In fiction, "love" means conflict. If a work has a "love story", that story usually cares only for extremes: falling in love, and falling out of it in short order.
So your favorite Official Couple (or Beta Couple) finally answered Will They or Won't They?: They Do. Our couple has fallen madly in love, carted off to their honeymoon and are probably getting started with that whole "Babies Ever After" thing. A happy, feel-good time is had by all, right? Nope.
In the next season, it turns out that married life isn't what they thought it was. He lost his job and became The Alcoholic? She started having an affair with the handsome postman? They drifted apart after that disastrous (but convenient) miscarriage? She divorced him and remarried four years ago!?
Happy Endings can only happen if things... you know... end. This is the reason the finish line in a love story is at the start of the relationship. Romance Arcs only deal with couples getting together in the first place, and in happy stories, it ends there. If it doesn't, the majority of screen time will be about watching the relationship self-destruct, introducing the possibility of an affair (or having an actual one), breaking up, or struggling with the aftermath of such a breakup. Alternatively, it'll skip straight to a Distant Finale, never showing any of their married life but some distant milestone like a second honeymoon or death in old age.
Because otherwise, conventional wisdom holds, there would be little personal conflict, and as we said, Romance Plot = Conflict. So, if you want to enjoy your happy ending, you'd better stop reading/watching/playing right after it happens. While a couple will do almost whatever it takes to get together, they rarely conquer their problems to STAY together.
In one tragic way, this is Truth in Television. The greatest highs and lows of a relationship are at the beginning and end; the parts in-between tend to become mundane because it's just everyday life. Love is easier when you're high off of emotion and the excitement of something new and forbidden. But, once you've got it, you're forced to ask Now What? Romantic relationships need to be worked at, and sometimes people get bored or burned out with their status quo and argue about petty things. On the other hand, where this trope comes into play is that there's rarely any sign of these mundane good times. Instead, fiction skips straight to the good stuff.
This must not be taken as that happy couples can't face conflict at all, mind you. They might face difficulties like paying bills together or learn how to be parents, and that doesn't really affect what they feel for each other in the slightest. Problem is, then the relationship itself ceases to be a source of conflict, and rather becomes an asset for the characters to face other conflicts. Romance plots are not a superior form of conflict, but they are very familiar and emotionally powerful—and thus easy. Removing romance as conflict means that other conflict has to pick up the slack, but this doesn't mean those are lesser stories because of it.
This trope is often used to prevent or reverse Shipping Bed Death, and as justifcation for never resolving Will They or Won't They?, or as justification for turning the couple's Romance Arc into a Yo Yo Plot Point by having them do the on-again-off-again thing. If it happens offscreen between sequels/episodes, it's a Downtime Downgrade. If the characters (and their fans) are "lucky", the Divorce Is Temporary. If not, the next best thing is to hope to be Amicably Divorced.
This is most likely to apply to a Super Couple.
Related to Victory Is Boring and Failure Is the Only Option, which cover plot conflicts not associated with romance. Disposable Woman and Death by Origin Story are cases where this is done preemptively, before the story proper even begins. See also Relationship Ceiling. May be Played for Laughs in an Awful Wedded Life comedy.
NOTE: To qualify for this trope, the couple must go through three phases:
- A difficult or long-running courtship
- Followed by very little narrative focus on their happy relationship/married lifenote
- Followed by death/breakup/divorce/separation/infidelity/unhappy relationship.
Alternatively, in-universe or out-of-universe lampshading of the phenomenon is also acceptable.
Please remove any examples that do not qualify.
For a less depressing view, many of the couples on Happily Married are aversions of this trope.
- Joe Quesada has actually stated that certain characters (particularly Ant-Man, Spider-Man, and Cyclops) are "more interesting" without their wives. You might want to check out the One More Day page for more information on how one was done. Even before One More Day, writers and editors tried to break up, kill off, or otherwise end Peter and MJ's relationship time and time again. Also one of the reasons Gwen Stacy was killed. Nobody at Marvel was ready for a married Spider-Man yet.
- Hawkeye and Mockingbird. Not long after they were married "died", but that turned out to be Actually A Skrull. Since then, the couple has been reunited... and then promptly divorced.
- Like Spidey above, he had his marriage Retconned away after the 2011 reboot. Later reversed after Convergence, in which The Bus Came Back and the married Clark/Lois couple are still happily married and with a child. As of DC Rebirth, their relationship and family are still going strong.
- In the New 52 era, Superman was paired with Wonder Woman. Almost immediately after they started dating, they begin having petty and Out of Character arguments for no real reason. For example, Superman gets angry at her because she doesn't tell him that she's the Greek God of War, and further says that he doesn't know if he can be with her if she is. Diana, likewise, starts going behind Clark's back and acts as a Poisonous Friend in certain situations in order to protect him. When he loses his powers, Clark tries to tag along with Diana on a mission to fight gods and mythical beasts and gets mad at her when she tells him to literally Stay in the Kitchen because it's safer. This culminates into Superman: Truth, where Superman says "he doesn't know" if he loves Diana anymore. The relationship comes to a tragic end in The Final Days of Superman, and DC Rebirth reboots the universe to prevent their relationship from happening in the first place.
- Nova and Namorita. When they were on the New Warriors, they became mutually attracted to each other and eventually began to date. They broke after she turned blue and he couldn't deal with the new look. Then she died, and he later brought her back. Then Richard died, but Came Back Wrong.
- Like their fellow New Warriors, Justice and Firestar also count. According to the writer who put them together in the first place, Fabian Nicieza, he had always intended for them to break up anyway. However, he left the book before that happened, and subsequent writers eventually married them just before they joined The Avengers as a Battle Couple. Kurt Busiek, in particular, tried his best to avert this trope. He liked to write them as an introspective of what it's like to be superhero newlyweds in the Marvel Universe. However, Nicieza later ended up writing the two again, and the first thing he promptly did was break them up. In fact, the story that finally sank their ship for good is a time-traveling story in which the newly-married Justice and Firestar are downright terrified of how cold they've become to each other in the future.
- Mostly averted with Sue and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four (but NOT the Ultimate versions of them). Their marriage may be saved thanks to the Grandfather Clause: they were wedded in a Stan Lee-penned story not long after their original creation. They've split apart numerous times, but it's hard to be "Marvel's First Family" if they're not, y'know . . . a family.
- In the Bronze Age, Batman and Catwoman were written as partners in crimefighting and as lovers. After a couple of years, they broke up and she went a little batty, attacking him and Vicki Vale before making peace with him. Post-Crisis the two have shown Belligerent Sexual Tension but haven't gotten together, although she is still at least 75% good. This is all but implied to be the reason seeing as it's been confirmed that Selina is one of the few women Bruce has ever loved, if not the only woman he has ever truly loved.
- Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. Chuck Dixon's run on Nightwing made them an Official Couple. The Ship Sinking started during Devin Grayson's run and continued up to and beyond Infinite Crisis. Unlike most other examples, this actually had quite a bit of build up. This also became an Enforced Trope by way of Executive Meddling: Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson became engaged in order to create drama for Dick's impending death. Dick Grayson wasn't supposed to survive Infinite Crisis, but since he did (the writers refused to kill him), the editors wanted him to be a swinging bachelor and free to do his solo thing.
- In Teen Titans, before Nightwing and Oracle was Nightwing and Starfire (Koriand'r). Not only were they engaged as well, they even made it to the altar before a possessed Raven interrupted the proceedings. Their relationship never really recovered from that, with Dick even taking it as a sign that they were too young and weren't ready to take the next big step to marriage (Kori herself thought they were rushing to begin with), and that eventually led to them drifting apart and breaking up for good. Even so, they still slept together occasionally, and chances are that if Barbara Gordon isnt Dick's One True Love, then Koriand'r is.
- Generally averted in ElfQuest, probably due to it being written by a happily married couple.
- The Hulk once averted this trope for the same reason as above. (Peter David's wife said Betty Ross Banner was her favorite character, and he swore never to break them up or kill her off.) After a very messy divorce between the Real Life couple, guess what he did. He later regretted that decision. Furthermore, Betty has subsequently come Back from the Dead and become an Evil/Distaff for Hulk and She-Hulk. Their reunion is still ironing out some wrinkles.
- There is also the matter of The Hulk's other wives and love interests. Caiera, Jarella, Kate Waynesboro, etc. Kate Waynesboro is the only one that hasn't died at least.
- Gray Hulk (aka Joe Fixit) had his own "love interest" (though more like a Friend with Benefits) in Marlo Chandler. Any romance between the two ended after Marlo disapproved of Joe's brutality and cruelty, and she later married Hulk's on-again-off-again sidekick Rick Jones. This relationship started off on the wrong foot, as the feature at Rick's bachelor party was a softcore nude film Marlo had done in the past. They got married anyway, but would often separate for brief periods of time before getting together again. And then... the real weirdness started. First, Marlo began having an affair with Moondragon and briefly left Rick before Moondragon realized she'd always be second to Rick in Marlo's eyes. After that, Marlo disappeared and was transformed into the Harpy while Rick was transformed into A-Bomb. They've rarely been seen since then, but maybe now Marlo and Rick finally have a solid relationship.
- In the Batman Beyond sequel comic, a Time Skip showcases that Terry McGinnis and his girlfriend Dana, who had spent the entire series in a relationship, had broken up. Word of God flat out states that this was to introduce more mystery and tension into the book.
- Guardians of the Galaxy:
- This is played straight with Phyla-Vell and Moondragon. The series starts with Moondragon dead. Phyla revives her, only to then spend a few issues barely interacting with her before seemingly dying. Then, even when Phyla turns out to be alive, she can only send a few psychic warnings to Moondragon before dying herself. Moondragon even laments specifically that the two never seem to be alive and in the same place for very long at a time.
- The relationship between Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde was built on this as well. The timeline of the relationship is quite confusing for readers as the couple actually lasted way much longer than what we see on panel. Since we only saw a bit of the dating phase, the proposal, and then skip directly to the separation, it might get lost on readers that a little bit more than a year passed between the beginning and the end of the relationship. And now they're back at the dating phase. Bendis himself admitted he wanted this dynamic for the couple; dating, breakup, reconciliation, dating... in an infinite loop.
- Chase and Gert are a happy, mostly well-adjusted couple at the beginning of the second series. Naturally, the events of the second series puts their relationship under strain... and then Gert dies.
- Nico and Victor end up in a relationship at the end of Vaughan's run. By the end of the second series, they break up.
- Throughout the second series, Karolina and Xavin try very hard to make their relationship work, but ultimately, Xavin ends up having to go back into space to answer for their crimes against Majesdane.
- ''Abominable: CJ and Amanda teasingly invoke this during the wedding toast, with Amanda beginning it with to the first one of us to fall and CJ adding ball and chain baby.
- The reason Ripley was the only survivor at the beginning of the third movie in the Alien series. Newt, Hicks and Bishop were all killed off in part 3 because it was feared the story would be boring otherwise.
- Captain America: The First Avenger: While Steve and Peggy's budding romance progresses happily for most of the movie, a brief scene has the two of them argue over Steve getting forced into a kiss with another woman... and then is promptly resolved a minute later and never mentioned again. The two of them end up having their romance sunk, though, after Steve makes a Heroic Sacrifice and arrives in the future where Peggy is on her deathbed. The following movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, then skips over having any kind of romantic subplot at all. Steve finally gets something of a happy ending when he uses Time Travel to go back and finally marry Peggy, but this relationship is literally the last thing revealed before Steve's part in the MCU concludes. In fact, when asked for details, he refuses to provide them.
- John McClane and Holly of Die Hard. Through the first three films, their breakups are a Running Gag with the two coming closer together at the end of their devastating experience. However, this trope is played morosely straight in the fourth film, where they're finally divorced.
- Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy resulted like this. The first film had the relatively simple dilemma of Mary Jane reciprocating Peter's affections, but Peter turning her down because he doesn't want to tell her he's Spider-Man and put her in danger. The second film upped the complication, with Mary Jane getting engaged, Peter quitting Spider-Man and wanting to be close again, but it ended on the seemingly simple note of the two of them getting together, with Mary Jane aware of his Secret Identity. But then the third film overcomplicated everything, with the two getting engaged but then cutting it off because Evil Harry Osborn, then a Love Triangle with Gwen Stacy, followed by Peter becoming a girl-punching jerk due to an alien symbiote, and holy cow who cares about them anymore?? Nobody, apparently, as the series was then rebooted, with the much better received Peter and Gwen Stacy instead.
- This sums up the relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia in the official Star Wars canon. The classic trilogy is three movies' worth of Slap-Slap-Kiss; a Time Skip to The Force Awakens reveals that they got married and had a son who fell to The Dark Side, ruining their marriage. Oh, and Han is now dead by his son's blade, though not before reconciling with Leia.
- In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Happy Endings Bernice Summerfield, as the title suggests, goes off to live Happily Ever After with her husband Jason. When it became apparent that Virgin Publishing weren't going to get the licence to continue making Doctor Who novels, Eternity Weeps splits them up, so that Benny will be single as a main character.
- The first three Dragaera novels are as much about Vlad and Cawti's relationship and marriage as anything else. The series starts with "phase two" as they are Happily Married but Cawti shows up mostly just to provide support for Vlad's latest job, backtracks to "phase one" as the next book shows how they got together in a violent take on Slap-Slap-Kiss, and then hits "phase three" in the third book when they start to develop serious differences and slowly fall apart.
- Harry Potter, the title character's love life perfectly follows the pattern. He has an unrequired crush on Cho Chang who's dating someone else during Goblet of Fire. When they do get together in Order of the Phoenix, they immediatly start arguing over her deceased boyfriend and Cho's best friend's betrayal and break up. In the next book, Harry falls for his best friend's sister Ginny who's dating someone else. They finally have their Relationship Upgrade just before the climax after which Harry break up with her for her sake. Their happy relationship is glossed over a paragraph. They do get back together and get married but it happens during the Time Skip between the last chapter and the epilogue.
- Justified, since they are mere teenagers who are supposed to have crushes and short relationships.Ron likes Fleur then Lavender; Hermione crushes on Lockhart then likes Viktor Krum.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch:
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ended with Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax getting together. So naturally the continuation novels broke them up, Ezri having decided that their relationship was based on residual feelings for (and by) Jadzia Dax; Bashir was subsequently paired off with Sarina Douglas who gets killed off at the end of the Section 31 sub-series.
- Ben Sisko emerges from the wormhole, having been released by the Prophets from his obligations as the Emissary. Sounds like he gets that happy ending with Second Love Kasidy Yates after all. Nope: in Star Trek: Typhon Pact Ben starts angsting over the Prophets releasing him, which, combined with his resuming his Starfleet career, strains their marriage to the point where he files for divorce. They patch things up in Star Trek: The Fall.
- In Wizard and Glass, when he tells the story of his first love, Roland says the name of the trope, explaining that "once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome" — except of course for the ones who exchange in them. Indeed, the focus of the story he's telling and thus the whole novel is a tricky courtship between Star-Crossed Lovers, and the happy part is rather glossed over.
- 30 Rock: Jack seems to have finally met his perfect woman in Avery Jessup, a shrewd Blond Republican Sex Kitten. They get Happily Married and live Babies Ever After with their daughter Liddy... until Avery gets kidnapped and forced to report North Korean propaganda by Kim Jong Il. During this time, Jack got the hots for Avery's mother, and Avery possibly had an affair with her fellow hostage Scott. Once reunited, Jack and Avery attempt to recapture their romantic chemistry and renew their vows, but during the ceremony jointly decide they want to get divorced instead.
- It has Fred and Gunn as a couple. Joss then gives a nod to the shippers by letting Wes date Fred for all of a day before killing Fred off and changing her into another character because the love thing was boring.
- Angel was turned into a human, the thing he wanted most, and could be with Buffy, something he desperately wanted. They had one, glorious love filled day, but they both realized that him being human meant that he wouldn't be able to fight in the potential upcoming apocalypses, which would result in thousands of deaths including hers. So Angel very selflessly decided to turn back time and erase their perfect day and remain a vampire, losing her forever.
- Buffy and Angel's first relationship on Buffy the Vampire Slayer also applies. After a over a season of build-up they finally got together, but Joss Whedon felt there was nowhere for the relationship to go after they had sex for the first time. So he decided that them having sex would cause Angel to lose his soul, turning him into a sadistic, evil version of himself determined to psychologically torture Buffy.
- Castle is an illustration of the flipside of this trope: using the Romance Arc as the core of the show means postscript seasons when the Official Couple gets together. The writers managed to stretch out the Romance Arc between Castle and Beckett for four seasons before they finally got together, and another two and a half before they married, with several false starts along the way. The show was cancelled a season and a half later. The Beta Couple of Esposito and Lanie doesn't even get that far: they get together offscreen, break up offscreen, get back together offscreen, then finally break up again onscreen.
- Cheers: After five years of on-again/off-again UST they're about to get married, then Diane leaves Sam at the altar, only to come back 6 years later for the Grand Finale to almost marry him again.
- Mostly averted. After running a Will They or Won't They? for about three seasons, Chuck and Sarah finally get together, become a Battle Couple, and remain together with little to no jealousy or other relationship problems.
- Although, it's played completely straight in those first three seasons. Chuck and Sarah dance around their attraction for each other during the series' early run, until they finally succumb to it near the end of Season 2. Then the relationship is driven to the rocks at the beginning of Season 3, and it stays there for about 10 episodes until it's finally resolved for good. Possibly because the show had at least three Series Fauxnales that completed the character arcs that were this trope.
- Happened in CSI with Gil Grissom and Sarah Sidle - after several seasons of UST they finally got together, only for Sarah to eventually leave both Grissom, the department and Las Vegas and then for Grissom to go (she eventually returned without him).
- Desperate Housewives
- Mike and Susan finally married in season 3 ending. They were divorced at the beginning of season 5. And back together in season 6.
- Flirted with but ultimately subverted in Doctor Who, when the first episode of a new series showed Rory and Amy about to get divorced. At first it appeared that Amy couldn't settle down to normal life after travelling in the TARDIS for so long, but eventually the breakup turned out to be down to a communication breakdown: since Amy can't have more children after the events of Demons Run she was nobly sacrificing the relationship because she knew that was important to Rory. It was, but not as important as she was.
- Friends: Played straight with Ross and Rachel. They have the classic Unrequited Love Switcheroo courtship but few storylines when they do get together. Then they break up over Ross's so-called "cheating" and spend the rest of the series arguing about it. They almost get back together several times, but only succeed in the final episode.
- Averted with the unwaveringly stable Monica and Chandler. Early seasons hint of attraction but they're portrayed as best friends who comfortably accept each other, averting the Will They or Won't They? drama. They Out have a one night stand, start a relationship and eventually get married with little drama. A lot of focus is given to their day to day problems, but they're ridiculously happy together and don't break up once while still managing interesting storylines.
- Particular aversion as their relationship benefited the show hugely and opened up a ton of storylines. Them moving in together forever changed the living dynamics of the gang, their engagement gave a whole seasons worth of wedding story lines and the relationship helped their Character Development as well.
- Chuck and Blair on Gossip Girl got hit with this, hard, in season three.
- How I Met Your Mother Season 8 episode, "The Autumn of Break-ups", Future Ted lampshades this regarding the relationships of him and Victoria, Lily and Marshall, Barney and Quinn, Robin and Nick. He narrates that for the past three months, they were all contented and happy...which he pointed out that those events don't matter in the present and that brings us to the episode proper where all the couples are arguing. At the end, Barney and Quinn ended their engagement. The following episodes have Ted/Victoria and Robin/Nick breaking up too; though in Ted's case, it's due to his feelings with Robin which is the same reason Victoria broke up with him in the first place. The three-month timeskip was most likely done due to the first eight seasons of the show taking place in real time and the show needed an excuse to pick up in September after the last season ended in June.
- In the Accel spin-off movie of Kamen Rider Double, Ryu Terui is forced to go on the run with a female thief, leaving his new wife Akiko to think that he has left her for another woman and threaten him with divorce. The trope is ultimately averted when Ryu and Akiko do stay together, but the writers clearly felt that conflict needed to be introduced into the relationship.
- Madam Secretary: Inverted with the Happily Married core couple. The show finds more than enough drama inside Elizabeth and Henry McCord's relationship without trying to break them up. The closest they come is in the second half of season two when their professional obligations put them significantly at odds: Liz is forced to give up a high-level mole Henry has been running inside GRU to secure a peace deal with Russia in Ukraine, which ultimately sends them to couples counseling. Not only do they still make up in the end, but it's plain as day that despite the seriousness of their conflict, they don't love each other one iota less because of it.
- NCIS: Ellie Bishop joins the team in Season 11 and is noted to be one of the few, if not only people to join the cast and (a) come from a happy, normal family, and (b) be Happily Married. But the writers apparently decided on this trope and turned her initially loving, supportive husband into a cheating SOB who she divorced, thus freeing her to have the same tragic, screwed-up love life that nearly all the other characters do—already, as of Season 14, her new boyfriend has been killed, and adding insult to injury, the ending of a recent episode revealed that she would have accepted his marriage proposal had this not happened.
- Averted, Subverted, Inverted, and played straight in One Tree Hill. Averted with Nathan and Hailey, who have been a constant couple throughout the series, though twice have came close to a divorce due to a non-existent but assumed affair, both times (one from her, one from him), but the two never stopped loving each other. Subverted by Lucas and Brooke, as she originally started off as a Romantic False Lead, became popular with fans and writers, the two got back together when the two actors got married, then their real life counterparts got divorced and they broke up in-universe shortly thereafter. Inverted by Brooke and Jullian, who started off as a slowly developing Beta Couple, then after the second Time Skip are happily together and soon to be married. They break up for a little while, but mostly live happily. Played Straight by Lucas and Peton, who after four seasons of going back and fourth between love interests, Lucas and Peyton finally decide to get together forever...only to be broken up bitterly by the first timeskip, with Lucas now engaged to his editor. They get back together and marry by two seasons, only for their actors to leave soon after. At least they ended up happy, sorta.
- In the season 1 finale of Rhoda she and Joe get married. This was one of the highest rated entertainment shows ever. But then they got divorced. Now it's considered to have been a bad idea to have them get married, purely from a business standpoint.
- Infamously, the Roseanne series finale. Turns out, the series was a fictional story written by the eponymous star, after her husband died years ago. Things get worse from there.
- In Season 4 of Veronica Mars the tension between Veronica and Logan finally resolves with them getting married in the last episode, only for Logan to be killed off by a bomb.
- Dialed Up to Eleven in Xena: Warrior Princess: over Seasons 1-2, Xena and Gabrielle get closer and closer until ... Seasons 3-4 wrench them apart, they get back together, wrenched apart, rinse, wash, repeat. In seasons 5-6, Xena and Gabrielle are always apart and Xena shags the Girl of the Week to emphasize the point.
- Baldo: In a sweet storyline, Baldo and the friendly neighborhood girl "Smiley" ended up getting together, but cartoonist Hector Cantú eventually felt their romance was growing stale. As a result, the two of them amicably broke up... only for Smiley to undergo Character Development into an Alpha Bitch just a week later, to cement that they were never going to see each other again.
- In a meta example, this was most readers' opinion of Elizabeth and Anthony's relationship towards the end of For Better or for Worse. Despite the author claiming that Anthony was the right one for her after several failed relationships by them both, most readers found "Blandthony" to be utterly boring.
- Luann: After a period where Luann finally dated her lifelong crush Aaron Hill, several attempts were made by creator Greg Evans to complicate the relationship, either by introducing various character flaws of Aaron, or at one point implying he "wasn't into girls" (then aborting that twist), before settling on having his Put on a Bus to Hawaii forever. Several teases were made at his return, but none of them went anywhere.
- However, this has been so far averted with Brad's relationship with Tony. Their romance was mostly in a slow Will They or Won't They? progression, having them comfortably date for a long period and then eventually resulting in the two of them getting engaged. Time will tell what becomes of the two of them afterward.
- Act One of The Fantasticks ends with the Official Couple Matt and Luisa together with their fathers' blessing after Matt saves Luisa from a kidnapping (actually staged by their fathers to end the manufactured Feuding Families ruse made up to get Matt and Luisa together). The very first song in Act Two discusses how quickly a relationship can sour once the honeymoon phase is over, and Matt and Luisa break up for a brief period.
- After Happily Ever After begins in Into the Woods, Cinderella and her Prince's marriage quickly falls apart. Cinderella gets emotional whiplash from the rapidness of her Rags to Riches ascent after spending most of her life being abused by her Wicked Stepmother, stepsisters, and neglectful father. The Prince often leaves Cinderella for long periods of time, and is revealed to be a cheater who misses the thrill of chasing a seemingly unattainable woman.
- Love Never Dies, set ten years after the events of The Phantom of the Opera, reveals that Christine and Raoul are now in an unhappy marriage thanks to the latter's gambling and drinking problems, which have turned him into an insensitive jerk towards both her and their son Gustave. All this is to set up the possibility of Christine and the Phantom getting together.
- In Dragon Age, because of the nature of plot threads that strand dozens of hours and eventually depart from the main characters entirely in the next game, there's a decent chance things will start going south in a couple's future:
- The Warden/Hero of Ferelden and Hawke both have a large number of romantic options, depending on choices and gender, but at best, future games reveal that they've been physically separated from their lover upon taking different paths in life. They are, however, still very much in love and long to be together again.
- Hawke or Alistair (another possible love interest of the Warden) can potentially die in the third game.
- Galyan, Deuteragonist and love interest to Cassandra in Dawn of the Seeker, dies in the explosion at the beginning of the third game.
- Meanwhile, Mass Effect by the same developer has its fair share of this trope as well.
- Ashley/Kaidan will break up with Shepard in the second game, although it's possible to make up with them eventually.
- In Mass Effect 3, Thane dies no matter what, while Jacob is revealed to have cheated on Shepard.
- Also played straight with Miranda as she was being Demoted to Extra in the third game and Samara (both gender).
- Averted with Liara (both gender), Tali, Garrus, Jack (provided you didn't cheat / break up with them) and, ironically enough, Kaidan / Male Shepard (the option was Dummied Out in the first game and not made legitimate until the third, by which point Shepard had died and came Back from the Dead, and they have substantial scenes on their time together in the Citadel DLC that is roughly equal to the time they have being angsty, all on the virtue that you can't get together with him as M!Shepard in the first game, no matter how much Ho Yay involved, unlike F!Shepard, forcing them to deal with their drama while they were Just Friends).
- Doc Rat: During their courtship, Daniella began to suspect Ben because of his lack of desire to take her to bed. As we would learn later on, her previous relationships gave her the impression that a "good" relationship involved this early on. As it turned out, Ben simply wasn't wired that way. He would eventually tell her explicitly that he didn't see sex as a prerequisite for developing a strong, lasting relationship. He also had to tie up some loose ends before finalizing a commitment. They would finally make love after officially becoming engaged, and eventually married and had children.
- The Order of the Stick hangs an appropriate lampshade on this.
- The only reason for any drama in Haley and Elan's relationship is Haley's Cannot Spit It Out issues and Elan's cluelessness. Once they get past this and admit their attraction to each other, the relationship proceeds relatively smoothly. When they're separated by distance for a while, Elan explicitly refuses the advances of his Temporary Love Interest Therkla because he's already in a relationship with Haley. Later, he acknowledges and deliberately defies the Poor Communication Kills trope when telling Haley about Therkla.
- Downplayed with Roy and Celia's relationship. They hit it off almost immediately and have no drama in their relationship, but Celia is offscreen most of the time so it doesn't really come up.
- This trope is brought up in an episode of Extra Credits; specifically, they mention that it's a very hard sell to get audiences interested in playing a narrative about a romance that they didn't start, or maintaining one that's gone south.
- The trope was also discussed in Zero Punctuation's review of ''Catherine'' and its follow-up essay.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra Interquel comics Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise, Zuko and Mai break up again after a case of Poor Communication Kills on Zuko's part after the two seemingly got back together for good in the series finale episode "Avatar Aang".
- Similar to the Comic Book counterpart, Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon broke up during the two year Time Skip between Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. Mostly Batman's fault, as a flashback episode shows. Dick and Bruce had a falling out that led to him quitting as Robin and returning as Nightwing. Barbara chose to stay with Bruce in Gotham.
- Later in Batman Beyond we find out that after Dick returned as Nightwing he tried a few times to work things out with Barbara, but after finding out that she had also been romantically involved with Bruce during his absence he put an end to his personal and crime fighting partnership with both of them.
- The Legend of Korra concluded its first season with Korra and Mako getting together. Five episodes into the second season, they broke up. By the season finale they make it clear they still love each other, but that their romance is too toxic to salvage and decide to settle into Amicable Exes.
- Total Drama, definitely. The first season ended happily, which included six couples having formed, but the next two seasons start putting them all through a lot of drama that ends with four of them getting sunk. It helps that the host Chris McLean is a firm believer in this trope and loves relationship drama, which he says is good for ratings.
- In season two: Leshawna breaks up with Harold, and then becomes a Designated Villain so that he helps vote her off (though the two remain Amicable Exes); Trent and Gwen break up when he suddenly develops an OCD obsession with the number 9 (they become Amicable Exes by season three); Geoff gets Acquired Situational Narcissism all season, straining his relationship with Bridgette (he gets restored to his senses and they move on); and Courtney Took a Level in Jerkass and begins abusing Duncan (they reconcile at the end of the season).
- In season three: Alejandro manipulates Bridgette into cheating on Geoff with him (she apologizes for it, and they reconcile and move on); Duncan cheats on Courtney with Gwen, leading Courtney to break up with him and Gwen to hook up with Duncan (Duncan and Gwen then break up as well in season five); and Izzy suddenly breaks up with Owen after he had been contemplating the idea (although Izzy is a few shades of special, so they were pretty on-and-off). In fact, the only one of the original six pairings that never faces any serious relationship drama are Lindsay and Tyler, even despite the fact Lindsay can never remember who Tyler is.
- Young Justice plays with this with its two Official Couples. The first season had Conner and M'gann together after the first ten episodes and Wally and Artemis get together at the end after a season of UST. Post five-year Time Skip, Wally and Artemis are still a couple, but Conner and M'gann broke up (and it was not pretty). At the very end, Conner and M'gann are implied to reconcile, but Wally pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save the world, leaving Artemis devastated.