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Unwanted Spouse

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When a Runaway Bride would be an improvement.

My friend's got a girlfriend and he hates that bitch.
He tells me every day.
He says: "Man, I really got to lose my chick
In the worst kind of way."
The Offspring, "Why Don't You Get A Job?''

The Unwanted Spouse is a character, usually in an Accidental Marriage, Arranged Marriage, or Shotgun Wedding, who is completely unwanted by their spouse, so much so that it becomes a plot point.

This character can be heroic—unhappily married to a villain and made so miserable by the marriage that they turn around and betray them, joining the heroes—or villainous (often the case if she's the woman standing between the story's two main lovers).

This character is female more often than male.

Note that when an action hero's wife is like this, she usually ends up Dying for the Ship. Not to be confused with The Masochism Tango, which describes a couple who hate each other but ultimately choose to remain married.

Awful Wedded Life is a version that's Played for Laughs and generally implied to be universal that — everyone, or at least every man, wishes they could be rid of their spouse. Compare Mal Mariée, when a young woman ends up unhappily married to a much older man.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Used for laughs in Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts. Shouko repeatedly tells her former Only Friend Yuuji that she wants to marry him, and tries forcing him to sign marriage papers, and threatens to kill/hurt him if he refuses. She often goes into Yandere/Clingy Jealous Girl mode if other girls are around him, or she feels he's getting a little too friendly with male friends.
  • Broken Blade: King Hodr to Sigy. Unlike most examples, Sigyn doesn't hate her husband but marries in order to make his best friend Rygart, the one she actually loves, to do something about it. She tried to love her husband at one point but failed to. Hodr, despite clearly being in love with her, knows full well she thinks of him as nothing more than a friend, which is what helps him agree to a divorce.
  • In Gankutsuou, Eugenie warms up to the idea of being in an Arranged Marriage with Albert, but her father eventually decides to cancel the engagement and arrange for her to marry Andrea instead, whom Eugenie does not like at all. Not to mention that he's her half-brother.
  • Ranma ½:
    • Ranma has no unwanted spouse but a dozen unwanted fiancées, and several storylines revolve around getting rid of the majority of them. For worse, if he openly rejects any of the girls, there will be SEVERE trouble.
    • As far as Shampoo and Cologne are concerned, Shampoo is already married to Ranma per the traditions of her village (he defeated her in a fight); all they need is to have an official ceremony for him to admit it too. Shampoo even outright states that they're married in her home village's newspaper.
  • In Rizelmine, the main character is the one with an unwanted wife. He is 100% positive that, no matter what she says, he never got married to anyone.
  • Asayo Katsuragi from Sakura Gari is a very tragic case. Not only is her husband Tomohiko obsessed with the lead male Souma, but he actually is very abusive to her. And it's hinted that theirs was an Arranged Marriage since her father is the owner of the hospital he works in.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul:Re, Matsuri Washuu is unhappily married to a woman that he describes as "dull" and completely uninteresting. It was an Arranged Marriage that he actively tried to avoid, spending a decade living in Germany and only writing to his fiancée when forced to do so. The lack of interest seems to be mutual since she admits she doesn't really understand what he does for a living and doesn't really care to learn. Their marriage was purely a political matter, solidifying ties between the Washuu Clan and another influential family. The fact that he's only interested in men probably has a large amount to do with it as well.
  • In Spy X Family, Mission 75 seems to heavily imply that Melinda Desmond considers her husband utterly unwanted. Upon his name being uttered by Damian, her thoughts turn to how much she loves and hates her son, and only referring to Donovan as 'that man'.
  • Urusei Yatsura, another series by Rumiko Takahashi, centers on a young man who accidentally marries an alien princess. He wants someone else. Anyone else. (Except when he doesn't.)

  • In Nexus The entire focal point of Jack's and Knock Out’s bond was that it was an accident. Jack even tries to figure out a way to break it without killing himself.
  • Ava Lord in Sin City starts off hating her mafia-tied husband and begs Dwight to do something about it. He does but it turns out to be a setup for Ava to inherit her husband's estate.
  • Sleepless: Lady Poppy despises her duplicitous, scheming cousin (by marriage) Lord Helder and suspects he's behind a string of attempts on her life, but in the absence of irrefutable evidence of Helder's involvement with the assassins, Poppy is pressured to marry him by the mutual uncle King Surno. As soon as the newlyweds are alone, Helder confirms that he indeed hired the assassins to kill Poppy, but now that they're married, he wants to use her to extort her relationship with Crown Princess Rellen to gain influence over the throne... and then he tries to stab Poppy when she refuses to comply with his plans. Helder gets himself killed by his co-conspirators before he and Poppy have been married a full day.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Marva Psycho is not in love with her husband Dr. Psycho, but her first attempt to leave him only makes things worse with him treating her like a slave and brainwashing her by using his powers once he's out of prison.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Arc Corp: How Jaune's parents got together. Juniper was enamored with Nicholas, who couldn't care less about romance in general, much less a relationship with her. The only reason they got married was because Juniper was able to frame it as a business deal, pointing out that any children they had could be born and raised to follow the ARC Corp mindset. They ended up having eight children, just in case some died on the job.
  • In the Rumpelstiltskin retelling The Dressmaker Queen, the main character Jenny Thompson is forced into an unhappy marriage with the cruel King Gray. He returns to his many mistresses, only wanting Jenny to pump out an heir as quickly as possible. She's trapped in an unhappy marriage, unable to be with anyone else.
  • Played with in The Dark Knight fanfiction Question of Honor where Bruce marries a friend to get her out of her wartorn homeland. They only plan to stay together long enough for her to earn a right to stay in the States and then get the marriage annulled. As he's still Batman, he doesn't have much to do with her at first until they do manage to fall in love.
  • Ragyou is this to her husband in Kiryuuin Chronicles and vice versa for a good reason, considering that A) he's abusive and B) due to being pregnant (by someone else) with her daughter, Satsuki, she was forced into this marriage by her family, and it was either that or be disowned.
  • Played with in Vow of Nudity; Ayrwyn (a slave of the Genasi Empire) clearly didn't love Petrichor and only married him for her freedom. But by the time Haara reunites with her, she's suffering so badly from Stockholm Syndrome that she's enthusiastically participating in his schemes and can't fathom being anything but his loyal wife.

    Film — Animation 
  • Brave: Princess Merida has three potential unwanted fiancés: Young McGuffin, Young McIntosh and Young Dingwall. Being a mix of Rebellious Princess and Celibate Heroine, she isn't thrilled at the idea of having to marry either of them. It's implied that the three boys thought the same: they didn't hate Merida, but none of them wanted to be in an Arranged Marriage with her either...
  • Corpse Bride: Victoria Everglot's parents, Finis and Maudeline, do get along with each other because of their shared ideas, but it is painfully clear that they don't love each other. They don't even like each other. As far as they're concerned, it shouldn't matter whether their daughter and prospective son-in-law like each other or not.

    Film — Live Action 
  • All Night Long: Emily tells a depressing story about how Johnny stumbled into a marriage with her when he was drunk, and had to stay married to her because she was underage and it was either stay married or go to prison. Despite knowing he doesn't even like her, and being a Lady Drunk / Broken Bird because of this, she loves him anyway. At the end when she says so, he tells her to get lost, that he can't love anybody, not even himself.
  • Anne of the Thousand Days: Henry VIII wants to ditch Katharine to marry Anne. Then Anne herself becomes this and it ends badly for her.
  • Isabella of France falls (somewhat) into the heroic category in Braveheart when her awful marriage and clear unwanted status leads her into the arms of William Wallace... and into literally bitching Longshanks to death at the end of the film.
  • Carry On Henry posits that King Henry VIII (Sid James) had another wife, Queen Marie (Joan Sims), a garlic-loving wife he alternately wanted and unwanted as the political climate changed around him.
  • Cries and Whispers: Karin hates her husband, a cold and cynical man much older than herself. It gets to the point where she cuts her own groin to avoid sex with him.
  • Sita in Deepa Mehta's film Fire. The movie opens with her on the honeymoon of her arranged marriage to Jatin, who remains involved with his girlfriend Julie. The trope also manifests, albeit with a twist, in the character of Radha— her husband loves her but because she's infertile and he's deeply religious, refuses to have sex with her and pretty much keeps her around to test his devotion. He doesn't want to get rid of her, but she's deeply unhappy that he doesn't want her as a wife.
  • From Beyond the Grave: In "An Act of Kindness", Christopher and his wife Mabel are trapped in a desperately unhappy marriage. She nags and belittles him every chance she gets, while he's a classic Henpecked Husband who responds passive-aggressively or with tantrums. From the few clues dropped, it appears to have been a Wartime Wedding that did not work out as either of them expected, but divorce in middle-class '60s/'70s Britain would have been social death.
  • In The Joy Luck Club, we get two unwanted spouses:
    • Lindo is put into an Arranged Marriage at the age of 16 to a 12-year-old boy. Neither of them wants the other, and the situation is ultimately resolved quite humorously.
    • Ying-Ying, on the other hand, is the abused and unwanted wife of a man she thought she'd be happy with.
  • This was essentially the plot of the Eddie Murphy film Norbit.
  • The Roseanne Barr comedy She-Devil is a revenge story from the perspective of the Unwanted Spouse.
  • In Sullivan's Travels, Sullivan is unhappily married to a shrew whom he married on the advice of his business manager. When it's believed Sullivan is dead, his wife immediately marries her lover... that business manager. Which is good news for Sullivan when he turns up alive, as he now has every right to divorce her and settle down with his love interest.
  • Wyatt Earp's laudanum-addicted wife in Tombstone is another heroic example.
  • The entire setting of The Truman Show is scripted save for Truman himself; this includes actors being cast in roles within his life. One such character is the woman plotted to become his wife, but Truman ends up genuinely in love with an extra. Everything about the situation screamed it wouldn't work out, but the marriage happened anyway; Truman married because the extra (Sylvia playing Lauren) got forcibly removed from the show, leaving him with unresolved longing, and the new cast member (Hannah playing Meryl) married to collect the paycheck and fame that came with being Truman's wife, fully aware that he didn't love her and feeling the same for him. Once Truman's paranoia has built too much for her to take, she immediately books it.
  • Abusive, controlling, big baby of a husband Earl in Waitress. The whole movie is about the protagonist trying to get away from him. She does by the end.

  • A Brother's Price has Jerin as the sort of unwanted husband to Trini. She only agreed to marry him to prevent him from getting married into a family she is convinced is evil. His sweet personality eventually convinces her that he was a good choice for a husband, after all.
  • Codex Alera: High Lords' Arranged Marriages often produce these. Plot significant examples are Gaius Caria, the ignored and unwanted wife of the First Lord, who murders him to be free of him; and Antillus Dorotea the downright despised wife of High Lord Antillus, who often tries to kill her stepson and doesn't mind the collateral damage to her own son.
  • The Cormoran Strike Novels: With great reluctance, Robin marries Matthew at the end of Career of Evil but finds absolutely no joy in the marriage. She finally finds it in her to dump him towards the end of Lethal White after about a year of marriage after discovering that he is again cheating on her with Sarah Shadlock.
  • In The Crowner John Mysteries, the marriage between John and Matilda is a bitter and loveless one. It was a political marriage arranged by their parents that neither really wanted. John deals with it by being away from home as much as possible, first by going soldiering in Europe and then joining the Crusade, and later by spending as much time out in the field doing his job as coroner as he can, and by taking mistresses. Matilda focuses her energy and ambition on relentless social climbing.
  • Cyber Joly Drim starts with the protagonist avoiding sex with her husband. Odd in that they married for love—she simply never expected him to become such a bore afterwards.
  • In the Deptford Mice trilogy, Audrey agrees to marry Twit solely because doing so will prevent her from being wrongfully hanged as a witch. While she does care for him as a friend, she has no romantic interest in him and soon regrets the marriage because it prevents her from pursuing her true love, Piccadilly.
    "If only I had been kinder then, things might be different, he might have come to Fennywolde and I might be his wife instead. I wish Twit had let me hang."
  • Subverted in Dragon Bones, where the man who shares the king's bed is married. One would expect his wife to be an unwanted spouse, in an Arranged Marriage. However, Garranon is quite fond of his wife. King Jakoven, on the other hand, doesn't seem to like his wife at all, but as he can keep a lover on the side, he's not bothered by it.
  • Earth's Children: In The Mammoth Hunters, Fralie makes it clear her first marriage was loveless; although her mate didn't mistreat her, they didn't have much affection for each other, and Fralie mostly went ahead with it because she and had mother had no one else to support them after losing everything in a tragic fire. Fralie thinks the only good thing she really got out of the marriage was her two eldest children. She much prefers her second mate Frebec in spite of his flaws and much lower status, because she got to choose him and he was very enthusiastic about mating her.
  • A Rare Male Example exists in the Harry Potter series, though more implied than actual. Rodolphus Lestrange is so unwanted by his wife, Bellatrix (who, according to Word of God, is actually in love with Voldemort) that he only appears during the trial in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, along with his brother, Bellatrix and Barty Crouch Jr. but he's so unimportant that the narration never even tells us which Lestrange man he was, and he has no lines. Judging by the fact that the Blacks are aristocratic pure-blood fanatics it was probably an Arranged Marriage.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower series, the main character marries Maria, a girl he considers a bit silly and overly emotional, out of guilt because he can't bear to hurt her feelings by turning down her largely unwanted affections. He spends as much time at sea avoiding her as possible and sets himself up for misery at home by never once correcting her on any of her habits that annoy him, such as calling him "Horry" or cooking food he doesn't like.
  • I, Claudius presents Claudius's marriage to his first wife Urgulanilla as this, with neither being thrilled when they're paired off as a favor to Urgulanilla's grandmother, who's a friend of Claudius's grandmother Livia, and the two women mock them both for their unusual appearances (Claudius is crippled while Urgulanilla is a very tall Brawn Hilda— heck, her name is a feminized form of "Hercules"!). They stay together just long enough to have a child and then pretty much go on to live separate lives. Claudius actually says that there's so little emotion between them that he can't even say they were unhappy, and when he divorces her out of suspicion she was part of a murder plot and because she had a child with a slave she doesn't contest the charge. Claudius in turn goes out of his way to spare the baby by swapping it out with a stillborn child instead of exposing it as is his right as a cuckolded husband, showing he doesn't feel any ill will towards her either. Ironically, of all of Claudius' wives, she's the only one who's never openly cruel or manipulative to him and writes in her will after they're divorced that she knows he's not the idiot everyone thinks he is.
  • In Maiden Crown, King Valdemar initially sees Princess Sophie as this before they meet. He's required to marry her to consolidate his alliance with her half-brother Knud (his co-ruler over Denmark), but he doesn't care for the betrothal because he's happy in his relationship with Tove, whom he can't marry because of her status as an illegitimate peasant with no titles to her name. He puts off their marriage for three years before sending for her (as she was thirteen when they were betrothed), and he initially has the castle that becomes Gavngaard built as a place for Sophie to live and be out of his way. He changes his mind significantly when he actually marries Sophie and becomes attracted to her, and gives her Gavngaard as a wedding gift with no mention of its original purpose.
  • Moonlight Becomes You:
    • Dr. William Lane secretly detests his wife Odile. Any affection he felt for her has long since faded and just about everything she does and says irritates him beyond belief. He only sticks with her out of grudging gratitude, as she got him the position of director of Latham Manor even after he lost his previous job due to his drinking. After learning that she's set him up to take the blame for the Latham Manor murders, he resolves not to spend one more day with her.
    • Malcolm Norton hates his wife Janice (trust us, the feeling is more than mutual) and has fallen in love with his secretary Barbara. He wants to leave Janice and start a new life with Barbara, but he wants to buy Nuala's house first so he has enough money to set himself up after he ditches Janice. Nuala leaving her house to her newly-rediscovered stepdaughter and her subsequent murder complicates things immensely.
  • The Other Boleyn Girl:
    • Jane Parker is the deeply unwanted wife of George Boleyn, and often creates plot-relevant mischief to alleviate her marital boredom and unhappiness.
    • Catherine of Aragon is downright martyred as Henry VIII's unwanted spouse that he spends half the book trying to get rid of.
  • Pavilion of Women: Wu Fengmo accedes willingly to an Arranged Marriage with Kang Linyi only to find they have nothing in common. He goes to America to study and falls seriously in love with an American girl but chooses to return to China - and Linyi. Luckily for this unwanted spouse her husband feels strongly obligated to her - having after all chosen to marry her - and works hard to make her feel needed and happy.
  • In the novel The Princess Bride (rather than the movie), Prince Humperdinck is marrying Buttercup purely because he's going to be king and he'll "have to." In both the book and the movie, he's looking quite forward to killing her on their wedding night. Give him credit. In the book, he intended to marry the princess of Guilder, but she turned out to be bald.
  • A couple of unwanted marriages are in A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon, who would have both preferred to marry people who were by that point dead (Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, respectively) but Cersei at least tried to make it work until Robert mistakenly called her Lyanna on their wedding night. They both cheated on each other a lot, had their children with someone else, and Cersei had a hand in Robert's death.
    • In A Storm of Swords, Sansa Stark is made to marry Tyrion Lannister. Neither want it, although Tyrion is willing to try and make it work while Sansa just retreats behind her Stepford Smiler mask.
    • Visenya Targaryen was this to her brother/husband Aegon I, who was in an Arranged Marriage with her per Valyrian custom, but he later chose to voluntarily wed their other sister Rhaenys and was said to have spent ten nights with Rhaenys for every one with Visenya, making it obvious to anyone who his favorite was. It was even rumored that Visenya was appointed to supervise the Red Keep's construction so Aegon wouldn't have to suffer her presence.
    • In the backstory, Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen were also this in addition to being brother and sister forced to marry to keep their bloodline pure. They both would have vastly preferred to marry Joanna Lannister (the wife of Aerys's hand Tywin, whom he coveted) and Bonifer Hasty, respectively, and they resented the arrangement since their own father and grandfather had instead been able to Marry for Love. While there was no love lost between them on their wedding day, the birth of Rhaegar seems to have improved it somewhat, but then Aerys went insane and pushed it into Domestic Abuse territory, and Jaime Lannister recounts how Aerys would viciously rape her after he had burned someone and poor Rhaella looked like she'd been savaged by an animal afterwards.
    • While the relationship was by all accounts far better than his parents', Rhaegar himself is hinted to have felt this way about his wife Elia Martell, who was similarly betrothed to him. Daenerys thinks it says a lot when Barristan Selmy says Rhaegar was only "fond" of her. If so, it might help explain why Rhaegar took such an uncharacteristically reckless action as allegedly kidnapping Lyanna Stark while still married to Elia and in the process kickstarted the civil war that ultimately brought down the dynasty.
    • Lysa Tully vastly preferred Petyr Baelish, a lowborn who grew up with her, over Jon Arryn, the head of a fellow Great House who was old enough to be her grandfather and was betrothed to her solely to maintain the Riverlands-Vale alliance on the eve of Robert's rebellion. The hatred towards her match festered deep enough that she happily agreed to assassinate Jon, thus sparking the War of the Five Kings, all so she could live out her dream of becoming Littlefinger's wife.
    • In A Storm of Swords, Lysa insists on wedding Littlefinger as soon as he escapes from King's Landing and arrives at the Eyrie. He is incredibly uncomfortable about the whole thing, particularly since he does not love her and never will, having set his sights on her niece Sansa, and he eventually kills her when she threatens Sansa's life.
    • Daemon Targaryen referred to his first wife, Rhea Royce, as the "Bronze Bitch", which should explain what he felt about their arranged marriage. His later marriages to Laena Velaryon and Rhaenyra Targaryen, by contrast, were much more pleasant.
  • Spinning Silver: Miryem and the Staryk King become this to each other. To the Staryk, Miryem's careless boast demands a challenge and, when she completes the challenge, no less a reward than the King's hand — never mind that they despise each other. They end up Happily Married by their own choice.
  • In Thorn In My Heart, based on the first part of the biblical story of Jacob, Jamie McKie's uncle Logan pulls a Bride and Switch on him, getting the Church Council to declare Jamie legally married to Logan's elder daughter Leona rather than her sister Rose. Jamie's initial reaction is to ignore Leona completely, even after she discovers that she is pregnant with his child. Jamie eventually moves past his anger and learns to love Leona. However, at the end of the book, Rose's machinations cause the Church Council to reverse their decision and declare Jamie married to Rose and not to Leona. The second book, Fair Is The Rose, opens with Jamie treating Rose with just as much coldness and anger as he had initially treated Leona with.
  • Sarima and Fiyero in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This one works both ways. They were promised to each other as children without even meeting each other, so she doesn't really want Fiyero either.
  • In With a Tangled Skein, Niobe has an Arranged Marriage to Cedric, a handsome, strong, and highly intelligent man who is a few years younger than she is. Due to his youth, she is not at all happy. Later, she completely changes her mind about him.
  • Prince Dolph in the Xanth novel Isle of View has two fiancées. He is under an obligation to marry them, but he can't marry both, and the one he wants to marry isn't in love with him. The girl he doesn't love will die if he doesn't marry her. Fortunately, Dolph and his fiancées are underage, so there's time to sort the mess out.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Glamorous Imperial Concubine:
    • Xiang Yun for Lian Cheng. He wanted to marry her cousin Fu Ya, but he was forced to marry Xiang Yun instead. Later Lian Cheng becomes an Unwanted Spouse for Fu Ya when he forces her to marry him even though she's in love with Qi You.
    • Du Wan for Qi Xing. She sleeps with him when he's drunk so he'll be forced to marry her.
    • Lian Si for Qi You. He loves Fu Ya, but he's forced to marry Lian Si.
  • In The A-Team episode "Till Death Do Us Part", to keep an heiress' crooked fiance from getting his hands on her money (the reason he wanted to marry her), Hannibal has Face marry her instead. Face drags his feet the whole way. However, it's not so much objection to Jackie in particular (he does give hints of wanting to date her) as it is the fact that he has major commitment issues.
  • In Everybody Loves Raymond, Frank and Marie make you wonder if they ever even LIKED each other. The funny thing is, they still do. They just "made room" for hate in their relationship and, in fact, were separated for a time.
  • Saffron of Firefly is one of the rare women unwanted by a protagonist, due to the protagonist not knowing about the wedding customs of the planet they were on and her stowing away on the ship. Mal Reynolds spends most of the episode desperately trying to unload her (Justified, however, when she turns out to be a villainous con artist that married him in order to steal his ship.).
  • Lauren Reed of Alias.
  • Game of Thrones universe:
    • Game of Thrones :
      • Robert has never loved Cersei and has no problem saying it to her face. It's to the point where it's a bitter joke for the both of them when Cersei quips that their loveless marriage is the only thing holding the kingdoms together.
        Robert: How long can hate hold a thing together?
        Cersei: Well, 17 years is quite a long time.
      • Like Robert, Stannis is unhappily married for political reasons. (As he returns to his keep after burning the idols of the Seven, Stannis nearly forgets his wife Selyse and then ends up walking off without her anyway. He is never seen with her again in Season 2.) Melisandre claims this while seducing Stannis and he doesn't dispute it, but it's ultimately subverted. When Selyse appears again, Stannis is quite guilty about having had sex with Melisandre. However, she's seemingly fine with it. In the books, arranged marriages are very common among the high nobility of the Seven Kingdoms, usually made as politically motivated decisions to secure marriage alliances. Even Eddard Stark and Catelyn Tully were in an arranged marriage, though they later grew to love each other. Stannis's marriage to Selyse was also arranged, per the course. Stannis doesn't really seem to "love" Selyse, but his firm sense of duty means that he wants to behave as a devoted husband, unlike his whore-mongering older brother Robert.
    • In House of the Dragon, Daemon Targaryen is not happy in his marriage to Lady Rhea Royce, whom he derogatorily calls his "bronze bitch". They're as divorced as they can be in a society that doesn't allow divorce. They haven't seen each other in years—she lives in the Vale while he lives elsewhere. He frequents brothels, keeps a long-term mistress named Mysaria, fancies his niece Rhaenyra, and overall conducts his life as if he were not married. The only thing that his marriage stops him from doing is marrying someone else. He tries to get around that by taking a second wife while Rhea still lives and calling it polygamy. After that idea is shot down twice, he resorts to Divorce Requires Death and murdering Rhea. She only appears once in the series and seems equally contemptuous of him when he appears unexpectedly.
  • Tess on Roswell.
  • Dr Robert Kelso's marriage to his (unseen) wife in Scrubs. Kelso even seems to do the same thing with his mistresses, or maybe that's a subversion. Though to be fair, it appears he did love her at first, even writing a song about her when he was younger.
  • This was the basis of most of the comedy in Married... with Children, what with Al's dislike of his oversexed wife, Peg.
  • Maris on Frasier eventually turns into this before the divorce storyline. She's so horrible that all of the other characters dislike her and are vocal about it, but her husband Niles (despite his crush on Daphne) genuinely loves her before he's made to realize just how badly she treats him.
  • Londo Mollari of Babylon 5 is married to 3 women (via Arranged Marriage). Londo makes jokes about how his work on Babylon 5 keeps him away from his wives is a good thing. He is granted a divorce by the Emperor—two divorces, actually—and two constantly fawn on him to ensure that they won't get the metaphorical axe. They also plot to kill him. His first wife, Timov, doesn't participate in the scheming and is openly hostile—and in the end, Londo chooses to keep her, as he prefers her open hostility to their cloying faked affection. Also, she didn't try to kill him (in fact, she saved his life, but she never tells him that).
  • Jack Shepherd of Lost started off being wanted, but his lack of focus, constantly needing to "fix something" resulted in his wife leaving him for another man that sent him spiraling out of control, to the point he accused his own father of being the "other man".
  • Sam of Australian serial Neighbours was this to estranged husband Dan. Seemingly brought in for no other reason than to complicate his relationship with Libby, she hung around, trying to persuade him that they could give it another shot. Dan being the honorable man he is, agreed to try, but it was clear that, though he by no means hated her or wanted her to leave, he would have much preferred it if she had not come back. This is much clearer the second time it happens; after giving up and leaving for a while, Sam reappears heavily pregnant just in time to spoil Dan and Libby's upcoming wedding.
  • Another Rare Male Example is from Robin Hood: Isabella's abusive husband Thornton is creepily obsessed with his wife. She flees from him, and when he tracks her down she stabs him to death.
  • Charlie is this to Stella in The League of Gentlemen. Although he has grown to despise her too, the extent of her hatred (and verbal abuse) is much greater. While he still tries to make peace with her (especially in the Christmas special) she sees him as little more than a burden and never misses an opportunity to say so.
  • Poor Anne of Cleves on The Tudors. It's still not entirely clear what she did wrong that Henry took such a dislike to her, although most explanations hold that it was a portrait that Henry agreed to marry, and the real thing turned out to be uglier than the portrait.
    • In Real Life, while Henry may not have liked the look of her and did divorce her, she was arguably the best off of all his wives; he called her his beloved sister, loved her truly (brotherly love, not romantic), invited her regularly to the palace, and swapped cooks with her. They were dear friends for life. Considering the fates of Henry's other wives, Anne arguably got the best deal.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time", Spock and T'Pring are essentially this for each other, due to an Arranged Marriage. Spock is only going through with the marriage because he'll die if he doesn't, and T'Pring is involved with another man and would much rather marry him instead. Her efforts to avoid marrying Spock very nearly lead to Kirk's death.
  • In The Caesars, Emperor Caligula makes his lame, stammering, unattractive uncle Claudius the unwanted husband of his attractive cousin Messalina. Claudius is thrilled at the prospect; Messalina, decidedly less so.
  • In Princess Returning Pearl, in order to save the life of the brother of his One True Love Xiao Yan Zi, Yong Qi is forced to agree to an Arranged Marriage to Zhi Hua.
  • On Revenge, Daniel ultimately only married Emily because he thought she was pregnant. When he learned she wasn't, he shot her. She survived that and was able to use that to blackmail him to stay in the marriage until she decided she wanted it to end; she had only married him so she could frame his mother for her murder.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Regina married Leopold because her mother basically forced her to. After the marriage, it wasn't long before Regina manipulated someone into killing him.
    • The Dark Curse brought Charming and Abigail, who had previously called off an engagement because both loved other people, together as David and Kathryn Nolan. When the Curse started breaking, David found himself drawn to his real wife, and Kathryn eventually realized she wasn't happy in the marriage either; after the Curse completely broke, their marriage was never brought up again.
  • Played for laughs during a series of skits on In Living Color!, where an elderly couple pretend to be the standard for lasting marriage, but behind close doors throw insults and try to kill each other. The skit ends with someone walking in on them and mistaking what they see as an elderly couple nearly having sex, instead of witnessing attempted murder.
  • In the almost legendary Czech TV series Arabela, princess Xenia is this for prince Vilibald. Although in love with Sleeping Beauty, the prince was pressured by Xenia into marrying her because she is the king's daughter, and appears to have genuinely tried to get along with her, but her personality and behavior made that impossible. They end up hating and despising each other.
  • An unmarried variant in Life in Pieces. Colleen and her ex-fiance bought a house together but the relationship fell apart and neither of them can afford to buy the other out so they're stuck living together until they can figure out a solution.
  • Played for drama in Arrow. Ra's al Ghul has his daughter Nyssa marry the supposedly Brainwashed and Crazy Oliver. Nyssa, being a lesbian who openly dislikes Oliver, is completely opposed to it, but Ra's doesn't care. Oliver (though clearly uncomfortable with the idea) goes through it as part of a gambit to learn what Ra's master plan is. Oliver doesn't seem to consider it valid marriage, possibly explaining why he never bothered to end it...or apologize.
  • On The Handmaid's Tale, Eden is this to Nick when they are forced into a Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage. This is partly because she's only 15 years old (while Nick is a grown man) and partly because he is in love with Offred/June. His disinterest in her is so obvious that Eden wonders to Offred if he's a "gender traitor". Eden eventually looks for love elsewhere, and runs off with Isaac, only to be executed for adultery. Only at that point does Nick express regret for his neglect of her.
  • Discussed in the Friends episodes "The One with the Lesbian Wedding," and "The One with the Two Parties." Rachel's mom comes to visit in the first episode and casually announces that she and her husband are getting a divorce. When Rachel calls her out on being so casual about it, her mom responds that she knew she didn't love her husband when Rachel left Barry at the altar and that she (Rachel's mom) married her own "Barry." In the second episode, the gang sets up two birthday parties for Rachel to keep her parents away from one another, since the divorce was recently finalized. When she goes back and forth between the parties, all her parents do is voice their frustration on how they stayed married to someone they didn't love for such a long time.
  • In Scarlet Heart, Ruo Lan really never wanted Yin Si as her husband because he was indirectly involved with killing her lover. That incident forced her to be stuck in a loveless marraige with a man she despised for years. This is until she's about to die from her terminal illness. She makes Yin Si divorce her because she is terrfied of the idea of being forced to only see Yin Si instead of Qing Shan in the afterlife. Once she got the divorce letter from him, she dies.
  • Andor: Mon Mothma and her husband Perrin Fertha were forced to get married at 16 due to their native planet's tradition of Arranged Marriage. Mon clearly can't stand Perrin, an opinion not helped by his complete indifference to The Empire's tyranny, but she can't leave him without causing a scandal that would risk exposing the fact that she's funding the rebellion.

  • Meat Loaf's song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". Long story short, he swears to a girl that he'll love her till the end of time so he can get some. Fast forward, and now he's praying for the end of time to hurry up and get here because he can't stand her but he won't break his word.
    • And the girl apparently can't stand him either, so it's played straight on both sides.
  • There's also a Newfoundland song called "The Scolding Wife", covered by Great Big Sea, whose refrain goes:
    And if the Devil would take her, I'd thank him for his pain,
    I swear to God I'll hang meself if I get married again!
  • The 50% of Country Music that isn't composed of "She left me" songs seems to consist almost entirely of these. Example title: "How can I miss you if you won't ever leave" by the Shirtless Biddles.
  • "Why Don't You Get a Job" by The Offspring, quoted at the top of the page. The final verse tells about another, female, friend who has the same problem with her boyfriend.
    My friend's got a boyfriend and she hates that dick
    She tells me every day
    He wants more dinero just to stay at home
    Well, my friend, you gotta say...

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Hephaestus was this to Aphrodite since the other Gods were fighting over her so much that Zeus feared it would lead to disaster and more or less gave her to him. She was less than pleased with this, especially since Hephaestus was deformed, and serially cheated on him, especially with Ares.
  • The Bible: How's this for an example? You get a guy named Jacob who is working for his uncle Laban. (You probably see where this is going, don't you?) He notices his daughter Rachel, who is quite beautiful... enough so for Jacob to offer to work seven years for Laban in order to marry Rachel (It Makes Sense in Context). He does the work, gets married, and learns (after the fact) that he just got hitched to Rachel's decidedly less attractive sister, Leah. And then he works seven more years to get Rachel.

  • In Margin for Error, Sophie despises her husband and is desperate for him to grant her a divorce. Her husband's threats to turn her and her father over to Nazi authorities for execution are what keeps her from running away from him with her lover, Denny.
  • Hunding in Wagner's Ring cycle (Die Walküre), whom Sieglinde had to marry against her will. She drugs him to facilitate her incestuous love for her brother Siegmund.
  • In the Mrs. Hawking play series: Colonel Hawking, to his wife Victoria Hawking, the series protagonist. In this case it's because Victoria is both asexual and aromantic and because she was forced into the marriage.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In samurai RPG Legend of the Five Rings, this is a disadvantage that characters can take. Considering that wives are in charge of the man's finances, this can be especially painful for male PCs, while the male domination of most marriages makes it physically painful for many wives. It's not a nice setting sometimes.
  • From Magic: The Gathering there's Kayla who became Urza's wife after he won her hand in marriage by winning a contest of strength with an automaton he built. He was more interested in the relics in her father's vault than her.

    Video Games 
  • In Fallout 2, you can get a shotgun wedding. Your spouse is useless except as a very frail meat shield.
  • In a Nonstandard Game Over of King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, Rosella ends up marrying the hunchbacked son of the game's antagonist.
    • Subverted later Edgar was transmogrified into a hunchback, and had been kidnapped by Lolotte as a baby. Genesta transforms him into his true form, a handsome Fae Prince. In the seventh game, he's kidnapped and transmogrified again. After Rosella saves him, the pair wisely agree to a proper courtship before rushing into anything.
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age II, a major plot arc begins with a dissolute husband seeking his runaway libertine wife. It's quickly apparent that they mutually don't want each other.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dorian's parents have this relationship with each other. Halward Pavus and Aquinea Thalrassian were placed in an Arranged Marriage with no concern for the fact that they hated each other, solely because uniting their bloodlines would produce a strong mage. Their hatred of each other is why Dorian is an only child, and why Dorian is so determined not to end up in exactly the same situation with his betrothed, Livia Herathenos.
  • Henpecked Hou of Jade Empire only stays married to his wife because he's terrified of her. She's pretty much ruined his life. The Open Palm ending reveals that he manages to take a job as a deliveryman in a faraway city and leave her.
  • The Badass Preacher hires you to prevent this from happening in The Saboteur. To kill the Nazi General that was forcing a young French woman to wed him.
  • Matt Horner of StarCraft II accidentally got married to Mira Han after winning a poker game (he didn't know she was the stake). When Raynor meets her via videoscreen, Matt hides out of sight making very energetic "I'm not here!" gestures.
    • For her part, Mira seems very fond of Matt; of course, it's not entirely clear if this is genuine affection or if she just enjoys screwing with him. Considering that she kissed him while he was high on painkillers in the novel Flashpoint, it's implied that her affections are genuine.
  • In Final Fantasy X, Seymour asks Yuna to marry him. She agrees to it, but only to get close enough to confront him about murdering his father. Later in the game, he forces her to marry him while the rest of the party are held at gunpoint watching. Even stranger and squickier is the fact that said wedding and Seymour's planting of a Forceful Kiss takes place while he is technically dead; Yuna's reaction is to angrily wiping her mouth with her sleeve.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, Victor and Cigyun of Velthomer were this to each other, since Victor was by all accounts a nasty piece of work and cheated on her repeatedly, not to mention raping her favorite maid in a drunken stupor, so it's no wonder that Sigyun ended up having an affair with Prince Kurth which produced Deirdre.
    • King Desmond of Bern in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade viewed his wife Hellene as this, and it extended to their son Zephiel. He clearly favored his (unseen) mistress and their daughter Guinivere, openly having them in the palace while Hellene and Zephiel had to stay at the royal manor.

    Visual Novels 
  • In My Magical Divorce Bureau, this is the basis of each case you deal with (as the game's title would suggest). Here, the marriages were never voluntary to start with, so dissolving them is a fairly simple matter. If you say the right things, however, you can try to steer the couples towards being Amicable Exes (and possibly even to trying to get to know each other properly, which they didn't the first time).

    Web Animation 
  • Stolas and Stella in Helluva Boss are strongly implied to have never loved each other, to begin with, and only married out of obligation than feelings for each other. Though he does suggest that he did at least try to make it work, ultimately the only good thing that he feels came out of their relationship is their daughter Octavia.

  • In Sarilho, Ângela and Estanislau are in a relationship... Except she literally runs away at the first opportunity, leaving Estanislau to become this.
  • Oglaf: "Bishop of the Love God" has a royal couple ask a priest to cast a spell to make them fall in love with each other due to their Arranged Marriage. The priest points out they hate each other for legitimate reasons, so making them fall in love would only exacerbate those problems. He's then distracted by said god appearing and having sex with him, but the last panel of dead soldiers proves the priest right.
    Alt Text: Love conquers all but then struggles to administer its territories

    Western Animation 
  • Happens in The Simpsons when both Homer and Flanders drunkenly marry two cocktail waitresses in Vegas and a waitress shows up in a later episode as an unwanted spouse.
  • The Powerpuff Girls has the Mayor's wife. Rarely mentioned and almost never seen, but on the few occasions she does come up it's made abundantly clear that the Mayor doesn't care for her much. He was willing to give her up to a bunch of thugs for them to spare Miss Bellum.
  • In The Critic, Jay was an unwanted spouse of his ex-wife Ardeth. She even admitted to his face about regretting marrying him during their wedding day.
  • In Moral Orel (pictured above), Clay and Bloberta Puppington are in a completely loveless marriage that is explored in the third season. In the episode that explains the circumstances of them getting married, it's shown that Bloberta was desperate to be with someone and ended up with Clay after driving him to alcoholism by justifying to herself that he would need someone to help him. They were miserable before they said their wedding vows. They cannot get divorced due to the hyper-Conservative environment of Moralton and in the epilogue, it's hinted that they grow old and miserable together.
  • It is revealed in the comic tie-in The Search for Avatar: The Last Airbender that Ursa was pretty much kidnapped to be Ozai's wife.
  • In one episode of Family Guy, Quagmire gets drunk and accidentally marries an elderly hooker. He can't divorce her because legally he could lose his home to her. Of course, in the end, the hooker consents to divorce when she realizes that Quagmire isn't happy with her.
    • In "Married...With Cancer", Brian enters a relationship with a woman dying from cancer named Jess and eventually decides to marry her so that she won't die alone. Then immediately after the wedding, her cancer miraculously goes into remission and Brian is stuck having to deal with her obnoxiously happy personality all the time, made worse when she lets herself go (due to her celebrating that her digestive system is working again by overeating) and becomes a constantly farting Fat Slob. And since Brian had previously paraded around on TV, telling everyone how much he loves her, he can't divorce her without looking like he only dated her for the attention. In the next episode, "Dead Dog Walking", Peter convinces Brian that married life isn't all bad, but he instead adopts self-destructive behavior by way of massive weight gain, resulting in him dislocating his hip. Rather than take him to a vet for surgery, Jess has him scheduled to be put down instead. After Peter saves him, they both believe that they may be truly meant for each other since they both wished each other dead.

    Real Life 
  • This is also Truth in Television: plenty of royal marriages were like this, the most recent example being Charles and Diana Windsor aka the Princess of Wales. He couldn't marry his long-time lover Camilla Parker-Bowles because she was a married woman and wasn't a virgin beforehand. Diana was an earl's naïve daughter who thought she'd become a full-blooded princess by marrying him, they got hitched and things progressively went From Bad to Worse.
    • Isabelle of France, mentioned above under Braveheart, was not averse to becoming queen of England but with another king. Edward II basically ignored and humiliated her during their marriage, and he possibly/allegedly cheated on her with his squires and other (male) "friends". There are various theories that she may have murdered him, possibly in retaliation for this, though the popular story that the method of assassination was being buggered to death with a red hot poker has no basis in contemporary accounts.
    • Another example, though quite humorous, is the marriage of Louis XIV's brother Philippe d'Orleans and Liselotte of the Palatinate (Charlotte de Bavière or "la Palatine" in French). He was, let's say, rather effeminate (if an extremely effective solder and general), she was a very strong, loud and quite manly woman, and each was horrified at the prospect of marrying the other. They got over it enough to sire the requisite heir and spares and had little to do with each other after. What wasn't humorous was that Louis XIV used the marriage as a pretext for starting a war of succession over the Palatinate that systematically laid waste to Liselotte's native country.
    • And, of course, we have Henry VIII of England, who is infamous for the extremes he would go to in order to dispose of one unwanted spouse after another — so far as splitting with the Roman Catholic Church for refusing to grant a divorce and starting his own denomination in one case, and having the unlucky woman executed in two others. Ironically enough, the only wife who was unwanted from the beginning, Anne of Cleves, was the only one who didn't suffer much under his disposal of her. This may have had something to do with the fact that she (no fool) immediately agreed to a divorce. Since he didn't dislike her personally, he gave her a generous settlement (and she found she came to like England), and they remained friends for the rest of their lives (after the divorce, she was referred to as "The King's Beloved Sister"), and she lived quite comfortably - outliving all the rest of his wives, and remembered by her servants as a kindly, generous, easygoing mistress.
    • Catherine the Great and her husband Peter III of Russia were this to each other, and Catherine eventually had him arrested and forced him to abdicate before he conveniently died in prison (and there's evidence he was actually murdered, possibly on her orders), leaving her in charge of the country, a position she held until her own death of old age.
    • Rusudan of Georgia (Europe) and her husband Ghias ad-Din of the Sultanate of Rum were this to each other. Depending on which account you believe, either his father arranged their marriage or Rusudan herself ordered him to marry her. Either way, she quickly tired of him and cheated on him constantly. In 1226, a rival kingdom invaded Georgia, and Ghias ad-Din defected to their side. Then they left and he defected back to the Georgian side. After this, Rusudan repudiated their marriage, and she may even have had him killed.
    • George IV of Great Britain married Caroline of Brunswick, and they stayed married for a total time of... one year. And their marriage was an unmitigated disaster. Neither party suited the other. George even banned her from attending his coronation service. And then she died. Though he had nothing to do with it, she just fell really ill.
    • Frederick the Great was King of Prussia during much of its peak political and military power, but he married Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg more out of political necessity and to appease his frightfully cruel father, Frederick William I. Frederick himself was by all accounts gay, taking a series of male companions and lovers in spite of his father's brutal repression, and he had no interest in producing an heir to the throne. Once Frederick William I finally passed, Frederick gave Elisabeth Christine an estate near Berlin and thought little of her. Despite this, they never separated, and Elisabeth Christine herself would prove to be quite a strong woman and came to be highly respected in her own right.
    • Elvis Presley married his longtime girlfriend Priscilla Beaulieu to avoid a scandal arising from the fact that she was dating him and that she moved in his Graceland mansion when she was underage.