Created By: BlueIceTea on September 28, 2013 Last Edited By: BlueIceTea on October 21, 2013

Love Confessor

A lover confesses his love to a third party, rather than to his beloved.

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Ned: What's the matter, Linda?
Linda: Nothing.
Ned: I know.
Linda: Yes?
Ned: Johnny.
Linda: Give me some more wine, Ned.
Linda: (Hesitates a moment.) I love the boy, Neddy!
Ned: I thought so.

A Love Confession is when a lover declares his love to his beloved. But sometimes the lover can't or won't tell the beloved. There are a few reasons this could be:

  • The beloved is unavailable for hearing the Love Confession.
  • The lover doesn't want his beloved to know how he feels.
  • The lover and/or the beloved are uncomfortable discussing their emotions — especially with each other!

There is, however, another option: The lover confesses his love to a third party. Instead of "I love you!" the confession becomes "I love her."

Dramatically, this serves a few different purposes. It lets the audience know what the lover's feelings are, and/or confirms that the lover is aware of their own feelings. It creates new dramatic potential, since the lover and the third party now share a secret that the beloved is not in on. Most importantly, it buys time for writers who want to delay the Love Confession till later.

Note that the lover must make their confession to another character; an inner monologue or soliloquy to the audience would be a Love Epiphany. Note also that the confession is made to a third party, instead of to the beloved. That means, at the time of the confession, the lover should not have revealed their feelings to the beloved. They may, of course, do so later. Or the third party may decide to take matters into their own hands.


Film - Live-Action
  • In Holiday, Linda quizzes her brother Ned about getting drunk. When he asks her what sorrow she is looking to drown, she confesses that she has just fallen in love with their sister Julia's fiancé. Ned advises her to act on her feelings, but Linda refuses to betray Julia.
  • Sort of happens between Liz and Dexter in both The Philadelphia Story and High Society. See the "Theatre" entry.

  • This is a major theme in Natsume Soseki's Meiji period novel Kokoro. K confesses his love for Ojosan to Sensei. Sensei discourages him and later proposes to Ojosan, leading to K's suicide.
  • This happens in the book The House of Hades. Nicohe and Jason need to retrieve a scepter from Cupid, but he won't let them have it unless Nico faces his crush on Percy. Nico is forced to confess his feelings in front of Jason.

Live-Action TV
  • In the Babylon 5 episode, "Ceremonies of Light and Dark", the crew hold a rebirth ceremony that partly involves confessing something they have never told anyone before:
    • Lennier makes his confession to Marcus Cole, telling him that he loves Delenn. The confession remains a secret between the two men.
    • Ivanova also chooses the same episode to confess her love for Talia to Delenn. Talia, being permanently out of the picture at this point, is unavailable to hear the confession.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Passion", Jenny Calendar tells Giles for the first time that she loves him. Because he's angry with her, Giles doesn't reciprocate, and because Miss Calendar dies at the end of the episode, he never has a chance to. Instead, we see him standing over her grave with Buffy, and telling her that of all the friends he's lost, "Jenny was the first I've loved."

  • A kind of weird, prevaricating version happens between Sandy and Liz in the stage version of The Philadelphia Story. Sandy asks Liz if she's in love with Mike. Liz doesn't answer directly, but when he goes on to ask why she doesn't marry him, she admits that she's waiting for him to grow up, and that she'd be very upset if another girl tried to claim him first. It's the clearest insight we get into Liz's feelings for Mike. The scene plays slightly differently in the 1940 film, but is preserved in the 1956 musical High Society (this time between Dexter and Liz).

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • September 28, 2013
    I assume this would cover pretty much any reason Alice would confess her love (for Bob) to Charles? There are quite a few reasons she could do this— it could be goaded out of her because Charles is suspicious, she could be desperately in need of telling SOMEONE, or it could be because Charles actually have evidence that it's true and coerces her into admitting it.
  • September 30, 2013
    Good question! The answer is, I'm not really sure. I wanted this to be more about telling a third party as a substitute for telling the beloved — rather than telling the third party because he/she has coerced it out of you. But I can see how it could be a tough distinction to draw.

    Here are a couple of examples I didn't think fit the trope:

    • In The Little Mermaid, the first time Ariel openly states her feelings for Eric is in an argument with her father. Triton is angry that she has saved the life of a human. Ariel retorts that she had to because she loves him.
    The confession isn't necessary to clarify Ariel's feelings; they're pretty obvious already. Nor does it provide Ariel with catharsis. In terms of the plot, its main purpose is to inflame her father's wrath and lead to the fight that precipitates Ariel's visit to Urusula.
    • In Mr Deeds Goes To Town, Jean Arthur's character confesses her love for he hero while being cross-examined at his trial. The lawyer argues that any testimony she might give in support of Deeds is suspect because she is obviously in love with him. He badgers her until she admits her feelings.
    Although the confession is technically made to the attorney, Deeds is right there listening to it, and it obviously matters much more to him than to the lawyer.

    If I could get some more examples, maybe we could talk about which ones do/don't fit and why, and I could write a better definition.
  • September 30, 2013
    • The Beatles: In the song "She Loves You", "She" tells the singer that she loves "You", who is being sung to.
  • September 30, 2013
    " I wanted this to be more about telling a third party as a substitute for telling the beloved — rather than telling the third party because he/she has coerced it out of you. But I can see how it could be a tough distinction to draw."

    Eh, I would agree of multiple reasonings myself.
  • September 30, 2013
    ^^^ instead of using quote markeup to make a second paragraph, use colons. Two colons = one star worth of indentation.

    • Here's a first paragraph.
    And Here's a second starting with two colons.
  • September 30, 2013
    Standard "Please don't use an Alice And Bob example in your description as doing so violates Example As A Thesis'' warning.
  • October 1, 2013
    ^^^^ Ah-ha. That would actually be the inverse of this trope: Charles tells Bob that Alice loves him, rather than Alice telling Charles that she loves Bob. Not saying it's not a trope. But it's not this one.

    ^^ Thanks. Doesn't help much with the trope, but good to know.

    ^ Er, okay. I only wrote it that way because so many other pages do. I can always change it later.

    Examples? Anyone?
  • October 1, 2013
    ^ eh, "Charles telling Bob that Alice loves him" is also, by definition, a "third party love confession" - with third party as the broker, instead of the confession sink.

    I guess the role of the third party here can be numerous, so as to make "types" of this trope.
  • October 3, 2013
    *shrug* I guess we could do that. If we had, you know, some examples to work with...
  • October 3, 2013
    In fact I've seen more of the examples of the third party being the broker. Cannot bring up one for now, tho...
  • October 3, 2013
    For starters:

    Do we not have a trope for that yet? You're right; it certainly seems to be more common. If we don't have it, it should totally be called She Loves You.
  • October 3, 2013
    ^^^^^ In "She Loves You", the girl does tell the unnamed singer about her love for her boyfriend.

    It's you she's thinking of
    And she told me what to say.
    She says she loves you
    And you know that can't be bad.

  • October 3, 2013
    ^^Much Ado also has a subversion(??) where people talk about Beatrice and Benedick where the other can overhear, saying that the other loves them. (i.e., Don Pedro & Claudio talk about Beatrice confessing to loving Benedick where Benedick can overhear.) But neither one made this love confession to anyone.

    Also, She Loves You would violate "no trope names that sound like dialog."
  • October 4, 2013
    @ Blue Ice Tea: should be noted that the broker may be either:
    • willing to tell the crush about the crushee's love at the request of the crushee
    • blackmailing to tell the crush about the crushee's love in exchange of something (especially in a "forbidden love" setting or if the crushee is just so shy)
    • telling it to the crush behind the crushee's back

    So yeah, splitting (or rather, making a new one) may be possible. This trope would be then called "Confession Sink" while for the one you propose, I suggest "Confession Broker". Third Party Love Confession would be a disambig (or supertrope) to the two.
  • October 4, 2013
    ^^^ I suppose that's true, though I still think "She Loves You" is a better fit for the proposed trope rather than the current one.

    ^^ It might violate the "rules", but it would be short, easy to search for, and easy to understand.

    I'll add Much Ado About Nothing as a subversion of this trope. It could also be a weird variation on the proposed trope, since Benedick and Beatrice are meant to overhear the conversations. Or is that another trope all together...?

    Remind me, are Beatrice and Benedick actually supposed to have confessed their love, or merely left tell-tale signs? Because it doesn't count unless it's an open confession.

    ^ Gah! This is getting complicated. I, too, think we're dealing with at least two (related) tropes here. I actually really like Love Confession Broker (I think we need "love" in there to avoid ambiguity) and Love Confession Sink as names. If someone else wants to create the Love Confession Broker YKTTW, I'll lend a hand with it, but I'm not up for doing it all myself.
  • October 4, 2013
    "an inner monologue or soliloquy to the audience does not count."

    That'll be Love Epiphany, just saying.

    @ Blue Ice Tea: yeah, maybe you can make that one? Agree that we need the world "love" there.

  • October 5, 2013
    ^^Hmm...I just skimmed the relevant parts of Much Ado and it isn't clear that either B or B (allegedly) told anyone of their love or just behaved as they were in love, including talking to themselves/shouting to the world at large. Argal not a definite example, argal I withdraw the suggestion.
  • October 6, 2013
    What about Love Confessor? You know, "confessor" as in the priest who hears a confession? A bit more succinct than "Confession Sink". Don't know what the sister trope would be called, though. Love Messenger? Love Informant? Or just Love Broker?
  • October 6, 2013
    Okay, I've created this YKTTW for the sister trope.

    I've also created this one for another trope that applies to Much Ado About Nothing.
  • October 7, 2013
    I guess we agreed to add the "Love" to the title, otherwise it'd be confused with any kind of confession... (especially in the court.) Same goes with the other trope.
  • October 7, 2013
    I confuse "Confessor" for "Someone who confess", but seeing Blue Ice Tea's post clears it.
  • October 7, 2013
    Yeah, the word has multiple definitions, but "priest who hears a confession" is one of them.
  • October 10, 2013
    Okay, I like the title; I think the description makes sense; and I've come up with a handful of examples. Would anyone else like to weigh in on any of those things? Or can I start bothering you for hats?
  • October 11, 2013

    That said, moar examples plz.
  • October 11, 2013
    Did somebody say classic Japanese literature example?

    This is a major theme in Natsume Soseki's Meiji period novel Kokoro. K confesses his love for Ojosan to Sensei. Sensei discourages him and later proposes to Ojosan, leading to K's suicide.
  • October 15, 2013
  • October 16, 2013
    In the book The House of Hades this happens to Nicohe and Jason need to retrieve a scepter from Cupid, but he won't let them have it unless Nico faces his crush on Percy so he forces a confession out of him, in front of Jason.
  • October 17, 2013
    I've added a page quote. I really like it, but if anyone wants to suggest a different one, now would be the time.
  • October 21, 2013