Jes: How about this, you pay for cable and you get one night a week with Ian.When a character's best friend (possibly a Heterosexual Life-Partner) and the Love Interest have a rivalry over "ownership" of the third party. Oh, the dilemma! Generally, Hilarity Ensues, except when the friend is poisonous, the love interest is clingy or psycho-possessive. One or both might decide to Murder the Hypotenuse, leaving the other a Cassandra Truth. Less murderously, both start a secret war for the affection and attention of the third party, trying to slander the other while seeming innocent. By the end one or the other usually reveals they were less than ideal as a friend or lover and get cropped out of the picture. When it doesn't come to blows, they either reconcile their differences... or draw up a "custody" contract that is ludicrously complicated. On occasion, the third party will call them out over being treated like a commodity... before being shushed so the grownups can talk. When the third party manages to put their foot down, they might manage to mediate a solution. However if both descend far enough in this petty politicking, the third party may well dump them both as an incentive to make them get over themselves. Fandom often comes up with its own, sexier, solution to the dilemma. For some reason, the third party is usually a guy, the love interest a girl, and the friend another guy. Only rarely are the gender roles switched. See also Yoko Oh No, when fans dislike a new lover. If the friend in question also happened to be the character's former lover then The Missus and the Ex applies instead. Compare Friendship Favoritism.
Dom: Tempting, but you're lowballing me.
Ian: As the commodity being traded, do I get any say in this matter?
Jes & Dom: No.
Ian: (Puppy-Dog Eyes)
Dom: Tempting, but you're lowballing me.
Ian: As the commodity being traded, do I get any say in this matter?
Jes & Dom: No.
Ian: (Puppy-Dog Eyes)
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- The Lion King: Although the song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" is mostly just a romantic montage between Simba and Nala, it begins and ends with Timon and Pumbaa, Simba's best friends, lamenting the fact that they will lose him if he goes back to the Pridelands.
- The Lion King 1˝ takes this further, revealing that they actually tried to sabotage the budding romance, but being Timon and Pumbaa, everything they did just backfired.
Anime & Manga
- In Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts, Shoko (the love interest) thinks she and Akihisa (the best friend) are in this for Yuuji's affection. In reality, Akihisa doesn't see her like this and is willing to sell Yuuji out so he can win this competition against her.
- Code Geass: In all of a moment, the relationship between Shirley (love interest) and Rolo (clingy surrogate brother) becomes this when Shirley mentions wanting to get Lelouch back together with Nunnally, which causes Rolo, who can't stand the thought of not being Lelouch's only sibling, and promptly ends things by killing Shirley.
- Yui and Tamahome over Miaka in Fushigi Yuugi (because Yui has a crush on Tamahome, too, and wants him for herself).
- In Pandora Hearts, Gilbert and Alice frequently fight over Oz's attention. Given a good amount of ambiguity on the feelings of both parts, it's debatable which of them is supposed to be the best friend and the lover.
- Servant × Service has this with Taishi and his sister Touko. He mentions that his girlfriends usually break up with him right before Christmas. Chihaya suggests that this might be because he celebrates Touko's birthday (which falls on Christmas eve) rather than spending time with his girlfriend on Christmas Eve.
- In Skip Beat!, Ren (mutual crush) and Moko (best friend) sometimes act like this towards Kyoko. On Kyoko's birthday, they were secretly trying to figure out who could get her a better present. Well, it's one-sided on Moko's part, but still.
- In Tiger & Bunny, reading between the lines will enable you to see the antagonism between Karina (love interest hopeful) and Barnaby (partner and close friend) over Kotetsu — especially noticeable in post-timeskip episodes and heavier on Karina's end than Barnaby's. It's lampshaded by Word of God note and in the 2nd drama CD; but since Kotetsu has yet to so much as consider Karina's potential to be his girlfriend, an out-and-out feud was averted.
- This happens in Tomodachi no Hanashi: Narugami ends up falling for Eiko, whose best friend Moe dislikes, or at least distrusts. She gives herself the task of finding out whether Narugami is really into her or taking advantage of her kindness, and consequently they end up clashing a lot.
- UQ Holder! has an odd, one-person variation: Kuromaru clearly has some sort of feelings towards Touta. The problem is that Kuromaru is a type of being with No Biological Sex until he turns 16, at which point he chooses to be either biologically male or female. He currently identifies as male, but is rather clearly conflicted as to whether he wants to stay male, making his relationship with Touta something of a Bash Brothers thing, or become a girl and make the relationship more romantic in nature.
- Played for Laughs in Archie Comics, with an unexpected conclusion. Archie tries to take Veronica out to a movie, while discussing Jughead seemingly getting too attached to Archie. The couple thought they have lost Jug, only to run back into him when they were at the theater. An argument rises up, and all three were kicked out because of the commotion. Archie makes up an excuse to get away from both of them, and when out of earshot he feels nothing but woe over being popular. The twist is that, when Archie sneaked back in order to take a look at what's happening between Veronica and Jughead, thinking that they're still fighting over him, only to find out that they decided to go on a date with each other, effectively dumping Archie.
- Sometimes Jughead gets into a fight with Betty over Archie, but usually Jughead will team up with Betty against Veronica because, unlike Veronica, Betty is willing to share Archie with him!
- The Pokémon fanfic A Pikachu in Love forces this on Pikachu. He has to decide whether or not he wants to stick with Ash, who he'll never have a true friendship with due to being a Pokemon, and the possiblity that Ash might leave him one day once he grows up, or Pichi, his new found love who, besides also being a Pikachu, has a lot in common with him, and is able to openly communicate with due to them both being Pokemon.
- You know what? Forget any specific story — the fan authors on the whole tend to do this really often with Ash, Pikachu, and whoever one or the other of them is being shipped with.
- A very interesting take on this concept forms the crux of the conflict in Racer and the Geek. It's interesting because the protagonist isn't the one who has to make the choice.
- In many South Park fanfics, the gang is in junior high or high school and Stan is dating Wendy or has a great shot at dating Wendy. However, one condition of Wendy's is that Stan must stop hanging out with Kyle, his super best friend. Most of these fics can be either Stan/Kyle slash or just mere friendship fics.
- In Chasing Amy, Banky gets super bent out of shape when his best friend and comic publishing partner, Holden, starts hanging out with a fellow comic book writer Alyssa (who's a lesbian but so what?), and eventually starts dating her, MUCH to Banky's disapproval. Holden (who's also uncomfortable with how experienced his new girlfriend is) decides to kill two birds with one stone by suggesting a threesome, which makes BOTH other characters turn their backs on him.
- The plot of A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner! is about Timmy having to choose between remaining a kid so he can keep his fairy godparents or growing up so he can pursue a relationship with Tootie.
- My Best Friend's Wedding had this, with a little overlap in Love Triangle. Julianne and Michael made a marriage vow that, as best friends, if neither was married at age 28 they would marry each other. When Michael tells her he's marrying Kimberly, she panics and does her best (worst?) to break them up so she doesn't end up a spinster.
- Pretty in Pink has two of these: Ducky/Andie/Blaine and Blaine/Andie/Steff - the latter with the twist that Steff also tries to get together with Andie, leaving him barely any time or energy for his supposed actual girlfriend, or exuding general predatoriness.
- The 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie has the tension between Mary (who's willing to share) and Holmes (who isn't) both wanting Watson at its center.
- Replace the "friendship" side of the equation with "adoptive familial relationship" and you have Jean Valjean, Marius and Cosette in Les Misérables.
- Jeeves spends a lot of the Jeeves and Wooster stories getting Bertie out of romantic entanglements. This is mostly because Bertie wouldn't be happy with the type of girls he attracts anyway, and often ends up engaged by accident; however, this trope is clearly in play as well.
- Sparhawk (from the The Elenium trilogy by David Eddings) has gotten this treatment more than once. A dedicated member of the Church Militant, his wife basically negotiated with the church head to get his hand in marriage, and on numerous later occasions, when someone has needed his services in his area of expertise ('saving the world from Evil Gods', mostly) they have had to negotiate with his wife to 'borrow' him. And yes, he even used the "Don't I get a say in the matter?" line. With the predictable result.
- Justified, since Sparhawk is also the Prince Cosort and Champion of Elenia under command of his wife the Queen, and for political reasons she can't let the Church order her husband around while ignoring her authority.
- Harry Potter: Snape and Lily weren't dating, but he does love her. What caused the fallout of was his friendship with future Death Eaters like Mulciber and Avery. Beyond influencing his idealogies, it caused a strain with Lily's other friends, wondering why she was a friend with him. Word of God is that if he could, he'd have done things differently and that had he given them up, there was a good chance they'd end up together. Instead, she ends up with his adversary and rival, James Potter.
Live Action TV
- On Awkward., Matty is secretly dating Jenna and comes across a problem when his best friend, Jake, develops a crush on her.
- In an episode of Boy Meets World, one of Shawn's girlfriends gets so sick of Shawn spending more time with Cory than with her that she bans him from seeing Cory any more. The show being what it is, Shawn and Cory promptly resort to sneaking around and concocting elaborate lies to secretly spend stolen moments with each other behind the girlfriend's back, stereotypical of an affair between a married man and his impatient mistress (the episode title is even "An Affair to Forget"), with Cory becoming rabidly insecure and jealous of the girlfriend and begging Shawn to dump her and be with him instead, and Shawn trying and failing to resist the temptation to meet up with Cory, voicing highly romanticized descriptions of how it feels to be separated from him. Obviously, Shawn winds up dumping his girlfriend for Cory in the end.
- Shawn and Topanga have a similar tiff over Cory later in the series, during which Topanga insinuates that Cory loves Shawn more than he loves her and makes numerous quips painting Shawn as a homewrecker, while Shawn is jealous and hurt that Cory consistently blows off their friendship to be with Topanga. It's eventually resolved when Shawn concedes defeat, while Topanga realizes that she and Cory work better as a couple when Shawn steals him away periodically.
- Buffy had Willow, who was Xander's best friend since kindergarten, and Anya, his girlfriend, occasionally clashing over him in Season 5.
You have known him since you were squealing infants together. You will always know him better than I do!
- Buffy's influence over Riley Finn causes resentment among his military buddies, particularly Forrest.
- Dawson's Creek started out with Jen/Dawson/Joey, and when that went the way of Aborted Arcs, Pacey/Joey/Dawson.
- In EastEnders, Roxy and Syed are not fans of each other at all, much to Christian's dismay.
- Wash and Mal in Firefly.
Wash: I mean, I'm the one she swore to love, honor and obey.Mal Listen—... She swore to obey?Wash: Well, no, not... But that's just my point! You she obeys! She obeys you! There's obeying going on, right under my nose!Mal: Look, Zoe and I have a history. She trusts me.Wash: What's that supposed to mean?Mal: Don't mean a thing, but you're making out like she blindly follows my every word. That ain't true!Wash: Sure it is!Mal: Not so. There's plenty orders of mine that she didn't obey.Wash: Name One!Mal: She married you!
- This was the central plot of the Frasier season 10 finale, where Frasier's best friend Roz absolutely despises his new girlfriend Julia and believes that she is a terrible match for Frasier, to the point of telling Frasier she's evil and has him brainwashed, telling Julia to her face that she's not good enough for Frasier, trying to sabotage the relationship by trying to trick Julia into thinking Frasier's two-timing her, cornering her and telling her to stay away from Frasier or else, and even threatening her with physical violence. In the end, after Frasier refuses to listen to her pleas to take her advice and dump Julia, Roz point-blank tells him that "It's her or me, Frasier, tell me now or I swear to God I will walk out that door and I will not come back." The whole debacle ends in a rather nasty deconstruction of the trope: instead of reading this as a difficult choice between an old friend and his trust in her advice, and a new lover and his belief in her worthiness, Frasier is (quite understandably) so outraged by Roz's meddling that he impulsively chooses Julia in a fit of pique and Roz does walk out of his life (though they make up next season).
- It happpens a few times in Friends, like Joey choosing between Phoebe (friend) and Ursula (lover) and Ross choosing between Rachel (friend who has still feelings for him) and Emily (lover who tells him he doesn't have to see Rachel anymore).
- Happens in House almost every time Wilson gets a girlfriend. The current one is fighting a secret war with House to see who'll win in the long term...
- When Wilson was with Amber, House actually did come up with a 'custody contract,' which Amber reluctantly agreed to and later added 'penalty clauses' to.
- Ted and Lily on How I Met Your Mother occasionally had this kind of conflict over Marshall, but tended to act out their possessive and jealous impulses on Marshall rather than each other (partly because they themselves were really good friends as well). On Ted's side, this came to a head in the episode "The Duel", where Ted panics that Marshall will abandon him and strikes back at this perceived encroachment on his territory by demanding that Marshall give him the apartment, which quickly devolves into a major argument and a frickin' sword duel between the two. They make up quickly though, partly because the sword duel was just that awesome.
- The episode "How Lily Stole Christmas" hinges on a variation of this conflict between Ted and Lily. Lily thinks Ted has been mad at her for hurting Marshall when she ran off to San Francisco and that since Marshall has now forgiven her, Ted should too. Turns out he is still mad, but more because she was also supposed to be his friend too, but never even called Ted during her absence. She had apologized to Marshall, but not to her other friend she left behind (the one who had to clean up the mess she made of Marshall by leaving)
- iCarly had an episode where Sam started dating a guy and repeatedly blew Carly and Freddie off as a result.
- Another episode had Sam as the third wheel when, dateless on the night of a dance, she seeks out Carly and Freddie only to be dejected to find them having a romantic moment together. Whether or not that was this trope or another one was left ambiguous.
- This ended up happening to Carly herself when Sam and Freddie briefly dated.
- An episode of Men Behaving Badly dealt with this (It was even titled "Your Mate Vs. Your Bird").
- Notable for its aversion in Merlin. Arthur and Merlin are Heterosexual Life-Partners, but when Guinevere starts to catch Arthur's attention, Merlin couldn't be more delighted. This poses quite a problem for the slashers considering Merlin and Guinevere are Like Brother and Sister, and more often than not it is Merlin encouraging Gwen to spend time with Arthur.
- Merlin even takes on a Die for Our Ship mentality toward anyone who looks as though they're a possible Love Interest for either of them.
- The only time this is averted is when Merlin is brainwashed and plans on killing Arthur. There are scenes between Gwen and Merlin arguing over who gets to serve Arthur lunch.
- Sean, Christian and Julia on Nip/Tuck have gone a few rounds on this.
- Sometimes touched on (and usually Played for Laughs) in Scrubs, especially with JD/Turk/Carla, but it usually ends up that they're all okay with it.
- Played for Drama when Turk, after finding out JD and Carla kissed, decided that in order for him to get over it, he had to choose one of them to be angry at for a while. He chose Carla, giving her the "Silent Treatment".
- Occurred once between JD/Elliot/Turk. The episode ended with JD declaring he loved her more than Turk, which was very hard for him to say.
- Season 1 had a rivalry between Elliot and JD's girlfriend Alex. Alex, a social worker working at the hospital, has a problem with Elliot who has noticed some drugs have gone missing and suspects a patient who is a former addict. Turk tells him in a situation like that it doesn't matter who is wrong and the smartest move would be to side with the person he wants to sleep with; but even though he and Elliot are just friends, he's falling in love with her. He sides with Alex, and Elliot gets angry with him, but he breaks up with Alex when he finds out she's the one stealing the meds.
- In Smallville, Clark is often this between Chloe and Lana, though almost entirely in the first half of the show. While the girls are usually fairly mature about it, it is further complicated by Chloe's teenaged desire to be more than just friends than Clark and Lana's temporary attraction to Lex. Luckily, Chloe grows out of it and becomes Platonic Life Partners with him instead. Lana is Put on a Bus, all while Clark gradually begins realizing that his friendship with a certain Lois Lane may have something deeper than just friendship to it...
- On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Bashir and Keiko occasionally have this sort of conflict over O'Brien.
- An early episode of the original Battlestar Galactica has Starbuck lamenting the fact that he's going to be "losing" his best friend to Serena when Apollo marries her. Apollo smiles and says how much he appreciates Starbuck's friendship. Tragically, Serena is killed in a battle with the Cylons shortly after the wedding.
- Finding Carter: A dark version of this appears, when Carter dates bad boy Crash, who her best friend Max hates. It leads to a horrible moment where a fugitive Crash gets jealous of Max's relationship with Carter, and ends up accidentally shooting him. Carter not only dumps him, but gets him arrested.
- Rom Com Gavin and Stacey has this in spades, with newlywed Essex boy Gavin Shipman discovers his marriage to Stacey West has really upset the dynamic of his best friend Smithy, who feels put out, neglected and abandoned by his buddy, and isn't shy about indicating this.
- This happened in an old Bloom County strip. Cutter John was with his animal friends when his girlfriend came over and borrowed him for an extended interlude. His friends were rather indignant at this.
- In Garfield, after Jon started dating Liz, Garfield felt jealous of her, but eventually got over it.
- The Merchant of Venice has two cases:
- In the main plot, Bassanio's friendship with Antonio versus his romantic relationship with Portia. This is an extremely mild case, but is often played up for the sake of drama in performance.
- In the subplot, Lorenzo is in love with Jessica, and Launcelot is Jessica's friend, who acts as go-between delivering their love letters and helping them to carry out their elopement. All three characters aren't seen together until very late in the play, when Jessica is married to Lorenzo; at this point they've clearly become a case of this trope, with Lorenzo joking that he's jealous of Launcelot and the two proceeding to rank each other out.
- In Catherine, there is a question in the confessional that asks this. Choosing "Lover" leans you towards the Lawful side on the Karma Meter; choosing "Friend" leans you towards the Chaotic side.
- In Disgaea 4, Fenrich and Vulcanus are frequently at odds with each other in regards to Valvatorez. Then again, the game tosses around enough hints to suggest that it might just be a straight-up Love Triangle.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Antimony is jealous of Alistair who strikes it off so well with Kat. The whole argument gets negated when Aly reveals that he must leave at the end of the week, and any hopes of his return are dashed first by the fact that he turns into a bird, permanently, and second by the incredibly depressing line, "And she never saw him again."
- A playful version where both the friend and the lover are female appears in this Questionable Content strip.
- Something*Positive: One of Eva's issues in her relationship with Davan was that two of his best friends were women. That his relationships to Aubrey and PeeJee were entirely platonic was something she could never really grasp.
- In The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball is dating his love Penny following "The Shell". However, his adopted brother and best friend Darwin doesn't tolerate this since Gumball is spending more time with her than him so he tries to break them apart in "The Bros". However it is one-sided since Penny catches on and actually helps to repair the friendship between Gumball and Darwin by doing a wedding-like ceremony in the name of The Bro Code.
- In Dan Vs., poor Chris is treated like the rope in a game of tug of war between Dan and Elise. Being a Nice Guy, Chris can't say no to either of them, so they usually have to sort it out between themselves.
- Daria often featured this with Daria and Jane's relationship with Tom—as in, each girl got to be the third wheel when Tom dated both in successive years.
- In Feast, Winston the dog isn't happy when his owner's new girlfriend tries to improve both their eating habits, and the flow of junk food Winston is used to turns into Brussels sprouts.
- Played with in Gravity Falls—Lil' Gideon is obsessed with Mabel Pines, but perceives her twin brother Dipper as standing in the way of their relationship. Gideon's solution is to Murder the Hypotenuse.
- Also, in two seperate episodes, Dipper is forced to choose whether or not to improve his standing with his Precocious Crush Wendy Corduroy at the cost of Mabel's happiness. Both times he ultimately chooses not to.
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy's Poisonous Friend Beezy and his Yandere Heloise are constantly at war for his attention. The only reason they remotely tolerate each other is to stay around Jimmy.
- Kid vs. Kat presents a passive, one-sided example with Coop's Action Girlfriend Fiona and his HeterosexualLifePartner Dennis. Dennis initially dislikes Fiona because she unintentionally distracts Coop from his usual "defeat Kat" plans, and because Coop spends more time with her than with him. However he warms up to her in later episodes, even saving her from Coop's Yandere Stalker with a Crush Phoebe in "Birthday Bashed".
- Kim Possible: In "Stop Team Go", Shego is temporarily turned good and becomes the best of friends with Kim, leaving Kim's boyfriend and sidekick Ron feeling left out. Of course, things are back to normal before the credits roll.
- Invoked on King of the Hill—Joseph is getting close to a girl, and Bobby is reluctant to hang out with them because he feels like a third wheel. However, Nancy and Peggy find out that the girl is actually Joseph's half-sister, so Peggy encourages Bobby to "fight for his place" in the group. Since he's always hanging around them, they never get a chance to hook up.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has Shaggy caught between Scooby and Velma. It's largely his own fault, though: he blamed his own fear of going public with their relationship on Scooby even though Scooby already knew and seemed to approve... until Shaggy tried sneaking off to prom without telling Scooby what was going on, seemingly ditching him in the process. Then he actually started disapproving of the relationship.
- In Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, it was between Peter and Talon. As Spider-Man, he knows Talon's identity and was weary of her when Harry started dating her. Of course, he couldn't say anything without revealing his secret.
- In X-Men: Evolution between Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) and Lance Alvers (Avalanche) about Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat). Brought Up to Eleven in some fanfics.