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 and Manga
  • Takatsuki and Saori from Hourou Musuko are mistaken for being boyfriend and girlfriend by their respective Stalkers with a Crush. This assumtion goes away when they learn Takatsuki's sex.
  • In Kannazuki no Miko, Chikane and Souma are the two most popular students at their school and everyone, including the main character Himeko, thinks they are the perfect match for each other and must definitely be dating. In reality, there is nothing going on between them and both are interested in Himeko, and Himeko ends up with Chikane.
  • Noel and Sasa from Mint Na Bokura are considered the Official Couple of the class since they hang out all the time. Nobody except Noel's sister knows that Noel is a boy.

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.

Fan Works
  • In Disney High School, Kuzco and Jasmine are friends. Kuzco does not seem to have any real romantic interest in Jasmine, but flirts with her and calls her his girlfriend anyway, For the Lulz. Thus Jasmine keeps having to remind people they're not together, and Aladdin is even more convinced that he has no shot with her. At one point, Belle and Milo are happily chatting about books, leading to a Funny Background Event where Adam is marching over to kill him, except that his own platonic friend, Kida, is fighting to hold him back.

  • 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.

  • This happens to Harry and Hermione a few times throughout the Harry Potter books.
    • 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.
    • Invoked/Exploited in The Goblet of Fire by Rita Skeeter who publishes a rather nasty article that outright states (read: lies) that they had been in a relationship, causing everyone to believe they are, even Ron's mum.
  • 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. Though he was right about Ronan having a crush on one of his male friends. He just guessed the wrong one.

Live-Action Television
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.