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She said "It's just a woman thing" and pulled out of the drive
—Lonestar, "No News"
The tale is approaching its finale and you have a character who has undergone many changes. Now you need them to make a bold statement, to show the world that they are a fully developed individual.
What's the first thing you make them do? Dump their partner.
For some reason, the partner of such a character is discarded like a trinket in an It's All Junk scenario. Sometimes, it's really obvious why this happened - for example, someone that's finally mustered the courage to leave an abusive or neglectful partner, or a marriage they never wanted. But other times, it's more subtle.
Sentimental characters might decide they need to be "better people" before returning to their partner. Just what this actually means is left for the reader to figure out. In this case, their partner will probably wait as long as it takes for their beloved to finally decide to come home. Some other characters who leave their partners in these circumstances take time out to evaluate what they want from life, since apparently it hasn't occurred to them to do that before they got married and had kids.
Others though, seem to discard perfectly good and loving partners for no other reason than that that particular person reminds them of their past...or, more selfishly, they've decided that after years in a committed relationship, they "deserve" to experience other people and leave their loyal lover in the dust, blinking in confusion. Extra Kick the Dog points if this lover has stuck by them through thick and thin. The author may try to justify this with claims that their partner was "holding them back" or "too dependent on them." This explanation has varying degrees of success - a possessive partner who doesn't want their lover to cross the threshold of the house won't get much support from the audience, but a loyal husband or wife who has nursed their spouse through illness, only to be dumped the instant the doctor gives them the all clear, certainly will. After all, if the partner only gets discarded after the Ill Girl (or boy) gets better, it begins to look like the ill partner was only using them to get through the illness. Surely if they wanted to get out of the relationship that badly, the illness wouldn't have stopped them?
While this trope normally applies to lovers, it can also apply to family members and friends as well.
By the very nature of this trope, here be SPOILERS.
- Heat Guy J ends this way, with Daisuke leaving the city, his loved ones, and best friend behind...which comes off as a total non-sequitur since he spent most of the series talking about how much he loved the city.
- It's a real head-scratcher, because we never find out where he went or what he did while there, or what everyone else has been up to while he's gone. It looked like they were going to try to do a sequel, but for some reason never did, so it's just a Cliff Hanger.
- Ramona Flowers did this in Scott Pilgrim. Though she does come back.
- Scott himself is sort of forced into it.
- The mother (played by Meryl Streep) in the movie Kramer vs. Kramer.
- Nicely subverted in Garden State. The protagonist says this to his lover...then returns from offscreen and says, that come to think of it, that's a horrible idea.
- The terrible National Lampoon's Movie Madness opens its first segment with a husband forcing his wife to go on a journey of self-discovery.
- In the second High School Musical, Gabriella decides she needs to do this, as she so eloquently sums up in song. She comes back, though.
I've got to move on and be who I am
- In one of Jodi Picoult's novels, the father of the family relates the tale of one of his coworkers who stood staunchly by his wife as she fought cancer. When she was better, she dumped her husband, claiming that she wanted more from life. The father's initial reaction was that the woman was a monster, but after looking after a sick daughter himself, he could understand where she was coming from.
- Ash does this to Mary-Lynette in Daughters of Darkness, vowing to return to her when he's slain the dragon of his past.
- One of the plot points in The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. The main character's mother, Anita, has left them to find herself, and the protagonist and his father are taking a roadtrip to Athens to get her back.
- Sara Sidle of CSI. It ends happily when Grissom came and joined her, and she has returned to CSI since then.
- Sophie, from Leverage, in a inoffensive and justified version. She's trying to ditch the personas that make her nothing but a conwoman, and she has to leave the team in order to sort through them.
- Lily attempted this on How I Met Your Mother. It really didn't work out.
- In season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oz leaves Willow to go learn how to better control his inner wolf. He succeeds (somewhat) but when he returns, she's moved on.
- The reason for Chuck and Blair's latest break-up on Gossip Girl.
- Also one of the reasons why Dan and Jenny's parents got divorced.
- Boy Meets World: After just having gotten back together earlier in the season, Angela leaves Shawn to go traveling with her dad near the end of the final season.
- The song "Come Back To Me" is set through the dumped's POV. However despite the title, the lyrics suggest that the person accepts that their Love Interest needs to find themselves, and that they will wait for the loved one to return.
- Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" is about a woman telling her lover that "I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket," but she still has to leave him so she can "get a move on with my life." The lyrics suggest that despite how devoted they are, they've really been nothing more than little kids playing house, and she needs to get out and learn to stand on her own two feet.
- Lonestar's "No News" is also from the POV of the dump-ee.
- Kamelot mentioned this on their Epica album-track. Center OF the Universe and Farewell.
- Not About You appears to be about this, and mentions it almost by name: "I saw that movie where the guy gets dumped and the girl goes off to find herself."
- The 1981 Human League song "Don't You Want Me" is also about this situation from the dumpee's POV, but unlike the examples above, he isn't taking it well.
When you think you've changed your mind
- Jimmy Nail also doesn't buy it.
I've gone to find myself. If I'm not back before I return, keep me here.
- In Next to Normal, Dan has coped with Diana's bipolar disorder for over a decade and, recently, while struggling with his own depression. As the play ends, Diana decides she needs to cope on her own (oddly enough, by running off to her parents' house...) and leaves Dan behind with the farewell gift of their dead son's spectre.
- Not many would question Nora's decision to leave her husband after he shows his true colours in Ibsen's A Dolls House. After subservient and sweet-natured Nora forges a signature to save her husband - her one and only show of strength up until this point - he suddenly turns on her when this "deception" is revealed. As she realises that he will stop loving her if she is anything other than a "doll" for him, she decides to leave in order to develop her own personality. Less sympathetic, though, is her decision to abandon her children into the bargain. Values Dissonance may play a part here - at the time it was written, it would probably be extremely difficult for a "rogue" wife to get custody of her children. However, Nora's final speech suggests that even if it were possible to keep the children, she wouldn't even try.
- Kind of understandable, though. If she doesn't know who she is as a person, it's going to be extremely difficult to care for her children in the unlikely event she'd get custody.
- It should be somewhat noted that she entrusted the children to the care of a trusted nurse (who also raised her and was Nora's loving surrogate mother). It's even Foreshadowed in one scene.
- Right. Existential confusion makes it impossible to hold down a job or shop for foood or clean house... Hmmm, how is Nora supposed to take care of herself?
- Well, finding yourself is probably easier without having to care about children at the same time. Besides, Thorvald is hardly presented as a bad father, and the children would probably be much better off with a stable house, food, their education, and their governess than being dragged away from all that in a family custody battle.
- In Street Scene, Rose ultimately leaves Sam because, after what happened to her mother and her father, she decides that people shouldn't belong to anyone but themselves; "loving and belonging aren't the same thing," she explains. She tries to reassure him that perhaps they can be together again some time, when they're older and understand themselves better, to little avail.
- In Chicago, one of the girls in the "Cell Block Tango" number mentions how her lover, Al Lischitz, would go out every night looking for himself. "And on the way he found Ruth, Gladys, Rosemary...and Irving!"
- Not romantic (unless you want to stretch it a bit), but Kain staying on Mt. Ordeals in the ending of Final Fantasy IV counts, as he's looking to make himself a better person after being forced to betray Cecil twice during the game.
- Any game with Loads and Loads of Characters will generally have one of them go on a journey to find themselves in the epilogue. Examples include the Suikoden series, the Fire Emblem series, and Vandal Hearts.
- One of the possible endings in Kana: Little Sister.
- In Friendly Hostility, you could argue that Fox was reckless, empathy-challenge and occasionally downright stupid, but one thing no-one could question was his devotion to his boyfriend, Collin. The pair weathered family woes, financial hardship and employment issues together, with each prepared to make massive sacrifices for the other...until the denoument, where a more "developed" Collin decided Fox was no longer meeting his needs. All of Fox's positive deeds were obliterated by Collin's Accentuate the Negative tendencies, and the "grown up" Collin makes it clear that he wants to move on. He would probably have received the audience's unreserved sympathy if Fox hadn't been trying to change for the better while Collin was dithering and angsting while messing with Fox's head.
- Word of God has Collin's decision to terminate his relationship with Fox as a major Character Development hallmark, explicitly stating in Other Peoples Business that Collin was a much more rounded character after ditching Fox, marrying Leon, and returning to his parents' good graces. Meanwhile, Fox had such a complete romantic BSOD that his family struggled to pick up the pieces. Mitigating factor: Fox and Collin did try counselling before this. Non-mitigating-factor: by all indications, Collin wasn't half as interested in repairing the relationship as Fox was, and rather than terminate the relationship honestly and face up to the pain he knew he'd cause, Collin tried to do a moonlight flit.
- Before Friendly Hostility, the friendship version occurred in Boy Meets Boy. Skids "grows up", reclaims his proper name, Gio, gets rid of his hat...and moves to New York, resolving never to see his old friends again.
- The first season finale of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has Fred find out that Mayor Jones isn't his real father and took him from his real parents, Brad and Judy of the original Mystery Incorporated, to protect the Treasure of Crystal Cove. He then breaks up his engagement with Daphne to find his real parents, not long after he stopped being so Oblivious to Love. Not bad for a Scooby Doo show, am I right?