreen. Not long afterwards, she announces to her friends that they've broken up, and this also happens offscreen. They get back together, break up, and get back together again. All of them offscreen.
  • This occurs in the television version of Wandering Son. Anna and Nitori break up between episodes because the televised version was shortened. In the home release, the break-up happens on-screen in a flashback. In the manga the two end up back together a while later.

    Comic Books 
  • O5 Angel and X-23 dated for awhile, but eventually it turned into Schrödinger's Relationship. After the end of All-New X-Men Vol. 2 and the conclusion of the "Enemy of the State II" arc of All-New Wolverine they haven't appeared in a book together, yet no mention of their relationship status has been made in either X-Men: Blue or subsequent issues of Wolverine. Although Warren has hit on a number of women (including a cop and Firestar) in Blue, suggesting they may be over. Tamaki's X-23 series further supports a breakup in the first arc when Laura remarks she and Warren haven't seen one another recently. Ultimately it's rendered moot when Warren returns to his own time, and he and Laura don't even say goodbye.

    Fan Works 
  • In the fourth "book" of The Anguis Series, "Beyond This Place", it is revealed that Cal and Nat has broken up due to their differing priorities and lifestyle, despite the previous book highlighting their love and dedication towards one another, to the point that they are willing to sacrifice everything else to protect the other.
  • Sokka and Suki in How I Became Yours. Early on, Sokka compares the way Katara feels about Zuko to the way he used to feel about Suki. At the party in Chapter 2, Ty Lee mentions in passing that it's a shame they broke up, and Katara mentions that "long distance relationships never work out."
    • In fact, most post-series ATLA shipping fanfics that have Sokka starting a relationship with another character have Sokka and Suki brake up prior to the start of the story. Always because of the long-distance issue as well, with some adding Suki cheating on him on top of that in fics where their relationship is no longer amicable.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hilariously subverted in the Austin Powers series, where Austin and love interest Vanessa get married in the first movie. At the beginning of the second movie, Vanessa is revealed to be a kamikaze exploding fembot sent by Dr. Evil, thus making room for Felicity Shagwell.
  • Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale between Batman (1989) and Batman Returns. The former alludes that she couldn't handle his double life as Batman.
  • In Captain America: Civil War, it's revealed Tony Stark and Pepper Potts have broken up. Inverted in Spider-Man: Homecoming, when a scene at the end reveals that Tony and Pepper got back together off-screen.
  • In the Die Hard series, John McClane makes up with his estranged wife Holly in the first film, but they're separated again in the third and divorced by the fourth.
  • In The Guilty, Asger and Patricia split up before the events of the movie, presumably due to his killing of a young man in the line of duty and the upcoming trial. His colleagues don't know yet, and end up unknowingly rubbing salt in the wound.
  • Indiana Jones: Indy and Marion between Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade.
  • At the end of Inspector Gadget (1999), Gadget has hooked up with scientist Brenda. When Inspector Gadget 2 rolls around, not only is the Inspector single again, but a new scientist called Baxter takes Brenda's techie role, and a new love interest in the form of G2 appears. An early animatic has Gadgetmobile mentioning that they broke up.
  • James Bond. All part of the formula.
  • The Karate Kid Part II used this to explain the disappearance of the first film's love interest character. It was even in a needlessly cruel way; not only did she unceremoniously dump him, but she wrecked his car. Cobra Kai would eventually Retcon this when Ali herself returns, and reminds Daniel that he caused their breakup over a misunderstanding and he wrecked the car himself, but lied to Miyagi about both to save face.
  • Unexpectedly averted in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, as his Rescue Sex with Princess Tilde of Sweden actually turned in a long-term relationship and eventually they get married.
  • The Librarian: Flynn breaks with Nicole at some point after the first movie, before the second one...
  • Magic Mike XXL: Brooke’s absence is explained by her leaving Mike when he decided to return to stripping.
  • Men in Black. Linda Fiorentino is (kinda) Will Smith's love interest; come the next movie, she's outta there! (Because she apparently wanted to go back to normal life...)
    • It's also implied that Will Smith has been doing it to all of his partners since Kay left in order to prevent them dedicating their lives to the job.
  • Ben and Abigail between the two National Treasure movies.
  • Professor Klump does get the girl in Eddie Murphy's version of The Nutty Professor. He's lost her again by the beginning of its sequel.
  • Speed 2: Cruise Control, Annie broke up with Jack and is now in a relationship with another police officer named Alex because Keanu Reeves refused to come back.
  • Star Wars: At the end of Return of the Jedi things seem to be going very well between Leia and Han. By the time of The Force Awakens however, their relationship is largely over. Han has returned to smuggling and Leia is still in a leadership position in the Rebellion/Resistance. The relationship did produce at least one child (whose turning to evil is indicated to be the cause of the breakup). They still seem to be on friendly terms, and Leia is heartbroken when Han dies.
  • Streets of Fire: Tom Cody and Ellen Aim do this when Tom leaves town for some sort of war for 2 years.
  • Thor: The Dark World ends with Thor and Jane Foster kissing dramatically and vowing their eternal love despite their Mayfly–December Romance. The next movie, Thor: Ragnarok, mentions in a very brief, casual aside that Jane dumped Thor between movies. ("Well, I dumped her actually - it, it was a mutual dumping").
  • In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sam's previous girlfriend from the first two films, Mikaela Banes is given a simple mention early on, that she broke up with Sam at some point between the second and third film.

  • In Dinotopia: The World Beneath Arthur had a friend in his traveling companion Orianna. While it's never outright stated if they hooked up, it was strongly implied by certain scenes. At the very least, they became extremely close. Come Dinotopia: Journey to Chandra, Arthur decides to go traveling some more and Orianna has the briefest of cameos, basically telling him to have fun. She's not mentioned for the rest of the book.
  • The Franchise Affair: The protagonist's cousin and law partner breaks up with his frequently mentioned, but never seen, fiancée due to an argument about how she and her father believe the villain's frame job.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry accidentally (but not unhappily) facilitates breakups between both Ron and Lavender and Ginny and Dean, though he doesn't see either.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Criminal Minds doesn't focus a lot on the team's personal lives, so several relationships start and end without alerting the audience:
    • Morgan got involved with a victim's sister while he was temporarily leading the team, so it was a bad emotional time for either one to start a relationship, but no resolution was ever provided to the arc. She just stopped appearing and stopped being mentioned, and Morgan eventually moved onto a new relationship.
    • Garcia's relationship with Sam, a hunky New Old Flame, appeared in a few episodes and was mentioned once or twice after we stop seeing him. Then, next season, she hears about a dating site and casually wonders if it's worth trying since she's single.
    • Hotch got a fairly significant arc with Beth, his first girlfriend after the death of his wife/First Love Haley. There was even an episode where he went to Limbo and Haley gave her blessing to the relationship with Beth. She didn't seem to mind his career and got along great with his son... and then Hotch suddenly tells Rossi that she moved to Asia to pursue her career.
  • Fourth season of Dexter: First time we see Angel he's romancing Laguerta. When asked about the girlfriend he had last season, he mentions that it didn't work out.
    • And again in the sixth season when he and Laguerta had a divorce between seasons.
  • Eureka: Jack is dating Callie and the relationship is progressing nicely by the end of Season 2. Season 3 starts and Callie is never seen or mentioned again, and Jack is single.
  • Smash and Waverly, and Lyla and the Christian guy she was dating, on Friday Night Lights. Actually, a lot of the relationships on this show, because they don't show too many episodes that take place when football season isn't going on.
  • In the third season of Gilmore Girls, Lorelai casually dates a guy named Alex. Despite getting along with him, he suddenly disappears without explanation, with the two seemingly breaking up offscreen.
  • Puck and Quinn in Glee.
    • And Santana and Sam sometime after she realizes she is a lesbian.
    • Between the fourth season and the third season finale, Tina and Mike. She mentions on an interview with Jacob Ben Israel that a long distance relationship didn't work out for them.
  • Josh Safran, Gossip Girl showrunner for the second half of season four and for season five, wanted to do this with Chuck and Blair in the season three premiere in order to make his own favorite ship Dan/Blair happen. Given that the entirety of season two was devoted to a Will They or Won't They? between Chuck and Blair, the two of them not getting together until the last scene of season two and them being by far the most popular ship of the show such a development would have been strange to say the least.
  • Happens in House of Anubis to Patricia and Eddie. As such a beloved couple, the fans were outraged and confused when they broke up over the summer with no given explanation. It's speculated that Patricia broke up with him because the relationship was moving too fast, but it was still jarring to the fans.
    • There are also some breakups that might not have even happened at all. The characters just moved on to other people without actually splitting.
  • NCIS: We get hints that Abby and McGee's relationship is in trouble during early seasons, but we never get to see them actually break up.
  • Power Rangers: the break-up by letter for Tommy/Kimberly. Shippers for that fandom still have trouble accepting that one.
  • Happens three times in Sherlock. John ends season one still attached to his girlfriend Sarah, but the first episode of the second season furnishes him with new girlfriend and makes it clear that he's had several since Sarah, so they obviously broke up, and Sarah is never seen again. Likewise, Molly stated that she dumped Jim offscreen after only a few dates, which was fortunate, given that he turned out to be Moriarty, and has now apparently split up with her fiancé between episodes.
  • Zoey and Charlie in The West Wing, some time before she starts dating Jean-Paul.
    • Also happened with Leo and Jordan. Arguably with Josh and Amy as well (the first time they break up).
  • Omar and Dante from The Wire end season three still together, but with a noticable strain on their relationship, and at the beginning of season four, Omar is already living with someone else (Renaldo). Fans typically assume this is because Dante gave up Omar's location under torture, unlike his previous boyfriend Brandon who refused to talk even on pain of death.
  • The 2016 revival of The X-Files reveals that Mulder and Scully broke up.
  • Subverted with Jack and Rachel in season 6 of Boy Meets World. Their breakup is announced in the season 7 premiere, but it's foreshadowed in the previous season finale when they realize their relationship was built on physical attraction and Jack competing with Eric for Rachel.

    Video Games 

  • Daily JoJo: Eunjo Lee and Seonkyu Kim started dating in the second arc, "King's Apps". The fifth arc, "Cheat Sheet", takes place after a one-year time skip and reveals that they broke up.
  • Homestuck gives us two odd examples, in the form of Davesprite and Jade, and Vriska and a doomed timeline John. What makes them unusual is that due to the Time Skip, the same conversations that establish they broke up also reveal they were in relationships to begin with, simultaneously inverting and playing this trope straight at once.
    • Everyone in Homestuck ends up doing this. Besides the aforementioned, there are also, at various points of the three-year timeskip, Karkat and Terezi, Dave and Terezi, Gamzee and Terezi, Karkat and Gamzee, and Jake and Dirk. Just about the only couple that is still together is Rose and Kanaya.
  • Penny and Aggie's finale reveals that this happened with the title characters, though the very last strip hints that they might still have a future together.
  • In Something*Positive, Davan and that girl who liked to strangle him, though in that case it was explicitly a non-romantic relationship just for sex.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Jay being single in the Webisodes following The Critic Season 2 was explained with one of the first lines:
    "What happened to your self-respect?"
    "I lost it in the second divorce settlement."
  • King of the Hill had a season finale where Khan's mother moved in with him and began dating Bill. At the start of the next season she was inexplicably gone. Word of God says that they wanted to return Bill to his loserly status rather than have him in an ongoing relationship.
  • One complaint about The Legend of Korra's first season is that it ends with a Big Damn Kiss between Mako and Korra, but some in the audience got the impression that he hadn't actually broken up with Asami yet. (The writers may have intended a conversation that they had earlier to be a breakup, but if so, it was vague enough to cause confusion.)
  • Some time after the first Prep & Landing special, Magee and Tiny broke up.
  • Benson and Audrey in Regular Show. Lampshaded when Benson talks about going on a date with a preschool teacher named Natalie. Mordecai asks what the deal with that is when he has Audrey, and Benson reminds everyone that they broke up months ago. None of the Park Crew remembers this to their confusion and his exasperation, even as he describes in detail his period of depression and all their roles in his healing process. The reason behind this breakup is never mentioned.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Marco and Kelly start a G-rated Friends with Benefits relationship as "breakup buddies" at the end of the episode "Kelly's World". This relationship is seen in only one other episode before "A Boy and His DC-700XE" reveals that Marco broke up with her, much to her frustration.
  • In the second season premiere of Young Justice, Superboy and Miss Martian broke up during the five year Time Skip, and she's now dating someone else. We eventually learn what happened and that the two still have feelings for each other. By season three, they're back together again.


Video Example(s):


Lori and Bobby's breakup

When Lori hears Bobby broke up with her because Lincoln insulted his sister Ronnie Anne, she FLIPS OUT.

How well does it match the trope?

3.6 (15 votes)

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Main / HeroicBSOD

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