Howard: Wrong thing to say?
: Is it ever the right
thing to say?
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
. The listener usually takes this badly (Unlucky Childhood Friend
, Entitled to Have You
, "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.
- The War Against the Chtorr. After a huge domestic squabble between the protagonist Jim McCarthy and his Colonel Badass girlfriend, she starts to suggest this trope, only for Jim to cut her off, pointing out that whatever their relationship is, they can never "just be friends". So they get married instead.
- 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.
- Happens twice in Living Single to give closure to a couple failed relationships, once between Regine and her then-boyfriend Keith when he says that he hopes they can "still be friends", Regine quips that they can still be friends ... just not with each other. The second time it was between Overton and his ex-would-be-fiance Melody when she moves to New York to try and win him back, after being dismissed she expresses hope that they can still be friends, to which Overton replies "I believe it was Lord Byron who said, `The best way will be to avoid each other without appearing to do so.' Letter of April 25, 1814. Goodbye, girlie."
- The L Word. Played for Laughs when Jenny takes home another girl after her first lesbian crush, only to find that their awkward fumblings lack chemistry. Eventually the two girls blurt out this trope simultaneously.
- 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.
- 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.