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Unbalanced By Rival's Kid

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"[W]hen we were both young, I was fond of your father and he of me. Under other circumstances, you might have been our son."

One generation back there was a Love Triangle. Now the losing party meetsnote  — and has to interact with — the child of the other two. This causes emotional chaos. The character loses the ability to act calmly (or even adequately) whenever a situation arises related to the kid. The effect is greater when the loser is an otherwise calm, Magnificent Bastard or flawless hero proven Not So Stoic and Not So Above It All.

If the progeny is of the opposite sex and resembles the contested person too much — often the case — it's even worse. Expect a Wrong-Name Outburst. Not only is it a reminder, one sees the image of the lost love, their would-be kid, an image of the rival, or a second chance, and so on — often two or more of these at once. Usually female kid and male ex-rival. Compare Affair? Blame the Bastard and Jealous Romantic Witness.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Not that Dragon Ball Z really goes into depth with it, since it's an action comic for young boys, but there is Yamcha having to deal with not only his ex having a son with a former alien enemy, but also having to explain that said son isn't his, because the other characters haven't really kept in touch the last three years... and then the selfsame son comes from the future to save all their lives. Yamcha's not exactly feeling great about the situation, but he's a good sport and is very kind to Future Trunks, seeing as how he's still friends with his mom's family. They're shown spending downtime together, and considering Trunks' own father is rather difficult to him, it's probably awkward for them both. One of the last scenes in the storyline is Yamcha telling Trunks all about how his father was gutted by Trunks' (undone) death.
  • Fate/Zero has Kariya Matou, in a sense. He is the Unlucky Childhood Friend to Aoi Tohsaka that keeps hanging around even though she has two daughters with Tokiomi. Even so, he also cares about Rin and Sakura. In fact, when he discovers what Zouken is doing to Sakura, he agrees to enter the Holy Grail war on the behalf of the family he'd severed ties with ten years earlier just so he can earn Sakura's freedom. Unfortunately, he fails and ultimately the war ends badly for him, Tokiomi, and Aoi.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler, Mikoto Tachibana probably had this reaction upon meeting Nagi, who greatly resembles her mother, who Mikoto had an unrequited crush on. Though both Nagi's mother and Nagi herself seem to be not interested in the affection shown because they aren't interested in women, and the arranged marriage was said to be set up by the grandfathers, Mikoto probably had no issue with her son being set up with the daughter.
  • Interesting aversion in Medaka Box: Fukuro Tsurubami had the hots for his sister Hato but couldn't keep up with her and was put off by her cold attitude, so he set her up with his best friend Kajiki Kurokami, hoping that Lamarck Would Be Right, producing a daughter with Hato's looks and Kajiki's All-Loving Hero personality — so he could marry HER instead. While Medaka does indeed fit that description, Fukuro never gets the chance to act on his fantasies.
  • Notably averted in Shaman King: Flowers. Tamao Tamamura is still in love with Yoh but is willing to raise his son (from another woman, her love rival Anna) without any issues and does so lovingly and fairly. However, she is initially flustered to meet him in the epilogue of the original Shaman King manga.
  • Zigzagged in Spy X Family: Yuri's attitude towards Anya has shades of this. He can't stand being near the kid of Yor's husband and feels jealous that Anya can spend all day with Yor. He never met Loid until after he and Yor were married, and little does he know that it's a Marriage of Convenience. He also doesn't know Anya's adopted, though he does know she's not Yor's biological daughter.
  • In Zoids: New Century, Dr. Layon and Dr. Toros loved the same woman, who eventually became Dr. Toros's wife, and mother of his son and daughter. Layon now hates Toros and never meets his son, but actually likes the daughter, who reminds him of the presumably dead Mrs. Toros. Not in that way.

    Comic Books 
  • ElfQuest: When Rayek meets his former lovemate's children.
  • Usagi Yojimbo:
    • Once Usagi returns to his hometown, he freezes for a moment when facing the son of his Childhood Friend Romance Mariko and his childhood rival Kenichi. As he finds out in a different story arc, Usagi is actually the father and complies when he's asked to leave as not to wreck their family.
    • While she isn't a rival to Mariko, Tomoe needs a moment to process the idea that Usagi has a son.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Freaky Friday: Inverted. Anna’s literature teacher knew her mother, Tess, in high school. He asked her to the prom, but she turned him down. Now he’s taking it out on her daughter by purposely failing her.

  • Inverted in Blandings Castle: Galahad had already become fond of Sue, his nephew's fiancée, but became even more protective of her when he realized that her mother was his old girlfriend. The family had shipped Galahad overseas to keep him from marrying such an "unsuitable" girl, and he wants to keep the same sort of thing from happening again. (If anything, he keeps telling Sue that she could do better than his nephew.)
  • Subverted in The Count of Monte Cristo, when the Count meets Mercedes' son by Fernand (now the Count de Morcerf) Albert. He organizes Albert's kidnapping by Italian bandits to gauge his character and finds him to be quite courageous (going to sleep in his cell and complaining that he was having such a nice dream when rescued), but this only fuels his drive to get revenge on Fernand by killing the son of which he is so proud (Mercedes puts a stop to that, however). In some adaptations Albert actually is Dantes' son.
  • Earth's Children: This somewhat applies to S'Armuna and Jondalar in The Plains of Passage. She is a bit standoffish with Jondalar when he mentions he's Marthona's son, due to her assumption he's her son with Joconan, the man she loved who chose Marthona over her. However, she softens up to him, though is still shaken, when he reveals he's actually the child of Marthona and her second mate, Dalanar, explaining that Joconan died before he was born.
  • Songs and Swords Forgotten Realms novels:
    • Elaith Craulnober and Arilyn "Moonblade" < Amnestria Moonflower + Bran Skorlskun. "Amnestria!" was Elaith's first word when he saw Arilyn. Unusual in that later he mostly got over it, but now she sometimes overreacts on his past attitude and clashing with her half-elven ideals.
    • Keturah's daughter and Basel Indoulur in Counselors and Kings. Mostly in a benign "would-be child" way, but this still motivated more activity than is normal for him and even an uncharacteristic murderous rage when he discovered that she's in danger.
  • Similarly in Gone with the Wind, Scarlett flips out upon learning of Melanie's pregnancy. Later, after the baby is born, she has a brief moment where she wishes that the child were hers and Ashley's.
  • Briefly, in The Great Gatsby: when Gatsby meets Daisy and Tom's toddler daughter, Nick's narration notes that he acts like he never quite believed in her existence before. This ties into Gatsby's irrational belief that he and Daisy can just resume their romance as if the past five years never happened.
  • Severus Snape in Harry Potter treated Harry the way he did partly because of this. His dad had a mutually antagonistic relationship with Snape. Further, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows we learn Snape was Harry's mother's Unlucky Childhood Friend when they were in school. Every time he sees Harry, he's reminded that the woman he loved married his worst enemy.
  • In the Jeeves and Wooster stories, Corky, one of Bertie's friends, is a Starving Artist who needs to stay in his rich uncle's good graces but wants to marry a girl he disapproves of. Jeeves solves this by ghostwriting a book about birds, the uncle's field of expertise, which Bertie publishes under the girl's name. It goes horribly right, and the uncle ends up marrying her. Corky is later forced to paint a portrait of their baby, and his resentment of the whole situation seeps through to such an extent that when his uncle sees the finished product he decides to stop supporting Corky on the spot and tells him to get a real job. Jeeves saves the day again by suggesting that the horrifying baby in the picture would make a good comic-strip character and Corky could probably sell it to a newspaper.
  • From A Song of Ice and Fire: in the first book, preteen Sansa Stark meets Petyr Baelish, the Unlucky Childhood Friend of Sansa's mother Catelyn... whom Sansa greatly resembles. He creeps her out in their initial meeting by pointing this out and touching her hair, and things only get squickier from there. The creepiness of the relationship isn't helped by the fact that she goes into hiding posing as his daughter and learning politics at his side.
    • This also features heavily into Jon Snow's backstory, though played with in that it's the girl who won that's resentful. Jon is the illegitimate son of Ned Stark, who fathered him while off fighting in Robert's Rebellion and then returned home with him. Ned's wife Catelyn, despite being the woman Ned loved and wanted to be with, resented Jon as a reminder of the woman who apparently tempted Ned away from her. While she's nothing but a good mother to her own children, she's remarkably cruel to Jon, acting like a Wicked Stepmother towards him, which had a major effect on his character as he grew up constantly being reminded of his status as a bastard as much as Ned tried to raise him with his legitimate children. If the TV adaptation is any prediction of the future for the book series, then this is subverted as Jon isn't actually Ned's child, but his nephew, whom he raised under the guise of his bastard in order to protect him, but the assumption he was led to this trope.
  • Subverted in The Thorn Birds. Father Ralph has no problem with the daughter of Meggie (the woman he loves but can't be with because of his priestly vows), but has a strange reaction to her son, believing him to be the second child that Meggie has had with her neglectful husband Luke. Although he grows to love the boy, he never stops resenting Meggie for supposedly having returned to Luke despite their passionate interlude. As readers know, he's wrong—the boy is his son.
    • Also inverted in that Meggie's daughter Justine (who is Luke's child) takes an instant dislike to Ralph and rebuffs every effort he makes to get along with her.
  • In The Twilight Saga, Jacob meets Nessie (Bella’s infant daughter) for all of ten seconds and there’s emotional turmoil all right—considering he magically falls in love with the newborn due to his wolf genes.
  • Warrior Cats: Ashfur was in love with Squirrelflight, who ended up dumping him in favor of Brambleclaw. Ashfur had some problems accepting this. He even arranged to have Squirrelflight's father killed so she'd feel the same pain he did. The attempt failed though, and Ashfur was never suspected for the attempted murder for a while. He eventually received an apprentice, though, who managed to flare up his issues all over again by being (supposedly) Squirrelflight and Brambleclaw's son, a living reminder of the mate he couldn't have and the future he was denied. They don't get along. While they are never outwardly rude to each other, Ashfur mostly gives Lionpaw the cold shoulder and doesn't try to bond with his apprentice the way all the other mentors do. When Lionpaw demands more intense training, Ashfur takes this request very specifically... by unsheathing his claws and fighting Lionpaw as if it were a real battle. Ashfur is eager to finish Lionpaw's apprentice training quickly so that they won't have to see each other eye-to-eye anymore.
  • Monica Furlong's Wise Child invokes and averts a rare gender-flipped example. The town witch Juniper takes a mysterious liking to and volunteers to take in the titular Wise Child after her grandmother dies and she's left with a literal case of Parental Abandonment. Wise Child later discovers that Juniper and her father had been in love, but her Vain Sorceress mother "persuaded" him that he loved her instead. Both mother and daughter think that Juniper took Wise Child in and works her to the bone due to this trope. Juniper later assures Wise Child that she bears her no ill-will (though she is understandably frosty about Maeve), that she loves her like a daughter and that she works her hard only because she believes Misery Builds Character.
  • The source of Heathcliff's dislike for Catherine (II) in Wuthering Heights is that she's the living proof that Catherine married someone else. Being his beloved Cathy's daughter doesn't spare her from his wrath, since she is most of all Edgar's daughter and takes strongly after him. Also, Cathy died by giving birth to said daughter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A standard Soap Opera trope. Even if a couple can reconcile after infidelity, the resulting child often serves as a painful reminder.
    • All My Children: Brooke's reaction upon meeting her ex-husband Adam's son with his new wife Dixie. Especially since she and Adam had struggled to conceive and the resulting strain contributed to his affair with Dixie.
      • A bit of Laser-Guided Karma years later when Brooke took up with Dixie's ex Tad and got pregnant by him. When Tad was supposedly killed in an explosion, Dixie was forced to accept that she wouldn't have Someone to Remember Him By—Brooke would.
    • General Hospital:
      • Scott's wife Laura ditched him for Luke and they ran off together. Years later when the couple returned to town, Scott's first reaction upon seeing them, as well as their son Lucky, was to punch Luke out, clearly still angry despite all the time that had passed as well as several relationships and marriages for him. To this day, nearly all of Scott's subsequent scenes with Luke and Laura's children have had an undercurrent of sadness and resentment that they aren't his children with her.
      • Luke himself had this reaction to Nikolas, the son Laura had with his archenemy Stavros Cassadine.
      • Carly, Courtney, and Sam are all jealous and resentful of the fact that Liz had Jason's child, even though Sam herself did too, as the child is clearly a reminder that Jason loved Liz as much (or possible even more) as them.
      • Speaking of Jason, this was averted with him himself—he is the result of his father Alan's extramarital affair with his mother. However, when his mother was murdered, his father's wife not only accepted that it was necessary that they take the child him, she grew to love him as if he were her own, even eventually adopting him.
      • Played straight with Jason's brother AJ, who for years was believed to be the result of his mother's extramarital affair. As such, her husband Alan resented the child and shunned him. By the time it was discovered that AJ was Alan's child after all, crucial bonding time had been lost and the two were never able to repair their damaged relationship.
    • The Young and the Restless: Jack Abbott's ex Diane frequently used their son Kyle to drive a wedge between him and wife Phyllis. It didn't help that their marriage was already strained by Phyllis' infertility.
  • Played with in Big Love. While first wife Barb appears to have no problem with the children husband Bill has with his other wives, second wife Nikki is clearly jealous when she learns that third wife Margene is pregnant again, even though she doesn't even want anymore children. Probably because she fears this will further cement her position as The Unfavorite.
  • A variation on ER: Elizabeth Corday tries to invoke this when she meets Susan Lewis, an old friend of her husband Mark, when the latter invites her to have coffee, declining with, "I don't drink coffee, I'm breastfeeding." Unfortunately, all it does is make her look incredibly rude, as A)Susan already knew about the kid, so there's no shock factor, and B) Susan had no romantic interest in Mark and was trying to befriend Elizabeth to assure her of this.
    • A few years later, when Abby meets ex-lover Carter's fiancee Kem and immediately sees that she's pregnant. After the couple walks off, she snidely queries, "What did he do, knock her up the minute he got there?", stunned to realize that Carter got over her quite quickly, despite the fact that the two of them had been discussing marriage shortly before they broke up.
  • K.C. Undercover: In the first season, it's revealed that, during their early spy days, Craig and Kira had a friend in fellow agent Zane. Zane and Craig both loved Kira, but in the end she fell in love with Craig. Zane pretended he was fine with it, but in reality he began to hate both of them and became a double agent. When the Organization found out, Craig was given the mission to find and eliminate Zane. Zane almost killed Craig, but offered him a deal: he'd let Craig live if he let Zane disappear. Craig had to agree, and the two parted ways. When Zane returns for revenge on the Cooper family sixteen years later, he's noticeably more hostile to K.C. (Craig and Kira's first child) than to any other family member (as she was the one he kidnapped and held captive for two weeks).
  • The Orville: When Dr. Finn reunites with her ex-husband, Admiral Paul Christie, he seems eager to try and get back together with her. He seems to momentarily experience this trope when he learns that she's now a mother of two. However, this doesn't come up again (although he does endanger the boys when he and a good chunk of the crew turn into spider monsters.note 
  • Outlander: Laoghaire MacKenzie has always believed she was destined to marry Jamie Fraser and resented Claire for coming between them. When Jamie and Claire separate with no hope for reunion, Jamie marries Laoghaire, only to find himself trapped in a miserable Sexless Marriage. Jamie leaves when Claire returns, making Laoghaire so furious, she tries to kill them, shooting and injuring Jamie. Much later, she encounters Brianna, their daughter. She is kind until she finds out the truth about Brianna's parentage. Then she tries to have Brianna arrested and tried for witchcraft, hoping the girl will be executed.
  • In the miniseries Queen (the story of Alex Haley's paternal grandmother), the titular character is the result of her white father's (consensual) relationship with one of his female slaves. His wife resents the girl all of her life and when she finally leaves when freed after the Civil War, bitterly tells her husband, "I'm glad she's gone. Because everytime I looked at her, I had to remember that you loved another woman more than me."
  • Sisters: When the titular characters learn that they have another sister, the child of their father and his longtime mistress, they gently break the news to their mother, who admits that she already knew and claims to have long since accepted it. Until the woman shows up at Thanksgiving dinner and the mother flips out. She gets over it and later becomes a surrogate mother to her.


    Video Games 
  • In Fallout 3, this is implied to be the reason why Dr. Madison Li tends to be so irritable and hostile towards the Lone Wanderer, being the child of the man she fell in love with and another woman. Granted, she's a bit of a Mood-Swinger, but it still might explain a few things.
  • Averted in Far Cry 4; Pagan adores Ajay for being the son of the woman he loved, rather than hating him for being the son of a man he despised. He even considers Ajay a member of his family, referring to himself as Ajay's "uncle." Ajay's father Mohan, on the other hand, was so infuriated by his wife, Ajay's mother, cheating on him with Pagan that he killed the daughter they had together.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • A chapter in the tutorial stages of Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade has Lyn and company seeking the aid of the Marquess of Araphen, a suitor of Lyn's mother before she eloped with a Sacaean nomad, which sparked in him a hatred of Saceans in general. At first, the Marquess is willing to help, but after he meets Lyn in person, he withdraws his offer, saying that she is "tainted by the blood of Sacae". This costs him both his servant Rath (a Sacaean who rides off in disgust; he could stand it aimed at himself, but this goes too far) and a good portion of his fortune (Rath takes it with him as severance pay).
    • Averted in Fire Emblem Fates. Fuga was never able to confess his feelings to the woman he loved, and she ended up marrying another man. When she and her husband were killed by Faceless, what did Fuga do? He took in their orphaned son, Hayato, and raised him as his own.
    • Also averted in the Cindered Shadows DLC of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Despite having loved their mother, Sitri, Aelfric is thrilled to meet Byleth for himself. A part of this (outside of the usual reasons) is because he also had a great deal of respect for their father, Jeralt. The trouble only arises when Aelfric tries to go as far as to sacrifice four lives just to revive Sitri. And doesn’t seem to understand why Byleth would take issue with this.
  • Inverted in Mortal Kombat 11 during one possible Pre-Battle Banter between Cassie Cage and Shang Tsung. Tsung tells Cage that he was "quite fond" of her mother Sonya Blade, to which Cassie asks him, "Do you practice being creepy?"

    Visual Novels 
  • Kirei Kotomine and his relationship with Kiritsugu Emiya and his adopted son Shirou in Fate/stay night are a non-romantic variant. He certainly isn't unbalanced by the appearance of Shirou, nor does he particularly care about Kiritsugu's biological child Illyasviel von Einzbern. On the contrary, he's quite happy to realize that unlike Kiritsugu, who was his Foil in every respect, Shirou is an empty person like himself.
  • While she does a good job of hiding it, Kyrie Ushiromiya from Umineko: When They Cry admits that she has some issues with her stepson, Battler, particularly since he (the son of her hated love rival) lived while her own son was stillborn. EP8 has her have a breakdown when Rudolf reveals that Battler was Your Son All Along.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius:
    • Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and Agatha Heterodyne < Lucrezia Mongfish + Bill Heterodyne. Circumstances like how Klaus and Lucrezia parted or that he knows Lucrezia was the Big Bad — and just how dangerous anyone of this family can be — do not improve the situation.
    • And that's not even getting into how Lucrezia has a copy of her mind hidden away in Agatha's brain which has taken control on occasion.
    • Zeetha, daughter of Chump, prompts something like this from Klaus as well when he recognizes her fighting style and green hair. The details have not been revealed in-universe, but fans speculate he may have known her mother during his "exile" (and/or be her father; see the details on his parting with Lucrezia for why he might have been calling himself "Chump" at the time).
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has Sir James Eglamore and Antimony Carver—the daughter of his old flame Surma and the rival and friend Anthony Carver. He falls out of his armor time and again. Word of Tom says that the strong resemblance is one of the factors—in case the Wrong-Name Outburst wasn't telltale enough. It seems that he got better with the help (sometimes unfriendly) of Annie and his own colleagues. Renard — who "fell desperately in love with Surma" as well—was shaken too, but in a different way; eventually he settled on being an unofficial Parental Substitute.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender Plays With this trope: Pakku becomes quite emotional when he realizes that Katara's grandmother was his Runaway Bride, but ultimately this makes him warm up to Katara and agree to teach her Waterbending. Also, he and the grandmother finally get married. Also not a normal example, since Pakku presumably never knew the "rival" (Katara and Sokka's grandfather, who was apparently from the Southern Tribe).
  • Inverted in Danny Phantom: Vlad actually likes Danny, in a twisted, Faux Affably Evil way. His big dream is basically to steal Maddie back from Jack and make Danny (and Jazz, to a lesser extent) his own adopted children, something which they understandably find unsettling.
  • Played With in The Legend of Korra:
    • Lin Beifong does not interact with the children of her ex-boyfriend, Tenzin, until episode 10, but before that takes out her resentment on Korra, his live-in student, surrogate family member and the reincarnation of his father Aang (with whom, by Tenzin's account, she got along quite well).
    • Averted when she finally does interact with the Airbabies—Tenzin is nervous about this trope, but Lin seems to have more trouble taking care of them because they're kids than anything. When Equalists attack Air Temple Island, the kids manage to save Lin from them, despite their young ages. She, in turn, later pulls a Heroic Sacrifice so that the whole family can get away.
  • Played with in The Owl House. Despite their Ship Tease Raine's status as Eda's ex wasn't said when they panicked at seeing her photo with Luz and King, but their distress was less about who she might have had her "kids" with and more about how despite her attachment to them (that she tried to downplay) she was still risking her life with their destructive duet. Seeing she had made connections like that, when we later learn that their relationship ended because Raine felt Eda pushing them away, helped rebalance them if anything.
  • An episode of The Proud Family had this where the failed rival in question was one of the protagonist's teachers (the resulting couple being her grandparents).
  • Played with in Steven Universe. The Pearl/Rose/Greg Love Triangle in the backstory, with Pearl now raising Rose and Greg's child, would be a perfect setup for this, was it not for the fact that Pearl loves and is an excellent guardian to Steven. However, she still clearly has some unresolved issues about it—she accidentally refers to Steven as Rose at one point, and the episode "Rose's Scabbard" is in fact entirely devoted to exploring this trope. The show makes it clear that despite her love for Steven, Pearl is still grieving Rose, and it takes until the third season for her to finally make peace with Greg.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): This trope is the catalyst for most of the conflict in the series and Shredder's hatred for Hamato Yoshi/Splinter. When they were younger, Yoshi and Saki both loved Tang Shen. In the end, she fell in love with Yoshi, and the two married. Saki had been furious over her choosing Yoshi, but he really lost it when the two had a child together. This led to the fight that scarred Saki and burned down the Hamato house. Tang Shen and her daughter were killed in the fire, and Yoshi left Japan for New York in grief. It's later revealed that their daughter survived the fire, with Saki taking her in and raising her to be a Child Soldier as a form of revenge on Yoshi, subverting this trope.