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"...as Chris Rock put it best, 'Good relationships are boring.' The problem is that good relationships are also almost always an inverted spectrum of the rocky courtship, happy marriage process we see in movies. In fact, any list of reasons why people get divorced suggests that dating is too easy. The problem is not that good couples get screwed over by circumstances. Love, like a cocaine addict, will find a way. The real problem is that couples pass through the dating process, arrive at the part where they're supposed to live Happily Ever After and find themselves blindsided by things like differences over money or the fact that one doesn't want kids and the other is a Mormon."
So the Official Couple (or Beta Couple) finally answered Will They or Won't They?: They Do. Our couple has fallen madly in love, carted off to their honeymoon and are probably getting started with that whole "Babies Ever After" thing. A happy, feel-good time is had by all, right?
Huh, what's this? In the next season, it turns out that married life isn't what they thought it was. You mean he lost his job and became The Alcoholic? She started having an affair with the handsome postman? They drifted apart after that disastrous (but convenient) miscarriage? She divorced him and remarried four years ago!?
What the hell happened?!
Simple. True Love Is Boring. Happy Endings can only happen if things . . . you know . . . end. Most romantic drama in modern fiction deals with only conquering the problems two lovers face to get together in the first place. Either the hero is Oblivious to Love, the two find themselves in a complex weave of Triang Relations, the two hate each other as much as they love one-another, or the the universe just seems determined to keep them apart. The audience is then given heartfelt relief when the two finally get together, profess their love and get married. But, the problem is...the story isn't over.
This is the dark side of the Snicket Warning Label. The longer characters continue to have their stories told, the more likely they are to succumb to Diabolus Ex Machina. Because otherwise, conventional wisdom holds, there would be little personal conflict. So, if you want to enjoy believing that your Fan-Preferred Couple finally beat their Unresolved Sexual Tension and lived Happily Ever After, you'd better stop reading/watching/playing right after it happens. While a couple will do almost whatever it takes to get together, the longer the story goes on, the less likely they'll conquer their problems to stay together.
Truth in Television, sadly. Romantic relationships (and all other relationships for that matter) are just one of those things you have to constantly work at over the long haul, and sometimes people get bored or burned out with their status quo. Sure, she may be the mother of your children, but doesn't it get annoying to hear her nag about the toilet seat everyday? And yeah, he may have rescued you seven years ago, but would it kill him to be less of a slob? Love is easier when you're working high off of emotion and the excitement of something new and forbidden. But, once you've got it, you're forced to ask Now What??
This trope is often used to prevent or reverse Shipping Bed Death, and as justifcation for never resolving Will They or Won't They?. If it happens offscreen between sequels/episodes, it's a Downtime Downgrade. If the characters (and their fans) are "lucky", the Divorce Is Temporary. If not, the next best thing is to hope to be Amicably Divorced.
This is most likely to apply to a Super Couple.
Related to Victory Is Boring and Failure Is the Only Option, which cover plot conflicts not associated with romance. Disposable Woman, Dead Little Sister, and Death By Origin Story are cases where this is done preemptively, before the story proper even begins.
For a less depressing view, many of the couples on Happily Married are aversions of this trope.
- Joe Quesada has actually stated that certain characters (particularly Ant-Man, Spider-Man, and Cyclops in the X-Men) are "more interesting" without their wives. You might want to check out the One More Day page for more information on how one was done.
- Hawkeye and Mockingbird. She "died", but that turned out to be Actually A Skrull. Since then, the couple has been reunited and then promptly divorced.
- Like Spidey above, Superman will also have his marriage Retconned away after the 2011 reboot.
- Nova and Namorita. Broke up years before her death, then she came back. Now he's dead.
- Like their fellow New Warriors, Justice and Firestar also count. According to the writer who put them together in the first place, Fabian Nicieza, he had always intended for them to break up anyway. However, he left the book before that happened, and subsequent writers eventually married them just before they joined The Avengers as a Battle Couple. Kurt Busiek, in particular, liked to write them as an introspective of what it's like to be superhero newlyweds in the Marvel Universe. However, Nicieza later ended up writing the two again, and the first thing he promptly did was break them up. In fact, the story that finally sank their ship for good is a time-traveling story in which the newly-married Justice and Firestar are downright terrified of how cold they've become to each other in the future.
- Mostly averted with Sue and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four (but NOT the Ultimate versions of them). Their marriage may be saved thanks to the Grandfather Clause: they were wedded in a Stan Lee-penned story not long after their original creation. They've split apart numerous times, but it's hard to be "Marvel's First Family" if they're not, y'know . . . a family.
- In the Bronze Age, Batman and Catwoman were written as partners in crimefighting and as lovers. After a couple of years, they broke up and she went a little batty, attacking him and Vicki Vale before making peace with him. Post-Crisis the two have shown Belligerent Sexual Tension but haven't gotten together, although she is still at least 75% good.
- Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. Chuck Dixon's entire run on Nightwing pretty much made them an Official Couple. The Ship Sinking started during Devin Grayson's run and continued up to and beyond Infinite Crisis. Unlike most other examples, this actually had quite a bit of build up. This also became an Enforced Trope by way of Executive Meddling: Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson became engaged in order to create drama for Dick's impending death. Dick Grayson wasn't supposed to survive Infinite Crisis, but since he did (the writers refused to kill him), the editors wanted him to be a swinging bachelor and free to do his solo thing.
- Generally averted in Elf Quest, probably due to it being written by a happily married couple.
- The Hulk once averted this trope for the same reason as above. (Peter David's wife said Betty Ross Banner was her favorite character, and he swore never to break them up or kill her off.) After a very messy divorce between the Real Life couple, guess what he did. He later regretted that decision. Furthermore, Betty has subsequently come Back From the Dead and become an Evil/Distaff for Hulk and She Hulk. Their reunion is still ironing out some wrinkles.
- There is also the matter of The Hulk's other wives and love interests. Caiera, Jarela, Kate Waynesboro, etc. Kate Waynesboro is the only one that hasn't died at least.
- John McClane and Holly of Die Hard. Through the first three films, their breakups are a Running Gag with the two coming closer together at the end of their devastating experience. However, this trope is played morosely straight in the fourth film, where they're finally divorced.
- The reason Ripley was the only survivor at the beginning of the third movie in the Aliens series. Newt, Hicks and Bishop were all killed off in part 3 because it was feared the story would be boring otherwise.
- In Wizard and Glass, when he tells the story of his first love, Roland says the name of the trope, explaining that "once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome" - except of course for the ones who take part in them.
Live Action TV
- In the season 1 finale of Rhoda she & Joe get married. This was one of the highest rated entertainment shows ever. But then they got divorced. Now it's considered to have been a bad idea to have them get married, purely from a business standpoint.
- Pick a Soap Opera couple. Any couple.
- Desperate Housewives
- Mike and Susan finally married in season 3 ending. They were divorced at the beginning of season 5. And back together in season 6.
- There's also the possibility that Tom and Lynette will divorce in the new season.
- Happened in CSI with Gil Grissom and Sarah Sidle - after several seasons of UST they finally got together, only for Sarah to eventually leave both Grissom, the department and Las Vegas and then for Grissom to go (she eventually returned without him).
- Cheers: After five years of on-again/off-again UST they're about to get married, then Diane leaves Sam at the altar, only to come back 6 years later for the Grand Finale to almost marry him again.
- Angel has Fred and Gunn as a couple. Joss then gives a nod to the shippers by letting Wes date Fred for all of a day before killing Fred off and changing her into another character because the love thing was boring.
- Also on Angel we have Angel and Buffy in true love for a single day. He decides to turn back time to avoid keeping her because he wants to keep fighting evil, adding on later "so I won't risk hurting you" to let Buffy down softly.
- Averted in some Dom Com s especially the older ones.
- Infamously, the Roseanne series finale. Turns out, the series was a fictional story written by the eponymous star, after her husband died years ago. Things get worse from there.
- Dialed Up to Eleven in Xena: Warrior Princess: over Seasons 1-2, Xena and Gabrielle get closer and closer until ... Seasons 3-4 wrench them apart, they get back together, wrenched apart, rinse, wash, repeat. In seasons 5-6, Xena and Gabrielle are always apart and Xena shags the Girl of the Week to emphasize the point.
- Averted, hard, in Chuck. After running a Will They or Won't They? for about 3 years, Chuck and Sarah finally get together, become a Badass Battle Couple they remained together with little to no jealousy or other relationship problems.
- Averted, Subverted, Inverted, and played straight in One Tree Hill. Averted with Nathan and Hailey, who have been a constant couple throughout the series, though twice have came close to a divorce due to a non-existant but assumed affair, both times (one from her, one from him), but the two never stopped loving each other. Sunverted by Lucas and Brooke, as she originally started off as a Romantic False Lead, became popular with fans and writers, the two got back together when the two actors got married, then their real life counterparts got divorced and they broke up in-universe shortly thereafter. Inverted by Brooke and Jullian, who started off as a slowly developing Beta Couple, then after the second Time Skip are happily together and soon to be married. They break up for a little while, but mostly live happily. Played Straight by Lucas and Peton, who after four seasons of going back and fourth between love interests, Lucas and Peyton finally decide to get together forever...only to be broken up bitterly by the first timeskip, with Lucas now engaged to his editor. They get back together and marry by two seasons, only for their actors to leave soon after. At least they ended up happy, sorta.
- Total Drama, definitely. The first season ended happily, which included six couples having formed. In season two, however: Leshawna breaks up with Harold, and then becomes a Designated Villain so that he helps vote her off. Trent and Gwen break up when he suddenly develops an OCD obsession with the number nine. Geoff gets Acquired Situational Narcissism all season, straining his relationship with Bridgette. Courtney Takes A Level In Jerkass and begins abusing Duncan. Then, in season three, Bridgette cheats on Geoff (they reconcile), Duncan cheats on Courtney with Gwen (they break up), and Izzy breaks up with Owen.