The course of true love never did run smooth. At least, not in any of the good stories.
We love reading about love. But it’s got to be hurdle-clearing, test-passing, ground-breaking love. No one wants to read about the couple that started out as friends, calmly and mutually decided to enter a romantic relationship, and have had nothing but smooth sailing. Yes. It’s adorable. Couple that makes the rest of us feel inadequate? You’re adorable. Stay out of our stories.
Are you trying to keep your head-over-heels characters apart? Here are some of our favorite ways to stop love dead in its tracks.
Death. (Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)
Yuhp. We’re pulling out the big guns at the get-go. Of course, Romeo and Juliet’s love affair suffered a few parental speed bumps before Juliet went all happy dagger, but death really has a way of terminating a relationship for good.
DOUBLE DEATH. (The Greek myth of Eurydice and Orpheus)
So Eurydice kicks it when the story is just beginning! Orpheus goes to the underworld and, through the power of a good rock ballad, convinces Hades to allow Eurydice to head back to the land o’ the living. The catch? (There’s always a catch.) Orpheus has to lead her on the long, winding path out of the underworld without ever turning around to look at her. And then, he trips at the finish line! He is so close and so love-stoned that he turns around at the last possible minute and she is poofed back to the underworld for realsies.
Crazy first wife in the attic. (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë)
Jane and Rochester already have obstacles to overcome. He’s almost twice her age and he’s her employer and he’s kind of an ass, but also. But also! He’s stashing a psychotic spouse in the guest bedroom. But even though Jane doesn’t understand how he could have a perfectly LEGITIMATE reason for wife-stashing and puts morality and legality over her own happiness, we’re totally sympathetic to his cause. We’d get our polygamy on with Edward Rochester.
Miscommunication. And evil parents. (The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks)
Amanda and Dawson were everything that teenagers in love should be: foolish and desperate and overwhelmed with love. But her parents were of the break-up-with-the-boy-or-we-cut-you-off variety. His dad was more of the break-up-with-the-girl-or-I-cut-you variety. And so Dawson did the noble and made sure Amanda didn’t throw her future away for a screw-up like him. And this is only the FIRST hurdle. It happens before the book has even started, back when they were young and vulnerable! Damn you, Nicholas Sparks. Do you revel in our pain? Because we like your characters. And then we love your characters. And then you make them squirm and we’re like, “Wait, what are you . . .?” And then you make them BURN and we’re incapable of speaking because we’re choking on our tears.
Damn you, Nicholas Sparks.
(Want more Sparks? Follow #TheNotebook15 on Twitter today for a celebration of the 15h anniversary of Sparks’s first, most famous book.)
Okay, so this love-halting tactic is specific. No one can deny, though, that it’s effective. Nothing kills the mood, or several hundred people on a massive luxury ship that’s understocked with lifeboats and life vests as it plunges into the freezing Atlantic Ocean, quite like an iceberg.