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Time travel provides all kinds of possibilities for a romance arc: some of them comic, some of them tragic, and some of them bittersweet. As a comedy trope, time travel can result in a culture clash between two otherwise suited people, since different times have different manners and mores. More dramatically, a time travel plot may force a protagonist to make a decision between returning home or staying in a different era. Time travel can also serve as a force which reluctantly separates the couple, if one must return to his or her original time. Time travel can sometimes result in the ultimate Long-Distance Relationship, if the couple tries to make it work despite the time barrier.
In some cases, Love Transcends Spacetime, and a couple separated by time are able to be reunited simply through The Power of Love. Alas, this is not always the case with a Time Travel Romance. Sometimes separated lovers are separated forever. In other cases, they have to go through a great deal of effort (using magic or science) to be reunited.
Of course, separation isn't the only possible source of romantic drama in a time travel plot. A Time Travel Romance may lead to Time Travel Escape, if the object of affection needs to be rescued from a historically-necessary but unfortunate death. Love across time may also lead to My Own Grandpa, which could be played for either comedy or drama.
In many time travel stories, the cross-time romance is a subplot, rather than the main story. If the romance is the main plot of a work which involves time travel merely as a means of uniting, challenging, or separating love interests, then you're likely dealing with a Paranormal Romance. See also Reincarnation Romance and Eternal Love, which describe other methods of extending a romance arc across time.
Anime And Manga
- Happens in Golden Days between Kei and Setsu and Jin and Mitsuya.
- Inuyasha, with Kagome and Inuyasha. However, Kagome travels back and forth so often they might as well live in adjacent towns.
- In Voices of a Distant Star, due to lack of FTL, lovers are separated by relativistic considerations and light travel time.
- In The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, there's a potential romance between the main character and one of her closest friends.
- El-Hazard: The Magnificent World has Ifurita getting sent back in time thousands of years and taking The Slow Path to get back to the main character so he could go meet her for the first time. Eventually he finds out how to Time Travel to her right after that point.
- Somewhere in Time is all about this.
- Kate and Leopold serves as a good example of a romantic comedy incorporating time travel as a way of creating a culture clash between the protagonists.
- Doc Brown unexpectedly encounters love in the wild west in the third Back to The Future film.
- The Lake House: Dr. Kate Forster and Alex Wyler fall in love via a trans-temporal mailbox.
- The first Terminator movie had Sarah Connor falling in love with her rescuer from the future.
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home gave us Kirk and Gillian Taylor.
- Diana Wynne Jones' The Dalemark Quartet includes a time travel romance in the fourth book, The Crown Of Dalemark.
- William M. Lee's short story "A Message From Charity" is about the telepathy-based romance between Peter Wood, a modern-day teenaged boy living one of the small towns surrounding Boston, and Charity Payne, a teenaged girl living in the very same town, but 250 years earlier. They never meet, except in their thoughts.
- The Time Travelers Wife
- The Dandelion Girl is about a man falling in love with a girl from the future.
- Robert A. Heinlein employed this trope throughout his later novels.
- Time Enough for Love features protagonist Lazarus Long traveling back thousands of years to visit his original family in 1917 Kansas City, Missouri. Along the way, he meets, falls in love with, sleeps with, and breaks his Masquerade to his mother. They are parted by World War One and him being MIA in combat, thanks to Love Makes You Dumb.
- The Number of the Beast picks up this story where it left off, as Lazarus needs the help of the Burroughs family and their much more efficient time machine to rescue his mother from her reported death in the 1990s and bring her to his present time. After she is successfully retrieved and undergoes rejuvenation therapy, she joins his Polyamory.
- To Sail Into The Sunset has Maureen herself, now an operative in the Time Police, stage the rescue of her own father from World War Two Britain, and also for the purpose of sleeping with him. Parental Incest in mainstream Speculative Fiction, thy name is Heinlein.
- Warrior Cats has a variant on this. Jayfeather travels to the past taking the place of Jay's Wing who he is a reincarnation of and meets Half-Moon, who is in love with Jay's Wing. Later, they come to genuinely love each other.
- Rachel Weintraub / Moneta and Kassad in Dan Simmons' Hyperion. Like River Song, Moneta travels in a different time stream than Kassad, but she keeps meeting him during important training of his early years training under FORCE (but when they first meet she is in her late twenties, he is younger), which causes him to fall in love with her. She, on the other hand, has been in love with him long before, as Rise of Endymion divulges and even sends him off with a goodbye kiss with the admonition to be on the look out for her as he returns to his own time, after having dying in combat with the Shrike and being taken by Moneta into the Time Tombs. More detail on Kassad's paradoxes in the time stream in connexion with Moneta are delineated in more depth on the Hyperion page.
- There is a romance in Dinoverse like this. Time travel in that 'verse entails possessing the bodies of whatever's big at the time, and a girl named Patience ends up in the body of a hulking carnivorous acrocanthosaur, soon befriending and then being attracted to a bright native acro which she nicknames Green Knight or GK. Her host had made overtures to him before, but he hadn't been interested; he wanted Patience. She had angst over how they could never be, since she didn't want to stay a dinosaur. He died trying to make a Heroic Sacrifice to save one of her human friends - he failed - but it was okay, because he and the friend both ended up in the human's body. This meant that Patience and GK could be together after all! ...along with the friend. Strangely, all three parties were okay with this.
- In Connie Willis' Blackout, Colin Templer searches spacetime for his lost time-travelling love; in To Say Nothing of the Dog, Ned and Verity fall in love during the course of averting the crisis. Somewhat of a special case, though, as in both cases the characters are time-travellers who fall in love with other time-travellers from the same future, in the past.
- This is part of the main premise of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.
- Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory in Count and Countess.
Live Action TV
- Lost had the romance between Penny and Desmond, which was largely introduced during time-travel episodes.
- In Doctor Who in the episode "The Girl In The Fireplace," the Doctor fell in love with Madame de Pompadour (you know, the French King's mistress) while they're separated by extreme Narnia Time. It verged on The Dulcinea Effect on his part, while she spent the best part of her life in love with him, but they're separated at the end.
- Then there's River Song, supposedly The Doctor's lover. She is also a time traveller, but moves on her own. Though it was indicated at first that they are meeting in roughly reverse order, later episodes show that it's a little more complicated than that. For example, the Doctor is present at her birth, but though it's the first time she meets him, it's not the last time he meets her. The only point we know for sure is that the last time River meets the Doctor is in 'Silence in the Library' in which she dies. His last encounter with her is as yet unknown, since from the audience's point of view, it hasn't happened yet. Given how Unstuck in Time he gets, it's not even certain that he would know the last time he met her.
- James T. Kirk has another tragic example in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The City On The Edge Of Forever." Kirk is sent back to Great Depression New York City through a Negative Space Wedgie Time Portal. There, he meets and falls in love with Edith Keeler, a kind-hearted, visionary shelter worker. The tragedy is that unless Keeler dies, the Nazis will win World War II and Starfleet will never exist. The punch is all the worse in the end, as Kirk has to personally intercede to prevent Dr. McCoy from saving Keeler's life.
- The Fridge Logic in this one is quite hard, because there were many obvious options to save Keeler without harming history- including simply taking her with them back to the future (Since she was supposed to die, this would not have changed history, except to go from "killed by a car" to just "missing forever" . . . but then Kirk couldn't be the Casanova and kiss an alien every week!)
- Phil and Keely's romance in Phil of the Future. Eventually played for drama as Phil and his family are sent back to the future.
- Jen and Wes in Power Rangers Time Force.
- Shippu Mahou Daisakusen: Kickle & Laycle have this dynamic. In the end, they both go back to the future, to Kickle's time period, and Laycle becomes a part of the family.
- Professor Layton and the Unwound Future: Claire and Layton have this going on. Claire was thought to have died in an accident involving a time travel experiment, but she ended up being sent ten years into the future instead. Unfortunately, as it was still experimental, this results in molecular instability, and they are ultimately forced to go back to their own time... in other words, back to the time machine explosion that would kill her. Even Layton takes off his hat in tears.
Claire (JP): "It appears my time is up, at last. It was nice to see you again. It ended so suddenly; my... last time travel."
- Played with in Fire Emblem Awakening, where The Children Characters are all Time Travelers who fled from a Bad Future where Gimle destroyed the world... now for the most part, they cannot fall in love with the First Generation characters, averting this trope... until you realize they can fall for MU, which brings out this trope. Of course, add in the fact that none of them actually want to go back to their time... and the fact that it may be impossible anyway... and of course, nothing seems to explain Mark.
- Fate/stay night; Saber and Shirou. Saber is King Arthur, while Shirou is from the modern era. This eventually leads to a rather Bittersweet Ending, until the Realta Nua Updated Rerelease first made them Star-Crossed Lovers, then proof that Love Transcends Spacetime upon their (impossible) reunion.
- In Homestuck, Dirk and Roxy exist years into the future relative to Jake and Jane, but are still capable of communicating with them with such ease that the latter two aren't even aware of the time difference. Despite this, Dirk has fallen for Jake, who in turn has shown himself not at all entirely opposed to pursing this. It seems likely that the two would be able to meet up within Sburb, however.
- In Justice League Unlimited, Supergirl falls in love with Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes when they go into the future, and she stays there to be with him when the rest of the heroes go back.
- Time travel plays a role in Fry and Leela's Will They or Won't They? relationship in Futurama.
- Fry is also his own grandfather by having slept with his grandmother in a trip to 1947 Roswell.