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Because it is not the purpose of this program to show the further development of my relationship [...] I will refrain from showing much. I wouldn't want to throw my dear viewers' time down the gutter, now would I? Nothing else is as boring to tell as a story of successful love.

Hooray! They got together! Finally! We've watched them Meet Cute, groaned at the arrival of the Romantic False Lead, sat through seasons upon chapters of Will They or Won't They?, shouted hurray at their Now or Never Kiss and this is the moment we've all been waiting for! And for good reason, because now...

Um, because now...

Uh.

The Romance Arc is the gift that keeps on giving. Whole fandoms have been known to run solely on the fuel of Shipping vitriol for years on end; though they won't admit it, people will continue reading through a boring scene just to see whether this guy can work up the nerve to ask out that girl over there. But, for some reason, as readily as they attach themselves to potential couples, they shrug at the successful conclusion of the romance and move on. Actually getting to see what happens past the climax point of They Do just doesn't get people hooked the same way the anticipation does. You can blame human Wish Fulfillment mentality which romanticizes the exact phase of "getting together with someone" beyond all reason, or writers' inability to portray a relationship convincingly, but there you are.

This may be why even in works far towards the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, everyone seems to stay forever trapped in a limbo of meaningful gazes and Moment Killers; writers just don't want to take their chances with this reaction. It's also probably the underlying cause of Last Minute Hookups and characters hooking up afterwards being so common. It's a rare writer who actually builds on a Happily Married couple as a pillar of the plot.

This trope may be an extreme reflection of what actually tends to happen, over time, to real life relationships.

Contrast with Belligerent Sexual Tension and Platonic Life Partners.


Straight Examples

Anime & Manga

  • After Usagi and Mamoru got together in the Sailor Moon anime, they were shown together less and less; Mamoru's personality went from "mysterious" to "two-dimensional" depending on how interested the writers were in him. This was painfully noticeable in the last season, when a pseudo-courting period by newcomer Seiya replicates the old tension well, while Mamoru got Put on a Bus. The manga version avoids this trope by keeping Mamoru a well-developed (and much more Badass) character even after the hook-up. Comparing his role in the fourth arc between manga and anime alone is dumbfounding (short version: in the former, he gets a major power-up, in the latter...he doesn't.)
  • The finale of Bakugan Battle Brawlers shows Dan and Runo finally getting together, and the first episode of the sequel series, Bakugan: New Vestroia, has them still together. Then Runo and every other girl from Battle Brawlers gets Put on a Bus.


Comics

  • Young on-and-off couple Edda and Amos finally did the deed in ~9 Chickweed Lane~ while in Brussels for a cello competition. Since then, some readers feel they've become noticeably unlikeable. Decompression didn't help, as the couple were still in Belgium for several real-time months. Those who disliked the strip feel the author seemed to be using it to play out "his unhealthy sexual obsessions."
  • Referenced in Candorville by Lemont: he cites this trope as the reason he can't hook up with Susan.
  • It happened with Baldo and Smiley in Baldo, and the author of the strip later cited it as the main reason behind their eventual breakup.
  • Peter Parker and Mary Jane according to Joe Quesada, and arguably some of the other higher ups in Marvel. Peter and Mary Jane were Happily Married for around 20 years. Joey Q, resident Editor in Chief, decides that Peter being single would lead to far more interesting stories than being tied down. Cue One More Day, massive Ship Sinking, and an Internet Backdraft that is still present to this day.


Live Action TV

  • Dexter's Dexter and Deb.
  • Moonlighting's Dave and Maddie.
    • Despite this trope occasionally being known as Moonlighting Syndrome, the show didn't really suffer from the leads getting together, it suffered from the leads not being in the same room for about a year afterward. There was no point at which they were together as a couple at all.
  • You'd think that all of the people who wanted George and Izzie to end up together on Grey's Anatomy would have been happy that the writers are finally putting them together. Yet, some of the loudest complaints about that have come from former shippers rooting for that pairing.
  • Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman didn't last very long after Lois and Clark got together. It probably wasn't helped by the many false starts; the episode where they finally got married for real was actually titled "Swear to God, This Time We're Not Kidding", and also Executive Meddling which kept the writers' hands tied because Warner insisted that the marriage in the show coincide with the marriage in the comics.
    • The comic book writers, amusingly, say they were ready to marry Lois and Clark off for years and had to wait on the TV show. So then... a case of real-life Poor Communication Kills?
  • Happens whenever lesbians hook up in German soap operas. Funny thing is, it's literally "bed" death, as most of the time the pair is seen sitting on the edge of a bed, holding hands -- and doing nothing else. Oh, with the exception of talking for countless scenes (but then again, Talking Is a Free Action).
  • On Ugly Betty, audiences were crying for Betty to hook up with the adorkable Ensemble Darkhorse Henry. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the cute/funny interactions that made the couple popular in the first place, the writers decided to throw in every bit of contrived soap-opera drama they could think of for the sake of "plot." Audiences got sick of it mighty quick, and before long Henry was Put on a Bus back to Tucson with his babymama.
  • The jury is still out on whether Niles and Daphne finally hooking up made their relationship less or more interesting; some fans cite this as the moment when Frasier jumped the shark.
    • If so, that might be because Keenan and Lloyd left the show at that very moment and other aspects of Seasons 8-10 were equally suspect. The eleventh season kind of bears this out, as N&D are also far more interesting there. Ostensibly, the coupling had something to do with Kelsey Grammer's ego, as he wanted the focus to shift to the title character (something also rather botched until the eleventh season). Season 11 in general was a huge reverse shark-jump.
      • On the other hand, most viewers agree that Niles and Daphne got together at just the right time, as they had avoided irritating or losing the interest of the viewers by not dragging the Will They or Won't They? on too long (as opposed to say, Ross and Rachel. One could say that while Niles and Daphne suffered from this, they didn't have to, and they wouldn't have if Keenan and Lloyd had stayed. Incidentally, people forget that production problems is what made Moonlighting's Maddie and Dave, this trope's poster child, suffer so severely from Shipping Bed Death: it's just more difficult to pull off a good post-Relationship Upgrade romance than a UST-fueled one.
  • Played with rather bizarrely in an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun. Sally, Tommy and Harry use Officer Don's radio scanner to listen to the private phone calls of a woman named Andrea and her cheating boyfriend, which they treat as though it were a show. This leads to them actually meeting Andrea and Harry dating her. Harry and Andrea have a nice, drama-free relationship, causing Sally and Tommy to complain that "the show has really gone downhill since Harry was introduced". They try to convince Harry to act like a jerk so that the "show" will be interesting again.
  • The X-Files is sometimes accused of this, but as Mulder and Scully probably got together right around the same time as some other major changes in the show (it actually happened offscreen, but it was implied they first slept together around the end of Season 7, right before David Duchovny left) it's hard to say whether to blame the hookup or other factors for the deterioration in writing quality.
    • The producers were certainly afraid of ending the UST between Mulder and Scully, often mentioning the Moonlighting Effect. Unfortunately they dallied so much we saw them get together only in the second movie.
  • Luke and Lorelei from Gilmore Girls.
    • Like the How I Met Your Mother example below, its argued that the writers forgot how to write the characters and what made them interesting as a couple, not because the couple itself didn't work. And then they introduced April and gave Luke the Idiot Ball.
  • Get Smart: Max and 99.
  • I Dream of Jeannie: Jeannie and Major Nelson.
  • Barney and Robin on How I Met Your Mother.
  • The Doctor Who revival is an interesting case here (as usual). The first season of the new series had a fair bit of UST between Rose and the Ninth Doctor, culminating in an arguably-kinda-possibly romantic kiss in the finale. Then he became David Tennant. The relationship became a straight-up romance and lo, the flame wars started. Some loved it, some thought Rose had become a Relationship Sue, some thought the whole thing was a badly handled Romantic Plot Tumor, some hated the idea of romance in Doctor Who at all... obviously it didn't kill the show, but the fights are still going on.
    • It also didn't help that whether the Doctor was romantically interested in Rose varied hugely, depending on who had written any given episode.
  • Caroline and Richard on Caroline in The City. So much UST, and so little of the caring once they got together. Oh my God.
  • ICarly: The much hyped Sam/Freddie pairing. When iDate Sam & Freddie showed what an actual Seddie relationship would look like, this was the reaction of many fans. Sam and Freddie's chemistry as bickering sidekicks dissolves as soon as they get romantic and kills the UST Seddie fans saw before the arc started. Every kiss is identical and not filled with much passion. Their constant fighting is no longer cute and instead shows a dysfunctional relationship. The generally accepted reason for it is Nathan Kress and Jennette McCurdy's long friendship ruining their ability to show or feel passion for each other. They have both stated they dislike the idea of the Sam/Freddie pairing or that they want their characters to not end up with anyone, and Jennette has said that she dislikes filming romantic scenes and that kissing Nathan feels like kissing a brother.
  • Ed. Part of the premise of the show was the unresolved romantic tension between main characters Ed (played by Tom Cavanagh) and Carol Vessey (played by Julie Bowen). They got together, ratings dropped, show cancelled.
  • Does anyone still care about Susan and Mike?
  • Bones Angela and Hodgins broke up randomly, right after dealing with their issues relating to Angela's ex so they could get married. They realized they didn't trust each other. Thankfully, it didn't take, and they were married in a jail cell a season later, and are now expecting a kid.
  • Both averted and played straight in Scrubs. They build on the relationships past the marriage stage with Turk and Carla and technically with Jordan and Dr. Cox(They're in a long-term non commitive relationship with two children) but JD and Elliot have been playing the trope straight for almost the entire series.
    • And did so until the last season, where they hooked up, finally grew up and stayed together for good. Dr. Cox and Jordan also got back together and stayed together.
  • A complaint by some looking to explain a general decline in quality in the American version of The Office. Once Pam and Jim get together in between seasons 3 and 4, they became a little more boring. The writers have tried replacing them with other will-they-won't-they tensions and love triangles, such as breaking up Angela/Dwight, and then later introducing and breaking up Andy/Erin and Michael/Holly.
  • The Nanny was considered by many to have jumped the shark as soon as Fran and Max got married and only lasted one season after it.
  • Gossip Girl, with Dan/Serena and Blair/Dan. Both groups (who are Ship Mates) have hardcore rusted on supporters. Other people are tired of the "Chuck does something horrible, they break up, Chuck redeems himself, Blair forgives him, they get back together" and the "Serena redeems herself, Dan forgives her, they get back together" shtick. Which in the case of Chuck/Blair is happening for about the 6th time.
  • Fringe may be in danger of this with Olivia and Peter. The writers promise that their relationship is central to the story. But every time it seems just about to start, it goes pear-shaped.


Tabletop Games

  • Reign by Greg Stolze addresses the concept in the GMing chapter, which states that while a loving, happy relationship may be the most rewarding thing to be had in real life (complete with a Shout-Out to Stolze's wife), it's dull as hell for a game and risks leaving players dissatisfied whether you explore or ignore the relationship. So better to only explore troubled, difficult relationships for dramatic purposes until someone wants a happy relationship on which to retire their character.


Video Games

  • SNK can be pretty guilty of this as well. Ever since Fatal Fury 3 they did do ship tease regarding Terry Bogard and Blue Mary. SNK did enjoy using it at first with Fatal Fury 3 and the Real Bout series and the earlier KOF games as well. However, over the course of the 2000's, while Terry is considered iconic for SNK he didn't really have any role in the KOF series anymore and is pretty much just there to appease older fans. Some have even feared that SNK would kill off Blue Mary since unlike Terry who used to be a main character Mary was always a secondary one. That and Terry's girlfriends have a tendency to end up dead (in the anime, anyway). Fortunately that hasn't happened yet.


Western Animation

  • Played straight through the first five seasons and all four movies of Futurama with Fry and Leela, culminating in a supposed Last-Minute Hookup and making ample use of the show's sci-fi elements to push the relationship to points much farther than other fandoms' ships would be able to go without becoming unable to snap back to the status quo and keep Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Averted in the sixth season, where they are together but their relationship is not given too much screentime. The fact that both are both interesting and important characters in ways that have nothing to do with their romance helps a lot.



Aversions/inversions/mixed

Anime & Manga

  • Sailor Moon: Interestingly, Haruka and Michiru inverted the situation to their benefit compared to Mamoru/Usagi pairing above. Despite being a creator-acknowledged Official Couple with a blatantly cute butch/femme dynamic and no alternative ships in the fandom, their relationship was always selectively (albeit increasingly) explicit enough to keep the fans interested.
  • This is averted in Eureka 7, where the UST between Renton and Eureka is supplemented by the Coralian sub-plot. The very next episode after they get together, the Coralian plot takes center stage.
  • Successfully averted in Kare Kano. At first it looks like most shoujos, with mildly Belligerent Sexual Tension (on Yukino's part, at least), some uncertainty whether Yukino and Arima will get together. This situation lasts for as late as... the second episode/volume (if memory recalls). And then things start getting interesting: the threats to their relationship are not random encounters with Romantic False Leads, but their own weaknesses and selfishness, and the focus is given more to the emotional maturing of the characters rather than the relationship itself.
  • The Official Couple of Clannad hooks up at roughly the halfway point in the series. The rest of the show is pretty much about them starting a life together, with a heavy focus on the emotional interdependence of their relationship. The second half (aka "After Story") is also generally considered the superior part of the show.
  • Averted in Itazura na Kiss. In fact, a good number of fans will tell you that you wouldn't miss much by skipping the first season leading up to the Official Couple becoming, well, official.
  • Notably averted in Toradora! where the establishment of Ryuji and Taiga didn't kill the interest in their romance, rather it enhanced it.


Comics

  • Rather cleverly subverted in Scott Pilgrim. All the action happened because he started a relationship with Ramona.
  • Inverted with Clark Kent and Lois Lane: the status quo of Clark being in love with Lois, who was in love with Superman stayed alive for 42 years before Crisis on Infinite Earths radically altered their backstories, and attempts to make it the status quo again fell flat as it would be out-of-character for the rebooted Lois Lane to be infatuated with a superhero, and fans were so fed up with the increasingly lame excuses for The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life that they were yelling for Clark and Lois to get on with it already!. They finally got together in 1991, although Clark's death, resurrection, and subsequent complications delayed the marriage until 1995.
  • Currently subverted in Hellblazer. While some fans thought that putting a man like John Constantine on a stable relationship, specially after almost all his friends and lovers have died horrible horrible deads, was a really bad idea, the latest Hellblazer comics have been something worth to look and read, as his partner, Epiphany Greaves, its a reckless young alchemist rebel woman that knows that his life has been tainted by all the deaths and dangers that his lifestyle provide, not to mention she's a real Action Girl. Some may say that they're a perfect couple. Also, John is still John, grumpy, bastard and asshole, but has seen some character development while living with his wife.
  • The In Death series is a very rare example of a successful aversion. While the main characters, Eve and Roarke, start out with a rather warped Meet Cute (He's a murder suspect and she's the homicide detective.) They marry by the end of book 4. There are over 30 books in the series.

Literature

  • L. A. Meyer has been (narrowly!) averting this with Jacky and Jaimy in Bloody Jack since book one. The books are quite good, but the only reason many fans are still eager hangers-on by the tenth book is because everyone is painfully awaiting the They Do moment.


Live Action TV

  • Perhaps one of the greatest things about last season of The Nanny is that it completely averted this. After a couple of seasons of Will They or Won't They? and Moment Killers, the Fran gets married to Max... and the show keeps being as good as it was before. This probably has something to do with the fact that the show main focus was not on their relationship, but on all the silly things that happened to them. Combine that with a big cast of character which can divert the audience attention, and you have a series that doesn't depend that much on Will They or Won't They? anymore.
  • Friends averted this with Chandler/Monica. We get to see them go from Secret Relationship to The Not-Secret to officially an item, get married, fight, get over it, eventually adopt a child. All of this without diminishing public interest in the couple. It helped that they had really good chemistry and that they sort of worked as Beta Couple to Ross/Rachel. But the Slice of Life and Ensemble Cast nature of the show helped the most.
  • Inversions of this trope are known to occur too: For instance, pretty much everyone agrees that Dave and Lisa from News Radio, after subverting ~Will They Or Won't They~ by starting an intimate relationship in the second episode, are much more intriguing and entertaining when they're together as a couple, and that their break-up was a possible Jump the Shark moment.
  • Averted somehow by Farscape with John and Aeryn, probably because they kept the two of them from getting together without possibility of "takebacks" until about three-quarters of the way through the last season. Other plausible reasons: they had to keep it secret because John was scared of Scorpius finding out, resulting in minimal screen time; when they were open about it they spent more time running for their lives and spinning implausible plan after implausible plan in a desperate attempt to stay alive than in bed; they were the only two leads who looked fully human (though that shouldn't stop FarScape fans); or Claudia Black and Ben Browder may be just that good, which is very likely true even if any one of the above is also true. Because they are very, very good.
    • It might also be relevant to note that Season 3's "Meltdown", generally considered the worst episode of the series, was also the one that featured the most explicit John/Aeryn action... though the sexy times were pretty hot, so it wasn't John and Aeryn's fault.
    • Reportedly, Ben Browder actually wanted to invert the trope. Citing that "everyone knows that putting the leads together ends the show", he suggested early on that, in their first meeting, Aeryn and John should have slept together and then spent the rest of the show denying they had and trying to ignore the sexual tension.
      • They were heavily implied to sleep together in the first season episode 'a human reaction', they denied it fast.
      • Browder obviously can conceptualize good show ideas as well as he acts, then, because that would have made an awesome show just that much better.
    • The aversion might have been due to the fact that most of the relationships in Series/Farscape were well written with multiple levels of development. Hence it didn't become so much the 'build-up is better than the result' but 'the build-up determines the result' (i.e. the result is as good as the build-up). Or it could be because they just kept kicking ass...
  • Lampshaded in Gossip Girl by Blair, who tells Chuck that she's worried they'll be boring now they're in a relationship (a major concern for the fans). He replies that they could "never be boring" and was proven right - their subversion of Sickeningly Sweethearts was dramatic, heartwarming and hilarious, and the main fan displeasure was that the cameras cut away whenever they started to roleplay or pulled out handcuffs.
  • Averted in Firefly. Executive Meddling wanted Wash and Zoe to hook up onscreen, but Joss Whedon wanted to show a Happily Married couple (at first) . And they were still fun to watch!
  • Opinions are mixed as to whether The Office successfully averted this when Jim and Pam finally got together after three seasons of Unresolved Sexual Tension.
    • With the main UST-ers now happily married with a baby, the show's gone as far as introducing a NEW will-they-won't-they couple in Andy and Erin, to mixed audience reactions.
    • The characters as slowly recovering their edge as they are now portrayed as a solid team combining the original strengths of the characters. They are hilarious when they team up to drive Dwight insane when he insults one or the other in his usual fashion.
  • Averted to a degree on the US version of Queer as Folk when playboy Brian Kinney and his boytoy turned fiance Justin realized that getting married would mean a slow torturous death to their relationship when they both grew bitter with resentment for going against their character's natures. Of course, this led to a serious case of Bittersweet Ending or even Downer Ending for shippers.
  • Rachel and Finn on Glee managed to invert this; it was the constant delaying of them getting together that made them boring to shippers, because the conclusion was so inevitable. This was especially true when, after the creators promised that for Season 2 they would keep them together and "shift the focus to other couples," they instead broke them up again and did an exact repeat of their storyline in Season 1, dragging up the same two Romantic False Leads. As of Season 3, the resentment over their level of focus is such that when Finn proposed in a recent episode, #RachelSayNo became a Twitter trending topic. It probably wouldn't be quite as fraught if it weren't for the fact that some Fan Preferred Couples (e.g. Brittany/Santana, Quinn/Puck) remain in various stages of Will They or Won't They?
  • Inverted, possibly on The Big Bang Theory. Penny & Leonard finally had sex and became an Official Couple at the beginning of the third season, and it hasn't hurt the ratings any. Although I can't speak for official fan opinion.
    • Except that the show did nothing interesting with the couple and then they broke up. So, yeah.
  • A possible aversion of this occurred in Robin Hood. At the end of season one Robin and Marian admitted their feelings for one another, and in season two they become engaged. In the season two finale, they have an impromptu wedding whilst awaiting execution. Now, despite there being plenty of material here for Robin and Marian to have spent season three as husband and wife, avoiding the wrath of Guy of Gisborne and battling Prince John's armies together, the episode in question ends with Marian's death at the hands of Guy. According to the writers, they felt that they "had taken Marian's story as far as it could go," the insinuation clearly being that once the Marian-centric Love Triangle had been resolved, the writers felt that there was no further need for Marian to remain on the show. Two new love interests for Robin were duly trotted out in season three. Unfortunate Implications? You betcha!
    • This policy came back to bite the writers firmly in the ass: Robin/Kate (the Replacement Love Interest) never got a chance to reach a Shipping Bed Death because no one gave a shit about it to begin with.
  • Averted in Star Trek Deep Space Nine with Worf/Jadzia and even more spectacularly with Odo/Kira, who had an entire episode devoted to getting them together and afterward were completely, utterly in love and acted like it, while still being their normal, fiery, Badass, amazing selves.
  • Averted in Chuck, where Chuck and Sarah are arguably more entertaining and watchable as a happy couple as they ever were when they wanted to be but couldn't for various reasons.
  • The entire premise of Mad About You was the aversion of this trope. It focused on a generally happily married couple living in an apartment in New York City. It ran for 7 seasons.
    • The difference there though is that they were *already* married when the show began, rather than slowly getting together over a long period of time.
  • Doctor Who averts this with Amy and Rory; after their wedding at the end of Season 5 they still have just as much continuing development as before, and they're still just as much fun to watch.
  • Rhoda famously seemed to avert this by allowing its title character to get married after years of struggling on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. A mere eight weeks into the program saw a wedding with some of the highest ratings in the history of television. However, in the case of Rhoda, it wasn't the audience who got bored - it was the writing staff. After two seasons of a happily married Rhoda, the writers decided she worked better as a single woman and opened Season 3 with a bitter separation and concluded in their divorce. Viewers abandoned the show in droves, and while it survived another two seasons, it never recovered.
  • Aggressively averted by Marshall and Lily on How I Met Your Mother, who became actually more interesting (not that they had actually been dull before...just less prominent) when they stopped being Ted's roommates and got embroiled in the realities of married life.
  • Averted by all three couples on "Modern Family".
  • Averted on Babylon 5 by John Sheridan and Delenn. It helped that they were in the middle of a war when they got together, and when that war ended they got to deal with another one -- and as soon as those wars were over, they went right in to helping straighten out the galaxy from the mess it had been left in after said wars. Who's got time to get bored with a romance when you're on the brink of annihilation every week?
  • Cheers didn't become popular until Sam and Diane got together as a couple in the second season.
  • On JAG, Harm and Mac didn't become a couple until the Series Finale. You can't get more of an aversion than that (apart from never becoming one at all).


Video Games

  • In Lufia II for the SNES at around the halfway point of Maxim actually *marries* Selan after narrowly beating what seems to be the big bad at first. A year passes and it is revealed there's still a lot more to the game. It could be said that the trope is fully inverted, because in this story the leading up to the romance is fairly underplayed but in the latter half of the game their relationship is important to the plot.
  • Most Bioware games drag the romance sidequests out until the very end, or simply make it so that once you've finished the sidequest, that's the end of all dialogue options with that person. However, this is averted in the Merril and Anders Romances in Dragon Age II, where either party can become an Official Couple with Hawke and move in during Act II. Both romance arcs continue from there, based on the person drama of each respective love interest.


Western Animation

  • Many fans were nervous Kim Possible would be subject to this once the two leads finally hooked up in the movie and found that the series still had another season. To their credit, the writers kept the relationship instead of copping out. There are differing opinions on how well their romance was handled, but most fans think it was good enough to avert this trope.
  • Averted on Code Lyoko with Ulrich and Yumi, since they never really resolved their relationship either way; not only did they not hook up, but they never really reached the Better as Friends stage either, meaning that their relationship was left in limbo at the end of the series. Of course, whether the show is better or worse for not following through on the relationship is best left to the individual.
  • Look at one of the major complaints from the fandom of the first season of Young Justice, and one of the major points will Superboy and Miss Martian's Romantic Plot Tumor. Come the season 2 premier, the two have broken up, meaning the viewers will get a rinse, lather, and repeat of the previous season.
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