Cartwright Curse

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Information icon4.svg This page needs visual enhancement.
You can help All The Tropes by finding a high-quality image or video to illustrate the topic of this page.


Samantha Carter: I feel compelled to warn you, most of the guys I've dated recently have died.
Pete Shanahan: As in...
Carter: Dead.
Pete: How?
Carter: Various circumstances.
Pete: I'll risk it.


Any Love Interest that the hero meets is either wormfood or otherwise removed forever from his or her life by the end of the episode or arc. Named for the hunky Cartwright family, father and three sons, of Bonanza. This also happened in the case of any love interest of the males on Bonanza's competitor, The Big Valley. Maybe not just the males; after all, their mother was a widow when the show opened. If the two of them wind up getting married, it's even worse—chances are that he or she's not even going to make it through the ceremony or to the honeymoon.

If they're together at the end of an arc, be prepared for Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome in the next one. If the show has any amount of spy intrigue, there is at least a 50% chance that the new love interest is working for the other side and/or milking the relationship for intel; on intrigue-heavy shows such as 24 and Alias, this probability approaches 100%, and odds are good that the hero will be required to personally contribute to his or her sweetie's demise.

Puts the "Temporary" in Temporary Love Interest and serves as the "Yank" in Yank the Dog's Chain. Is a subtrope of Doom Magnet. Don't expect these widow(er)s to be particularly shook up at this untimely parting.

In TV series, this is often caused by the closely related trope Status Quo Is God.

The reason for all this romance being cut short (besides an authorial inclination for their heroes to stay single and available) is the fact that many villains just can't resist tormenting the hero however they can, particularly by going after friends, family and loved ones of the hero. It's little wonder that many Genre Savvy Celibate Heroes (who have likely been through this multiple times) have an "It's Not You, It's My Enemies" speech handy.

Fatal Attractor is a variation of this, except that the love interests in question usually survive, but prove to be woefully unsuitable for the hero in some way, if they don't turn out to be bad guys. Sometimes the two of these are combined, making for a character who really can't catch a break in the romantic department.

Compare Her Heart Will Go On, a variation where the love interest is killed off to show how strong and empowered a female protagonist is.

This trope is (probably) not related to The Chris Carter Effect.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Cartwright Curse include:

Anime and Manga

  • Jun of Devilman Lady suffers a bisexual version of this trope. Only one of her male love interests whom she doesn't end up with is immune.
  • Almost any woman who falls in love with a Gundam pilot. Averted with Lacus and Cagalli from Gundam Seed and Lunamaria and Meyrin from Gundam Seed Destiny but played straight with Fllay and Stella. Also largely avoided in Gundam Wing.
    • It's more of a love/extremely close female friend dies mid-season to spurn the protagonist to greater heights, though almost exclusively in early UC and SEED. MS Gundam has Lalah and Sayla for Amuro (though she doesn't die, due to problems with her VA, she was dropped rather than recast), Zeta has Beltorchika for Amuro (vanished) and Four and Rosamia for Kamille (dead due to enormous, as opposed to giant, robot), ZZ has Puru and Puru two, whom both die due to enormous robot. Gundam Seed has Flay for Kira, who dies, and Gundam Seed Destiny has Stella for Shinn, once more due to enormous robot.
  • Terry Bogard in the anime version of Fatal Fury suffered from this. His first love interest, Lily McGwire, is killed by his nemesis Geese during the first TV special, while his second love interest, Sulia, ends up sacrificing herself to defeat her brother in the end of The Motion Picture. The video games averted this completely, by pairing Terry up with Blue Mary, who can take care of herself.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann had the female version of this. Shortly after Yoko Littner and Kamina kiss, promising to begin their relationship after the upcoming battle... Kamina dies. In fact, both characters who kiss Yoko die shortly thereafter, though in fairness the second one (Kittan) went on a suicide mission knowing he'd die (Well there is a reason why she is nicknamed Doombitch...)
  • Likewise, Tsunade of Naruto also seems to suffer from this, ranging from her brother Nawaki, to her lover Dan, and finally to Jiraiya.
  • Every boy that Yohko, from Devil Hunter Yohko, likes ends up possessed or dead.
  • Black Jack seems to have this problem: all the women he loves either die, are already married or change their identity to male after a complete hysterectomy.
  • In Gatchaman Joe Asakura falls for one woman while on the racetrack who ends up being a Devil Star in disguise. He ends up killing her in a showdown as Joe the Condor being unaware of her identity, and is heartbroken when she doesn't show up later for a race they had planned. Just to rub it in further, it is revealed much later in the show that the woman was the fiancee of his priest childhood friend Alan.
    • Another woman accompanies him on an endurance race in one episode. She is shown to have a past with Joe and is a pretty assertive and confident lady, showing of her skills with her Cool Gun. However she is revealed to not only be from Galactor but also a cyborg and after learning of her treachery of trying to leave them, Galactor remotely self destructs her. Damn....
  • All four of the protagonists of Weiss Kreuz suffer from this curse, given that all four of them are massive Doom Magnets, but Ken and Yoji get the worst of it; Ken has to give one prospective love interest the It's Not You, It's My Enemies treatment, and both of them end up having to personally kill their lovers at least once.
  • To a certain extent, Yuuichi from Kanon. Makoto "dies" at the conclusion of her arc, Mai and Sayuri are hospitalized for the remainder of the school year, Shiori has a terminal illness, Akiko gets hit by a out-of-control vehicle, and Ayu was Dead All Along (or better said, comatose all along). Granted, most of them are all miraculously healed in the final episode, but prior to that, Yuuichi has every symptom of the curse.
  • As for Sara's love interests in Soukou no Strain, both get killed off in battle just as the relationship with Sara was getting serious.
  • Ami/Sailor Mercury of the Sailor Moon anime has Urawa (Greg in the English dub), who transfers to Juuban at the start of the episode and moves away by the end. He does get a second appearance for one episode later in the season, where he and Ami actually go on a date, but after the Grand Finale, he's never mentioned again. And even in the finale, he was only seen as an illusion casted by the enemy to distract Ami and kill her.)
  • If you think about it, every woman who shows interest in Jigen or Goemon either betrays them, dies, or betrays them and dies. Lupin seems to not have the curse, since his "love interests" (Lust Objects?) usually survive. Fujiko, of course, is completely immune, being badass enough in her own right to survive most anything.
    • A couple of Lupin's love interests have died in the past including the Nazi scientist's daughter, a woman who couldn't live without a certain flower, and a mafia boss's daughter.
  • Only one of Madlax's love interests or would-be love interests is still alive at the end of the series. Apart from the survivor, only one of them was still alive at the episode he/she was introduced in. Two of them died shortly after Madlax agreed to go on a date with them, but before the date could actually happen.
  • Masaru Katou from Gantz has really bad luck with women, as in all the girls that show interest in him tend to die. Might be why he prefers to cultivate his True Companions, particularly his bonds with his best friend.
  • Lelouch from Code Geass has three love interests (the main ones, at least; there are many more). Shirley dies and Kallen tries to kill him. In the end, though, it doesn't matter, because he can't be with any of them anyway. Also Nunally and Euphemia, who where both childhood crushes despite being his sisters. He caused the death of Euphemia and the apparent death of Nunally.

Comic Books

  • Kyle Rayner. His first girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, was the Trope Namer of Stuffed in The Fridge (as well as Women in Refrigerators). His other two superhero girlfriends also died not long after each other. (The one who broke up with him eventually came back to life). And let's not forget what happened to the boy who had a crush on him... Or the girl who he had a one-night stand with who committed suicide.
    • In fact during Blackest Night, one of his dead love interests taunts his current girlfriend by saying that she'll eventually end up like the rest of them.
  • Wolverine is "the best there is at what he does", and "what he does" is apparently "bury love interests".[1] The fact that he's functionally immortal means that he's accumulated a LOT of them. To be fair, one of them is still alive, but she is a crazy killer cyborg that wants to kill him.
    • Lampshaded in an old issue of Marvel Comics Presents, when Wolverine is tied up next to otherwise bland wannabe-Sabertooth villain Cyber:

Cyber: Did you know you recite the names of your dead girlfriends when you're unconscious?
Wolverine: You should know, you killed one of 'em!
Cyber: Ahhh, who hasn't?

    • It turns out Mystique (another virtual immortal) was another ex and just didn't mention it until Wolverine got his memories back. Apparently forgetting they were lovers for a few decades was enough to spare her from the curse.
    • Jean Grey does not count, since the relationship never really got anywhere (despite what those who Did Not Do the Research insist), save for the Ultimate Universe.
      • And the Age Of Apocalypse universe.
    • One of them was killed by Spider-Man of all people. To be fair it wasn't his fault he thought she was Wolverine. She was trying to commit "suicide by cop"; she sneaks up behind him while he's still freaked out from fighting Wolvie. He spider-senses her, and punches without looking.
    • The secret it seems is to stay away from him for the rest of your life. One comic has Wolverine called by a woman he knew, and fell in love with, 50 years before. They go on a mission together, and several pages later she's lying dead in the wreckage of their plane.
    • It seems every other year, Logan discovers another dead Asian wife. Why nobody hung a lampshade on this yet is a mystery.
  • Daredevil has had his share; four of his major love interests have died, and a fair number have gone insane.
    • The exception being Black Widow, though the same thing has happened to a few of her lovers. They probably just cancel each other out.
  • Semi-example: her love interests are fine, but Renee Montoya's partners/best friends tend to die tragically (see: Crispus Allen and Vic Sage). Harvey Bullock gets off easy with just leaving the police force in disgrace.
  • John Constantine frequently hangs the ol' lampshade on this as a defense mechanism for his utter despair and self-loathing.


  • Don't fall in love with John Wayne, or let him fall in love with you. You can be his friend, his surrogate daughter, or his friendly antagonist. You can even fall in love with his friends. But if you fall in love with The Duke himself, you die.
    • There's one exception: if you're Irish and your older brother hates John Wayne, you're safe. Of course, in The Quiet Man, Maureen O'Hara didn't actually fall in love with him until he actually fought her brother for her dowry.
    • Actually, if she's played by Maureen O'Hara, she should be fine. See also McLintock!.
      • That's because she usually has the good sense to spend most of her time away from him, as they're usually portrayed as an estranged couple. See the above mentioned McLintock! as well as Big Jake and Rio Grande. We never get to see what happens to her after the reconciliation.
    • Averted in a surprising number of films including, to name but a few well-known ones: Stagecoach, Angel and the Badman, The Horse Soldiers, Rio Bravo, El Dorado, Hatari! Flame of Barbary Coast (though the love interest in that film, played by Ann Dvorak, does get seriously hurt in the San Francisco earthquake) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ( he's in love with Hallie, she marries Rance).
    • So, as a rule of thumb, if you fall in love with John Wayne, you may or may not die.
  • Duncan and Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod of Highlander. Having people with swords hunting you doesn't help, neither does out living everyone you date!
  • Getting in bed with James Bond is, under Massachusetts state law, Assisted Suicide. Tracy, the one woman whom he married in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, didn't even make it to her honeymoon—and really, how cruel is that? Why else would anyone marry James Bond if not for the experience of the honeymoon?
    • Many of James Bond's Temporary Love Interests are alive and well at the end of the film they appear in. Falling in love with, or into bed with, James Bond is not particularly dangerous; you'll just get ignored in the sequel like every other Bond Girl. On the other hand, if James Bond falls in love with you, you're doomed.
    • Actually, a pretty decent amount of them die: Goldfinger (Jill Masterson), You Only Live Twice (Aki), Live and Let Die (Rosie Carver), The Man with the Golden Gun (Andrea Anders), Moonraker (Corinne Dufour), Tomorrow Never Dies, and Casino Royale all have non-evil Bond Girls who get killed even though Bond doesn't fall in love with them. Even Dominique Paradis, the first girl in video game James Bond 007: James Bond 007: Nightfire gets kicked off a roof for her trouble.
    • True, but he's genuinely cared about a few of them - in Tomorrow Never Dies, Paris Carver is an ex-lover whom he apparently ran out on because she "got too close for comfort," he was genuinely fond of Aki from You Only Live Twice, even if he was over her in five minutes, and he may very well have been falling in love with Elektra King from The World Is Not Enough. And of course, there was a reason why Bond was being particularly nasty hunting Blofeld in the beginning of Diamonds Are Forever after the tragic finale of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
      • Elektra King doesn't count, she's one of the two Big Bads of the film, and Bond kills her himself.
    • Generally speaking, it's best to be the second woman Bond hooks up with during the course of a mission. More often than not, the first woman he sleeps with is killed while the second survives.
  • Gender Flipped example in the Film Practical Magic: the women in the Owens family are cursed so that their husbands will always die tragically.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Starting with the second movie, Elisabeth Swann seems to bring death to anyone she kisses. Sometimes within 30 seconds (depending on what you consider dead).
    • Lampshaded by Jack in the third movie, who refuses a kiss. Once is quite enough, indeed.
  • In Rambo 2, the female lead is gunned down literally within seconds after their first kiss.
  • To a lesser extent, this happens to Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) in the Lethal Weapon saga. His wife died in a car crash but it turns out really she was murdered before the first film, and his love interest in Lethal Weapon 2 slept with the fishes. Even Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) in Lethal Weapon 3 almost bought the farm, but ultimately subverted the curse.
  • The Death Wish movies were pretty notorious about this trope. Pretty much any woman Paul Kersey loved, be it his wife in the first movie, his daughter in the second one, and his girlfriends in the other three movies, were doomed to be killed off in vicious fashion in order to start up the Roaring Rampage of Revenge all over again. The only major woman he was involved with who didn't get killed off was his Love Interest in the second movie, who dumped him after finding out that he was a vigilante, and she was originally going to be brought Back for the Dead in the third or fourth movie.
  • A Gender Flip is the core of the plot of the '60s Shirley Mac Laine comedy, 'What a Way to Go!' She plays a wealthy widow telling a psychiatrist her past 'luck' with her various husbands, each who die after gaining great financial success after marrying her. Averted at the end, after she marries the psychiatrist. It appears he's struck it rich as well, but she becomes relieved when it's shown he hasn't.
    • Actually she marries the janitor who turns out to be the first guy she was supposed to marry (he was a rich jerk) but instead married the nice doofus who went and ruined the guy before dying of overwork. Now that he's poor he's a nice guy at last.


  • The extremely spiteful demon Asmodeus, and his habit of killing anyone who wanted to marry his victim. Since Asmodeus originates in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, this makes this trope Older Than Feudalism.
  • Richard Sharpe, from the Sharpe books gets a new girlfriend frequently. They always leave, either by running away with his money, dying, or otherwise being written out.
  • If Sinklar Fist, one of protagonists in Michael Gear's Forbidden Borders series, has anything in which he truly excels over his father and lifetime rival, Staffa Kar Terma, it's his bad luck with women. Whoever he gets romantically attached to, ends up dead, often for no discernible reason at all. Sink is well aware of this curse and tries not to get too close to anyone by the end of the series, but, well, he's The Woobie...
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe has Luke Skywalker's various love interests. Luke would fall for some random woman in a story arc and promptly forget her by the next one. The vicious cycle was ended when he married Mara Jade.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. Any man engaged/married to Margaery Tyrell ends up dead: she married Lord Renly Baratheon, who was assassinated and Joffrey Baratheon was assassinated on their wedding day. It's lampshaded when one character mentioned marrying Margaery is a death-sentence.
  • Nick Carter's spouse Ethel perished in Nick Carter Weekly #384, 7 May 1904, during a drawn-out battle with Dazaar.
  • Poor, poor Arsène Lupin can't keep a wife to save his (or her) life. Every woman he marries or otherwise hooks up with tends to not survive the book.
  • Donald Hamilton's character Matt Helm suffers from this, badly.
  • Travis McGee had this problem.
  • Burke suffers from this to an extent; the majority of his love interests are Put on a Bus, but Belle was shot to death by the cops while covering Burke's getaway at the end of Blue Belle and Crystal Beth was killed in an apparent homophobic attack on a gay rights rally (that turned out to be something else entirely). Belinda Roberts and Candy were killed by Burke himself (or Max acting on his behalf, in the latter case). They had it coming.
  • Harry Dresden. One ex he thought was both dead and evil (she came back, briefly), one woman who was turned halfway into a monster (and who he has to kill in a Human Sacrifice in Changes), and a woman who was revealed to have been brainwashed into falling for him. And when the poor guy makes a date for drinks and maybe some casual sex, he's the one to get killed. Guy can't catch a break.
  • A few of Jessica's love interests in the Sweet Valley High series.

Live Action TV

  • While far too early to tell, this may be an affliction of a certain female crime fighter - terrorist in the newest V TV series.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Both of Kirk's true loves, slum-Angel Edith Keeler and his pregnant wife Miramanee the Indian priestess, meet bad ends. Usually, though, any Green-Skinned Space Babe who tries to hook up with Kirk survives, they just don't stick around. See Girl of the Week.
    • This was lampshaded in The Movie, where Kirk slept with Uhura's roommate, implying this sort of thing happened a lot.
      • To be fair, she actually was green.
      • And she was even implied to have been killed later on.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Worf gets into two serious relationships with the second ending in marriage. Naturally, both women wind up being killed by recurring villains before long.
  • Any woman who sleeps with Sam on Supernatural.
    • Ruby survived a whole season after snaring him, but in the finale learned that explaining your successful Xanatos Gambit to your Unwitting Pawn is a bad idea.
    • Played with in "Sex and Violence," when the boys are tracking a shape-shifting siren. When Sam sleeps with a hot doctor, the audience assumes she will turn out to be the siren and will be killed by the boys. She's not.
      • There may be an element of attempting to protect her from this effect in Sam's 'eh, why bother to say goodbye' reaction before they leave town. But mostly he honestly doesn't care much about her, which is a trauma-induced departure from his previous characterization; Dean hooks up, Sam dates. Only he doesn't, much, because it's not terribly compatible with their lifestyle and he's usually in mourning for someone.
    • He seemed to have gotten away from it for a little while. But then made up for it with four women in one episode.
    • In the season seven episode 'Time For A Wedding' Dean called the trope when trying to talk sense into a love-potioned Sam with the line: "have you forgotten the average lifespan of your hookups?"
  • Any love interest (except for Lady Elizabeth) for the hunky father and sons, not to mention hot daughter, of the knightly Grey family on Covington Cross.
  • Michael Knight, of Knight Rider fame, once got married... for approximately 30 seconds. Then she died taking a bullet for him.
    • One wonders why the sentient car wasn't scanning the scene and reporting it and why they were stupid enough to hold a wedding in open place when the guy had a bounty on his head in the first place.
  • And let's not forget Samantha "Black Widow" Carter of Stargate SG-1. One behind the scenes even had her asking the writers if she could get a boyfriend who didn't die. In fact, let's just rename this trope "Carter Curse" and be done with it.

"I feel compelled to warn you, most of the guys I've dated recently have died."

    • Her teammate, Daniel Jackson, suffered from a modified form; his love interests tended to turn evil, be evil already, or (most often) get snaked.
    • Now consider that Daniel has come back from the dead multiple times, and Carter got snaked in season two.
    • Carter goes above and beyond the call of duty for this trope, as the men interested in her rarely die alone. Jonas (not Jonas Quinn), who lead one of the teams, murdered a teammate, set himself up as a god, then died with his Dragon when SG-1 incited a rebellion. Lantash, a Tok'Ra, took two hosts with him, the first when Carter had to Shoot the Dog, the second and Lantash himself in a Heroic Sacrifice. And Martouf, Lantash's first host who had been involved with the Tok'Ra who snaked Carter and transferred some of that affection to Carter, turned out to be a Manchurian Agent and was killed trying to assassinate the president in the abovementioned Shoot the Dog incident. Ambassador Joe Faxon let himself get captured to allow her to escape the Aschen, but then probably died with them if they dialed the black hole planet. Nerim was just one death in the genocide of the Tollan. And Fifth not only let RepliCarter loose on the galaxy, but was her first kill.
    • Even Alternate Universe versions of Carter are not immune: two that married O'Neill had him get killed defending their version of the SGC from Apophis' invasion.
  • Doctor Who: It happened several times to The Doctor, especially his Eighth and Tenth incarnations:
    • "Girl in the Fireplace": Madame de Pompadour. Just found romance, offered her companionship, then he went through the fireplace only to find that he'd just missed her funeral. He should have paid more attention to the old fairy tales.
    • To be fair, Madame de Pompadour is a real historical figure and her death is probably a fixed point in time, so her death was inevitable. The fact that every time the doctor visited, several years had passed, set him up for this disappointment even if he didn't realise it.
    • "Voyage of the Damned": Astrid Peth. He just offered her companionship. However, she died saving his life by pushing Max Capricorn into the vortex of a Nuclear Storm Drive several minutes later.
    • "Forest of the Dead" puts a twist on it - thanks to time travel, he sees River die before their relationship has even started from his perspective. The pre-Library River is now a recurring character, meaning they both know a lot about the other's future that they can't divulge.
    • As a general rule of thumb, if the Doctor offers to let someone travel with him at any time before the very end of the episode, that person has an excellent chance of being dead before he or she gets a chance to set foot on the TARDIS (see Lynda, Astrid, Jenny, Reinette, etc.). This rule doesn't apply if he makes the same offer just before the credits roll.
    • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels, he also has a dead male love interest. And one he was just a big jerk to and ran off on after being a bitch to him all the time. Plus one dead female love interest and one who gave him a taste of his own medicine and was just impossible. He also acquires a companion, Fitz, who has at the very least three dead, evil, or vanished love interests to everyone the Doctor has (plus a few male Not Love Interests -- or are they?—who meet bad ends, too), and who enforces this trope upon himself by preferring traveling with the Doctor to staying with anyone. Seriously, fuck either of them and you'd better hope they just lose interest before they jinx you to death.
    • Ace also had this effect on people she became close to—such as Mike Smith, Gwendoline Pritchard, Captain Sorin and Karra. In the New Adventures she carried on the trend.
      • The only person Ace has ever had a relationship with who didn't meet a bad end was Sabolom Glitz, and even then their relationship was retconned in later by the producer after it had to be cut from the one episode in which they both appear.
  • Used twice in Red Dwarf:
    • First with Kryten's fellow droid love interest Camille, who turned out to be a GELF that changes appearance depending on the viewer's true love (causing the rest of the crew to also fall for her), and her true form was an enormous green blob. She had to leave due to her husband Victor finally being reunited with her. Kryten lampshades the plot of the episode: "It's the old, old story. Droid meets droid, droid becomes chameleon, droid loses chameleon, chameleon becomes blob, droid gets blob back again, blob meets blob, blob runs away with blob and droid loses blob, chameleon and droid! How many times have we heard that story?"
    • This was used a second time with Rimmer's love interest Nirvana Crane, who gives up her position onboard the Holoship Enlightenment (and thus losing her life in the process) so that Rimmer can fulfill his dream of having a place on the ship. When Rimmer hears of this, he immediately resigns and returns to Red Dwarf, in order that she can continue living, despite the fact that the two will never see each other again. Rimmer says "We won't be apart, we just...won't be together. [[[Beat]]] I cannot believe I just said that!"
      • Notice the obvious solution: Switch 'em. Rimmer would get his dream job and Nirvana would get to...... join... the... crew. Erm. Okay, Rimmer must definitely love her to be willing to spare her that fate, and the writers must have figured that we'd think that was an option, because the remaining crew of Red Dwarf spent their portion of the episode interviewing other dead crewmates to take his slot, and each declined. As one pointed out:

Candidate: No, I think I'm better off where I am, actually.
Cat (?): But you're dead!
Candidate: And meeting you three has helped me appreciate that a whole lot more.

  • Torchwood: Let's us pause to examine the fates of Toshiko Sato's love interests:
  • Sleeping with Sayid on Lost is an excellent way to get dead.
  • Farscape seems to have gone out of its way to ensure John Crichton never has any competition. Aeryn's potential lovers meet a variety of crappy fates:
    • 1. Velorek. Tortured and killed thanks to Aeryn.
    • 2. Peacekeeper Guy of the Week gets taken over by an evil bug and stabs her before dying.
    • 3. Crais shows interest. So, of course, he makes a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • 4. John himself (during the period where there were two of him and the group split up) dies of radiation poisoning, complete with tearful deathbed scene.
  • Common in Inspector Morse, where Morse's love interests usually turn out to be either the next victim or the murderer. The spinoff Lewis carries on the trend.
  • Lampshaded in the first few seasons of Northern Exposure: everyone who ever got lucky with Maggie had eventually died in some freakish way (ate tainted potato salad, took a wrong turn into a missile range, fell asleep on a glacier and froze, was hit by a falling satellite shortly after learning he didn't have cancer).
  • Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS. His first wife was murdered, and the next three were divorced. Any woman he is seen to be in a relationship with is usually in one shot, and is gone by the end of the episode.
    • Even his exes aren't safe. Case in point: Jenny Shepard.
    • Samantha Ryan seems to be doing all right so far.
    • Actually fits Ziva of NCIS just as well or better - Langer, who she's implied to be in a relationship with, is shot by her coworker Lee, the man she falls in love with dies of radiation poisoning, and her serious boyfriend Michael is shot by her coworker and love interest Tony. So far, her relationships are lucky to last out an episode.
    • Agent McGee is also an excellent fit, as (with the exception of Abby) anyone he's even shown an interest in either dies or turns out to be the murderer-of-the-week. The cute computer programmer he flirts with for half an episode is strangled right in front of him. A Petty Officer he had a thing for in training turns out to be a lesbian AND is the episode's killer to boot. A cute girl he picks up in a coffee shop ends up being a foreign national who holds him at gunpoint for information and is shot seconds later.
  • From 24, we have Jack Bauer. Let's go down the list: Teri died, Nina was The Mole, Kate dumped him, Claudia died, Audrey was made to believe Jack had died, Diane broke up with him when he got back together with Audrey, who was then tortured to insanity, and Renee bites it less than an hour after sleeping with Jack. Geez, this guy can't catch a break.
    • It extends beyond just Jack. Tony had also been in a relationship with Nina, then had Michelle divorce him, then get murdered shortly after they remarried and she became pregnant with their son. Every president that is shown with an on-screen spouse ends up divorced after one season David Palmer after Season 1, Charles Logan after Season 5 (though he first appeared late in season 4), and Allison Taylor after season 7, and David Palmer had a later girlfriend break up with him due to an inability to handle the limelight of being involved with the president. Audrey Raines was on the verge of reconciling with her husband when he died from injuries sustained when he took a bullet for Jack, the man she'd been involved with during her separation from him, then is led to believe Jack is dead, then finds out he's alive just before he gets taken prisoner by the Chinese and never really learns otherwise due to the aforementioned torture she gets after going to China to look for him. Even Kim had this for awhile, as her first boyfriend was incarcerated, her second broke up with her after losing a leg as the result of her actions, and her third broke up with her after she was led to believe that her father died and may or may not have died offscreen a few seasons after his final appearance. She at least finally gets a happy ending, getting married and having a daughter at some point between seasons 6 and 7.
  • Both of Hercules' wives died on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The first after living long enough to give him three children (who were killed along with her) the second after they were married for probably a few weeks. Both murdered by angry gods. Iolaus had a wife in the first film length episode, but she died (supposedly in childbirth) and was never mentioned again.
  • Pretty much all of Gabrielle's male love interests on Xena: Warrior Princess end up either dead or disappeared by the end of the episode.
    • With the exception of Hercules, Xena's male lovers didn't fare too well, either.
    • Ares seemed to be going pretty strong, too. Although it's debatable whether he actually slept with her, just granted her "boons" for being a great Lady of War and explained it in a sleazy way, or if he's actually her father. Although, knowing Greek Mythology, that last one wouldn't have stopped him.
  • [[Battlestar Galactica (1978 TV series)|The original Battlestar Galactica: Apollo in the second half of the episode "Lost Planet of the Gods".
    • His new series counterpart, Lee "Apollo" Adama is likewise cursed. Starbuck married someone else, then died Ascended to A Higher Plane of Existence. Dee left him, then committed suicide. "Black Market" mentioned something about a pregnant girlfriend who died in the Cylon attack, but we're not certain that episode is canon.
    • Chief Tyrol doesn't fare any better.
      • First love interest: Tory Foster. They forget all about being in love and planning to get married after Cavil kills them and resurrects them with Fake Memories. She kills Cally and he kills her for it.
      • Second love interest: Boomer. She turns out to be a sleeper agent and is killed by Cally (but resurrects). He verbally hates on her. They are on opposite sides on New Caprica, but don't see much of each other. When they next meet, she manipulates him into setting her free so that she can intentionally betray the whole ship. He verbally hates on her, again, and never sees her again. Though she redeems herself, she is killed right after. Oh, and he's kind of her dad, anyway.
      • Third love interest: Cally. She shot Boomer. She was sleeping with Hotdog before she got together with the Chief, and does not tell Chief that Nicky isn't his biological son. They argue a lot, but are genuinely in love. After finding that he is a Cylon, she attacks him and tries to commit murder-suicide with Nicky. Tory talks her out of it to get Nicky and then kills her. He verbally hates on her, not to mentions beats the crap out of her when she picks the wrong time to wake him up.
    • According to Word of God, averting this trope is part of the reason for the creation of Laura Roslin's character in nBSG. Ronald D. Moore wanted a female co-lead to counterbalance Adama, so that way the show wouldn't spend time trying to pair Adama with various women of the week.
  • Lex from The Tribe has a curious version of this: women can and do survive sleeping with him, but if they say "I do" they're signing their own death warrant. First wife Zandra is killed in the explosion at Eagle Mountain (end of season 1), second wife Tai-San is kidnapped by an invading tribe and assassinated (off-screen) when her attempt to infiltrate them is revealed (season 5), and third wife Siva is shot dead by her own sister (end of season 5).
  • Sara Pezzini from Witchblade is a very bad woman to court. In a short two seasons:
    • Conchabar, a man she loved in a past life, gets stabbed through the chest with her own Witchblade when she gave it up in a bid to save his life.
      • He then gets resurrected thanks to the Reset Button Ending, only wind up in a coma shortly after meeting her again. He was also kidnapped and shot in the leg while unconscious. He had not regained consciousness by the time the series ended.
    • Jake, her partner who has expressed romantic interest in her, gets strangled and killed by an evil clone of Ian Nottingham. He also got beat to a pulp surprisingly regularly on the show.
    • Daniel lasted even shorter than any of the other men in her life, since he tracked her down with the express purpose of getting her to kill him, as she's the only one who can. He didn't plan on falling in love with her, but he doesn't let that stop him.
    • Gabriel finally makes a move in the season two finale. He promptly gets possessed by Kenneth Irons and helps try to kill Sara. It's implied in the ending that he is either still possessed or there are side-effects.
  • Any of Charles Bartowski's love interests on Chuck. If the episode doesn't fixate on the UST with his handler Sarah (and sometimes even then), his disastrous love life will be a major plot point. A former girlfriend gave him another chance, only to be revealed as a spy for Fulcrum. A nice, cute, normal girl he meets can't deal with his second job as a spy. In the course of his work as a spy he has met several Vamps. Chuck is a Hollywood Nerd, so this phenomenon is remarked upon in-universe even by those who don't know about the spy work.
  • Something of a reversal/subversion of this trope: the series Life On Mars ends with main character Sam Tyler returning to the world of the story - and his love interest - by jumping off a rooftop and committing suicide. The name of said love interest? Annie Cartwright.
  • Avon of Blakes Seven suffered from this one; Paul Darrow, the actor playing him, says he became known as the "kiss of death". In fact one actress was truly furious to learn that he was going to kiss her, because she had been hoping to stay on for another episode.
  • As mentioned in the description, Alias's Sydney Bristow is particularly adept at this trope right out of the gate (sorry, Danny).
  • Bree from Desperate Housewives. You'd think guys would get the message by now.
  • Jeremy in The Vampire Diaries has dated two people, both of whom died shortly after they met him, one twice. A girl checked him out once, and died. The person he's currently interested in is in the process of Casting From Hit Points herself to death, although she's a major enough character that she might well survive. He acknowledges this, telling his current love interest shortly before she almost dies again,

Jeremy: You know, I don't have the best luck in the girlfriend department.

    • Averted for the moment as his third girlfriend isn't dead yet, which is surprising for The Vampire Diaries as Anyone Can Die. His previous girlfriends aren't exactly out of the picture yet either, it seems, as they return as ghosts.
  • In The Avengers, one episode featured a race where participants were assigned to partners. Steed's partner was a young woman who recounted the tragic deaths of her many husbands, apparently by bad luck, as Steed grew more disconcerted each time she revealed a new former spouse.
  • Mission: Impossible was inconsistent about this. In one episode Jim Phelps fell in love with a beautiful double agent who died protecting him from the bad guy. When the same thing happened to Paris in a later episode, he was able to rescue her at the end, though of course she was never seen again.
  • Alma Garret (Molly Parker) on Deadwood. First, her husband gets murdered. Then, she and the sheriff start a really hot and heavy affair, but his wife shows up. So, she gets married again, and her new husband is murdered as well.
  • Mark Gordon in Highway to Heaven meets a woman, falls in love with her, and she dies of cancer, all in one episode.
  • Bo in Lost Girl has this issue as she is a succubus who drains her partners' life force. Subverted later on when she learns to control her powers and finds a love interest with a Healing Factor.
  • Jason Stackhouse in True Blood. To be fair, this IS a plot point. The town murderer keeps attacking the women he's been with.
  • Played with by Cadet Annie Metford in the live-action Police Academy series, whose newlywed husband died in their bed while they were making love. All subsequent attempts of anyone getting close to her result in serious bodily harm. Fortunately for the guys, it seems that a direct sexual relationship and/or marriage seems the only way to trigger this trope to its fullest extent.
  • Amaka Okoh from Tinsel: first her husband, Reginald, then her boyfriend Sunom Idibia.

Music Video

  • According to Pop-Up Video, the "I Don't Want to Wait" video is about an immortal woman who keeps outliving her significant others.
    • Which is ironic because in the song lyrics her significant other comes home from the war and lives to see his granddaughters.

Newspaper Comics


  • In The Bible (well, the Book of Tobit, which is in some Bibles) a woman named Sarah has a bad case of this—she is married seven times, but each groom dies before the marriage can be consummated. It turns out a demon named Asmodeus is in lust with her, killing all his competition; the hero, Tobit, marries her and is able to drive the demon away following instructions from the disguised Archangel Raphael.
    • In another example, from the Book of Genesis, Tamar is married to Er, but he dies without leaving any heirs, so she is married off to his younger brother Onan. Onan doesn't want to father children on someone else's behalf, so he uses coitus interruptus, which his death is attributed to. Their father Judah, has one young son Shelah left, and fears for Shelah's life, believing Tamar to be cursed. Judah tells her that he'll give Shelah to her when the boy grows up. When Shelah grows up, he is not married off to Tamar as promised, so she impersonates a shrine prostitute and sleeps with Judah.


Video Games

  • If you're female, in a Metal Gear game, and Otacon likes you, international companies will deny you life insurance. Prepare to die in a mind-blowingly cruel (if beautiful) way, just so that Otacon can suffer beautifully.
    • In fact, just 'if Otacon likes you'. Look at what Snake went through in four. Sure, it didn't KILL him. Yet.
  • This seems to happen in Max Payne too except if you pass the game on Dead on Arrival, then Mona lives. Sadly non-canon in Max Payne 3.
  • Jaina Proudmoore's luck SUCKS. Seriously. She was desired by Kael'thas Sunstrider for quite some time. Nothing ever came of this, as she was already beginning a relationship with Prince Arthas Menethil. If you've only played World of Warcraft, you may know him as the Lich King. Kael'thas himself was utterly crazy by the time of Burning Crusade. Given all that, this does not favor Warchief Thrall AT ALL.
  • Zevran from Dragon Age. His previous love interest, Rinna, died. Not to mention the scores of romantic partners who either died or were murdered from his time in the Antivan Crows. You can also romance him as a Warden who commits a Heroic Sacrifice at the end of the game, meaning that every significant lover he's ever had is dead.
  • The Mass Effect series contains a very unique and interesting example since the curse is actually an unintentional (or intentional) result of certain decisions the player makes. It's only played straight if you leave your love interest to die on Virmire in the first game and if your choices gets your second love interest killed during the suicide mission in the second.
    • Not just love interest, but anyone who is close enough. If you really, really mess up in Mass Effect 2 both your squad and ship crew die. Not to mention Shepard's background options: If you really want to push this forward she/he has upon that point lost both her/his family in a slaver raid and marine friends in a Thresher Maw ambush. Damn, I'm starting to think if (s)he's death incarnate...
  • Soldier of Fortune II: Taylor, needless to say, ends up dead halfway through the game.
  • Dead to Rights: Both women Jack encounter get Stuffed Into the Fridge.
    • Dead to Rights is REALLY notable because every woman in the entire series ends up getting killed, usually in an ignoble and pointless manner. It takes until the 4th game in the series for a female character to survive to the end, and even she gets shot in the gut about 3/4ths of the way through. The 4th game is a Continuity Reboot anyway, so perhaps one of the things discarded was the series's major Stuffed Into the Fridge trend.
  • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon has the Artemis Curse - when a hero takes up the eponymous Fire Emblem to save the world, the love interest dies. This goes even worse for the direct descendants of the Arcachnean royal family who are cursed to forever to live a life of tragedy and doomed relationship due to the founder of the Arachnean royal family being a thief who stole the Fire Emblem from its sacred temple and sold its pieces to create a kingdom.
  • In the PC game series Dark Parables, Prince James suffers from a form of this in the second game. He's The Frog Prince, and he's he's had to watch everyone he loves die, including the five fairy tale princesses he married.


  • Elf from Schlock Mercenary. She even managed to kill off Captain Tagon in an alternate timeline. At one point, several other troops point this out when a Mauve Shirt demolitions expert tries hitting on her. Guess what happens to him...
    • To discredit this, she gives a kiss to each of the other men on her squad and then tells them that now they are doomed they can bloody well start marching. Apparently, that didn't count since they survived. (Except for one who died much, much later.)
    • Don't forget the fact that almost immediately after Kevyn dated her, he got killed, and only his blood nanites managed to bring him back from the dead.
    • Considering that he keeps a running count of the number of times he's cheated death, this is similar to the Stargate example above, except canon.
    • To wit, Elf is now five for six for killing men she's kissed. As has been mentioned, Tagon was an alternate reality, and Kevyn got better, but the only survivor of Elf's kissing (Nick) had a good chunk of a story-arc dedicated to "breaking the curse."
  • Torg from Sluggy Freelance has a pretty bad track record when it comes to girlfriends. One was an evil vampire who he had to kill. Another is a psychotic and assassin who keeps dying and coming back. Another was driven insane after being traumatized by satanic kittens. And a fourth was killed by a demon lord trying to catch him. With all this Torg's inability to tell Zoe he loves her is perfectly justified.
    • Recently, Zoe came to the realization that not only was Torg in love with her, she loved him back!
    • ...which directly resulted in Oasis using pyrokinetic powers and killing her. We think.
    • Zoe is apparently alive, but in unbearable agony on life support.
    • And has since been completely restored, except for the memory of the day in which she realized that she and Torg were in love and ended up getting incinerated by Oasis.
  • Sollux Captor from Homestuck can be said to suffer from this, as both Aradia and Feferi have died (in the former's case, twice, though she eventually got better).

Web Serial Novel

  • Sapphire: Somewhat. Ivanka gets killed, but only five years after she marries Alec, which in turn was four years since they first met.

Western Animation

  • Possibly genetic with the Water Tribe siblings on Avatar: The Last Airbender: Katara's love interest, Jet? Turns out to be evil, reforms and ends up dead. And Aang is killed or nearly so in the season two finale, but then is brought back to life with magic water. Sokka's love interest, Yue? Died to save the Moon Spirit by becoming it herself. His other love interest, Suki? Ended up tortured in a Fire Nation prison, with the audience and the main characters not even sure if she was alive. But she was! Hooray!
    • One wonders why Toph seemed to have an unrequited crush on him at times. I mean, you'd have to be blind not to se-... Oh, right. Sorry.
    • It even traces back to their parents and grandparents! We never hear a word about Kanna's first husband, and Hakoda's wife Kya...well...
      • Given none of them lose more than one, that's more like "man, this setting with all its war and attempted genocide has a high mortality rate!"
    • Zuko, on the other hand, has something like three Love Interests, although only one of them's at all serious, and they're all fine, although he stole Song's ostrich-horse and got Mai sent to prison.
  • Dizzy invokes this trope in Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles as the reason she won't admit to loving Rico.
  • The Boondocks episode "It's Goin' Down" parodies 24. The character known as Jack Flowers had this problem with his relationships: The first woman had her head sliced off by a sword, the second woman was flung off a building only to explode by a bomb strapped to her before hitting the ground, and the last woman was tied to a rocket.
  • Played for Laughs--very darkly—on Metalocalypse, where anyone or anything Toki Wartooth loves will die before the end of the episode. Fans, music teachers, pets, even children can die this way. Only Doctor Rockso the cocaine snorting rock and roll clown has survived so far due to Joker Immunity. Some viewers have theorized that the fifth unnamed member of Dethklok briefly seen in the season 3 opening episode flashback was killed by Toki's fandom love, making him the default replacement. Even his family is not immune; he has despised his parents his whole life for their cold, religious zealot way of raising him and his father subsequently died the instant Toki forgave him.

Real Life

  • An 18th c. Colonial gentleman named John Coulter had the appalling experience of losing both his first and second wife about a year after their respective weddings when they each died in childbirth. His panic when his third informed him of her pregnancy is easy to understand. She didn't feel too good about it either.
    • Though it should be observed that Death by Childbirth was possibly the single biggest cause of death in adult women at the time, and the first was usually the most dangerous, so it's not a huge coincidence - he may well not be the only one.
  • At various times this has been a recognised trope within the British underworld; some women are just considered 'bad luck' because of the frequency with which their husbands or partners have been killed, maimed or vanished without a trace.