Love Cannot Overcome

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Usually, the hero will go to great lengths to protect his Love Interest from the dangers involved in what he does, from keeping secrets from her to breaking up with her for her own good. Sometimes, however, the hero will choose to be honest and tell her everything, trusting her to make her own decisions about what's best for her. Usually when that happens, the love interest will bravely and loyally stay by the hero's side.

But sometimes, the love interest will decide the hero was right: She really can't handle it.

Maybe all that stuff about ghosts, witches, and demons is just a little too scary. Maybe she's sick of being kidnapped by the villains. Maybe the stress of the long nights waiting for the hero to come home from his missions is just too much. Whatever the reason, loving the hero just isn't enough to overcome everything that comes with being part of his life. She's out of there.

This is not necessarily a very 'romantic' trope, but in some situations it can add a tremendous note of Truth in Television.

The counterpart to It's Not You, It's My Enemies. A subversion of The Power of Love. See also The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life and All Love Is Unrequited.

Examples of Love Cannot Overcome include:


Comic Books

  • This is why Silver St. Cloud breaks up with Bruce Wayne in a famous 1970s Batman arc; She can't handle knowing that he's risking his life against people like The Joker every night, so she abandons him and Gotham. This seems to be the source for many other examples from Batman adaptations in other media.
  • Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris have done this to each other repeatedly over the years, since his identity as GL and hers as the domineering, villainous Star Sapphire frequently complicate their underlying mutual love.
  • Being in love with the emotionally withdrawn Bruce Banner is tough enough already, but his onetime wife Betty Ross was often driven away by his monstrous Alter Ego, The Incredible Hulk.
  • Villainous example: A few Batman stories before the 1980s showed that Harvey "Two-Face" Dent's fiancée, Gilda, still loved him unconditionally after his transformation, but his criminal lifestyle and tendency to end up in Arkham eventually forced her to move on. The Golden Age story that introduced him was quite different; there, she's immediately repulsed by his disfigurement.
  • Spider-Man: As of the One More Day stuff, Mary Jane breaks up with Peter, not because she can't handle being in danger for knowing Spider-Man, but because she can't handle putting other people who are close to her in danger because she knows Spider-Man.
    • Ironically in Spider Island, when Carlie Cooper finds out that Peter is Spider-Man, she angrily concludes that their relationship was a lie, and breaks it off with him in no uncertain terms. Meanwhile, MJ temporarily has Spider-Man's powers, and realizes fully why Peter continues to fight the good fight as Spider-Man.


  • In Batman Returns, Bruce Wayne mentions that Vicki Vale, his love interest from the first Tim Burton movie, couldn't handle being Batman's girlfriend.
  • Similarly, in The Dark Knight Saga, Rachel doesn't want to deal with the issues of being Bruce's love interest until he's done being Batman.
  • Superman II. At the end of the movie Lois Lane can't handle being Superman's girlfriend and Secret Keeper, so he uses his Super Amnesia power to remove her knowledge of his secret identity and their relationship.

Lois: I didn't close my eyes all night...Do you know how vile it is to hear the first bird of the morning singing when you've been sitting up all night crying?...It's sort of like being married to a doctor. The doctor gets wakened in the middle of the night and the wife has to cope with the fact that he's gone...I am selfish when it comes to you, and I'm jealous of the whole world...Don't you know that this is killing me? Do you know what it's like to have you come in here every morning and not be able to talk to you, not be able to show I have any feelings toward you, not be able to tell anyone that I know who you are? I don't even know what to call you!

Pepper Potts: Oh my God, I can't take this anymore! My body literally cannot handle the stress! I never know if you're going to kill yourself or...or wreck the whole company...! That's it, I quit.

    • This is a "playing with" because, up to this point, Pepper and Tony have only had Unresolved Sexual Tension and are not in a relationship. In fact, this declaration by Pepper is exactly what starts their relationship at the end of the film. Also, Tony doesn't accept her resignation.
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the breakup between Anakin and Padme:

Padme: I don't believe what I'm hearing! Obi-Wan was right... you've changed! You have turned to the dark side! You're not Anakin anymore!
Anakin: [with a growing angry look and voice] I don't want to hear any more about Obi-Wan. The Jedi turned against me. Don't you turn ->against me!
Padme: [crying] Anakin, you're breaking my heart! You're going down a path I cannot follow!
Anakin: Because of Obi-Wan?
Padme: Because of what you've done... what you plan to do! Stop! Stop now... come back... I love you!

  • Twister: Melissa breaks up with Bill before he goes chasing after the final tornado because, in her words, "I can't compete with this."


  • Inverted in the Vorkosigan Saga: Ellie Quinn loves Miles and is perfectly fine with his dangerous life as a mercenary and secret agent; it's the prospect of becoming Lady Vorkosigan and being forced to move to Barryar she can't get past.
  • Alex Delaware's girlfriend, Robin, eventually breaks up with him due to his work with the police and her fears that he's becoming an adrenaline junkie.
  • Victor Henry's wife in Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

Live Action TV

  • Prue's first boyfriend, Andy, from Charmed admits to her that he can't deal with her being a witch and probably wouldn't be able to no matter how much time he had to get used to the idea.
    • Although later when he finds out again, and learns they used a Reset Button to undo him learning before, he says they didn't give him enough time and he actually can handle it. And he does, mostly.
  • Early in the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles has a girlfriend named Olivia. At the end of the episode "Hush", after Olivia learns of the existence of demons, she says, "Scary." Giles asks, "Too scary?" and Olivia responds, "I'm not sure." Since we never see her again after that, we can presume that it was indeed too scary for her.
  • Jamie Reagan's girlfriend in Blue Bloods left him because she couldn't stand loving a cop with Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • In Psych, Shawn's ex-girlfriend, Abigail, says she can't take the stress of his job anymore after being kidnapped by Mr. Yin.
  • On Warehouse 13, Pete was about to reveal the true nature of his work to Kelly, but having just had a small sample of that dangerous world, she breaks it up with him and leaves.


  • Sunday in The Park With George. Although George Seruat loves his adoring mistress Dot very much, he is too occupied with his masterpiece paiting to pay attention to her. She eventually leaves him with his baby daughter for a more caring partner. Before she leaves, she visits him at the park and fails to tempt him to see his infant daughter. George simply explains to her that the baby will have an attentive father now.

Video Games

  • In Lufia II, this is how Tia eventually bows out, giving her spot in the party to her rival, Selan.

Western Animation

  • Maria Suarez from El Tigre was unable to see her husband Rodolfo/White Pantera constantly in mortal danger... this is a little strange considering that she herself used to be a superheroine herself, Plata Peligrosa and not exactly of the defensive style on top of that.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Lois Lane breaks up with Bruce Wayne for essentially the same reason Silver St. Cloud did in the comics. The series was cancelled before we got to see how she reacted to finding out about Clark.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • Similar to the comics example above, Two-Face's fiancée, Grace, never really gives up on him, either.
    • Harley Quinn occasionally broke up with The Joker when she wanted to go straight or he simply went too far, but Mad Love always brought her back in the end.