Follow TV Tropes


Old Flame Fizzle

Go To

Alice is delighted to meet someone again. Perhaps it's Carol, her Best Friend in school; perhaps it's Bob, whom she was engaged to, and whom she has waited for. Within minutes of their meeting, she realizes this is a big mistake. One or both of them have changed too much, or she realizes things she had never seen before, or it becomes apparent that the reality does not live up to the fantasy. In an inversion of Oblivious to Love, Alice may realize that she has long fallen out of love, and quite often, that she was Oblivious to Love in a third character.

Tends to be treated far more sympathetically than Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder. But it can also be a demonstration of fatuity on Alice's part—her dreams were overly romanticized, or forgot that time was passing for the other character.

Inverse of New Old Flame. Often subverts Unrequited Love Lasts Forever.

Compare Growing Up Sucks if the two met as children.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • An episode of Rumic Theater has a man being invited to a school reunion by a girl he remembers having a crush on, and who might just have reciprocated, but he was transferred out before he could learn the truth. His current married life is... disappointing, and he fantasizes about having a fling while simultaneously realizing how unlikely that would be. At the reunion he meets the woman who reveals that she did have a crush on him, and is conveniently recently divorced... and is now grossly overweight, not one bit pretty and a sloppy drunk. He decides to bail out early. On his way to the train, the man meets the actual girl he was thinking of (both women have the same given name) who is just as pretty and likeable as he remembers... and is happily married with several children who made her late for the reunion. He returns home somewhat heartened and determined to make his own marriage work.
  • Patlabor: In The New Files, it's revealed that Kumagami once had a relationship with Richard Wong. This naturally leads to a confrontation between the exes, just before he makes his escape. Wong trolls her by pretending to give himself up, because of his feelings for her. She falls for it, he scoops up her up, then... dumps her in a laundry basket and runs off.
  • A chapter of High School Girls has Takahashi going to her grade school reunion only to find that her old crush has grown fat, ugly and arrogant.
  • One chapter of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei shows two women who'd fought over a guy in high school. He turns out to have become a hugely overweight slob and they reconcile.
  • Queen's Blade: Echidna and Irma once had a relationship, during the time Echidna was Irma's mentor. But, for reasons unknown, Echidna abandoned her without a word of explanation, or even a goodbye. When she showed up again, years later, thinking she could pick up where she left off, Irma let her know—in no uncertain terms—that that ship had sailed.
  • Highschool of the Dead: Saya used to have a crush on Takashi, when they were kids, and it's implied that she might've still had feelings for him at the beginning of the manga. But she moves on and eventually settles into a platonic relationship with him as she grows closer to Hirano.
  • In the 9th volume of Gals!, Yuuya realizes that he no longer has a crush on Ran when he sees her enjoying herself with her boyfriend and feels no jealousy. In a similar vein, he finally realizes that the girl he cares about is Mami.
  • In Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Kaname had a crush on an upperclassman named Fuwa during middle school whom she never had the courage to confess to. Several years later, they wind up bumping into each other, and Fuwa actually asks her out. However, while Fuwa is no less likable than he'd been and does nothing to disappoint her on the date, Kaname can't help but feel uncomfortable and guilty from the moment they make plans. Eventually, she realizes it's because she's developed enough feelings for Sousuke in Fuwa's absence that going out with another boy feels like a betrayal. Thus, she winds up politely turning down Fuwa at the end of the date and explaining everything to the helpful theme-park mascot who is most definitely not a disguised Sousuke.
  • Subverted in Asteroid in Love. Soon after Mira and Ao's reunion, both of them mistakenly thought the other doesn't love them anymore, although with some help from Moe, the misunderstanding was cleared up within a day.
    • Ao, overwhelmed by Mira's greeting texts, answered them using an impersonal, business-like tone she took from a business letter guidebook. This "cold" reply is taken by Mira to mean Ao doesn't like her anymore.
    • Mira notes Ao looks very different from the last time they met. Ao, realizing both Used to Be a Tomboy and Used to Be More Social hits her hard in the interim, wonders if she has changed too much for Mira. A Stargazing Scene-over-the-phone shows Mira doesn't mind at all.

  • Gertrud: Gertrud, who has already decided to leave a loveless, Sexless Marriage, meets up with her old lover Gabriel. Gabriel wants to start things up again, but she refuses Gabriel's entreaties to run away with him, saying "How could you believe we could breathe life into what's dead and buried?" (She's still bitter about how he put his career before her.)
  • Partners: Dean, a lawyer, goes to see a rich client and discovers that the rich client's Trophy Wife is his old college girlfriend Georgeanne. Georgeanne accepts Dean's impulsive invitation to run away with him. They are zooming up the Pacific Coast Highway in Dean's car when he pulls over at a scenic point. All of a sudden he seems to realize that he's older now and there's nothing between him and Georgeanne anymore. He drives her back home.
    Dean: We're just good friends.
  • Subverted in Safety Not Guaranteed: Jeff spots his old high school sweetheart, whom he has not seen in many years. Upon first glance, he is disappointed to realize that she has aged as much as he has in the intervening years and is no longer the teenage girl he remembers. He decides to leave without talking to her, but after some prodding, he eventually meets her and quickly falls back in love with her.
  • In Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Romy did have a thing for Jerk Jock Billy, but at the titular reunion, it's clear that he's gone full Future Loser (fat, slobby, drunk, nails drywall for a living, married to a horrible woman who cheats on him). Admittedly Romy did not harbor any hopes of picking up with him (their last encounter years ago involved him humiliating her terribly), but he thinks he's got a chance. Naturally, Romy gets some late revenge by pulling the same trick on him.
  • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: Surprising in that it's a musical. Guy knocks up Genevieve right before he leaves for the army, and in his absence and her desperation she marries someone else. Years later, after Guy has married a different woman and had a son, Genevieve arrives at his gas station by chance, their daughter in tow. She's obviously moved—but Guy expresses no interest in meeting their daughter, and after a few minutes suggests that she leave. The final shot is Guy playing in the snow with his family after Genevieve has driven away.

  • In P. G. Wodehouse's A Damsel In Distress, Maud meets her beloved Geoffrey—who's turned fat and obsessed with food, and her heart is breaking at the thought she has pledged herself to him, when he gets a break of promise suit served on him. She goes off to find the man who helped her meet him and propose marriage.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' Gaudy Night, Harriet Vane goes to Gaudy Night to meet an old school friend. Within minutes, they are making painfully polite inquires about the other's life, and Harriet is thinking it's terrible, and she should never have come.
  • In L. M. Montgomery's A Tangled Web (1931), used twice.
    • Jocelyn left her husband on her wedding night because she had fallen in Love at First Sight with the best man. When he returns and is not the stuff of romantic dreams, she reconciles with her husband.
    • When Noel has jilted Gay to take up with Nan, and Nan has jilted him in turn, he comes back to Gay. She realizes how false he is, and laughs.
  • Eva Ibbotson's Dial-a-Ghost has the son of the ghost family portrayed with a long term crush on a Cynthia Harbottle. When she turns up as a ghost in the final chapter, she is old, plump and selfish.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Fighting Man of Mars, Tan Hadron has this twice: the first time, he convinces himself that the woman is just dispirited from her captivity, but the second time, he realizes the truth and repulses her.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet series, an old love of Captain Desjani is one of the prisoners they rescue. Desjani soon realizes that he changed in the prison camp, and he starts to have an affair with a subordinate, for which he was transfered.
    • In Dreadnaught, Rione has more than a touch of this with her husband, long a prisoner of war.
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, Hugh finds that Fire Forged Friendship faded over time, and one such friend resents his return.
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Jill The Reckless, Jill had deliberately thrown herself into work, far from Derek, to recover from him, and just before the meeting, noted that it had worked. Nevertheless, meeting him again reinforced that.
  • In Nick Hornby's High Fidelity the main character has never really got over Charlie, the girl that broke up with him at university. When he meets up with her again years later, it takes a few hours for him to come to the conclusion that "Charlie's awful".
  • In Katherine Paterson's Of Nightingales That Weep, at the end of the novel, Takiko's ugliness from hard work outside instantly repels a man who had been attracted to her beauty.
  • Ari, Lena's mom in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was contacted by a man who had abandoned her years before and who she had never entirely gotten over. She went into the meeting seriously thinking it might result in her leaving her new husband and family, but left grateful that her life had gone in a different direction and with new appreciation for her husband.
  • Temeraire: The protagonist Will Laurence has an "understanding" with his childhood sweetheart Edith Galman which persists during his years away in the Navy. When he inadvertently becomes a Dragon Rider in the Aerial Corps, a branch that keeps its members even more isolated and has a bad public reputation besides, Edith breaks things off and marries another man.
    Edith: I have not complained, have I? I have waited; I have been patient; but I have been waiting for something better than a solitary life, far from the society of all my friends and family, with only a very little share of your attention. My feelings are just as they have always been, but I am not so reckless or sentimental as to rely on feeling alone to ensure happiness in the face of every possible obstacle.
  • The Han Solo Trilogy: Han rekindles things with Bria in Rebel Dawn. She had left him in The Paradise Snare, but both retained their feelings for each other. However, it doesn't last since she betrayed him along with the smugglers he recruited to her cause, with Han ending things for good.
  • A platonic version in the Sweet Valley High book where Elizabeth's former best friend from middle school Amy Sutton returns to town. Elizabeth is initially thrilled, but over the course of the book, realizes that Amy's changed to the point of having more in common with her sister Jessica and is saddened to realize that their friendship is over.
  • Years of Grace: In 1897, 17-year-old Jane is stopped from marrying Andre (not much older) when the two sets of parents forbid it. She spends 33 years never quite getting over him, until she meets him again in Paris—and she finds him a bitter old cynic, having married a younger woman who regularly cheats on him. Jane is disappointed at their reunion, regarding him as "dead" and wishing that she hadn't seen him and could still remember the romantic young man of 1897.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Abbott Elementary: When Janine's childish ex-boyfriend Tariq rolls back in town, she's first taken in by his charm and agrees to have dinner with him. When she realizes he's still the same exploitative douchebag she broke up with, however, she shuts it down, reassured that she made the right choice in dumping him.
  • Dash & Lily: Dash still has unresolved feelings for his ex-girlfriend Sofia, and sparks fly when she comes back in town looking to reconnect. It turns out that neither of them really want to restart their relationship and are only coming back to each other out of familiarity. They end the show on good terms and Sofia even helps Dash get the girl.
  • General Hospital's Miguel spent his days brooding over his First Love Lily and taking an interest in Brenda, partly because of their resemblance. Brenda's jealous boyfriend Sonny arranged things so that Lily would come to town and the two could be reunited. Unfortunately, despite valiant efforts to revive their relationship, the two were eventually forced to admit that after six years, they had changed considerably and that things were now Dead Sparks.
  • How I Met Your Mother: After years of searching, Ted found the "Slutty Pumpkin," a girl he fell in love with at a party but he never saw again. Both Ted and the girl found the relationship awkward, but neither wanted to break it off because they thought the other person was into the relationship.
  • Friends: Monica's situation, when she runs into her Richard after a painful break up several years before. Her boyfriend Chandler freaks out, thinking she's still crazy about Richard, but Monica's first reaction is that she feels nothing for Richard anymore and there are No Sparks. (Convincing Chandler of this is a whole other mission.)
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: In the Season 3 episode "Homo Cantus" Scylla runs into an ex-girlfriend of hers, Vira, who's clearly still into her (she goes in for a kiss straightaway), unaware Scylla's now with Raelle. Once this is made clear though Vira silently accepts it and moves on.
  • In the first season of Shameless (US), Fiona starts flirting with the guy she had a crush on in high school, who also happens to be unhappy in his marriage, but once they have a very awkward sexual encounter in the back of his van (while surrounded by baby stuff no less), Fiona doesn't feel the same anymore.
  • This happens for Scully in The X-Files in episode "all things". In medical school, she had an affair with a professor. Once she found out he was married, she was horrified and left her medical career to join the FBI. Ten years later, she runs into this professor, who is in the hospital for a heart condition. She is understandably perplexed as to why he's in Washington D.C., and he explains that his wife is now dead and he's come to invite her to run away with him. However, Scully is now ten years older, wiser, and has a life of her own now. It's an episode that is a major reality check for Scully about where her life has gone and what it could have been. In the end, she turns down the offer and realizes she likes the way her life has turned out. This also marks the start of Mulder and Scully's sexual relationship. Probably.
  • An episode of Frasier where Woody from Cheers shows up has this happen to Frasier. While he enjoys the first night that the two hang out, when he and Woody start spending more time with each other he quickly realizes that they've grown apart and have very little in common aside from their past connection to Cheers, but can't bring himself to hurt Woody's feelings by revealing this. Ironically, it turns out that Woody was experiencing the exact same thing from his perspective but couldn't bring himself to hurt Frasier's feelings about it. Once the misunderstanding's cleared up, the two part ways amicably agreeing to hang out for one night only in another ten years or so.
  • In the Season 2 Parks and Recreation episode "Galentine's Day", Leslie's boyfriend Justin gets the idea to reunite Leslie's mother Marlene with her old teenage fling, a lifeguard named Frank. Leslie is apprehensive when she meets Frank, as he's strange, depressed, unemployed, and has frequent panic attacks and only lets it proceed when Justin tells her to "let this unfold". Naturally, Marlene (who has moved on with her life) is not really impressed with Frank, and Justin is shocked it didn't work out.

  • Garth Brooks:
    • "Every Time That It Rains" tells of a romantic encounter between the narrator and a waitress. They try to go for a second date but it's just not the same and they decide to be just friends.
    • In "Unanswered Prayers," he meets his high-school crush years later, after he's married, and realizes that he's glad he didn't end up with her.