Follow TV Tropes


The Ex's New Jerkass

Go To

It's been a while since the protagonist and their ex broke up. The protagonist is still single, but their ex has a new significant other, and that someone is a complete Jerkass. Maybe they're only a Jerkass to the protagonist, making them a Jerkass to One. The Jerkass behavior could be out of jealousy and/or insecurity and a warning to the ex to stay away from their loved one. Maybe the behavior extends to the protagonist's other friends as well. Or maybe they're just a Jerkass to everyone except the person they're dating. They might turn out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but they're probably a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk. It's also possible that they're abusive towards their significant other. Whatever the case, they're a Jerkass.

Sometimes the new paramour is a Romantic False Lead, False Soulmate, or Disposable Fiancé Type C (Evil All Along), and the ex gets back together with the protagonist in the end. Other times they Take a Level in Kindness, and the ex stays with them, often with the protagonist's blessing. In other cases, the protagonist has no interest in getting back with their ex but the new partner still sees them as a threat.

The difference between this and Romantic False Lead is that a False Lead isn't always a Jerkass. Generally, either the Protagonist or the Jerkass paramour ends up being the Romantic Runner-Up. On rare occasions, they both do.

To be clear: The ex isn't the jerkass; their new partner is the jerkass (though sometimes they will have a toxic influence on their partner if they were previously Amicable Exes with the protagonist). It should also be noted that the character on the receiving end of the jerkass' wrath might not even be the protagonist of the story, but they often are.

See also The Missus and the Ex. If there are children involved, the jerkass will often be a Wicked Stepmother or Stepfather. If it's the ex who is acting hostile towards the new partner, they may be a Psycho Ex-Girlfriend or Boyfriend.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Happens to Poor Yamcha in Dragon Ball Z, where Bulma and Yamcha break up sometime prior to the beginning of the Cell Saga despite their close relationship in the original Dragon Ball series. Bulma and Yamcha seem to have remained fairly good friends after their breakup, but things becomes tense when Yamcha finds out Bulma's new love interest is the former villain, Vegeta, who was indirectly responsible for Yamcha's death (he got better) and that of many of his friends while they were still dating. Things become even more unpleasant after Bulma bears Vegeta's son Trunks out of wedlock.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Doonesbury: Mike Doonesbury was married to Joanie "J.J." Caucus after graduating Walden College. However, their relationship soured after Mike connected with Kim Rosenthal during a political campaign. Mike and Joanie divorced, after which Mike took Kim as his second wife, and Joanie got back with her old flame, Zeke Brenner. Zeke is a pothead wastrel who's pretty much dead weight to Joanie, and even Joanie's biological daughter Alex refers to Zeke as "Uncle Stupidhead."

    Fan Works 
  • He Can Only Blame Himself: After dating Marinette for a few years, Adrien cheats on her with Lila. Marinette learns about the two-timing when she catches the two making out in her apartment, which Lila immediately declares her intention to make her own, mistakenly assuming that Adrien's name is on the lease. It's not, but Lila still intends to take it from her. Every time Lila appears, she attempts to twist the knife further, though her efforts are impended by Marinette pointing out that Adrien is now free to cheat on his new girlfriend.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Ant-Man, Scott Lang is upset when he finds out his wife has been dating Detective Paxton, not just because the latter arrested him, but also because he's "an asshat". Somewhat justified on Paxton's part considering Scott is a criminal. Fortunately, Paxton turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and he and Scott have a much friendlier relationship in the sequel.
  • In Fantastic Four (2005), Reed runs into his ex-girlfriend Sue when he asks his old friend Victor, who Sue works for and is currently dating, for a favor. This causes some tension and old feelings to resurface since Victor is a flagrant Rich Bastard who despises Reed and disrespects Sue and Reed's friends. After gaining their powers, Reed and Sue would reconcile after defeating a now fully villainous Doom and become engaged at the end of the film.
  • The First Wives Club:
    • Prior to the film, Brenda's husband Morty had a midlife crisis and left her for Shelly, a young, blonde cashier at his electronics store, who uses Morty's money for a lavish lifestyle and body-shames Brenda both in private and to her face. She is shown to be shallow and manipulative to pretty much everyone, even refusing to take part in the opening of the women's crisis center at the end of the film. On the bright side, she's also easily outwitted into doing things that help advance the First Wives Club's plan, and Morty is on his way back to Brenda by the end of the film.
    • Dr. Leslie Rosen is revealed to secretly be sleeping with Annie's husband Aaron while treating both of them in therapy. While her jerkass tendencies are downplayed — she comes across as well-intentioned but condescending — the fact that Dr. Rosen fraternized with a married (albeit separated) client behind the back of his wife, who happens to also be her client, qualifies as jerkass and illegal behavior.
    • Subverted with Phoebe, who despite being girlfriend to Elise's ex-husband and an actress who got the part Elise wanted, comes across as a sweet and naive fan of Elise's who doesn't get that Elise hates her. She even shows up at Elise's play. The worst one could say about her was that she lied about being underaged, which could have gotten Bill arrested had the truth come out.
  • In The Matrix, Morpheus experiences this with his relationship with ex-lover and fellow ship captain Niobe. After breaking up with Morpheus due to her intolerance of his earnest belief in the prophecy of the One, she entered into a relationship with Locke, the hard-nosed, not well-liked, and rude leader of Zion's military who despises superstition and Morpheus for his beliefs and jealousy for having Niobe's affection. Locke, though well-intentioned, is constantly standoffish, dismissive of Morpheus' belief in Neo, and eventually drives Niobe back to Morpheus for comfort.
  • Terry Benedict in Ocean's Eleven is this to Danny Ocean. He's dating Danny's ex, Tess, and is only polite to Danny when she's around. It's somewhat justified, since Terry's suspicions that Danny is trying to rob him are correct. That doesn't justify Terry's threat to kill Danny and his crew, however.
  • The Parent Trap (1961): When Sharon goes to California after swapping places with twin sister Susan, she learns that their divorced father Mitch is now engaged to Vicky Robinson. Vicky is a two-faced Gold Digger who acts sweet and gentle with Mitch but is haughty and rude to people behind his back, especially anyone she considers beneath her station, and she intends to ship Susan off to a boarding school in Switzerland right after the wedding. The prospect of having Vicky for a stepmother is one of the catalysts for the girls hatching their plot to try to get their biological parents back together instead.
  • In Run Fatboy Run, Libby's new fiancée Whit is everything Dennis Doyle is not, from a better runner to having more control over his life to having bigger genitalia (a thing Dennis discovered with much embarrassment). Unfortunately for Whit, he destroys his opportunity to marry Libby when he reveals himself to be a big Control Freak, culminating with him yelling at Libby's son and calling him a "little shit" when he annoys him in the film's final act. Libby ditches Whit right then and there.
  • In San Andreas, Ray's ex-wife Emma has a new boyfriend named Daniel. Daniel is a Zig-Zagged Jerkass. At first glance, he seems like a decent guy, even saying he doesn't want to interfere with the relationship between Ray and his daughter, Blake. Then the earthquakes hit, and Daniel outright lets people die so he can live.
  • In Sharknado, Fin Shepard's ex April has a new boyfriend named Collin whose first line of dialogue establishes him as a complete Jerkass with nothing but contempt for Ian.
    Collin: (in the smarmiest voice imaginable) Oh, Shepard. I should've figured it was you.
  • Notably Subverted in Venom (2018). Not only is Anne's new boyfriend Dan not a Jerkass, he's a genuinely nice guy who is a fan of Eddie and goes out of his way to help him. Even Venom himself warms up to Dan in the sequel.

  • Cormoran Strike Novels: Even before Matthew cheats on Robin with her, Robin describes Sarah as unpleasant, manipulative, and arrogant. She is no more pleasant after Matthew and Robin split because of his cheating and Sarah gets pregnant in what Robin perceives to be The Baby Trap.
  • In Let Me Call You Sweetheart, it's implied that Alice Kinellen (nee Bartlett), the second wife of Kerry's ex-husband, is a case of this. They never directly interact in the novel but Kerry states that Alice doesn't much care to be reminded that she wasn't Bob’s first wife or that he has a child with his ex. Kerry believes Alice's influence is partly why Bob rarely comes to see Robin and why she hardly knows her half-siblings. Kerry has absolutely no interest in getting back with Bob, so Alice comes off as unreasonably jealous and territorial; another character, Jason Arnott, also finds that Alice comes off as possessive and stuck-up, wondering what Bob sees in her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Bewitched, "If They Never Met," mixes this trope with It's a Wonderful Plot. After Darrin gets into yet another fight with Endora, she casts a spell that sends him to a reality where he never met or married Samantha. Instead, he's engaged to Shelia Sommers, a massive Alpha Bitch.
  • In The Boys (2019), M.M.'s wife ends up getting with Todd, a dorky die-hard fan of Villain with Good Publicity Homelander. Initially he doesn't seem too bad, but when M.M. confronts him over taking his daughter to a Homelander rally Todd insults his parenting skills, leading M.M. to punch him out in front of his daughter. The season finale then throws all nuance out the window by having Todd be the first person to start cheering when Homelander kills a dissident in the middle of New York.
  • Both subverted and played straight in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • When Riley comes back to Sunnydale, Buffy wants to hate his new wife, but can't because she's just too nice.
    • Played straight from Riley's point of view when he finds out Buffy is sleeping with Spike, who is brokering dangerous demon eggs.
  • In Dexter, Hannah returns and Dexter finds out she's married to an abusive man.
  • Friends: Rachel briefly dates a guy, played by Ben Stiller, who seems perfectly pleasant around the gang. Ross witnesses him absolutely scream at an older couple at a play, but no one believes him, because Ross and Rachel used to date and just went through a bitter breakup. The group does eventually catch Rachel's boyfriend screaming at Joey and Chandler's pets. He reacts by saying, "Well, I guess we're broken up now. GOD!"
  • On Gilmore Girls, this trope is significant to giving Rory, adrift for a season, a Character Check. Jess returns to Connecticut, full of Character Development and with a book he'd written, and comes to see Rory, who has dropped out of college and is living with her grandparents. Rory's boyfriend Logan crashes their plans to go out to dinner, then proceeds to get drunk and needle Jess with Passive-Aggressive Kombat about how lame novel writing is and how much smarter he (thinks he) is than Jess. It ends with Jess storming out and giving Rory a blistering What the Hell, Hero? about what she's doing with her life. This prompts her to re-enroll at Yale, move out of her grandparents, and get back on track.
    Logan: So, what are we talking here? Short novel? Kafka length or longer? Dos Passos, Tolstoy? Or longer? Robert Musil? Proust? I'm not throwing you with these names, am I?
    Jess: You seem very obsessed with length.
  • Lucifer (2016):
    • Dan Espinoza experiences this trope when it comes to his ex-wife Chloe Decker. Dan and Chloe remain friends after they divorce, they seem to get along better than when they were married. They still work together and jointly raise their daughter, Trixie. However, Dan becomes repeatedly exasperated by the shamelessly boorish and snide Lucifer as Chloe's new partner and assumed lover, and constant bickering ensues. It doesn't help matters that Lucifer finds trolling Dan to be an amusing pass time. Particularly when it comes to stealing and eating Dan's pudding. Although Dan partly blames him for the divorce, he eventually becomes Vitriolic Best Buds with Lucifer when he becomes Chloe's current love interest.
    • A less amicable example includes when Dan finds out Chloe has started dating Lt. Marcus Pierce, who's known for being an abrasive ass that nearly no one likes including Dan.It gets worse when it's revealed Pierce is actually a Serial Killer and the original Cain.
  • In Squid Game, Gi-hun is desperately trying to get funding for treating his mother's end-stage diabetes and goes to his ex-wife for help. Her rich new husband offers to give him the money on the condition that he never see his daughter again, leading Gi-hun to punch him out in front of his daughter.

    Video Games 
  • Curse Crackers: For Whom The Belle Toils: After finally rescuing Clyde, Belle is devastated to find out that not only has he broken up with her (though in his eyes, he wasn't her boyfriend in the first place since he was kidnapped on their first date), but he's also started dating Ursyla, who is rude to just about everyone and wants revenge on Vivian for taking her Title even though Vivian defeated her completely by accident, and she later gets into a fight with Belle over it. It's hard to feel sorry for her when Clyde ends up dumping her as well.
  • Dead Space 3: Robert Norton started dating Ellie Langford in between the events of the second and third games, and he spends most of his time in the campaign being rude to and insulting her former love interest, protagonist Isaac Clarke. Robert eventually tries to murder Isaac.
  • Jayden in Grand Theft Auto V was the Disposable Fiancé (and later husband) of Franklin's Love Interest Tanisha. It's Zig-Zagged as Lamar says he's a Nice Guy who runs a charity for sick kids, although Tanisha's social media page indicates that he's condescending and borderline emotionally abusive toward her, but she remains oblivious to it. By the time of Online it's shown that she eventually dumped him and went back to Franklin.

    Western Animation 
  • Both Inverted and played straight in Archer. Interestingly, in this example, the Protagonist himself is the Jerkass.
    • Inverted when Lana dates Cyril after dumping Archer, considering most of Archer's interactions with Cyril involve the former being a Jerkass to the latter.
    • Played straight from Cyril's point of view when Lana breaks up with him and gets back together with Archer.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Clark is surprised to find out that Lana Lang, his ex, is dating Lex Luthor, Clark/Superman's Arch-Enemy and one of the main villains of the series.