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Working with the Ex

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When superheroes are Amicable Exes, things can still get messy.

Bina: Okay, listen, boys. We're all aware of the awkwardness of the situation here. It would be awkward enough if we just used to squad together, but the fact is that one of you used to be my husband, and the other one my, uh...cousin. Well, shit. Know what I'm saying?
Meyer (to Berko): You were the cousin, right?

An easy way to introduce tension in the day-to-day life of a fictional character is to have them work with someone they were previously in a relationship with. While dealing with an ex-boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse can often be awkward enough as it is, such encounters are normally uncommon and short-lived. When two characters with a romantic history end up working together, however, the tension is magnified by the fact that they have to see each other on a daily basis, with no easy means of escape.

If the relationship ended badly, this situation can lead to endless arguments and insults between the co-workers as barely repressed resentment bubbles to the surface. Their constant squabbling can lead onlookers to jokingly question whether or not they're still together, which will elicit horrified denials from the former lovers. When one of the characters reaches their emotional breaking point a "The Reason You Suck" Speech is not uncommon… and both sides have plenty of ammunition to use against the other. Things can be made even worse when one character receives a promotion and becomes the other's boss, putting them in a position where they can torment their Ex with impunity.

If instead there are still romantic feelings between the characters, their history can be a prime source of unresolved sexual tension. After all, they did have chemistry at some point in the past, and being forced to work in close proximity together can cause old feelings to be re-ignited… leading to the inevitable question of whether they'll get back together. This situation can be especially troublesome if one or both of the ex-lovers are currently in another relationship. If the current significant other finds out a character is working with an ex, jealousy and suspicion are almost certain to follow.

In some cases, a character is shown to work alongside their ex with little or no issues, possibly even using their familiarity to perform better together than they would otherwise. This is often the result of their previous relationship ending with a realization that they were Better as Friends and a common trait of Amicable Exes. In situations like this, light-hearted teasing about their past from the Ex is to be expected.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Ace Attorney manga, Julie Henson is assistant for Sparkle Land's production team, in which her ex-boyfriend Flip Chambers plays Twinklestar. There's some unspoken tension between the two because he left her for another girl, and when he gets killed, she is suspected because it is thought that she hated him and she was the only member of the cast who could use her hands.
  • Chapter 89 of Bambino! reveals that manager Miyuki and head waiter Yonamine used to be married, and got divorced at some point. Despite this, they work incredibly well together in managing the restaurant, and gets along nicely enough that Ban (who knew nothing of their past together) thought they look good together.
  • In Gakuen Babysitters, Taka and Hayato's parents are divorced but both are teaching in the same school. It's yet to be seen how they interact with each other in a professional setting or if their former relationship was still in place when they began working at the school. It's interesting to note that fellow classmates aren't aware that Hebihara is Hayato's father.
  • Kill Blue: The protagonist is a divorced hitman whose ex-wife happens to also be the chief scientist of the syndicate he works for.
  • In Macross 7, Max and Millia Jenius are the military and civilian commanders of the Macross 7 Fleet, respectively. Their marriage has crumbled and they have thus separated, but have chosen to not actually go through a divorce to keep the citizens' morale up. Whenever they meet to discuss business, there's always a large amount of tension between them.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Misato was none-too-pleased when she found out that her ex-boyfriend Kaji would be staying with Nerv after delivering Asuka and Unit 02, and lashed out at him at nearly every chance she got afterwards. The bickering led Ritsuko to comment that they sounded Like an Old Married Couple.
  • Defied in Sazanka. Tatsuki breaks up with Keita, who works full-time at the convenience store where she's a part-timer. In response, he says that if she wants to end their relationship, she should also quit her job, since otherwise, things would be awkward between them. She immediately agrees to do so without complaint.
  • In Yuri!!! on Ice, Yakov Feltsman and his ex-wife Lilia Baranovskaya work together to train young figure skater Yuri Plisetsky. Lilia makes clear that she has no interest in getting back together with Yakov.

    Comic Books 
  • Ant-Man: Hank Pym and The Wasp, to the point where this is almost what the two are most famous for.
  • Avengers vs. X-Men: The Scarlet Witch and Vision are going through this. After Wanda got her memories and sanity back and Vision has properly self-repaired, they are both unwilling/unable to reconcile but more often than not have to fight on the same side. The series Issue 0 actually opens with a rather painful rejection scene between the Vision and the Scarlet Witch at the Avenger's mansion. Later the two have to cooperate against the Phoenix Five, during which they trade bitter battle quips. This is shortly followed by a panel showing Wanda yelling in distress when Vision is shot down in battle.
  • DC: Love is a Battlefield: Batman and Martian Manhunter independently assign exes Nightwing and Starfire to defeat some living plants. The tension is clear throughout their encounter, especially when the plant chemicals make them both admit there are still lingering feelings.
  • New Warriors: Justice and Firestar previously had a relationship.
  • Runaways: Nico Minoru and Victor Mancha, though it's rarely remarked upon. They got together officially (one night of comfort sex notwithstanding) on the last page of Brian K. Vaughn’s run, and Joss Whedon broke them up before the end of the very next story arc.
  • In Super Crooks, Johnny and Kasey used to date, and Kasey only works with him to help Heat. Afterwards, she makes it clear she never wants to see Johnny again. Of course, Johnny views it as a challenge, that he has three days to win her heart back. He succeeds.
  • Tim Drake: Robin: Tim and Steph used to date and he asks the Batgirls to help him with the case in the first arc in an effort to prevent any more murders, as Stephanie's ability to figure out hints and clues and Cass' fighting skills make them a perfect aid in the case.
  • The Ultimates: Nick Fury had to work with Monica Chang, his former wife, in the Ultimate Avengers and from then on.

    Fan Works 
  • Evangelion 303: Kaworu and Saburo work together and used to be a couple before the start of the fic. There is still tension between them due to the fact that Kaworu moved on but Saburo did not (even though Saburo was the one broke off their relationship). It does not that the two of them are needed to pilot their war plane — it is a two-seater — so that they have to sit together during training, tests, missions, battles...
  • HERZ: Variant. Kurumi was after Shinji for years and she even managed to have sex with him, but he was in love with Asuka and she was unable to win him over. The story starts out when she begins working in Shinji’s workplace.
  • In the Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid fanfiction Just a Child the doctor Yamato Senjou and the detective Hina Yamazaki are implied to be former lovers and the two of them work together sometimes on cases involving rape.

  • The Abyss: Dr. Lindsey Brigman visits the Deep Core underwater drilling rig on which Virgil "Bud" Brigman, her ex-husband, is the foreman.
  • In The Alphabet Killer, when former detective Megan Paige is allowed back into the force on desk duty after receiving treatment for the mental breakdown she had during a Serial Killer investigation years ago, she finds that her ex-boyfriend/ex-partner is now Chief of Police, and thus her boss. This puts him in an extremely awkward position when the killer resurfaces, as no one knew more about the case than Paige did.
  • Changing Lanes: Lawyers Gavin and Michelle are shown to have had a fling in the past, despite the fact that Gavin is married to their senior partner's daughter.
  • Dead Air: Radio talk show host Logan Burnhardt works with his ex-wife, who is his producer. Very little romantic tension is shown between the two of them, as their relationship seems to have evolved to Just Friends status.
  • In Fantastic Four (2005), Reed runs into his ex-girlfriend Sue when he asks his old friend Victor, who Sue works for and is currently dating, for a favour. This causes some tension and old feelings to resurface and continues to grow when they get their powers. Eventually, Reed and Sue would reconcile and become engaged at the end of the film.
  • In The Fly (1986), Veronica has an antagonistic relationship with her ex-boyfriend Stathis, the editor of the news magazine she reports for, motivating her to investigate Seth more personally. He repeatedly makes it known that he's not over their break-up and even starts stalking her. However, when Seth becomes fully manfly and kidnaps Veronica to mutate her against her will, Stathis comes to her rescue and loses a hand and foot in the process.
  • Implied to be the case for Ilene and Nathan in Godzilla vs. Kong. Before meeting with Nathan, Jia points out that Ilene was nervous. Not to mention Nathan is visibly cleaned up when he meets up with her. And Ilene reacts more with annoyance than feeling creeped out when Nathan kisses her cheek after she agrees to his plan for Kong.
  • Kind of the whole point of His Girl Friday. They get back together at the end anyway.
  • In Jurassic Park III, Paul and Amanda Kirby are a divorced couple who work with Dr. Grant to rescue their son from a dinosaur-infested island. It's implied by the end of the film that they will get back together.
  • Niobe and Morpheus in The Matrix Reloaded, as they apparently broke up due to Morpheus believing in the Oracle. However, they gradually reconcile over the course of the film, as Morpheus learns that there's more to the Oracle's predictions than he thought, and Niobe starts to believe in Neo.
  • In the film Outbreak, the protagonist Colonel Sam Daniels works with his ex-wife Robby in an immunology department. Naturally, they get back together at the end of the movie.
  • In Point of Origin, both Lang and Ambria are assigned to work on the task force. It is awkward for Lang, who admits that she dumped him when she met someone else.
  • In both the Japanese Ringu and US The Ring, Reiko Asakawa/Rachel Keller works with her ex-husband/ex-boyfriend Ryuji Takayama/Noah Clay to solve the mystery of the cursed videotape to save their lives and the life of their son. At the end of the movie Ryuji/Noah is horrifically killed by Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl Sadako Yamamura/Samara Morgan.
  • In Runaway Bride, Richard Gere's character (columnist) works for his ex-wife (editor). She has to fire him for not checking facts, and producing a totally overblown, inaccurate column about the titular character.
  • In San Andreas, separated couple on the verge of divorce, Ray and Emma, must work together to rescue their daughter.
  • Falsely accused of murder and short on options, Ballard in Silver Lode seeks the help of the only person besides his fiancée Rose who stands by him: his ex Dolly. Matters are complicated by the fact that she still has feelings for him, whereas he doesn't have feelings for her—this all takes place on the day of his wedding to another woman, and Dolly is jealous.
  • Ticket to Paradise centers around George Clooney and Julia Roberts as a very belligerent former couple, that once their daughter tells them she's marrying a man who she met little over a month ago and drop her life to live with him in Bali, make an uneasy team-up hoping to make her change her mind, as them rushing into a marriage was what let to an acrimonious split.
  • In Twister, the entire reason Bill comes to Jo's storm team is to get her to sign the divorce papers so he can marry his new fiancee. One tornado-riddled day later, the new fiancee is gone and they're back together again.
  • In You Might Be the Killer, one of Sam's fellow counsellors, Imani, is his ex-girlfriend. Sam still has feelings for her, while Imani regards their time together as a mere fling and isn't interested in reigniting their relationship.

  • In Apparatus Infernum, one of Mikani's numerous ex-girlfriends has a minor role in the first book and a major one in the second — mostly because Mikani needs to ask (and then repay) favours. Their relationship is generally pretty amicable, so the fact that they have to work together doesn't pose too much of a problem to them, but it does cause some anxiety for Ritsuko, with whom Mikani has a lot of Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • In Bernice Summerfield, the titular Bernice Summerfield is often sharing her adventures with her Ex Jason Peter Kane.
  • Lady Serena Carlow of Bath Tangle doesn't have a job, exactly, but she has to deal with her ex-fiancé on business matters when her father's will names him as her guardian.
  • Far from the Madding Crowd (guy has to work for girl who turned down his marriage proposal in the past) might be the Trope Maker.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer: The main character has two ex-wives and one of them works as his secretary. It's lampshaded how unusual it is for a man with two ex-wives to be on amicable terms with both of them.
  • In Mass Effect: Retribution, David Anderson is called upon by Kahlee Sanders to help her against the terrorist cell Cerberus. The two have barely seen or spoken to each other in more than twenty years, although it's obvious that some mutual feelings remain, despite not officially ever becoming a couple. The book ends with them rekindling their old relationship.
  • In the The Other Kind Of Roommate, Terry is both the mean director of Beth's home base art gallery and her ex from a year ago. They get along well professionally, with plenty of Snark Ball passes between each other and even some Big Brother Instinct, but there are clear reasons for why the two broke up when the topic turns to Beth's new interests.
  • The Otherworld: In Bitten, the first book of the series, when Elena has to work with the werewolf pack she used to be part of, this happens with her and Clay. After a lot of Belligerent Sexual Tension they get back together.
  • Retired Witches Mysteries: Book 2 sees Joe Renard's ex-wife Suzanne returning to Wilmington to work with him on a case involving a serial killer.
  • In Shaman Blues, Konstancja is forced to go to her ex, Witkacy, for help, so they end up cooperating. Witkacy is not very happy about it.
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union. The Cowboy Cop protagonist's ex-wife is Da Chief! It doesn't help that he's still in love with her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens quite a bit in 24. Tony and Michelle find themselves working together at CTU in the 4th season. Also, David Palmer ends up having to work with Sherry quite a bit, even asking for her help one time.
  • In The Affair, Alison and Oscar, the obnoxious owner of the diner where she works, had sex once when they were teenagers, as he is prone to recall. After Cole finds out about her affair with Noah, she has a one-night stand with Oscar to get her mind off things.
  • As of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "A Hen In The Wolf House", Lance Hunter and his ex Bobbi Morse are both members of Team Coulson. Lance thinks Bobbi is a "demonic hellbeast", while Bobbi doesn't seem to bear any ill will about their separation (she even vouched for him when Coulson was considering whether to hire him), but doesn't like that Lance is copping an attitude about her joining up.
  • The second season of All Saints introduced Dr. Mitch Stevens, Nurse Terri Sullivan's last boyfriend from before she decided to become a nun. The two would have a Will They or Won't They? relationship for the next few years.
  • Ally McBeal starts a new job in the first episode only to find her college sweetheart Billy is already working there.
  • Andor: Cassian and Bix were lovers when they were younger, and now work together to sell illegally pilfered tech. Cassian's issues create some tension between them in the present, but they have a good working relationship, until their lives are both rather ruined when Bix's current significant other thinks they're getting back together and turns Cassian in.
  • Annika: The title character's Number Two, DS Michael McAndrews, is her ex-boyfriend from when they were police cadets. He's now Happily Married and their past relationship doesn't pose a huge issue, until Annika reveals in the series 1 finale that he's the biological father of Annika's teenage daughter Morgan.
  • In Babylon 5, Sheridan deliberately hires his ex-wife, Elizabeth Lochley, to command the station when he has to resign by reason of becoming a president, choosing her because of the side she served on during Earth's then-recent civil war. They didn't work out romantically, but he still trusts her. Of course, this causes some minor drama when he fails to mention this previous relationship to his paranoid chief of intelligence or his current wife.
    • It also rounded out Sheridan's "set." Like the Minbari, his three wives were Anna (worker), Elizabeth (warrior) and Delenn (religious).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not shy about using this trope.
    • Angel and Buffy during season 3 of her show, although how 'ex' they were varied from episode to episode. Angel eventually decided to leave town so she could move on (and he could get his own show).
    • It definitely showed up more on Angel, with Fred and Gunn in season 4 primarily.
    • Buffy ended up working briefly with Riley and his wife in the sixth season in the episode "As You Were".
    • Buffy and Xander had this vibe when working with Spike and Anya in Season 7.
    • And of course, Angel is Back for the Finale, saving Buffy from Caleb and delivering a MacGuffin. They talk about their relationship, such as it is, and part ways again before the final battle.
  • One of Michael's ex-girlfriends once showed up on Burn Notice to ask for his help, and ended up working closely with the team throughout the episode.
    • Also, Fiona, referred to in the Opening Narration as Michael's "trigger-happy ex-girlfriend".
      • In the sixth season, the "ex" part was dropped.
  • Castle:
    • Richard Castle's second ex-wife is also his publisher and editor.
    • Beckett also has an ex-boyfriend in the FBI and has to work with him on a case.
    • They later team up with Castle's former muse(-slash-lover) who winds up being a KGB sleeper agent, which adds a whole new layer of awkward.
  • Chuck has two examples, both of which serve as Romantic False Leads:
    • In the second season the eponymous character is forced to work with his ex-girlfriend Jill.
    • Sarah has Bryce Larkin in the first and second seasons.
    • Also, Chuck and Sarah themselves briefly become this in early season 3. (Because despite all the cover talk, it was always real.)
  • Brenda and Chief Pope had a romantic affair before the events in The Closer. It was revealed to everyone in Season Two.
  • Happened once on Covert Affairs with Auggie's Russian ex-girlfriend.
  • The Company You Keep: In "The Real Thing" Birdie has to work along with her ex Simon, which is very awkward as they didn't part well and he's also the father of her daughter Ollie, but they've never met. They manage to make it work though.
  • CSI: NY did this for a few episodes. Danny and Lindsay got together then seemed to separate after the shooting death of a boy that Danny was looking after — he ended up having sex with the boy's mom — and there was the 'working with the ex' tension for a few eps. Then the two got back together, and it was all over.
    • More obvious when Jo worked with her ex in a couple of episodes, though they're at least amicable.
  • In Elementary, at one point, Sherlock Holmes worked with an ex-lover FBI profiler on a case, much to his annoyance.
  • ER had a veritable cornucopia of these. Examples include Elizabeth and Peter, Luka and Abby, Luka and Sam, Abby and Carter, Carter and Susan, Doug and Carol, Mark and Chuny...the list goes on.
  • This is a primary source of drama and romantic tension on Fairly Legal. The main character is a mediator and her ex-husband works for the DA, so naturally, they butt heads.
  • Sam and Jules become this in Flashpoint after breaking up in Season 2. Eventually, they get back together in Season 4. On both counts, it helps that their breakup was forced by circumstance (SRU teammates aren't allowed to date) rather than being the result of a problem in the relationship.
  • The short-lived Work Com FM was about an NPR station in Washington DC where program director Ted had to work with his ex-wife Lee-Ann when she was hired (not by him) to be a political commentator.
  • The series Fosse/Verdon portrays the real-life married couple and creative collaborators Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, who continued to work together even after Fosse's womanizing and self-destructive behavior caused Verdon to leave him.
  • In Helix, Dr. Alan Farragut must work alongside his fellow CDC scientist and ex-wife Dr. Julia "Jules" Walker, during a viral outbreak at a remote arctic research base. In spite of their interpersonal tensions, she has recommended him to head the mission as a personal favor due to the fact his brother Peter is among the infected research scientists.
  • Due to the Love Dodecahedron nature of Los Hombres de Paco, almost all of the cops in the San Antonio Predicate are working with an ex or two. Everyone really gets around.
  • Human Target has an episode where Chance had to work with his ex-girlfriend.
  • In the short-lived sitcom Ink, Ted Danson played a star newspaper reporter with his real-life wife Mary Steenburgen playing his ex-wife and editor/boss.
  • Irma Vep: Not formally, but Mira's ex-girlfriend Laurie is now engaged to Herman, who directed the last film she'd starred in (leaving Mira for him). As they're promoting the film, they keep running into each other, which is very awkward (particularly since both are clearly still attracted to each other, and Laurie keeps flirting with her).
  • In The Irrational, behaviorist Alec Mercer moonlights as a consultant for the police, which means often working alongside his ex-wife Marisa Clark, who is a cop.
  • Justified: Because Raylan's duties as a deputy US Marshall includes protecting witnesses or presiding judges in court cases, he periodically ends up spending the day working along side Winona, his ex-wife, who works as a court reporter.
  • In one episode of Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay helps out a Cuban restaurant whose owners are divorced. The episode seems to be building up them getting back together, but they only just get as far as being friends again.
  • Leverage: Nate Ford's ex-wife has worked with the team on several occasions.
  • In the first season of Lie to Me, Cal Lightman has to work with his ex-wife on several occasions and ends up in bed with her a couple of times.
  • Lost with Juliet, who is shown working for her ex-husband in flashbacks.
    • In the flash-sideways universe, she works with Jack and was previously married to him.
  • Lucifer: One of Det. Chloe Decker's co-workers is her ex-husband, Daniel "Detective Douche" Espinoza.
  • The Mentalist: Wayne Rigsby and Grace Van Pelt continue working together on the same team after being forced to break up due to CBI's non-fraternization rules. They eventually get back together after the rules are changed.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan: In episode 13, Bybyr Agency holds a casting and one of the auditionee is Prima's ex-girlfriend Rena. While Prima wonders if this means they can get together again, Rena wants to avoid that and decides to defy this trope by leaving the casting.
  • NCIS:
    • Seasons three through five had Director Jenny Shepard and Special Agent Gibbs, who had formerly been lovers.
    • McGee and Abby dated briefly, early on; this occasionally still provides tension when one or the other of them gets involved with someone.
    • One episode had Gibbs and FBI Agent Fornell having to work together to find the current husband of their mutual ex-wife
      • A later had the same ex-wife turned IRS investigator team up with both Gibbs and Fornell to lead an investigation that eventually involved all three agencies.
  • The New WKRP in Cincinnati: Morning drive time DJs Burns & Allen are exes who still work together professionally.
  • On NewsRadio co-anchors Bill McNeal and Catherine Duke have a sometimes tense relationship because of a fling they had in the past. Dave and Lisa also have to continue working together after they break up.
  • NTSF:SD:SUV::: Agent Trent Hauser was once married to his boss Kove, but they both still work with each other at NTSF. They even have two sons together, whom he only sees about once a year.
  • NUMB3RS:
    • In the first season, Don and Terry, who dated each other in their academy days, worked together before she left to give her marriage another shot.
    • After their relationship ends in season four, Don and Liz work together for the rest of the series.
  • In The Orville, Captain Ed Mercer is unhappy to discover that his ex-wife has been assigned to the titular ship as his XO. The crew listens in on their argument.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • "Tribunal" featured the son of a Holocaust survivor attempting to bring a suspected concentration camp commandant to justice, with his ex-wife offering somewhat reluctant assistance in the matter.
    • In "Worlds Within", Dr. Anya Kenway works with her ex-fiancé Dr. David LaSalle at the Burkmeer Research Facility.
  • Rookie Blue the main characters tend to date other cops. If the relationship breaks up, they are usually professional enough to keep working with each other without any tension. When the break up is bad enough, the other person will sometimes transfer to another division (ie off the show).
    • Season 2 has Luke cheat on Andy with Jo, his ex who transfers to the 15th Division in the first episode.
    • In season 3 Nick, the new rookie turns out to be an ex-fiance of Gail. After she broke off their engagement, he enlisted in the army and after serving in Afghanistan he became a cop. There is a lot of baggage left over from the relationship and it takes them a lot of time to work it all out.
    • Dov finds out that his girlfriend is still married (they never got to sign the divorce papers) and breaks up with her over it. She works in the same division and it creates a lot of tension between them before they reconcile.
  • Schitt's Creek:
    • Ted hires his ex Alexis as his receptionist, a move which makes little sense outside of a Romantic Comedy context. This leads to much Unresolved Sexual Tension between them. Alexis eventually quits and they get back together.
    • David is seen helping Stevie at the motel, and she's seen helping him at his store.
    • David and Patrick try this, but it takes them less than a day before they get back together.
  • Used repeatedly in Scrubs between JD and Elliot in the first three seasons, which included them sharing an office too small for separate desks. Dr. Cox and Jordan also had this set up for the first two seasons before reuniting.
  • In the backstory of SeaquestDSV it's revealed that Katie Hitchcock and Ben Krieg married right out of the Academy, then divorced a year later due to incompatible personalities. They wind up assigned to the same ship, but Katie's now Ben's superior officer. Their relationship is best described as friendly/wary (within the bounds of military protocol), but various episodes have shown that either will go out of their way to help/protect the other.
  • Search: Dong-jin and Ye-rim dated and broke up before the start of the series. This makes it awkward when they find themselves working together in the search party.
  • On The Sentinel, Jim's ex-wife Carolyn worked in the Police Department with him. They got along well, even having dinner together occasionally. She was Put on a Bus before long, though, probably because the writers didn't seem to know what to do with her character.
  • In the final seasons of Silk Stalkings, the original cops were replaced by the characters of Tom Ryan and Cassie St. John, who have been through a somewhat angry divorce, but who also (it rapidly becomes very clear) are far from over each other. It's shown over time that Tom would die for Cassie, if necessary, and Cassie is definitely still hung up on him, to the damage of her other relationships.
    • It rapidly becomes clear from their comments and other indications that the biggest problem between them was mostly immaturity on both their parts, the only thing standing in their way as a couple was/is the need for them both to grow up a bit.
  • In Smallville, a mild version in which after Chloe and Clark broke up, they still work together fine for the newspaper. Mostly because Chloe is mature about it and Clark...doesn't really understand how deeply she is in love with him.
  • Stargate SG-1 plays with this in the final seasons. General Landry clearly has some history, and not a good one, with the base's new medical chief. Turns out she's his daughter, but the trope is still played mostly straight by proxy, as she blames him for everything that went wrong with his marriage to her mother.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Will Riker & Deanna Troi are ex-lovers. It takes seven seasons, two and a half movies, and a source of strange radiation that rejuvenates the crew to the point where they behave like teenagers before they get back together, though.
  • Stranger Things: Steve and Nancy break up in Season 2, but work together in Season 4 as part of the group in Hawkins investigating Vecna. Lingering glances and comments by other characters indicate that there are still some unresolved feelings between them
  • Surgical Spirit has Sheila (surgeon) working with Jonathan (anaesthetist) after they break off their engagement. It mostly goes well. Mostly.
  • In the German police series Tatort the Leipzig team of Hauptkommissare Eva Saalfeld (Simone Thomalla) and Andreas Keppler (Martin Wuttke) used to be married to each other but got divorced a few years before their first episode.
  • True Lies (2023): Maria and Luther are dating in the first season before they break up, but continue working on the same team. After this he dates Quinn, who's in Omega Sector too, as a tech. This makes things awkward at first for them, not surprisingly.
  • The first season of The West Wing had PR specialist Mandy Hampton, who had apparently had an extremely non-amicable breakup with Josh. Their work relationship was not exactly smooth.
    • Also Toby's sporadic interactions with his ex-wife, Congresswoman Andi Wyatt.
  • Without a Trace: Samantha, after her relationships with Jack and Martin end. For the most part, despite the lingering feelings, they're able to keep things professional.
  • The X-Files:
    • Mulder winds up having to do this at times during season 5 with Diana Fowley. Things really get awkward, though, when Scully has to work with her too.
    • Seasons 10 and 11 are heavily shaped by this trope, this time with Mulder and Scully as the exes.
  • Women's Murder Club: The pilot reveals that Lindsay's ex-husband, Tom, is now a police lieutenant and her new boss. Much of their dynamic is the two learning to work together after their divorce and Tom's new engagement.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Dilbert strip has Catbert monitoring employee e-mail so he can find a pair of estranged lovers so he can promote one over the other, making it a case of "Working For The Ex."


  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Hyeon runs into his ex-girlfriend Nadine after they're both granted superpowers. The two of them join together to figure out a plan, which leads to a lot of awkwardness and bickering between them (much to the amusement of Benedict, their ride-along). It's not Belligerent Sexual Tension, though, as Hyeon was Nadine's Last Het Romance.

    Video Games 
  • Backstage Pass: John and Lloyd. Yep, a gay couple. They broke up due to work issues but decided that they were Better as Friends and remain Amicable Exes.
  • Criminal Case: City of Romance: Downplayed. Officer Hugo Mercier is married to Judge Clementine LeBrun, but they divorce several episodes in. While they don't exactly share the same job, the fact that she presides over the trial of the murderers that Hugo and the player character arrested, they continue to run into each other a lot.
  • In Deponia, you commonly bump into your Ax-Crazy ex-girlfriend Toni. The puzzles concerning her almost always consist of teasing her (which at one point can induce a Non-Standard Game Over). Later, she even seeks out a therapist who helps her get over your antics and regain emotional stability, only for you to break her again by revealing you cloned yourself.
  • Adam Jensen and Megan Reed have dated and broken up by the time Deus Ex: Human Revolution gets rolling (not too long before the game starts, as a matter of fact). However, they certainly don't act like most people expect exes to, especially since they work together quite closely. In fact, most people assume that they're still together unless they look around for clues.
  • In Halo 3: ODST, Buck and Dare are a former couple, which leads to tension between them when she takes command of Buck's squad for a secret mission (especially since she broke it off when he proposed, something he still resents her for). By the end of the game though, they've basically gotten back together again, which is confirmed in later Halo media.
  • Love & Pies: Despite his lingering feelings for his high school ex Amelia, Joe finds it awkward to work with her because he already arranged for a date night with another woman beforehand. This causes tension for Amelia, who likewise has feelings for him, but she reluctantly helps him prepare for the date, anyway. Joe then falls in love with Amelia for real and breaks up with the other woman to be with her.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Implied between Jacob and Miranda, two of the squad members in Mass Effect 2. In Jacob's words, their previous work together "got a little close - then it got real far apart." In spite of this, they seem to still be on good terms.
    • All three ME1 Love Interests treat working with Shepard in Mass Effect 3 this way. The awkwardness of the situation manages to make a second Romance Sidequest with the same character work remarkably well.
    • The Omega DLC for ME3 will arrange Aria, fighting to take back the station from Cerberus hands so she can resume her position as the top don, and Nyreen, now the leader of the largest mercenary group Iron Talons and the only plausible source of manpower on Omega Station to oppose Cerberus, together. Nyreen was Aria's lover until their Dating Catwoman situation from such drastically different worldviews became too much to overcome as far as their romantic relationship went, though they still respect each other's abilities on the battlefield and both will admit to Shepard privately that neither holds ill will stemming from the breakup.
  • In the time between Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade married, then divorced, and are still working together. Begrudgingly. They also have a daughter, Cassandra "Cassie" Cage. By the end of the game, though, they've upgraded to Amicable Exes, and Mortal Kombat 11 shows Johnny and Sonya back together for good.
    Sonya Blade: What's your status from Col. Flagg?
    Johnny Cage: He said: "Why you botherin' me?" And I said "Because my ex-wife is a pain in the..."
    [Sonya leaves Johnny]
  • In Namco × Capcom, Taizo Hori of Dig Dug fame fights alongside the heroes, and his ex-wife Toby "Kissy" Masuyo (from Baraduke) also joins their ranks. Although they divorced long ago, Toby still holds a grudge against Taizo. Toby also makes a few cameos alongside her ex-hubby and son in the Mr. Driller series (which preceded NxC), with her personality more or less the same, though the later Dig Dug: Digging Strike (which uses the art style and character personalities of the Mr. Driller games) implies the two have reconciled a bit since.
  • In Relicta, once things start going wrong, Angelica has to grit her teeth and call her ex-husband, Ragnar... who happens to be the head of the international government.

  • In Ingress Adventuring Company, the protagonist Toivo, who's a bit of a Serial Romeo himself, has to inevitably work with his ex to investigate various mysteries. The two of them seemingly get along, but it's quickly revealed that at least one of them still harbors feelings for the other.
  • For a short time in Kevin & Kell, Kevin's first business venture Flea-Bay was owned by his ex-wife Angelique. After Fiona bought her out, she later became a senior executive (and at one point ran) the company Kevin's current wife worked at. And if we're going that route Ralph works for the company his wife's ex owns. And by technicality, through Kell Angelique hired another one of her exes, the one she cheated on Kevin with in fact, Kevin's father.
  • The relationship between Domenico and Zoé in Sandra on the Rocks takes this to a comedy extreme, with lashings of Belligerent Sexual Tension and some Slap-Slap-Kiss; in fact, they occasionally have sex — to settle arguments.
  • In the webcomic Wayward Sons the captain's ex-wife is also the head medical officer.

    Web Original 
  • Linkara and Iron Liz of Atop the Fourth Wall were dating when Liz made her debut on the show; while her character disappeared around the time they broke up, she has since appeared in Vlogs and Behind The Scenes roles on crossovers with Linkara and they have planned to re-introduce Iron Liz.
  • Brad Jones continued to use his ex-wife Jillian Zurawski in his projects, including The Cinema Snob, Brad Tries..., and Midnight Screenings for a while after the two divorced, but she later stopped appearing because she was no longer interested in making videos.
  • An in-universe example occurs in Dream SMP, where Schlatt's ghost reaches out to Quackity and asks his ex-fiancé to get the revival book back from Dream to resurrect him. Quackity, initially hesitant and not wanting anything to do with Schlatt (for a variety of reasons), eventually makes a bet with the ghost: if Quackity won, Schlatt would never be revived and would work for him at Las Nevadas, and if Schlatt won, Quackity would get the book and revive him. The next scenes show Quackity trying to convince Sam to let him into the prison to get the book from Dream, implying the bet went in Schlatt's favor. That being said, it's heavily implied that Quackity seeking out Schlatt in the first place was actually a last resort in response to his current relationship problems caused by a mixture of miscommunication and trauma responses.

    Western Animation 
  • 6teen: Deconstruction. Wyatt's inability to get over Serena as Spin This leads to conflict at the work place from him snapping at customers, messing up the shelves, and playing heavy metal music loudly through the speakers. It eventually leads to Serena firing him.
  • A hefty portion of the issues between Lana and Archer stem from the fact that they used to date. There's a lot of antagonism between them.
  • In Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon had a romantic history, and now she leads the GPD.
  • Futurama: Fry and Amy dated for a while, until he dumped her. The same is true with her and Bender, who dumped her upon the revelation that they'd be in a monogamous relationship. She continued to work at Planet Express with them after both relationships ended.
  • On Gargoyles, Macbeth's two mooks Banquo and Fleance are said to be exes by Greg Weisman.
  • By Justice League Unlimited, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl.
  • In The Legend of Korra, this is Tenzin's relationship with Lin Beifong, which was ended partly because the former is a Racial Remnant that needed to continue his lineage and the latter was (and still is) Married to the Job. This aspect of their relationship gets little mention after the first season, with most of it being addressed in "And the Winner Is..."
    • This was the situation between Asami and Mako after their breakup at the end of Book 1. By Book 3, Mako is working with two ex-girlfriends on the same team, following his breakup with Korra at the end of Book 2. Korra and Asami handle it pretty well. Mako...not so much, at least at first.
  • Occasionally on Time Squad, other Time Squad units join in to help the trio. One of these squads consists of Buck Tuddrussel's more accomplished ex-wife Sheila Sternwell. The two are on good terms, though Buck's ego takes a hit when she comes in to save his butt and his unit's mission.
  • During a brief breakup, Cornelia and Caleb in W.I.T.C.H. have a teen-version of this. The stress causes Cornelia's powers to go haywire for a while.
  • After the Time Skip in Young Justice, Miss Martian and Lagoon Boy are now dating but Conner decided to stay on the same team as M'Gann even though they had the option of joining the Justice League, but he is visibly uncomfortable with their relationship.
    • The tie-in comic contrasts this with a scene of Nightwing's Amicable Exes, Zatanna and Rocket, stopping by to give him birthday kisses on their way to a League briefing. As soon as they leave, Nightwing turns to a stiff-postured Conner and M'gann, asking if they're still okay working together. They claim professionalism.

    Real Life 
  • Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher. The two had previously dated for several years. There is even a fake sex scene between the two.
  • Alternative Rock duo The White Stripes consist of Jack and Meg White, who divorced shortly after hitting it big but remained together musically. The divorce was actually for image reasons, and they have pretended to be siblings, so this is a slightly skewed example.
  • Fleetwood Mac, around the time of the Rumours album, consisted of two broken relationships and a drummer (who had a fling with the singer).
  • ABBA consisted of two men and two women, who became two married couples. Both couples divorced and they continued to make music for a while, but ultimately broke up in 1983. In 2021, all band members reunited for their 1st new album in 40 years(Voyage) and for a planned "virtual concert".
  • Sonny & Cher during the 2nd version of their Variety Show.
  • George Hamilton and his ex-wife Alana had a daytime Talk Show in The '90s.
  • Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, who play brother and sister on the TV series Dexter, met on set and got married very quickly, only to get divorced after a while. They both continued portraying their characters.
  • Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco secretly dated for around 2 years in the early days of The Big Bang Theory, before their characters Leonard and Penny became involved.
  • John Cleese and Connie Booth created Fawlty Towers and they wrote every episode together. They were married when the first series was made, but divorced before the second one started.
  • George and Robin Lakoff (divorced) both work as linguistics professors at the University of California, Berkeley and get along well as professionals.
  • Simone Simons was Mark Jansen's girlfriend when she joined Epica and remains in the band despite the two of them breaking up not long afterwards.
  • Joyce Nettles, first casting director for Midsomer Murders is star John Nettles's ex.
  • This is what broke up the Cocteau Twins, as vocalist Liz Fraser and guitarist Robin Guthrie had a messy breakup and Fraser didn't want to continue the band.
  • Country Music singer Lee Ann Womack divorced singer-songwriter Jason Sellers shortly before starting her career in 1997. Despite this, she recorded songs written by him on her first three albums, and he frequently contributed backing vocals as well (most ironically on the one-night stand song "I May Hate Myself in the Morning").
  • Merle Haggard continued to tour with his ex-wife Bonnie Owens after the two divorced.
  • Richard Thompson and Linda Thompson's last duet album, Shoot Out the Lights, was made during the acrimonious dissolution of their marriage, reflected in the lyrics of some of the songs. The supporting tour had Linda tripping him as he went onstage, and guitarist and fellow Fairport Convention alum Simon Nicol, who was a member of their backing band, said that the first thing he would do was look for the exits. These concerts, which were apparently incredible and featured some the best performances in either Richard or Linda's career, are commercially unavailable because the acrimony behind the scenes brings back bad memories for both of them. In the 2000s, their relationship as friends had been repaired enough that Richard appeared on Linda's 2002 album Fashionably Late. In 2010, the two performed their first show together since 1982 at a tribute to their recently deceased mutual friend, folk singer Kate McGarrigle, at the Meltdown Festival. They've continued to work with each other into the 2010s. "Love's for Babies and Fools", a song from Linda's 2013 album Won't Be Long Now, features only the two of them — it's effectively the only Richard & Linda Thompson recording since Shoot Out the Lights. The whole Thompson family — Richard, Linda, all three of their children (all of whom are musicians themselves), Richard's stepson, their nephew, and their children's spouses — recorded an album, Family, together in 2014 under the name Thompson.
  • This is the reason why many adults in the workforce, or high school students in small schools, don't date coworkers or classmates even if they want to. Despite liking each other, the potential awkwardness following a breakup is enough to make them avoid the situation entirely.
  • On Game of Thrones, Lena Headey (Cersei) and Jerome Flynn (Bronn) dated sometime before 2014; reportedly it ended on very bad terms. However, there is some debate as to how badly it ended, with there being rumors that they had to use a body double for Flynn in a scene where he was just in the same room as Cersei and not speaking to her. Additionally, there is at least one example of Bronn conveniently leaving the room just as Cersei's about to enter the scene.
  • Sinéad O'Connor divorced drummer John Reynolds in the early '90s, but he continued to play on her records and was a frequent songwriting partner until her death in 2023.
  • On The Wiggles, cast members Lachy "Purple Wiggle" Gillespie and Emma "Yellow Wiggle" Watkins fell in love while working together and got married in 2016 but later separated in 2018. Since then, both Lachy and Emma are Amicable Exes and still enjoys each other's company.
  • Kate Bush broke up with longtime boyfriend and bassist Del Palmer in the '90s, but Palmer still plays on her albums.
  • Shortly after joining No Doubt, Gwen Stefani began dating bassist Tony Kanal. Their breakup, which nearly caused the band to split up, inspired much of Stefani's writing for what proved to be the band's breakout album, Tragic Kingdom. Both have remained in the band, and Stefani co-wrote one of the songs on her 2004 solo debut about their friendship.
  • NUMB3RS regular Diane Farr dated Chris Bruno, who made a guest appearance as SWAT leader Tim Kingnote , while the two of them were in college. According to Chris' brother Dylan Bruno, also a series regular, the two of them are still on good terms so there were no problems.
  • Brazilian voice actors Angélica Santos and Wendel Bezerra both met while in the recording booth, and they even had a son who followed in their footsteps as he got older. While the two have since divorced, they still work together, most notably in the Brazilian dub of SpongeBob SquarePants as Pearl and SpongeBob, respectively. They appear to be on good terms, as they both share joint custody of their son, Enzo.
  • Another Brazilian case is how Mônica Rossi was brought into the dubbing world by husband Mário Jorge Andrade, and even upon their divorce decades later they say they're each other's best friends, often working together if not casting the other in dubs they direct.
  • John Doe and Exene Cervenka of the LA punk band X (US Band) divorced in the mid-1980s, shortly before the release of the album Ain't Love Grand. The band continued on, with Doe and Cervenka remaining on friendly terms.
  • Dean Fleischer Camp and Jenny Slate co-wrote the Marcel the Shell with Shoes On shorts and books together, with Fleischer Camp directing the shorts and Slate voicing the titular Marcel, and got married in 2012. They later divorced in 2016 but continued to work together on a feature film adaptation of their shorts that was released in 2021.
  • Dwayne Johnson and his former wife Dany Garcia have maintained a quite friendly relationship, both personally and professionally, since their 2009 divorce. Garcia remains Johnson's business manager to this day, and the two are part of an investment group that has owned stakes in two American football leagues—the second XFL (in which they were lead investors) and the current United Football League (formed by a merger of the XFL with the second USFL).
  • Director Zhang Yimou casted his former partner Gong Li for both Curse of the Golden Flower and Coming Home.
  • Taylor Swift hired Taylor Lautner for the music video of "I Can See You" over a decade afer their breakup.


Video Example(s):


This is a thing...

Ed Mercer has just become captain of the Orville, fulfilling a lifelong team to lead exploratory space missions. But is soon horrified to learn his first officer will be his ex-wife, Commander Kelly Grayson.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / WorkingWithTheEx

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