Howard: Wrong thing to say?
: Is it ever the right thing?
Yeah, that's about how it works.
A standard breakup line, commonly used in Real Life
. One member of a couple suggests to the other that their romantic attachment end and they stay Better as Friends
. This is usually taken badly (Unlucky Childhood Friend
, "friend zone", etc.). The speaker may or may not actually wish to be friends, or indeed ever have contact with their ex again, but wants to spare the other's feelings in any case.
See Just Friends
for a type of Romance Arc
that the Let's Just Be Friends
line can be used to end
- Older Than Print: This actually occurs in Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde (Criseyde's Dear John letter, after she has dumped him for Diomede).
- In Anne of Green Gables, This is basically the line Anne Shirley hands her childhood friend Gilbert Blythe when he asks her to marry him. Twice. She comes around eventually.
- In one of the The Baby-Sitters Club books, this line was finally used to end the Kristy/Bart romance when it becomes clear to Kristy that Bart wants much more from the relationship than she does.
- Gideon says this to Gwyneth in The Ruby Red Trilogy. She thought he was going to apologize for being a jerk and doesn't take it very well.
- Defied in Youth in Sexual Ecstasy, the Lady Killer In Love protagonist is outright told by his love interest that she prefers to be his friend first before getting into a relationship with him; the protagonist at first thinks that he is being friendzoned and is about to protest, but then he reconsiders and thinks "True Love knows how to wait", needless to say he does end up with the girl.
- In Smallville, Vortex, Chloe breaks up with Clark like this because she knows he is still crazy over Lana.
- One Seinfeld episode begins with Elaine telling Jerry how she broke up with this guy using this line- and he was actually OK with it. He wants to be friends with her until the end of the episode, and acts nice accordingly. She's puzzled by this attitude, even though as Jerry notes, their friendship started the exact same way.
- Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is devastated when Drusilla dumps him for a demon and says they can "still be friends". As he sobs to Willow, "How could she be so cruel? She didn't even set me on fire!"
- Naomi tries this very line with Emily in Skins (not because she doesn't want their relationship, but because she's terrified of it); Emily's response is "we say that, don't we?". It lasts all of about twenty seconds before Emily breaks her defences down with the Armor Piercing "I'll miss you."
- In the How I Met Your Mother episode "The Rough Patch," when Barney and Robin realize that they are not good as a couple, Robin says what really sucks is that they can't be friends anymore. Barney says to think of it not as a couple splitting up, but two friends who managed to find each other again.
- In Dilbert, a woman says this line to the title character. Disappointed that he simply agrees, with no emotional reaction, she progressively ups the ante, first to "friends with other people. You and I would just be acquaintances," then to acquaintances that couldn't actually become friends, like "my ex-butler whom I fired for stealing stuff." When this still fails to get a reaction beyond "Okay," the woman wonders to herself what's going on, while Dilbert thinks, "Good, it seems the window of opportunity is still slightly open."
- In the intro movie of Sam & Max Hit the Road, the titular cop duo save a Mad Scientist's date from being zapped after she tells him she wants to just be friends.
- In Mass Effect 2 this is the gist of FemShep's conversation with Jacob Taylor if she breaks up with him. It includes words to the effect that they wouldn't work because they're too much alike.
- X-Universe: The trope is used, minus the Stock Phrase, in the backstory of X: Beyond the Frontier (see the novelization X: Farnham's Legend and the X-Encyclopedia). At one point a few years prior to the start of the game Kyle Brennan and his close friend Elena Kho became trapped in a disabled patrol ship in the outer solar system and ended up sleeping together. After their rescue they decided not to pursue the Relationship Upgrade, though they wondered for many years after if it'd been the right call.
- Sluggy Freelance has Torg and Zoe's attempt at dating end with Zoe deciding they should just stick to being friends (a deranged, trained assassin Stalker with a Crush showing up to kidnap Torg had a lot to do with that, though).
- In Misfile, Emily goes on a date with someone in Cape Cod. He gives her the "let's just be friends" speech at the end, saying that he noticed that she wasn't really interested in him. But then he reveals that he thinks he's gay, or at least he's fallen for his male friend. Emily tells him that she thinks she's fallen for her (currently female) friend Ash, too.
- In Homestuck (or more accurately Hivebent), Feferi to Eridan after he finally spits it out upon their entrance to the Medium.
- And then Jake to Jane after she denies having feelings for him and he says that he really needs a friend right now. Unfortunately, Jane was lying.
- In Sinfest, Fuschia anticipates it.
- In Blaster Nation, Matt falls into this.
- Takes the form of a visual gag in Ozy and Millie when Stephanie turns down Stephan: A heavy weight labeled "Let's be friends" falls on him.
- In El Goonish Shive, Sarah turns this line into a verb when she tells Nanase of her intention to break up with Elliot.
- In The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Lady Tottington asks Wallace if they can "part as friends" after Wallace fails to catch the Were-Rabbit. He's actually turning into the Were-Rabbit at that exact moment and tries to shut the door in her face. She doesn't take it very well.
- In the Batman Beyond episode "Terry's Friend Dates a Robot", one of Terry's nerdy friends named Howard gets a robot girlfriend that's ''too'' devoted to him. When Howard uses this line on her, it does not go well, Terry even Facepalms when Howard says it.
- Tony states this to Whitney after they had been dating for a few episodes mostly because he kept missing their dates. Probably one of the few times where they both agree to this and show no hard feelings about it.