Created By: Sahira on November 13, 2013 Last Edited By: Sahira on December 6, 2013

Mistaken for Romance

When the love between two people is mistaken by others for romantic love.

Name Space:
Page Type:
The Doctor and Donna: We're not a couple.
Doctor Who, "The Unicorn and the Wasp"

As we know, there are many different kinds of "love", and people often confuse "friendship love" or "brotherly/sisterly love" with "romantic love". In this trope two people love each other. Some or many people, perhaps even those who know the two well, take his to mean they are romantically involved, but contrary to popular belief, they are just friends.

The key to this trope is that though affection and even love exists between the two people, it is not and never will be romantic (though in some cases there was the potential for it at some time in the past). Neither of the two friends have (or ever will have) any interest in the relationship becoming romantic, unlike in the Just Friends trope which requires this. However, like Just Friends one or more bystanders/others think that the love is a romantic one and may try to call them out on it.

The two may be (but are not necessarily) Heterosexual Life-Partners, Platonic Life Partners or Like Brother and Sister. If a third person gets involved with one of the people and then finds out about the other it can turn into an Imaginary Love Triangle.

If they are the same gender, this trope overlaps with Mistaken for Gay. Different to She Is Not My Girl Friend in that the two are not remotely romantically interested in each other, it is all in the eyes of the beholders. For cases when the two turn out to be related, see Relative Error.

Compare Platonic Life Partners.

Contrast Everyone Can See It where instead of mistakenly identifying the type of affection between two people, the bystanders are simply being more perceptive than them; and Strictly Professional Relationship where one or both would like to be romantically involved but their professionalism prevents it.

Not to be confused with Just Friends where, despite saying they are strictly platonic, the friends are really not.

Could be Truth in Television.

NOTE: This is a love trope so there may be unhidden spoilers ahead.


Anime and Manga
  • Takatsuki and Saori from Hourou Musuko are mistaken for being boyfriend and girlfriend by their respective Stalkers with a Crush. This assumtion goes away when they learn Takatsuki's sex.

  • In Return of the Jedi Han Solo thinks that the love between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa is romantic. However, although their love probably was originally romantic, this changed when they found out they were siblings.


Live Action Television
  • Sherlock. The title character and John are Heterosexual Life-Partners but their obvious (though prickly) affection for each other is frequently mistaken for being romantic.
  • Doctor Who. Agatha Christie briefly mistakes the Doctor and Donna for a couple before pointing out that neither are wearing a wedding ring. This becomes a running joke throughout the season.
  • In the Black Books episode "The Blackout" Fran sees her boyfriend having dinner with another woman (who turns out to be his sister) and showing affection for her. She mistakes his love for romantic and sees an Imaginary Love Triangle.

Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • November 13, 2013
    I think we already have this covered. She Is Not My Girl Friend and Mistaken For Gay.

  • November 13, 2013
    I think this is a good trope, although it needs more examples. Here is one: In Star Wars: Episode VI: Revenge of the Sith. Han Solo thinks that the love between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa is romantic. However, although their love probably was originally romantic, this changed when they found out they were siblings.
  • November 13, 2013
    ^^ She Is Not My Girlfriend is more about someone taking offense because of UST between the two. So we don't have any direct trope for it, but I'm not... positive this would be distinct from Just Friends.
  • November 13, 2013
    ^ The way I read it, the Just Friends trope is more like "denial equals truth" and the more emphatically someone insists they are "just friends" the more they are really not just friends. Also, with Just Friends there is the possibility that the two could become (or are already) more than just friends, whereas in this trope that is not a possibility. I agree that Mistaken For Romance can overlap with the Just Friends trope but it often sidesteps it entirely.
  • November 13, 2013
    I'm pretty sure this is covered between:

  • November 13, 2013
    ^ It is acknowledged on the Just Friends page that it includes many other tropes, so perhaps Mistaken For Romance could be a sub-trope. But if you will read the "this can take many forms" part of the Just Friends page, it does not include the scenario that the friends will never be more than just friends due to a complete lack of interest in being romantically involved with each other on both parts.
  • November 13, 2013
    The Doctor/Donna example becomes a running joke throughout the season.
  • November 13, 2013
    Correction fo the spelling error in the last paragraph, it's "unbeknownst".

    Also, Everyone Can See It doesn't necessarily mean the people around them are right. I've seen more than a few instances where the romance was imagined, and never went beyond Just Friends. For example:

    • In Patlabor's OVA continuity, Noa and Asuma's teammates thought they might've had a relationship going, but they were just really good friends. And, in The Mobile Police/New Files continuity, they're still just friends, though there's a lot more onscreen chemistry between them. It only gets subverted near the end, during the final 2-3 episodes, which vaguely implies they might be on their way to becoming an actual couple.
  • November 13, 2013
    ^ My thanks, spelling is not my forte...
  • November 13, 2013
    Don't mention it. ^^;
  • November 13, 2013
  • November 14, 2013
    It's not mistaken when, as the laconics say, Just Friends? Yeah, right. or Everyone Can See It ...except the two people in love. When Everyone Can See It they are necessarily right. As the page says, 'On the other hand, sometimes this trope will be subverted by "everyone else" seeing feelings that just aren't there due to their Shipping instincts.' Like Just Friends, Strictly Professional Relationship is a Suspiciously Specific Denial. "These characters feel attracted to each other..."

    This is covered though by Relative Error, Like Brother And Sister, Platonic Life Partners, and Heterosexual Life Partners when Mistaken For Gay. Whenever a relationship is justifiably 'mistaken for romance' they're either good friends, family, non-romantic life partners.
  • November 14, 2013
    Italicized work names, de-Pot Holed the name of a work as per How To Write An Example - State the source and corrected an improper Example Indentation.
  • November 14, 2013
    ^^ For your first paragraph it would help if you told me which paragraph of the descrition you are talking about or what specifically you think I should change.

    As for your belief that this topic is already covered by the above-mentioned tropes when Mistaken For Gay, the word "gay" implies that the two friends are of the same gender and this instance does not, therefore, cover the full extent of this trope, which includes male/female friendships. In any case, if there are several tropes that sometimes but not always include a certain idea, then that idea is likely a possible stand-alone trope.
  • December 2, 2013
    From what I know Just Friends refers to people that say they're strictly platonic when they're not and Everyone Can See It refers to people who are mutually in love but not together formally.


    • Takatsuki and Saori from Hourou Musuko are mistaken for being boyfriend and girlfriend by their respective Stalker With A Crush's. This assumtion goes away when they learn Takatsuki's sex.
  • December 2, 2013
    Crisis of meaning much? =P

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