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Relationship Sabotage

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"Never let a beautiful woman pick your path when there is a man in her line of sight."
— An old proverb among women according to the Sword of Truth books

This is when somebody tries to ruin someone else's romantic relationship or marriage.

There are various reasons someone might do this. One of the most common is that the saboteur is in love with one of the people in the relationship, and is willing to stoop pretty low to "correct" this situation. (In extreme cases, they may even try to Murder the Hypotenuse.) A non-romantic version of this arises from Friend Versus Lover situations, where a character is rivaled over by his/her best friend and the Love Interest. Alternatively, it could be that they just want Revenge for something, or that they want to free up one of the parties for a bit of gold digging, or that they're simply bitter that someone else is so happy and they're not. Sometimes, they may even be acting from a genuine, well-intentioned, and possibly even accurate belief that their friend has made a poor choice or should have chosen someone else.


The range of techniques available to a relationship saboteur is similarly varied. Lying is popular - you just need to make one half of the relationship look bad, such as by fabricating evidence of an affair or trying to make them flunk a Fidelity Test. It could be as simple as giving deliberately lousy relationship advice. If the relationship is fairly new, being a deliberate Moment Killer might be an option, and might prompt the saboteur to follow the targets on dates.

See also Break Up Demand for a different method of achieving the same goal. If a character simply makes their dislike of the pairing known, it's probably just a Shipping Torpedo. A specialized variant is Please Dump Me, where people try to surreptitiously sabotage their own relationship (because they don't want to end it properly for some reason), and the Intentional Heartbreaker, who goes into a relationship with no intention to see it through. Another specific variant of this trope is Kids Play Match Breaker, which is specifically for kids trying to sabotage any new relationships of their single parents. Contrast Shipper on Deck, where someone is trying to create a relationship rather than destroy one. Please know that there are instances where saboteur is a Karma Houdini and gets away with the deed. See Love-Obstructing Parents when a parent displays this behavior.



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  • In one commercial, one teenage boy forces his younger brother upstairs so he can spend time with his girlfriend. The younger brother then uses the TV to show the girlfriend a slideshow of pictures that indicate he's cheating on her.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Skuld in Ah! My Goddess, who takes her Big Sister Worship towards Belldandy a bit too far and won't stand for anyone, particularly lowly mortal Keiichi, getting too close to her. She frequently sets up booby traps (mostly involving Stuff Blowing Up) to prevent their relationship from progressing. It is hinted a few times, though, that she's acting out not because she's jealous of Keiichi for taking Belldandy's attention, but that she's jealous of Belldandy for getting Keiichi's love.
  • Matsuri of Ayakashi Triangle was turned into a girl by Shirogane in an attempt to foil his Childhood Friend Romance with Suzu out of spite. It turns out the whole reason he knew the spell was to punish couples who made love in his shrine. It didn't work as well as intended, because Suzu finds Matsuri attractive regardless and the ensuing Gender-Bender Friendship brings them closer together, to the point Matsuri directly credits it when he has a Love Epiphany. On the other hand, Suzu is hesitant to act on an attraction to another girl, while Matsuri seems to assume a same-sex relationship is impossible, even after Soga encouraged him try anyway.
  • Berserk has an interesting take in that Griffith is implied to feel something towards both Guts and Casca. His actions during the Eclipse where he rapes Casca to insanity while forcing Guts to watch are implied to be done to spite the two for getting together and making it so they can't stay together anymore with the psychological trauma Casca is left with.
  • In The Case Files of Jeweler Richard, Jeffrey offered Richard's fiancee a bribe to dump him.
  • Makie from Futari Ecchi does that at every opportunity to the main character couple. I.e., she leaves false lipstick marks on Makoto's shirt or calls him in the middle of a date with his wife Yura.
  • Good Luck Girl! As a god of bond severance, Shaga was responsible for severing the bonds Ichiko had with Ranmaru and Nadeshiko. On the same note, the author's notes reveal that she was responsible for every bad relationship Ichiko had while growing up, even though some of them would end up poorly regardless.
  • Subverted in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War when Tsubame comes to Kaguya asking for advice regarding a love confession. Kaguya (being Ishigami's Romantic Wingman and acting under the assumption that it must have been one of his many romantic rivals) tells her that the proper thing to do is turn them down as harshly as possible, only for her advice to take a complete 180 when she finds out that Ishigami is the boy in question.
  • Happens more than once in Marmalade Boy, with the most notorious perpetrators being Kei Tsuchiya (who grabs Miki's medallion/bracelet and gives it to Yuu saying she threw it away; Yuu doesn't buy it, but he and Miki still almost break up due to stress.) and Ginny Golding (who lies to Miki by telling her she was Yuu's "other woman" as a prank; this causes the already distraught Miki to break off her and Yuu's Long-Distance Relationship.)
  • Naruto, after finding out that Sakura doesn't care for him at all while he's disguised as Sasuke, is forced to retreat to the restroom because he drank spoiled milk in the morning. While on the toilet, he plans on returning to Sakura, still disguised as Sasuke and acting like a jerk in order to make her hate him. By the time he gets out, though, Sasuke has already escaped his bonds and coldly told Sakura that he finds her annoying.
  • Peach Girl: This is Sae's favorite tactic to use against her rival Momo with the aim to tear her down every time she gets a boyfriend or shows interest in a guy.
  • Rebuild World: While the relationship in question is a Fake Relationship, this is still the intention of the intervening party and the two are quite mutually dependant (and the less enthusiastic one Tsundere). Viola, after getting caught in a scheme against the two, gets An Offer You Can't Refuse from Akira to help build up Sheryl's gang, with the stipulation that Akira will execute Viola any time if Sheryl asks him to. And so Viola undertakes plans to split the two up to free herself from this stipulation. First, she tells Sheryl about The Mole Nasha hoping she'd keep her a secret from Akira, telling Akira about it first, but this fails when Sheryl tells him right away. Viola's second attempt is much grander: Have Akira catch Sheryl together with The Rival Katsuya while Sheryl is wrapping him around her finger in a Honey Trap. This fails after Sheryl goes Intentional Heart Breaker on Katsuya in response.
  • In the backstory of The Story of Saiunkoku, Kou Reishin and his friend Houju were both interested in the same woman. Reishin sabotaged Houju's relationship with her by forging a letter from her to Houju saying she couldn't bear to be with a man so much more beautiful than herself. As a result, Houju started wearing masks all the time and calling himself "Kijin," meaning "weirdo," and Reishin married the girl.
  • Ranma ½: Ryoga, Shampoo, Ukyo, Kodachi, and other characters all try to sabotage Ranma and Akane's engagement at some point or other.
    • Ranma and Akane team up in the manga to thwart the possibility of Hinako and Soun marrying.
  • In the first anime of Sailor Moon, Makoto is jealous that her crush, Motoki, has a girlfriend. Upon finding out that his girlfriend is tempted to accept a job abroad which would separate them for a long period of time, Makoto nicely sits down and has a talk with her, trying to convince her to take the job. She ends the talk with the suggestion that Motoki and the girlfriend could very well pick up where they left off, before lampshading to herself how terrible she is at sabotaging relationships.
    • Mamoru and Usagi are together or were in a past life and are aiming for that again in the present. They both get numerous love rivals for each of them with a lot of them either trying to get Usagi or Mamoru out of the way by Murder the Hypotenuse. Some of the other rivals for their love or attention try to get between the two with subtler less Yandere means.
  • Chihaya of Servant × Service is dead set on preventing Yutaka and Lucy from getting together. Some of Lucy's hesitation on dating Yutaka originates from Chihaya making him sound more devious than he really is. This is mostly because she wants to cosplay Lucy and erroneously believes that so does he.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: In the sequel manga when Touka and Kaneki try to have a romantic moment together Mutsuki busts in on them. He was revealed to have a twisted romantic obsession with his former sensei and gets suspicious over the situation while wondering where Kaneki's loyalties lie as Touka is a ghoul among other ghouls in hiding and the organization Mutsuki is a part of hunts ghouls. He senses the romantic tension between the two as well before he slashes at Kaneki and knocks him out of his way so he can viciously attack Touka, with intent to kill. When they get away while holding hands, he tries to stalk after them, and his actions after that are purely done so he can get Touka out of the way so he can try to win over his beloved Sensei for himself.
  • Yuureitou: Marube lusts after Tetsuo, who is sort of dating Taichi (they eventually become an Official Couple) and he's not above trying to rape Taichi if it means Tetsuo will leave Taichi and return to him.

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of Frank Miller's Daredevil, a grieving Matt Murdock had pressured his rather fragile girlfriend Heather Glenn into agreeing to marry him, which was literally driving her to drink. Believing that no good could come of this for anyone, Matt's partner Foggy and his ex the Black Widow created forged notes telling each partner that the other one wanted to break it off and never see them again. The immediate consequences were never shown, but a few years later Heather committed suicide.
  • Lana Lang attempted this occasionally when her jealousy of Clark and Lois' marriage got the best of her. In one instance she tried to convince Clark that Lois was a bad wife and left her panties in the Kents' bed in a fit of jealous anger when Clark refused to be swayed by her arguments.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón: Accidental. In "El Brujo" (The Warlock), there is a middle-aged couple sitting on a fallen trunk in a romantic countryside setting, lovingly holding hands. "Abelarda", says he, "swear that there is no other man between you and me". "I... I swear, Eloíso", says she. Mortadelo suddenly teleports right between the two, thanks to a spell he has unknowingly activated. Eloíso breaks the relationship and leaves angrily, and Mortadelo is beaten off-screen by Abelarda.
  • Bruce made a couple of attempts to prevent Tim and Stephanie's relationship. After they'd been dating for at least a year and he hired Steph as Robin and prevented her from talking to Tim while she was training, trying to get Tim to return to the role. Neither of them ever really forgave him for it.
  • Alexandra Cabot shadows Josie and the Pussycats because she's an arrogant Rich Bitch who believes that she should front the group instead of Josie. Alexandra also believes herself much more worthy of Alan Mayberry's affections, despite Alan showing no signs of interest in anyone other than Josie. Much of this comic's humor is derived from Alexandra receiving Laser-Guided Karma while trying to sabotage the Josie-Alan 'ship.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): While Diana was working with the PI Micah Rains she responded to a client whose Stalker with a Crush was trying to sabotage her engagement despite her having a restraining order against him. The attempts were clumsy and horrific things like vandalizing her and her fiancé's property and killing their pets.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In one of the stories of the Facing the Future Series, Danny's enemies unsuccessfully tried to this to Danny and Sam.
    • In another story, Nocturne nearly pulled this trope off by sealing away their memories of each other, only to be thwarted by The Power of Love.
  • Ponyville Goes to the... Dragons??: Applejack warns Rarity not to attempt this Trope when she learns Spike has started a relationship with Ember, telling her about how she knew about Spike's affection for her yet did nothing about it when she had the chance, and stating that she'll prefer being sent to the moon compared to what AJ will do to her if she tries anything. Still doesn't stop her from giving an anonymous 'tip' about there being vicious dragons in Ponyville to the Canterlot Royal Guards...
  • In To Heal a Broken Heart, Chloe attempts to do that to Adrien and Marinette, by blackmailing another model to pretend he is Marinette's secret boyfriend (with a female model bribed to disguise herself as her), even photoshopping a photo of the two together. When that fails, she bribes two bodybuilder models (with a reputation of... being rough with girls) to kidnap her during the prom. By the time Adrien gets to Marinette, one of the bodybuilders already can barely stand from pain - even while not transformed, Marinette is more than capable of handling a couple of bullies.

  • In My Best Friend's Wedding, Julianne tries to derail the upcoming marriage of a guy who had promised to marry her if they were both still single at a certain age. It fails, epically.
    • In its Gender Flip, Made of Honor, the man has the same goal, though the stunts he pulls aren't nearly as nasty (he mostly just goes overboard in showing her that he's matured and ready for commitment, the main reasons why his female friend never considered him boyfriend material before). Unlike in My Best Friend's Wedding, his plan works.
  • Saving Silverman: Darren is dating a very controlling woman named Judith and his friends decide to sabotage their relationship by kidnapping Judith and faking her death so that he'll be free to go after his high school crush Sandy instead.
  • Both Balraj's sister Kiran and Darcy's mother try very hard to keep Jaya and Lalita very far away from Balraj and Darcy in Bride and Prejudice.
  • In Sherlock Holmes (2009), Sherlock went out of his way to try to get Dr. Watson to not get engaged to Mary since he wanted to keep him for himself. He insulted Mary with a deduction and he paid a fortune teller to plant seeds of doubt into Watson's head. He eventually did give his consent, partly because he was impressed with Mary's own observation skills (she easily sees through his disguise as a doctor).
  • In Plan B, Bruno's "Plan B" to make his ex-girlfriend Laura and her new boyfriend Pablo break up is to seduce Pablo and drive him away from her. It works, but by then it's not Laura he wants to be with.
  • In Mulan II, Mushu tries to break up Mulan and Shang to save his job. When Mulan finds out, she gets pissed. Fortunately, Mushu makes amends.
  • This is Peggy's plan in The Best Years of Our Lives: she declares that she's going to break up the unhappy marriage between Fred and Marie. It's not really her fault the marriage falls apart, but she does get Fred in the end.
  • In Wicker Park, Alex does this to Matthew and Lisa's relationship as we learn via flashbacks. She never delivered that one letter that would have explained Lisa's sudden departure to Matthew.
  • In Short Cuts, Stormy Weathers fires torpedoes at his soon-to-be ex-wife Betty's relationship with Gene Shepard as part of his revenge against her. He first leaves his son Chad with her instead of taking him for the evening per their custody agreement, so that she is forced to take Chad on her date with Gene. Then, when Gene calls her at home after his suspicions that she is having yet another relationship are roused by her flimsy cover story regarding why she can't spend the weekend with him, Stormy answers the phone and pretends to yell at Betty to put some panties on before hanging up.
  • In the remake of The Stepford Wives, one of Johanna's new shows was a Reality Show based around this trope called "I Can Do Better". However, when the couple from the prototype episode separated, the divorced husband went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that resulted in a string of lawsuits that resulted in Johanna getting fired, thus leading to the plot.
  • In Son in Law, Travis drugs Crawl and Tracy and leaves them to be discovered naked together in the barn in order to sabotage Crawl's engagement to Becca. Even Becca's father (who hated the idea of Becca marrying Crawl) was horrified when he learned it.
  • It might be unintentional in the movie Coco when Ernesto de la Cruz killed his best friend Hector Rivera who had a wife and a daughter, thus Ernesto never told anyone about Hector's death, his wife Imelda assumed he abandoned her and held a grudge against him for the rest of her life and her death. Upon knowing the truth of Hector's death, she still held the grudge but accepted that it was Ernesto who separated them and helped to save Hector and have a little revenge on Ernesto. This is unintentional not because Ernesto did or did not want to separate them but because he cared more about fame, fortune, and being a national hit than the consequences of his actions.
  • In The Wrong Cheerleader, Jen goes to extreme lengths - to the point of outright deception - to convince Becky that her boyfriend Rob is dangerous.
    • After a violent incident at Tony's Diner where Rob confronts another student, Jen has a lengthy discussion with Becky and Coach Flynn.
      Jen: Ms Flynn, if a guy threatened another guy for just checking you out, would you be flattered or a little creeped out?
    • Jen visits a friend (Sarah Peters) at Rob's old school to dig up dirt on him, and later arranges a meeting between Becky and Rob's ex-girlfriend Amanda who he stalked and abused.

  • Will from Super Powereds provides a fairly benevolent example. When he finds out that his sister Jill has an abusive boyfriend, he threatens to kill him and then orders him to leave without explanation and never interact with her again.
  • From the works of Jane Austen:
    • Pride and Prejudice:
      • Mr. Darcy doesn't believe that Jane Bennet holds any particular feelings for Mr. Bingley, not realizing that Jane is too shy and reserved to express her love openly in a way that would stand out from how nice she already is to everyone. Because of this, and because he (not entirely inaccurately) sees Jane's mother and sisters as appalling Gold Diggers, Darcy prevents Bingley and Jane from meeting in London and encourages Bingley to break off his courtship of Jane.
      • At least Darcy is motivated by genuine concern for his friend's happiness and regrets his actions when Elizabeth makes it clear that Jane really does love Bingley. On the other hand, Bingley's sisters rudely rebuff Jane when she tries to visit them in London and participate in the sabotage because they look down on the Bennets and because Caroline wants to marry Darcy and thinks that will be more likely to happen if Bingley were to marry Darcy's sister Georgiana.
    • Mr. Elliot of Persuasion visits his cousin Sir Walter in Bath and quickly sets to work trying to detach him from the charming widow Mrs. Clay—if they produced a son, Mr. Elliot no longer be heir to the Kellynch property and title of baronet. He succeeds, but the narrator hints that Mrs. Clay could successfully turn her charms on Mr. Elliot himself.
    • In Emma, Emma Woodhouse actively meddles in Harriet and Robert Martin's relationship. He asks her to marry him, but Emma thinks Harriet should marry someone more genteel and persuades Harriet to refuse him (and in such a way that Harriet doesn't realize that she's being manipulated). Mr Knightley tells Emma off for this.
  • Dr. Austin Sloper in Washington Square goes out of his way to ruin his daughter Catherine and Morris's relationship, starting with a Parental Marriage Veto and culminating in taking her on a trip to Europe for a full year to test the strength of their affection. His reasoning is that he is convinced that Morris is nothing more than a Gold Digger after his family's fortune. He turns out to be right.
  • In The Zombie Knight, Geoffry's grandfather did this to his mother. Primarily, it was to create a suitable host for an aberration, bet he does admit that he also thought it was funny.
  • Carmen in The Second Summer of the Sisterhood sabotages her mother's new relationship out of envy (of her mom being happy and in love) and jealousy (she's not used to someone else being important in her mother's life). She accuses her mother of making a fool of herself and neglects to pass on a message from the boyfriend, and thus succeeds in getting her mother to break off the relationship.
  • Sweet Valley High's Jessica Wakefield and her like-minded friends have done this whenever they've wanted a guy in a relationship for themselves. Jessica has even done this to her own brother Steven, trying to break up him and girlfriend Tricia because she doesn't think she's good enough for him. Then even after he gets together with her friend Cara — something that she wanted — she tries to break them up too, having decided for herself that their relationship is boring and that they need to see other people.
  • In And I Darken, Lada and Mehmed are madly in love, even though their relationship is highly tenuous because of Lada's desire to return to Walachia and refusal to have sex with him and Mehmed's frequenting of his Royal Harem. Radu, also in love with Mehmed and a master manipulator, is constantly tempted by knowing exactly how to push them apart, and he gives in, tells Lada their father has died against Mehmed's wishes, and insinuates that Lada is weak for staying in Walachia. His words push her to reject Mehmed's marriage proposal and leave the sultanate and the empire. While he ends their relationship, they're still in love.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the sixth season of House, House decides to try to break up Cuddy and Lucas after deciding that he might just be interested in the former.
  • In Sugar Rush, the efforts of Sugar to sabotage the relationship between Saint and Kim rather indicate that she's not being honest about having no interest in the latter.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Evil Wil Wheaton sabotages Leonard and Penny's relationship in order to win a bowling game. Downplayed, in that their relationship was already having problems, and he just convinced Penny that she should be honest about her misgivings.
    • A minor example when Penny briefly dates Stuart and Leonard deliberately gives him bad dating advice. Leonard remains sympathetic because a) he feels bad about it afterward, b) the advice was basically what Leonard would have done on the date and c) his advice works, suggesting the Penny actually liked Leonard all along.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel has the Romani gypsies. One moment of true happiness, one moment where the soul that was restored to Angel no longer plagues him...and that soul is taken from him. This trope, from a certain point of view, is why the spinoff show exists at all, as Angel may not have left town if his curse were fixed. The curse is specifically a 'moment of happiness', but in practice, it has never been triggered by anything but a happy relationship for it Buffy, or a shamanic dream that includes Cordelia. ...Then in the comics, the Powers that Be get in on the action, and the relationship between Buffy and Angel creates a new the cost of the old and all 8 billion people in it.
  • On Gossip Girl, this is Blair's MO. And not just for her own ex-boyfriends - she's perfectly happy to break up any new relationships that might make Serena unhappy too. Chuck, as well, loves to mess with any relationships that would a) stop Blair being with him or b) distract Nate from their friendship. And Jenny does this occasionally. And Vanessa - oh, screw it, let's just say Gossip Girl is built around this trope and leave it at that, okay?
  • On How I Met Your Mother Lily has done this to Ted six times, each time because she thinks the girl Ted's dating is a bad fit for their group of friends. Methods range from planting a woman's earring in Ted's bed so his girlfriend thinks he's cheating on her, to planting a Creed CD in the girlfriend's apartment so that Ted becomes disgusted with her, to dressing up in the girlfriend's Darth Vader costume, pretending to be her, and telling Ted they should see other people.
    • Later on, Lily is called upon to break Barney and Robin up, but a sudden bout of Complexity Addiction almost does her in.
  • Happened all the time on Rome.
  • This is pretty much Diana Fowley's job during seasons six and seven of The X-Files. She's working for the Syndicate to lure Mulder, but whether her true aim in breaking up Mulder and Scully is professional or personal (she's Mulder's ex-partner and may or may not be his ex-wife) is up to interpretation. She plays off Mulder's previous trust in her and almost succeeds in breaking them up. She is ultimately killed off in the early parts of season seven before she can try again.
  • The season 4 finale of iCarly had a revelation that Sam likes Freddie. It's quite possible that her actions in "iSaved Your Life", where she completely fucked up Carly and Freddie's newly formed relationship by planting seeds of doubt in Freddie's mind was a subconscious desire to sabotage the relationship to keep Freddie away from Carly.
    • Mrs. Benson actually tries to do this in "iCan't Stand It". In a way, she's right to be upset by Freddie and Sam's relationship. However, the last few minutes of the episode shows how much she delighted in ruining the relationship. Maybe she's just a Control Freak?
  • In pretty much any episode of Glee in which Finn Hudson is dating somebody not named Rachel Berry, you'll find Rachel trying some form of this, by means including: staging singing lessons that are intended to turn into something a lot less innocent; dramatic changes of appearance (fortunately Kurt was onto her and ensured it didn't work); informing Finn that his girlfriend is pregnant by another boy; duetting with other boys (particularly if it's the boy who got his first girlfriend pregnant) to make Finn jealous; and encouraging him to distrust his girlfriend and spy on the boy a blind item in the school newspaper implies she's cheating with in company with, you guessed it, Rachel Berry. Every single one of these backfires on her in some way. You'd think she'd have caught on by now, but no such luck...
  • Mary of Downton Abbey tells her sister Edith's suitor that Edith was looking for an "old bore" as revenge for Edith's spreading Mary's Dark Secret.
    • Later on, Mary pulls an even worse one: She tells Bertie that Marigold is Edith's illegitimate daughter, shocking him so badly that he calls off his engagement to Edith—simply because Mary was jealous that Edith was happy and Mary herself was not. Edith gives Mary one Hell of a callout for it.
  • Friends: Phoebe does this to Monica and Chandler a few times, whether accidental or deliberate, through playing on Chandler's fears as an Insecure Love Interest. She tells him Monica saw her old boyfriend Richard and later introduces Monica's 'soulmate' right in front of him (and AFTER they're married). Thanks to Monica and Chandler's strong relationship, nothing sticks and the only result is several heartwarming scenes of Monica promising Chandler is the love of her life and she's not interested in anyone else. It's not clear if Phoebe is just being her usual Cloud Cuckoo Lander self or a Green-Eyed Monster that they're happy and she isn't.
    • Rachel tries to do this several times regarding the relationships of whatever man she wanted for herself — trying to keep Ross and Julie from sleeping together, convincing Bonnie to shave her head, discouraging other women from pursuing Tag by telling them he's gay, telling Charlie incorrect information about Joey, etc.
    • There's also a minor example in an early episode in which one of Joey's old girlfriends is dating someone Monica's interested in, so they conspire to break the two up, mostly through the judicious use of backhanded compliments. It actually works perfectly (though the two love interests are both gone by the next episode and never mentioned again.)
      Monica: We broke that relationship up and kept the pieces for ourselves.
  • In the Austin & Ally episode "Families & Feuds", Austin Trish and Dez break off the relationship between Dez's ArchEnemy Chuck and his sister Didi.
  • In Merlin, Morgana tries and fails to break up Gwen and Arthur in "Queen of Hearts" but succeeds masterfully (though temporarily) in "Lancelot du Lac."
  • In the Seinfeld two-parter episode "The Raincoats", Newman tells the father of Jerry's recent girlfriend about how they acted during Schindler's List, resulting in him forbidding Jerry from seeing his daughter ever again. Naturally, Jerry is pretty ticked off at Newman the next time they cross paths.
  • A standard Soap Opera trope. At least 90% of the drama couples experience is due to some nasty outsider trying to interfere. Either a jealous would-be lover/ex-lover of one half of the couple or a disapproving family member.
  • Daredevil (2015): Season 2 sees Stick use Elektra to sabotage Matt's relationships with Karen and Foggy in order to bring Matt into his war with the Hand.
  • Uncertain of whether or not he's ready to move in with his girlfriend, rather than simply telling her that, ER's Doug Ross more or less lets her catch him with another woman. Only as she's storming off does it occur to the idiot what he's done, but she dismisses his pathetic pleas of "It won't happen again" by practically laughing as she declares, "Yes, it will."
  • Power Rangers Ninja Steel: In season 2, Hayley and Sarah find out that Hayley's dad and Sarah's mom are going on a date and decide to sabotage it because they each think it'll be weird if their parent is dating their best friend's parent. They end up realizing the error of their ways and help the two get back together.
  • Pistvakt: Sven-E is not above doing this to his own brothers to make sure they don't leave their home in Svartlien. For example, when Gunnel comes by after Jan-E has fallen asleep, she asks Sven-E to tell him to meet up with her the next day before she's about to leave the town for good... And when Jan-E wakes up later Sven-E tells him it was just a comic book salesman. (Gunnel is never seen again in the series.)

  • Much Ado About Nothing: Don John makes two attempts to scuttle the romance between Claudio and Hero in revenge for Claudio's role in putting down John's rebellion. The first fails, but with the second, he convinces Claudio that she's unfaithful and Claudio denounces her at their wedding altar and it takes a Zany Scheme to clear her.
  • Love's Labour's Lost: After the King announces a three-year ban on association between men and women at the capital, Don Armado snitches on Costard and Jaquenetta's relationship so that he can court Jaquenetta himself.

    Video Games 
  • In Tokimeki Memorial 2, Knight Templar Big Brother Kaoru "Sou-Banchou" Ichimonji will constantly try to do this in Akane's storyline. Resolved to prevent any boy to hurt her little sister's feelings, and also fearing to lose her (who's his sole family) if she ever hooks with a guy, he will sic at you his underlings, then will fight you in person, will barge in the scene if he feels you're too close from her, and in Memories Ringing On, will even go as far as trying to sabotage your wedding ceremony preparations with her by threatening the assembly hall's clerk of obstruction of business! Said sister is not very pleased by her brother's antics, and constantly resolves them with a Megaton Punch.
  • One of the selling points on the back of the Mister Mosquito boxart.
  • In Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle, Chief Chemi'n doesn't want his cousin Tana to hook up with Chief Bajari, and so convinces the clueless-about-love Bajari that any "weird feelings" Bajari gets when thinking about Tana are an illness caused by Tana putting a curse on him. Morgane sets him right.
  • Fallout 3 has a scenario where the Player Character must engage in this For the Evulz. In the Tranquility Lane quest which you must complete in order to advance the main story, you must plant evidence of affairs on both sides to break up a married couple with a kid - just to make the kid suffer through his parents breaking up. All because The Sociopath Mad Scientist running the Tranquility Lane simulation likes to inflict miseries on his test subjects "for his amusement".

    Web Comics 
  • In General Protection Fault, Trudy steals Ki's stuffed animal "Mr. Pookel" and leaves it where Nick will find it so that he'll learn her screen name. He's upset with her for not telling him in order to test his loyalty, but ultimately forgives her.
  • Homestuck has a variant skewed a bit by the nature of troll romance. Basically, trolls have four romantic quadrants - "genuine love", "Morality Pet", "mediation between two others" and "mutually destructive hatelust" - and you're generally expected to have relations with a given person confined to only one quadrant. As a result, at one point Casanova Wannabe Eridan attempted to sabotage Feferi and Sollux's "genuine love" romance by trying to make Feferi mediate between himself and Sollux, which would push them out of their preferred quadrant.
  • Some characters in Ménage à 3 aren't above meddling with others' romantic lives for their own purposes. Two notable instances:
    • Sonya sets out, rather ineptly, to break Zii away from Erik. That relationship does eventually come apart, though only partly and indirectly because of Sonya's efforts.
    • Right after that, she considers trying to separate Zii from her one true love and Lust Object DiDi, as he bemoans how after Zii and Erik broke up that Zii still has feelings for the other blondie DiDi but then cheerfully says how that's no matter as she has all the time in the world.
    • Later, Lynn tries to separate DiDi from Zii — by the oddly honest method of telling DiDi that's what she wants, while casually pointing out that the relationship might have practical problems when DiDi starts pursuing her wrestling career.
  • In Sandra on the Rocks, Eloise wants to break up the relationship between Sandra and Pierre, who she wants for herself. Her methods get distinctly over-complicated, mostly because she also wants to destroy Sandra completely, for various reasons.
  • In Tales of Schlock, Manoa tried to do this to her own relationship. Her main squeeze Deedo started showing signs that he wanted a more serious relationship. Manoa, who had been wary of relationships ever since her boyfriend impregnated and left her, wanted to break up with him. She demanded that he have constant sex with her and she planned to end the relationship when he was too wore out to deliver. Luckily, Bodacia gave Deedo a shake that increased his sex drive enough to meet Manoa's demands.

    Web Video 
  • In the Dad episodes "Him?" and "Why?" it's revealed that the Dad Magazine and Mom's fantasy book were left behind by the Neighbor; both of these had caused rifts between Dad and Mom, and given that the Neighbor seems to have a thing for Mom...

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of American Dad! has a subplot involving Hayley and Steve trying to break up a couple so they can respectively have the boyfriend and girlfriend themselves. It ends up going too well when the resulting fight at a park ends up getting physical enough to at least horribly maim the couple (the boyfriend was pushed into a barbecue by accident, which burns his face and partially sets him on fire, scaring the girlfriend who falls into a creek where she's attacked by an alligator).
  • Archer tries to get his ex back by manipulating recordings of her current boyfriend in order to make it look like he's cheating on her. She doesn't believe him, but still appreciates the effort.
    • Archer's mom also purposely drives Lana closer to her boyfriend to get her away from Archer, because while Lana and Cyril are the Official Couple, she can see the Unresolved Sexual Tension between her and her son.
    • And Archer's "Operation Something About I Rescue Lana and She Begs Me to Take Her Back, so Then Cyril Commits Suicide."
    • Also Archer's attempt to separate his mother from his favorite actor Burt Reynolds by forging an insulting note with Burt's handwriting and he did it because he can't stand the idea of his favorite actor dating his mother
    • Outside Archer's attempts, the rest of the main group spends an episode trying to separate Archer and Lana because they got sick of how well lovey-dovey they're being with each other. They hatch a plan to entice Archer to cheat on Lana with his ex-fiancee Katya by bringing her to his apartment, but when they overhear Archer telling about Katya how much he truly loves Lana, they were all reduced to tears and intense regret, kicking themselves for how they could be so vindictive. But despite them trying to stop the desired affair at the last second, Lana did eventually find Katya's detachable robot vagina in Archer's sink that she had put in there to clean it before trying to seduce him, and Lana did indeed pop a blood vessel in rage at Archer's suspected infidelity.
  • The As Told by Ginger episode "Wicked Game" has Dodie and Macey teaming up with Miranda and Mipsy to break up Ginger and Darren. Courtney overhears their plans and warns Ginger about it, and sets up a conference call with everyone so she tricks them into discussing everything they've done with Ginger and Darren on the other line.
  • Implicitly done in Bojack Horseman when Diane seduces her ex-husband Mr. Peanutbutter after seeing how happy he was with his new girlfriend after their divorce, while she was single and miserable.
    • Bojack also spent the entirety of the first season trying to sabotage the romance between Diane and Mr Peanutbutter so he can win Diane over, only to give up after being scolded by Todd for trying to crash her wedding.
    • Bojack also sabotaged his own relationship with his girlfriend Wanda Pierce because of not knowing how to be romantic due to his one night stand lifestyle. He lashed out at her over his director and friend Kelsey Jannings getting fired, as well as his friend Herb Hazsaz getting fired by another producer like her.
    • Bojack also ruined the relationship between his sister Hollyhock and her boyfriend Miles, this time out of fear that he's using her for sex like Bojack did with other women. He acted as a judge in a booty academy show where Miles is an intern and told one of the contestants to seduce Miles to make him look like a cheater, but due to a misunderstanding, the contestant got laid with a gaffer, then Bojack got kicked out of the show for that. Then Miles told Bojack he could've just asked him not to date Hollyhock as he confessed he was just dating her to get Bojack to publish his screenplay.
    • Bojack also sabotaged his own relationship again with his girlfriend Gina Cazador because of being paranoid that someone is trying to expose his secrets. After overdosing on pain pills, Bojack's insanity grew to the point he really choked Gina in a scene where they pretend to fight.
  • In Harley Quinn (2019), Harley never respected Poison Ivy's relationship with the Cool Loser Kite Man, openly stating that she deserved better. When she does start being supportive it's around the time she realizes she has feelings for Ivy herself, and ends up ruining their engagement by sleeping with her. She tries to make it up to Kite Man by planning their wedding herself, but the damage had already been done and he ended up breaking it off for good.
  • Helga always fails at this in Hey Arnold!.
    • However at one point her plan was actually noble as the girl he was with was just romancing him so he would win a Sand Castle contest for her where she then planned to dump him and share the prize with her boyfriend. However, because Arnold came across her Evil Gloating over the situation he wouldn't believe her when she tried to tell him of the plan.
  • Kaeloo:
  • King of the Hill: Peggy sabotages Lucky & Luann's relationship.
  • The Series Finale of My Dad the Rock Star has Quincy trying to break Willy and Alyssa up because he thinks that if they're together, they wouldn't want him hanging around getting in their way.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Once had Bart try to break up the relationship of Laura Powers, his Precocious Crush (with the added motivation that the person she was going out with had bullied him).
    • In an earlier episode, when his best friend Milhouse started 'dating' the new girl at school, Bart tipped off the girl's Overprotective Dad so Milhouse would hang out with him again. He ended up regretting it.
    • In another episode, Milhouse's parents (who several seasons back had a nasty Toilet Seat Divorce) are getting back together. Which seems great at first, except that Milhouse starts to feel that they're ignoring him. He complains about this to Bart, and Bart sees a Teen Drama on TV wherein a girl angrily dumps her boyfriend because she found another girl's bra in his room. Bart steals one of Marge's bras and leaves it in the Van Houtens' bedroom. But because the bra had Marge's name sewn into it, it poses a threat to Homer and Marge's marriage as well. Homer and Marge reconcile over the fact that it was a big misunderstanding.
    • In Dude, Where's My Ranch?, Lisa falls for a cute boy while at a dude ranch. Later on, she meets a girl their age who knows him and is looking forward to meeting him at the upcoming dance. Lisa, assuming it's his girlfriend, deliberately sends her down the wrong trail, which makes her get lost, but when Lisa learns that the girl is the boy's sister, she eventually feels guilty and helps find the girl. When she confesses to the boy, he's so disgusted by Lisa's actions that he never wants to see her again.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man: Aunt May finds out that Peter might have a date with an older woman who isn't Mary Jane, and therefore tracks the woman down and pressures her into breaking it off. And she gets away with this.
  • A non-romantic version happens in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Naughty Nautical Neighbors" where Squidward provokes a fight between SpongeBob and Patrick that ends their friendship for no reason other than being a jerk. However, both of them then want him to be their new best friend and drive him crazy to the point that he has to make them friends again.
  • Total Drama: Because relationships are effectively alliances, there's usually someone with poor morals around that wants to see one or more not succeed.
    • Heather forms an alliance with Lindsay and Beth in "The Big Sleep". One of her first orders to keep control over the two is for Lindsay to forget about her reciprocal crush on Tyler, who's a member of the other team. Lindsay obeys halfheartedly and picks up a relationship with Tyler after they're both eliminated.
    • Heather becomes concerned about Gwen's and Trent's developing romance in "Search and Do Not Destroy", because a relationship equals an alliance and that's competition she can't afford. So she arranges for Gwen to walk in on her and Trent kissing by means of a fake letter. She lures Trent to the Dock of Shame and tearfully spits out lies that Gwen confessed to the other girls that she dislikes Trent and only uses him to get ahead in the game. Heather kisses Trent when Gwen shows up, making her believe that Trent's unfaithful and letting Trent believe he's being used while ensuring that neither would want to talk to the other any time soon. Due to her meddling, Trent is voted off that evening, but the truth also comes out and the two resume their relationship.
    • In "Zeek and Ye Shall Find", Mal believes that he and Cameron need a third ally and Scott's a good pick. But to get Scott on their side, they need to destroy the budding romance between him and Courtney. Mal therefore cajoles Cameron into kissing Courtney and the two make it look like Courtney was the one to initiate it, aiming to get Scott on their side by making him believe that Courtney was two-timing him as much as she was Cameron. It doesn't work out entirely as planned, as Scott and Courtney work through it, but Mal does manage to get his hooks in Scott.
    • Chris likes Heather's and Alejandro's belligerent romance. He does not like it when they get lovey-dovey and fail to provide any drama. Thus, to get entertaining footage, he changes the rules of the finale midway in "The Final Wreck-ening" to where the finalists and the helpers equally can claim the grand prize upon winning. With money on the line, Heather and Alejandro go back to being enemies.
    • Sugar doesn't like that Dave and Sky are heading for a romance-alliance and sets out to disrupt any further progress in "This Is the Pits!". Whenever they have a moment, she's there to ruin it. By the end of the episode, she no longer has to bother because Chris makes Sky and Max switch teams.
    • In "This Is the Pits!", Chris announces that he's breaking up Scarlett and Max because their romantic development would make for an unfair alliance. To prevent the team sizes from becoming unbalanced, he has Max switch teams with Sky. This creates some uncertainty which relationship Chris is actually targeting. Although Scarlett and Max seem close, they are not romantically involved, which Chris may or may not know from confessional footage. Meanwhile, Sky and Dave are close to forming a relationship, which plenty of people know about. In either case, splitting up Scarlett and Max changes nothing about them, while splitting up Dave and Sky becomes the start of the downfall of their romance.
    • In "Lies, Cries and One Big Prize", Chris rigs the helper selection so that Shawn and Sky both get assistance from their respective love interests: Jasmine and Dave. He lets their interactions play out until the final stretch of the race. That's when he shows the quartet what horrible things Shawn said about Jasmine and what devastating secret Sky's been keeping from Dave. As everything sinks in, he declares the helpers to now be hinderers and that the dangers of the final stretch are up to their choosing. Jasmine chooses to forgive Shawn, while after everything else that's happened Dave only wants revenge against Sky.
  • Diaspro in Winx Club is in love with and originally engaged to Prince Sky. However, Sky falls in love with Bloom and breaks up with Diaspro. Diaspro is still in love with Sky and tries to brainwash him with a love potion. When this fails, she turns to more conventional means such as not letting the two spend time together and feeding the two misinformation in an attempt to drive them apart. She's helped when Sky's father declares her his liaison, giving her some power over Sky.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • At the beginning of season 3, Rick got himself arrested by the galactic federation as part of a plan to destroy it from inside and to get revenge on Jerry for wanting to sell him off to the bureaucrats, which once Rick came back to Beth with the kids, he can pose himself as a hero that got rid of the federation's rules, Jerry instantly tries to prove again that Rick is a complete monster for making him lose his job (while he ignored that his family was suffering with the new government), Jerry then makes Beth choose between him and Rick, which obviously chose Rick as he made everything back to before the aliens colonized earth.
    • For unlucky Jerry, as he was moving out of the house, no one seems to care about him leaving or even stopped him from leaving, also the wind was calling him a loser.
    • On one episode which focused on Rick and Jerry, Jerry now lives in self-loathing regret of leaving his family in a decaying motel room, and once Rick drags him to a fake adventure, he indirectly learns that his divorce was Rick's fault, so he invites Rick to a rollercoaster which Jerry knows some assassins will be to kill him to both get revenge on Rick for causing Jerry's divorce and selling weapons to the assassins' enemies, but just as they were on the ride, Rick admitted his part on their brake up and sincerely would tell the truth to Beth, unfortunately it was too late for Jerry to abort the murder attempt without Rick knowing his part in it, and the dying hitman admitted he was part of the assassination. Just as Jerry tried to explain himself there, he was being eaten by an alien snake and as he was half swollen, he lashed at Rick for stealing his family, which he replies on how he uses his pity and coward ways to convince everyone into helping him survive and makes him reflect on how he is also ruining everyone's life. After escaping the murder attempts, Rick and Jerry agreed to keep secret about the murder attempt and Rick's part in their divorce, and also made Jerry want to become stronger to win Beth back.
  • In The Smurfs episode "Papa's Wedding Day", the male Smurfs at first become jealous of Papa Smurf's attention being drawn away by the young and beautiful woodnymph Flowerbell, but when they discover that Flowerbell was working for the evil Lord Balthazar and tricking Papa Smurf into marrying her so that the wizard could capture him and use him for his evil purposes, the Smurfs do everything in their power to sabotage the wedding so as to make Papa Smurf have second thoughts about marrying Flowerbell.
  • In Winnie The Pooh: A Valentine For You, Christopher Robin has a liking for a girl named Winifred and Pooh and the gang worry this means he won't have time to visit them anymore, so they set out to find the "smitten" that bit him so they can give him a second bite to "de-bug" love. Pooh ultimately decides to leave Christopher the way he is and lets the smitten go because seeing how happy he is to have a new friend is for the best.


Video Example(s):


Mulan II

Mushu attempts to break up Mulan and Shang to avoid losing his position as her guardian.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / RelationshipSabotage

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