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Mistaken For Romance
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 this 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 romantic (though in some cases there was the potential for it at some time in the past). Neither of the two friends have (or probably ever will have) any interest in the relationship becoming romantic, unlike in the Just Friends trope which requires this. However, 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 can overlap with Mistaken for Gay. Different to She Is Not My Girlfriend 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.

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.

Sometimes Truth in Television.

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


Anime & Manga

Comic Books
  • In Angel and Faith, after Giles' will made generous provision for Faith, his great-aunts come to stay. As Faith shows Sophronia to the master bedroom...
    Sophronia: How awkward. I just realised this must be where you and Rupert used to... well.
    Faith: What? I wasn't sleeping with him.
    Sophronia: No, of course not. Middle-aged men leave everything they own to young ladies out of fatherly affection.

  • 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.

  • Harry Potter. In The Deathly Hallows Ron sees Harry and Hermionie's affection, mistakes it for romantic and gets jealous. Later Harry reasures him:
    Harry: I love her like a sister and I reckon she feels the same way about me. It's always been like that.
    • This actually happens to Harry and Hermione a lot in the books; half of the fourth book is their respective romantic interests plus Rita Skeeter assuming they're together. And there are quite a few interactions that are more intimate than friendship would imply (the movies really didn't help). Many fans view it as a Relationship Writing Fumble. Eventually, the author herself publicly admitted as much.
  • The Raven Cycle. In the second book, 'The Dream Thieves,' local Bad Boy Kavinsky is convinced that Ronan's devotion to his friend, Gansey, must be romantic or sexual in nature. When Kavinsky accuses him of wanting Gansey, Ronan states that it's not like that and that Gansey is a brother to him, even more so than his real older brother.

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.

Visual Novels
  • Steins;Gate has three main characters guess that Okabe Rintarou and Shiina Mayuri are dating, a suggestion Mayuri responds to with confusion, and Okabe responds to with a flat denial. Though things have potential to progress in that direction, at the respective times of the guesses, neither of them think of each other that way.

Western Animation
  • Clarence. In "Pretty Great Day With A Girl" Belson and his friends think Clarence and Amy are hanging out because they're a couple when really they're just hanging out as friends.

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