• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

You can't live with 'em; you can't live without 'em.

There's something irresistable-ish about 'em.
Rowlf the Dog, "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along", The Muppet Movie

A development often used in buddy films and romantic comedy. One person, often a loner-type, is paired off with someone else against his/her will.

He can't stand the person/situation and wishes for his old routine. When he gets his old routine back, he suddenly realizes he misses that person a lot and does everything in his power to get her back. Usually, happens when a bickering pair become Vitriolic Best Buds, or generate an Aw, Look — They Really Do Love Each Other situation, whether it's a fraternal sort of love among buddies, or romantic love.

See also Odd Couple.

Compare We Want Our Jerk Back (when the resident Deadpan Snarker's presence is sorely missed), Belligerent Sexual Tension.

Examples of Can't Live with Them Can't Live Without Them include:

Anime and Manga

  • This is pretty much a staple of Rumiko Takahashi's works.
    • Urusei Yatsura: Ataru constantly chases all girls other than Lum. Yet whenever Lum disappears from his life, he'll instantly drop his perverted maneuvers and go to great lengths to get her back. That doesn't stop him from immediately resuming his lecherous ways the moment she's safely back.
    • Ranma ½ has Ranma and Shampoo. Ranma and Ukyo. Ranma and Akane.
    • Pretty much the same example as the above for Inuyasha and Kagome. All they ever do is fight, mostly leading to Kagome storming off after a massive sit. However, anytime they're seperated for too long, all Kagome can think about is Inuyasha, while Inuyasha will be unbearable to be around until Kagome's back. And in any fight, they will put themselves in any kind of danger to save the other (which more than half the fight is of Inuyasha taking all those moutain busters to keep everyone else safe).
  • Full Metal Panic. Kaname Chidori spends every waking moment berating Sousuke for whatever screw-up he made. The second he is redeployed and out of her life for good, she suffers bouts of depression, paranoia, and a horrible sense of insecurity. Of course, she was being marked for death at the time, which makes this a literal case of "Can't live without him."
    • Every third waking moment. She spends a similar mount of time trying to prevent and/or renumerate his messups. The remaining time is spent dreading what will happen next.
    • She was also pretty moody when Sousuke was called away for a long mission to Helmajistan ("The Wind Blows at Home, Part 1-3"), even sitting outside his apartment until he returned.
  • Midori Days. Midori becomes Seiji's right hand and remains this way for the majority of the series. Eventually in the manga, however, Seiji does become quite capable of living with Midori and acknowledges this, although she ends up disappearing anyway.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. So very very true with Shinji and Asuka. Up to the point that Shinji ends the world when he discovers' Unit0 02, and probably Asuka's half-eaten corpses as he just arrived to try and save them. The series ends with Shinji and Asuka looking out over a devastated earth, as the last two people in existence. Or maybe the first two. Or SOMETHING!
  • Rozen Maiden. The protagonist just wants to be left alone, and he hates little kids. Before you can blink, he's got a small army of childlike, living dolls hanging out in his room, one of whom enjoys ordering him around like a servant, while the rest tend to merely be noisy with a penchant for wanton property damage. Of course, in the end, when they all leave, it gets rather lonely all of a sudden... Fortunately, they're only gone for 'bout half an hour.
  • Bludgeoning Angel Dokurochan. This trope occurs despite the fact that the titular character spends most of her time "accidentally" killing the male lead and then reversing the process, (and that's "accidentally" with a large helping of sadistic glee).
  • In The Wallflower manga, womanizer Ranmaru tries to get out of a date with a sweet, timid girl, as he prefers assertive women. Of course, after he succeeds, he realizes that he actually likes her.
  • The morning after Morinaga takes advantage of a doped-up Souichi in The Tyrant Falls in Love, the extremely homophobic Souichi attempts to murder Morinaga, and yells that he doesn't want to see his face again. When Morinaga takes his declaration to heart and disappears from his home and university for weeks, Souichi predictably falls apart. Of course, with his tsunderish personality, his first action upon seeing Morinaga back is to punch him hard and scream at him for hiding himself for so long.
  • Kyon from the Haruhi Suzumiya series constantly, constantly complains, rants and grumps about Haruhi and the SOS Brigade. In the 4th novel of the series, he is finally freed from Haruhi and the SOS Brigade, only to realize that he actually misses Haruhi. Or just the "weird events", who knows... After a Red Pill, Blue Pill decision, he returns.
    • He never stops his cynical snarking, but he seems to see Haruhi in a different light (and appreciates her good deeds). He also does stand to his decision, repeatedly saying that he "wanted to be here", creating a True Companions-like relationship.
  • Sakura's relationship with Naruto.
    • She also acts that way toward Sasuke at the end of part 1.
  • Eva from Monster spends a good bit of time plotting to make Tenma's life a living hell (getting him imprisoned and such), although every now and again she'll remember that she loves him and beg him to come back to her. She broke up with him, incidentally.
  • In the Jdrama, Nobuta wo Produce, Shuji says he hates Akira, but the two are actually very good friends. Maybe too good...?
  • In Zettai Heiwa Daisakusen: Euda is stuck in an awkward love-hate relationship with her 'fiance', Johanne, although she herself ain't fully aware of her feelings...
  • In XxxHolic, Watanuki is shown to normally get extremely frustrated with Yuuko, and keeps yelling that he can't stand the way she is. And then... he eventually cracks and reveals exactly how important Yuko is to him... after she disappears. This results in him getting extremely depressed, and making a pact to wait for her in the shop forever, never aging, and never being able to leave, until she comes back to him. Let's just say that Doumeki is not pleased to hear this...
  • Jellal and Erza, from Fairy Tail, who spend their focus arc trying to kill one another. When anything bad actually happens to one the other does not take it well.
    • Likewise Natsu and Gray, they pretty much complain and fight but do admit to themselves they respect the other. Heck in the Galua Island arc when Gray twice tries to use Ice Shell, a spell that will turn the user into ice to trap their opponents. Natsu stops him both times spelling out that he doesn't want Gray to die.
  • Yuuri and Wolfram in Kyo Kara Maoh. Yuuri spends the first two seasons trying to back out in an engagement that he accidentally caused in the second episode when Yuuri first enters the other word. Both of them hate the idea at first but Wolfram accepts his role as he constantly tries to get Yuuri to accept his as his husband. Yuuri constantly plots breaking the marriage on multiple occasions but always fails because Yuuri simply doesn't understand the demon world. However, the small things that piss Yuuri off at the beginning of the series, which range from Wolfram calling him "Wimp" (this was originally his Berserk Button at the beginning when the two argued each other) and Wolfram going everywhere declaring himself the spouse of Yuuri and accusing him of Yuuri cheating on him with every girl he meets. However, as the series goes on, the small things that annoyed Yuuri at the beginning is met with indifference as he slowly gives up on trying to break up the engagement. However, once season 3 hits and Wolfram calls the engagement off, this actually shocks Yuuri to the point where he works to get Wolfram back and then finally declares that he's not allowed to break it off. This is a sign that Yuuri is still confused with his feelings for Wolfram but won't let him design things on his own. Shortly after though, they fall right back into the roll.
  • In Wild Rose, Kiri and Mikhail don't get along initially and like to anger the other. Since Kiri literally can't live without Mikhail because he otherwise loses his sanity around humans, they are stuck together. Over time they both come to appreciate each other in spite of their differences and in the end Mikhail hesitantly admits "You are necessary to me" in response to Kiri's Love Confession.
  • This sometimes comes up in Dragon Ball with Bulma and Vegeta. When they do talk to each other on screen all they'll do is argue. However, while Vegeta can be unbearable to be around sometimes. They always reconcile pretty quickly.
  • In Robotech, Lisa Hayes despises cadet pilot Rick Hunter, and he returns her contempt...yet when she thinks for a moment he was killed in a Veritech hit, she panics, and later when she's threatened by a Zentraedi, Rick berserks. When Cadet Hunter becomes Lt. Hunter and then begins to rise up the ranks, the tension gets worse because they're always encountering each other...and discovering to their dismay that they work well together. Pretty much everybody that knew them saw what was happening before they did, though.
  • Tomoe and Nanami from Kamisama Kiss. Tomoe is a Kitsune that has been forced to serve Nanami against his will and is typically very rude and condescending towards her. Nanami thinks he's a Jerkass in return. However, should anything happen to Nanami he freaks and should another man take interest in her watch out. Meanwhile, Nanami hasn't bothered to hide the fact that she has developed feelings for Tomoe.

Comic Books

  • In one arc of Peanuts, Lucy and Linus move out of town and Schroeder finds that he can't play his music without Lucy present.

  Schroder: Don't tell me I've grown accustomed to THAT face!


 Cable: For two people who say they don't need each other, both of us keep doing a lot of stupid things to try and stay together.



  • My Fair Lady: Henry and Eliza seem to have this problem.
  • Taken very literally in Die Hard with a Vengeance, wherein John McClane despises his sidekick, and is equally despised by him, but quite literally cannot live without him as the evil mastermind has set traps that he demands they solve together.
  • Hello, Dolly!: After Dolly Levi has spent the whole movie trying to maneuver Horace into marriage, he angrily tells her that he 'wouldn't marry (her) if she were the last woman on earth!', she promptly bids him "So Long, Dearie". Cue Horace grousing to himself the very next morning about how he doesn't need her, what a horrible woman she is, he'd never do it, etc. It's clear to the audience that he's firmly in this trope, as he proposes to her the moment she comes back.
  • The Muppet Movie has a song called "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along", sung by Kermit and Rowlf and referring to Miss Piggy (and, by extension, women in general). It opens with the lines, "You can't live with 'em / You can't live without 'em..."
  • The Miss Congeniality sequel plays with this trope in the following exchange:

 Sam Fuller: Men. You can't live with 'em, you can't...


Sam Fuller: ... no, that's pretty much it.

Gracie Hart: Yeah.

  • C-3PO and R2-D2 throughout the original Star Wars trilogy.
  • The Shining has this theme throughout, especially in Jack's actions after about halfway through the movie. Accentuated in Jack's conversation with a ghostly bartender about halfway through, in which the bartender echoes this trope.
  • In Shrek, the titular ogre has this happen after he rescues the princess, when he believes she can't care for him because he's an ogre. He receives the deed to his swamp and returns to it, but feels very empty inside. Eventually, Donkey makes him realize he does love the princess. Cue a rush to beat her Wedding Deadline to Lord Farquaad.
  • Jokingly subverted by Tom Arnold's Gib in True Lies: "Women. Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em."


  • In the Discworld novels, Granny Weatherwax is less than thrilled with having to take part in a witch's coven, not least of all because the maiden of the coven, Magrat, keeps annoying her by being a Genre Blind Wide-Eyed Idealist. Yet, when Magrat leaves the coven after Lords and Ladies she grows despondent with the whole thing since she hasn't got anyone to boss around or quarrel with, which sets in motion the events of Maskerade.
    • In a meeting of all the local witches, it's noted that Granny "couldn't be having with other witches, and certainly couldn't be having with Nanny Ogg, who was her best friend."
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has Mara Jade. She told Luke: "Sometimes I can't stand you, and I love for it." Awwwwww.
  • Sunny Randall has this relationship with her ex-husband Richie, and though they've divorced they still see each other and have hooked up a few times since the divorce, to the detriment of both of their other relationships.
  • Interview with the Vampire sees this trope reflected in the relationship between Lestat and Louis. They live together and share a quasi-romantic relationship for like seventy years—during which Louis constantly complains about how much he despises Lestat, and Lestat insults and denigrates Louis. Expanded upon in The Vampire Lestat.
  • Fisk seems to have this realtionship with Michael in the Knight and Rogue Series (Michael is too sweet to not stand Fisk). He spends his time alternating between gripping about Michaels naive, cheerful, chivalrous attitude, and fretting about Michael's wellbeing. Acording to Michael, Fisk will try to protect him from anything from the noose to chills, all while being insultingly sarcastic.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: This seems to happen between the Vigilantes and their boyfriends. In one book, Jack Emery makes a comment about women and how you can't live with them and you can't live without them. A short time later, Nikki Quinn makes a comment about men and how you can't live with them and you can't live without them. At least the feeling is mutual!
  • A darker twist on this appears in Therese Raquin where Thérèse and Laurent find Thérèse's husband Camille to be more of a roadblock than anything, but once he's dead they find that being constantly haunted by his memory is far, far worse.

Live Action TV

  • In Dexter, the title character says of his adopted sister who crashed at his place for a while after some troubles: "Can't live with her, can't kill her." As Dexter happens to be a serial killer, the second half of the phrase takes on a different meaning. He was joking though because he is "rather fond" of her.
  • In Scrubs, Dr. Kelso initially couldn't stand his wife's snoring. She got the operation, but (this being Scrubs) only exacerbated the problem. Cue this trope:

  Kelso: Here's the twist. Now, whenever she goes out of town, I can't fall asleep without the sound of that gasping, wheezing woman lying right next to me. Trust me. If I ever met a Japan air stewardess who snores like Enid, I'd marry her tomorrow.

    • Dr. Cox and his ex-wife Jordan have this sort of relationship. Both are snarky, Jerkass misanthropes who can't stand each other...and it's made abundantly clear that they'd never be happy with anyone else.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Cordelia and Xander are oh so very much like this in Seasons 2 & 3.
  • Oz. A black inmate on Death Row is subject to constant racist taunts by a redneck in the next cell. After first breaking his hand when he punched the wall in frustration, he then gets smart and carefully digs a hole into the wall, then after one comment too many punches his fist through what's left and throttles the redneck to death single-handed. Unfortunately that means he's the only inmate left on Death Row, and the episode ends with him looking sadly into a hand mirror, with only himself for company.
  • Dear God, Friends's Ross and Rachel — Rachel most of all. If Ross is dating someone else, she can't be without him. Then, once she's broken them up, she can't be with Ross unless he agrees that their first breakup was all his fault.
    • They're a rather peaceful example of this trope, considering their nice friendship when not dating.
  • The actual line was parodied twice on 3rd Rock from the Sun. In the Pilot, Harry declares "Women, you can't live with 'em... and yet they're everywhere." In a later episode, Dick declares "Women, you can't live with 'em and you can't have heterosexual sex without 'em."
    • To which Harry responds, "That's probably true."
    • Also in one episode Judith says to Mary, "Men, can't live with 'em" [beat while Mary waits for the rest] "Goodbye, Mary."
  • Norm, of course, subverts the line in Cheers: "Women. Can't live with them, pass the beer nuts."
  • The Vampire Diaries: Damon and Elena, until the last four or so episodes of the first season. After that, they drop the "can't stand them" part.
  • And of course let's not forget the twisted take on this from one Mr Al Bundy of Married... with Children fame. Among his immortal quotes:

 "Women. You can't live with them, you can't shoot them".

"Women, can't live with 'em, can't herd 'em all into Canada"

"Women. Can't live with 'em... The End."

  • Arguably, Jerry and Elaine in Seinfeld, in that they are no longer interested in each other sexually but still hang out with each other because they don't have many other friends.
  • Pretty much the reason why Al in Married... with Children hasn't just up and left his ungrateful life parasite of a wife and kids. This being one of the only few shows where the viewers were hoping for Parental Abandonment on the fathers part.


  • Pink's song "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)" is all about the bi-polar affections of a girl wanting some space, promising cuddling later.
  • The song "That's a Woman" is sung by Ryan Kelly and Paul Byrom of the group Celtic Thunder and is about a misogynist who finally falls for one of the women he so greatly disdains.
  • Celine Dion's "I Hate You Then I Love You." The title should be self-explanatory.
  • Also the Three Days Grace song "I Hate Everything About You".
  • Queen's "Can't Live With You."
  • Stacie Orrico's song "Stuck" - "I hate you, but I love you. I can't stop thinking of you"
  • The U2 song "With or Without You"
  • French Canadian singer Jean Leloup song "I lost my baby" has the lines (translated) "I can't live with you / I can't live without you / But you can very well live without me /" ending up with "I'm screwed either way".
  • Rihanna and Neyo's duet "Hate That I Love You."
  • The Coral's "Dreaming of You" has lyrics of "I still need you, but I don't want you now."

Video Games

  • Fire Emblem has several examples of this
    • Erk and Serra in The Blazing Sword
    • Lalam and Percival in The Sealed Sword
    • To an extent Rennac and L'Arachel in The Sacred Stones. ( His single ending states that he tries to escape her service, but admittedly doesn't try very hard.)
    • This is just one of the many complexities of Felix Hugo Fraldarius's feelings about Prince Dimitri in Three Houses. He claims to despise "the boar prince", but if you recruit him out of the Blue Lions, he's totally gutted when Dimitri is killed at Gronder Field on Verdant Wind/Silver Snow or apprehensive about having to kill him on Crimson Flower. In Azure Moon, Byleth's relationship with him goes up if they tell him they'll try to snap Dimitri out of his rage-filled, broken state.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, Squall spends the first two discs of the game grimly resisting Rinoa's efforts to get him to open up to her. When she falls into a coma at the end of disc two, however, he realizes how much he doesn't want to lose her, and abruptly she becomes his main priority.
    • Not so abrupt if you unlock certain scenes or do certain events correctly (the "band concert" event being a big example; you have to get the music exactly right or Squall will just be annoyed with Rinoa the whole way.)


  • Pretty much the longest running plotline in College Roomies from Hell: Margaret's attraction to and inability to let go of Dave.
  • Also a long running plotline in Bittersweet Candy Bowl. Mike and Lucy spend most of their time agonizing over this fact.
  • In Sluggy Freelance Gwynn tends to flirt with this trope a lot in regards to the rest of the main characters.
    • So did Zoe to some extent. The boys drove her nuts, but when she moved back home, she found she missed them, and ended up getting a job consisting entirely of recounting their crazy antics over the radio.
  • Looking for Group looked like it was going for a joke like this after Cale'Anon had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend, but the trope is ultimately (and naturally) subverted because the man who almost invoked the trope is a wee little bit worse than the common chauvinist...

 Richard: Women.

Cale: Yeah.

Richard: Why are any of them still alive?


Cale: That's a little bit extreme.

Richard: You may be right... What are your thoughts on penning them up to use for mating and the creation of snacks?


Web Original


 Vork: Women. Can't live with them — they will not go out with me.


Western Animation

  • Pinky and The Brain. Brain insults Pinky frequently and takes every opportunity possible to bop him with whatever solid object is convenient, but should Pinky wind up missing or genuinely hurt, Brain truly feels bad for his companion. In the Halloween episode, Pinky gives himself up to a malicious supernatural entity so that Brain can take over the world, and Brain gives it all up in order to get Pinky back.
  • On an episode of Animaniacs this is parodied when Yakko, Wakko and Dot tell their latest victim, who is begging them to leave, that he'll "be lonely when they're gone". Predictably, after they leave, the man bawls "I'm lonely!"
    • This was also done to the Warners in a different episode: they are followed around all day by an extremely dull man who continually tells a long, rambling story in a monotone voice. No matter where they run, they can't get away from him. Finally, at the end of the episode, he suddenly finishes his story and leaves. The three of them just sit in stunned silence for a few minutes, then declare "It's too quiet!" and go running after the man begging him to come back.
  • One of the later Sideshow Bob episodes of The Simpsons shows Bob realizing that he can't kill Bart. He's grown accustomed to his faaaaace...
  • Family Guy: Stewie sings "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" in a Shout-Out to My Fair Lady when Lois leaves him home alone to campaign for the school board.
  • The early Tom and Jerry short "The Lonesome Mouse" has Tom getting evicted from the house. Jerry is initially delighted, but comes to realize that he's bored stiff without his adversary, and schemes to get him back in Mammy Two Shoes' good graces.
    • Tom and Jerry are pretty much like this by default.
  • In Ka Blam!, dispite being his friend, June seems to get a kick out of hurting or watching Henry get hurt. However, in an episode where he leaves the show, June finds herself crying over missing him.
  • There was a Dexter's Laboratory episode where Dexter 'fires' Dee Dee and joyously works in his lab without her interference. After a montage of repeatedly doing the same thing, his energetic joy fades until he's depressed and starts looking for a new annoying sister. Eventually, Dee Dee is rehired at the end of the episode.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squidville" Squidward is tired of SpongeBob and Patrick bothering him and ruining his day, the last straw for him is when they accidentally destroy his house he sees an ad on TV for Squidville which is full of Squidpeople like him. At first he finds it relaxing and comfortable but after a while he gets bored of it. Later he pines for SpongeBob and Patrick to come back and cause a little chaos. When they don't, he starts causing the chaos and eventually gets kicked out of the town.
  • One of the unfinished episodes of Invader Zim, called "Mopiness of Doom", has something like this. Dib decides to drop paranormal investigation and pursue "real science." Zim, finally being free of the one person that constantly ruins his plans, enjoys his newfound freedom for a while, but soon becomes unmotivated to continue coming up with new evil plans without someone trying to stop him. Meanwhile, Dib has a hard time concentrating on "real science" since he still loves para-science and eventually gives that up and goes back to hunting Zim. Zim is confronted by Dib again and is overjoyed that he's back. The episode concludes with the two happily slinging insults at each other.
  • This is what defines Larry and Tuddrussell's relationship in Time Squad.
  • Helga and Arnold of Hey Arnold technically have a one-sided version of this. At least Once an Episode, we see Helga slip off into private to deliver a flowery, romantic poetic rant about her yearning for her one true love, usually following a statement to the tune of "What a twerp, what a loser, what a football-headed dweeb. How I hate him. And yet..."
  • The titular family in The Simpsons is a great example. They love each other, but they drive each other crazy.

Real Life