Created By: XFllo on January 20, 2013 Last Edited By: XFllo on July 13, 2013
Troped

Strictly Professional Relationship

(LAUNCH SOON PER TRS) Attraction between characters who work together & want no romance. Or do they?

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"Ours is a Strictly Professional Relationship." Sounds like a Suspiciously Specific Denial? Very well might.

These characters feel attracted to each other, but they don't want to pursue anything because they already have a professional relationship, and going down the path might complicate things. They can be business partners or colleagues, or there might be ethic issues involved. For instance doctor/patient or teacher/student relationships are prohibited or frowned upon.

The characters might try really hard not to start the love affair. There's probably a Will They or Won't They? element between the two characters. There are often countless instances of She's Not My Girlfriend or Everyone Can See It. The depth of their relationship is often comparable to Heterosexual Life-Partners and Platonic Life Partners with strong and sincere bonds.

It's typical for more than one protagonist to work toward a goal or a mission, especially in detective stories. Adding a tickle of romance, not full-on groping in the copy room, is an ideal device to humanize characters that would otherwise be perceived as too cold in their ways.

It's common to happen with partners in law enforcement, because mutual trust is vital in their profession. Their one-on-one time on the job, they get to know each other very well, which especially sets them up to develop feelings for each other and they don't have the option of avoiding each other.

However, as the story develops and the plot thickens, the characters may reconsider their decision. Their desire gets really strong, and it may happen that Romance Ensues, and your characters perhaps decide to start an Office Romance. Romantic feelings and deep love often develop from trust and friendship.

Compare with Just Friends in which the characters decide that their relationship is best on friendly terms but the audience is teased with possibility of stepping over the platonic feelings.

Compare to a similar trope No Hugging, No Kissing, however, Strictly Professional Relationship is from characters' perspective, not from the authors's point of view.

Examples from media:

Anime and Manga
  • Patlabor has two examples:
    • Captains Gotoh and Shinobu, it is Played Straight, with Gotoh nursing unrequited feelings for Shinobu, who strictly enforces a professional relationship between them.
    • Captains Noa and Asumat in the OVA continuity; near the end of the Mobile Police/New Files continuity, where Noa and Asuma's relationship shows signs of becoming "more than friends".
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Batou and Kusanagi, although Everyone Can See It. The other members of Section 9 rib him for it in stand alone complex (specifically, his overreaction to her apparently dying in the previous episode).

Film
  • If You Believe: Tom is a first time writer and Susan is an editor of his novel. They both feel attracted to each other but Susan tries to persuade herself that she doesn't want him romantically because of their friendly yet professional relationship. However, she's also afraid of commitment because her ex-husband was emotionally abusive.
  • In A Few Good Men, LT Kaffee and LCDR Galloway clearly seem attracted to each other, but focus more on solving the case at hand than pursuing a relationship. Once the trial ends, they both go their separate ways.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Roy Mustang and his direct subordinate Riza Hawkeye claimed to have Strictly Proffessional Relationship. Of course, Everyone Can See It. However, they had been in a relationship before they joined the military, which has an anti-fraternization law. They'd like to have more than a professional relationship and sometimes they slipped a bit, but they just have to.

Literature
  • Ciaphas Cain: Ciaphas Cain mentions that at the end of his first assignment working with Colonel Kasteen, they exchanged a look that could have led to more than just friends, but neither pursues it because they don't want to deteriorate their working relationship. Besides, he prefers blondes. And more to the point, Amberley Vail would kill him.
  • Marla Mason: Marla and Rondeau, without the customary sexual tension.

Live Action TV
  • Invoked by Philip in The Americans. Philip is pretending to be an FBI Internal Affairs investigator and has convinced a FBI secretary to help him investigate the counter-intelligence division. The secretary is clearly attracted to him and he makes a big show of convincing her that he reciprocates her feelings. Until his investigation is concluded, they have to maintain a strictly professional relationship. However, Philip is actually a Soviet spy and has no romantic feelings for the secretary whatsoever.
  • Castle: This is one of the roadblocks to the relationship of Detective Kate Beckett from New York Police Department and Rick Castle, a writer who is allowed to tag along in her investigations in order to gain inspiration for his new novels. They get together romantically in season 5.
  • ZigZagged on Friends with the Rachel and Tag story-line. Rachel was promoted and was supposed to hire an assistant. She chose Tag despite the fact that he was not very suitable for the job in order to spend time with him. She then fretted because she couldn't date him as his superior but did all she could to prevent him from dating anybody else, such as telling him that all the women he flirted with are gay. She invited him as a friend for their Thanksgiving dinner and blabbed that she liked him but tried to take it back and say that it's just physical and doesn't want to pursue this any further. Tag, however, liked her too, obviously, and they started a secret office romance.
  • Lovejoy and Lady Jane, business partners brought together by a love of antiques, teetered on the brink for a long, long, time but never really got there - they just about kept it platonic. Her successor in the role, Charlotte, did succumb, though.
  • The cool-to-warm variant occurs with Remington Steele, private investigator, starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan. When Laura Holt put her detective skills on the market, she got no takers. Laura then created the fictional Remington Steele as her "boss." Soon a handsome fellow came by, and announced that he was, in fact, Remington Steele. Laura bristled at idea at first. However, Steele soon proved intuitive and useful as a partner. A slow thaw pervaded subsequent episodes.
  • Frasier: Crane and Roz Doyle, who for ten long years failed to see the obvious. Even after they finally got it together both were scared of destroying a friendship and never repeated the experience.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Ted tries to win Stella and keeps asking her out. She insists that she doesn't reciprocate his feelings, and as a doctor, she can't date her patient.
  • The X-Files: Agents Mulder and Scully. They started out purely professional but their relationship has been very strong since season 1, with several sweet bonding moments when they assured each other of their trust and loyalty.
  • The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and his partner DS Barbara Havers. He's rich, titled, and went to Oxbridge. She's working-class, cranky, and went to Ealing Tech. At the start, she hates him and he's completely frustrated by her. Two seasons in, putting her life and her career on the line for him is nothing short of instinctive. Three seasons in, the only thing capable of keeping him from going in unarmed and unprotected to rescue her from being held hostage at gunpoint is a full tactical assault squad. By the end, they're each other's Not Love Interests to the fullest extent of the trope.
  • Karen and Davis from Corner Gas, two small-town cops that have a relationship something like an older brother and younger sister. A few times in the series, other people (Lacy) mistake them for getting together, but this is, every time, a misunderstanding. Even the last episode alludes to it with the credits say "Karen and Davis eventually fell in love and got married...but not to each other.
  • Averted in Golden Boy. Det. Tony Arroyo and his partner Det. Deb McKenzie are secretly dating from the beginning.
ZERO CONTEXT EXAMPLE

Video Game
  • Halo 3: ODST: Captain Dare was once in a relationship with Sergeant Buck, but broke it off because of her work with ONI. She intends to keep things professional when the two are put in the same unit again, but he's openly angry at her and she eventually starts letting her affection show through.


Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • January 20, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    In Castle, this is one of the roadblocks to Castle and Becket's relationship.
  • January 20, 2013
    StarSword
    Compare Just Friends.
  • January 20, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Contrast Office Romance (still in ykttw).
  • January 21, 2013
    XFllo
    Ciaphas Cain mentions that at the end of his first assignment working with Colonel Kasteen, they exchanged a look that could have led to more than just friends, but neither pursues it because they don't want to deteriorate their working relationship (besides, he prefers blondes).
  • February 7, 2013
    captainpat
    Please rewrite the description without the Alice And Bob scenario. That's an Example As A Thesis. You don't need an example in your trope description when you have an example section right below it.

  • February 7, 2013
    Lophotrochozoa
    This trope would render Just Partners The Same But More Specific. Wouldn't it be a better idea to take the latter trope to the Trope Repair Shop to broaden the definition?
  • February 9, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ That might work as well. Though when I asked about this on Lost and Found, it was suggested that it is a missing supertrope. What the others say?
  • February 11, 2013
    StarSword
    Minor addition to the Ciaphas Cain example.
  • February 16, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • In A Few Good Men, LT Kaffee and LCDR Galloway clearly seem attracted to each other, but focus more on solving the case at hand than pursuing a relationship. Sure enough, once the trial ends, they both go their separate ways.
    • Halo 3 ODST: Captain Dare was once in a relationship with Sergeant Buck, but broke it off because of her work with ONI. She intends to keep things professional when the two are put in the same unit again, but he's openly angry at her and she eventually starts letting her affection show through.
  • February 22, 2013
    Oof
    I agree with Lophotrochozoa - this trope is covered by Just Partners, and is merely The Same But More Specific.
  • February 25, 2013
    XFllo
    Trope Repair Shop has reached the limit. There are 100 or 101 conversation which is the limit. We have to wait a bit till somebody can start the conversation.
    EDIT: Yay, I actually managed to find a gap when the jammed Trope Repair Shop had 99 conversations. Here is a link to the discussion about repairing Just Partners. Please contribute so that we can fix it soon. The sooner the better.
  • March 4, 2013
    chicagomel
    I think this will be the opposite of Office Romance, once I get it launched.
  • March 5, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ I don't see it that way. I think this is usually the beginning of Office Romance. When characters feel the attraction but try to deny it or simply do not want to pursue it but still cannot help it.
  • March 6, 2013
    lexicon
    As I've already said (and Septimus Heap too), the name sounds bad. I'd call it Business Or Pleasure.
  • March 6, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ lexicon, I've said it several times that this was a freaking working title. Business or Pleasure, I don't like. That could mean anything (Hey, are you travelling here for business or pleasure?)
  • March 8, 2013
    nielas
    • Invoked by Philip in The Americans. Philip is pretending to be an FBI Internal Affairs investigator and has convinced a FBI secretary to help him investigate the counter-intelligence division. The secretary is clearly attracted to him and he makes a big show of convincing her that he reciprocates her feelings but until his investigation is concluded they have to maintain a strictly professional relationship. Philip is actually a Soviet spy and has no romantic feelings for the secretary whatsoever.
  • March 15, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • The cool-to-warm variant occurs with Remington Steele, private investigator, starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan. When Laura Holt put her detective skills on the market, she got no takers. Laura then created the fictional Remington Steele as her "boss." Soon a handsome fellow came by, and announced that he was, in fact, Remington Steele. Laura bristled at idea at first. However, Steele soon proved intuitive and useful as a partner. A slow thaw pervaded subsequent episodes.
  • March 15, 2013
    XFllo
    Any feedback on the proposals?
  • March 15, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Oh, as far as the trope name: I'd have chosen Mostly Professional Relationship. If I'm reading this right, this trope covers Just Partners when its delimiter decays, but doesn't disintegrate to the point of Office Romance. There's a moral barrier between the two characters, but that barrier has holes in it. It's complicated; people are like that.
  • March 17, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ I like that! Both your description and the name.
  • March 27, 2013
    MiinU
    If we're merging examples from Just Partners then...

    Anime

  • March 27, 2013
    chicagomel
    Office Romance did launch btw
  • March 27, 2013
    XFllo
    Thanks, examples are always welcome, but now we must sort out the issue of definition and supertrope.
  • April 2, 2013
    McKathlin
    I would classify Just Partners as a significant subtrope of this YKTTW, rather than merely The Same But More Specific. Because of all their one-on-one time on the job, Just Partners get to know each other very well, which especially sets them up to develop feelings for each other, or to be mistaken for lovers, or both.

    When UST develops in other types of professional relationships, different sets of issues come into play. They might not be alone together much except by coincidence or by going out of their way to arrange it. They might avoid spending time together so that people won't suspect things (whereas Just Partners don't have the option of avoiding each other). Or one might be the other's boss, leading to ethical concerns.
  • April 18, 2013
    AgProv
    Live Action TV:

    {{Frasier}] Crane and Roz Doyle, who for ten long years failed to see the obvious. Even after they finally got it together both were scared of destroying a friendship and never repeated the experience.
  • April 19, 2013
    nitrokitty
    Symbionic Titan: Lance and Ilana, despite living very closely, never display any romantic attraction to one another. This is due to the creator wanting them to have more of a sibling-like relationship to avoid any UST.
  • June 16, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
  • June 17, 2013
    XFllo
    OK, if there are no objections, I will launch it and merge it with Just Partners.
  • July 1, 2013
    XFllo
    I re-vamped the description and moved examples from Just Partners. Several of them are Zero Context Example entries.

    Consider writing more context if you are familiar wth those, please:-) Or they will be commented out.

    I actually came to like Strictly Professional Relationship and the only one who protested violently was lexicon. If there are no more voices like that, I will launch it with this title.
  • July 1, 2013
    MiinU
    deleted.
  • July 1, 2013
    StarSword
  • July 1, 2013
    XFllo
    Huh? Then either I or you misunderstood.

    I thought that the word was that this draft, description and examples were a bit clearer. I always thought that this would be the basis of the fix and new/improved article. Because Just Partners is focused heavily on Live Action TV and police procedurals which was generally disapproved as too narrow. Except there were some voices that it should be perhaps Internal Subtrope.

    The name issue was not resolved, I admit that, but Just Partners was launched for a long time and it didn't really catch on.

    But honestly, I don't even care. It's taking far too long. Let's just finish this, for trope's sake!
  • July 2, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    The crowner was a bit ambiguous. That said, it looks like Strictly Professional Relationship is going to be the name.
  • July 2, 2013
    DAN004
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Roy Mustang and his direct subordinate Riza Hawkeye claimed to have this trope. Of course, Everybody Can See It. Justified and subverted, though: they've been in a relationship before they joined the military, which has an anti-fraternization law. They'd like to have more than a professional relationship and sometimes they slipped a bit, but they just have to.
  • July 2, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ Justified Subversion... I supposed that's possible. I think though that relationship tropes are hard to analyse in Playing With A Trope terms. Some tropes can't be Played With at all. I'm not sure if New Old Flame or Old Flame can count as a subversion.

  • July 4, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Happy Independence Day, have a Hat, Chief. It's typical for more than one protagonist to work toward a goal or a mission, especially in detective stories. Adding a tickle of romance, not full-on groping in the copy room, is an ideal device to humanize characters that would otherwise be perceived as Mister Spock expies. Good trope. :)
  • July 4, 2013
    XFllo
    Lol, that made me laugh. I hate this trope right now. I like your observation; I'll add it to the description.

    Happy Independence Day to all. I've always liked this holiday, even though I'm European;-)
  • July 5, 2013
    AgProv
    Live Action TV: Lovejoy and Lady Jane, business partners brought together by a love of antiques, teetered on the brink for a long, long, time but never really got there - they just about kept it platonic. Her successor in the role, Charlotte, did succumb, though.
  • July 8, 2013
    Excelion
    Amazing how O'Neill and Carter of Stargate SG 1 haven't been mentioned yet. Just amazing.
  • July 9, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ Except you just mentioned them, and if you cared to provide context instead of being amazed that they are missing from the list, they coukd have been listed there by now. How amazing is that? :-D
  • July 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
  • July 11, 2013
    nitrokitty
    • Lackadaisy: Lacy Hardt, secretary to mining magnate Wick Sable, attends to him both at the office and at home, but there's no indication they have any sort of relationship beyond employer/employee.
  • July 11, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ Are they very close? If not, they likely don't fit.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=djzjsbghidm85z337p9ul2g9&trope=StrictlyProfessionalRelationship