: (As Agent 99 tries to kiss him on the cheek while in the middle of CONTROL headquarters)
99, no one at Control knows we're dating. Chief
: (walking past with a piece of cake.) Yes, they do.
Two characters suddenly wind up in a relationship together and decide to keep it a secret from everyone. The reason can be perfectly solid, e.g. one of them is the other's boss, but just as often it can be an ill-defined "I'm not ready for them to know" excuse. They remain awkwardly but successfully concealed for several episodes, speaking in Unusual Euphemisms
, constantly leaving to Talk About That Thing
and generating many a Fawlty Towers Plot
— basically put, behaving in such a manner that requires all other characters to juggle the Idiot Ball
Eventually they will be found out. This is not a variable — the Secret Relationship
is made to be discovered. The only variation is when, how, and whether everyone finds out at once or just one or two people find out at first and have to help keep the secret until everyone else finds out. A common humorous scenario is that everyone knows, but doesn't care; or people think it's funny watching them scramble to hide.
This can also be played for drama. Two people might be good friends, while aware that their parents, or the outside world, wouldn't approve of their friendship. In an attempt to prevent that from being discovered, the friends do everything they can to hide it, but sooner or later, hell will break loose. Romeo and Juliet
may be the most well-known variation of this.
Naturally, a necessary precaution when Dating Catwoman
Spoilers ahoy, readers, beware!
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Anime & Manga
- Marmalade Boy:
- Meiko and Shinichi aka Nachan because he's her teacher. While Yuu finds out early on, the rest of the cast doesn't until they're caught and it becomes a scandal.
- Later, Miki and Yuu get tangled up in one because they're stepsiblings and Miki's mother Rumi warned her not to fall in love with Yuu in the first place. She was actually joking, and once they tell the parents, they accept it. (It's handled differently in each media, though). Also, the original ending planned (as mentioned in the mangaka's afterword in the last tankoubon) was that Miki and Yuu were half-brother and -sister and stopped dating, moving onto college. But the mangaka decided to change it when told by her editors that it was crazy.
- The premise of Please Teacher!, where Mizuho and Kei are married even though she's his teacher. She's also an alien, but that's treated as a much less dangerous secret.
- Nanao and Matsumoto from Junsui Adolescence keep their relationship secret due to it being a taboo Girls Love Teacher/Student Romance. Their friend Hanada-sensei figures it out regardless.
- Ai Yori Aoshi's leads- Kaoru Hanabishi and Aoi Sakuraba- have an Arranged Marriage from way back when and are very much in love, but Aoi's family, in order to avoid a scandal (the marriage had been called off when Kaoru left the Hanabishis due to the abuse from his grandfather), force them to keep it a secret. Since this is a Harem Series, and several girls with romantic interest in Kaoru come to live with him, Hilarity Ensues.
- In Hanjuku Joshi, Yae and Chitose keep their relationship secret for a while, since Yae is afraid that their peers will judge them for being Schoolgirl Lesbians.
- In School Days, Makoto and Sekai both decide to date (and sleep with) each other, while Makoto is still in a relationship with Kotonoha, which he also never really breaks off and continues to lead her on. It gets worse from there. Much, much worse.
- Played with left and right in Fruits Basket. The Head of the Sohma family (and God of the Zodiac), Akito, is dangerously unstable and particularly susceptible to the Green-Eyed Monster when it comes to the members of the Zodiac, so this seems to be the only kind of relationship they can have.
- Subverted with Hatori and Kana. While their relationship may not have been intentionally kept a secret to people outside of the Sohma house, Kana and Hatori formally go to Akito to ask for a marriage blessing. Akito treats this knowledge as a secret that was kept from him or better said her, and flips out accordingly by smashing a vase into Hatori's head, effectively blinding him in one eye in the process. Kana's witnessing of this and Akito's accusation that this happened because of their relationship breaks Kana to the point where Hatori had to erase all her memories of their relationship to save her from her depression.
- Hiro similarly ends up telling Akito about his love for Kisa...before he even confesses his love to Kisa. Suffice it to say that he ends up regretting it, and although he eventually gets over it, he doesn't actually confess his love to her for a long time.
- Haru and Rin play this trope the most straight, being in a relationship but not telling anyone about it. Naturally, this ends in tragedy when Akito does find out: Akito blames Rin for it, she takes the blame to protect Haru, and promptly throws her out a second-story window, landing her in the hospital. The idea is still somewhat deconstructed, though, since it's clear that their choice to keep their relationship a secret is indicative of their poor communication in general, which causes still more trouble for them as time goes on.
- Surprisingly averted with Ayame and Mine. They clearly like each other and would get together in a heartbeat if Ayame wanted to, but knowing that it would only end in heartbreak, he just doesn't start a relationship. Until Akito's Heel-Face Turn and Ayame being released of the Zodiac Curse - the first thing Ayame does is hug Mine and tell her that he loves her.
- While most of their friends, and their parents, are well-aware of their relationship, Shuichi and Anna from Wandering Son have this type of relationship. It mainly has to do with the fact Anna is a model (so her career would suffer), and that Shuichi is transgender.
- Ranma ½: Played for laughs when Ranma and Akane try to pretend they were secret lovers all along. Most people don't buy it though; in fact, Ukyo is convinced Akane is forcing Ranma to lie and the rest of the school knows the two of them aren't really Happily Married because they're not arguing.
- Ohgi and Villetta of Code Geass have a relationship that remains hidden throughout most of the series.
- In Naruto, Asuma and Kurenai had been seeing each other, although they tried to keep it quiet and denied that they were. The truth comes out with Asuma's death and Kurenai's pregnancy, however, and all the other ninja suspected there was something going on between them anyway.
- Mari and Akko in Girl Friends keep their relationship from their friends, probably because they're both girls and aren't sure how they would react. However, while Sugi-san had mostly figured it out even before Akko and Mari had (thanks to a rather transparent attempt at I Have This Friend by Akko), even in the epilogue set a year after they got together Tamamin still hasn't figured it out.
- Reina of Yandere Kanojo would very much like to keep her relationship with Manabu under wraps, to protect her status as a delinquent. Manabu himself doesn't really mind one way or the other, but it quickly becomes clear that pretty much everyone knows about it, anyway.
- Variable Geo: Reimi Jahana is the CEO of the Jahana Corporation and is almost always accompanied by her adjutant, Washio. It isn't revealed that she's romantically involved with him, until Chiho makes the mistake of entering Reimi's private rooftop rose garden and finds her straddling him, while they were making out.
- Empowered gives us Sistah Spooky and Mindf**k. Even after their breakup the former is horrified by the idea of anyone knowing she was in a romantic relationship with a blonde woman.
- Lightly parodied/inverted in the last volume of Scott Pilgrim with Stephen Stills and Joseph. He wasn't particularly trying to hide it; Scott was just too dumb and self-absorbed to realize it.
- Several of the Wizards of Waverly Place stories that feature Justin/Alex as the main couple.
- The Fullmetal Alchemist fan fiction Best Kept Secret uses this trope as its basic premise, exploring how the story might have gone if Roy and Riza were secretly married throughout the entire thing.
- Many Soul Eater fanfics that pair Soul and Maka together have them trying to keep their relationship a secret. Usually it has more to do with Maka's Overprotective Dad than with their friends.
- The Sherlock and Harry Potter crossover fanfic The Magic of Deduction has John and Sherlock fake breaking up to protect John from Moriarty. Slightly different as the two hardly had any contact with each other over the period of time in which they were "broken up"
- Tsukasa and Miyuki in Stars Above.
- Hisao and Misha in the Katawa Shoujo fic From Shizunes Perspective Shizune is upset by the fact that they kept it a secret from her.
- Possibly due to Values Dissonance note , one Neji/Hinata fanfic in Naruto portrayed their relationship as this, even when Hinata had Neji's child.
- Merely the tip of the iceberg in The Second Try. The Reveal was really something to behold.
- Ace Attorney fanfic Dirty Sympathy has Klavier and Apollo keep their relationship under wraps because at first Daryan would have killed Klavier for infidelity, secondly to keep people from looking too closely at their actions and so that officially people don't realize that they know each other.
- Inverted in one story of the Facing The Future Series where Danny and Sam pretend to be broken up to get a bunch of ghosts trying to separate them to back off. Unfortunately, their friends fall for the ruse too.
- In Shatterheart R!Syaoran and Kurogane keep their Friends with Benefits relationship a secret because R!Syaoran was still in love with Sakura and didn't want her finding out and so they could end it without anyone finding out. When Fai finds out about it due to walking in on them, things get worse.
- By The Wrong Reflection Eleya and Gaarra have graduated to Official Couple status, but they're still keeping the relationship secret because it's against regulations (she being his direct superior officer and all). So far they've only told Eleya's parents and sister, but it's briefly implied in the first chapter that Eleya's Number Two, Tess Phohl, knows and isn't saying anything.
- This is the major driving force of Lawn Dogs. A 10-year-old girl and a widely distrusted 21-year-old lower-class man have a platonic friendship, that is tragically misinterpreted when discovered.
- In Star Wars, Anakin marries Padme in secrecy due to the Jedi Code forbidding attachment.
- In the film, Good Night, and Good Luck., Joseph and Shirley Wershba have to keep their marriage secret from all their colleagues ( Pretty much all of them know anyway) as the rules at the time did not permit a married couple to work together. This is a case of Truth in Television as all the events of the film are factual.
- Alien Cargo: As it’s against company regulation, Chris and Theta have to keep their relationship secret from their colleagues. They’re delighted that by chance they get to spend their shift out of cryosleep together, but later find out that this has exposed them to a dangerous virus that has infected the ship's living quarters.
- In the film The Painting, Ramo and Claire are in love, but since he's a Alldunn and she's a Halfie (basically he's part of the elite class while she's part of a poor class), they try to meet in secret. They're apparently really bad at it though, since everyone knows, which is soon Played for Drama.
- In the Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna and Jon start a relationship in the second novel. However, seeing as she's disguised as a boy in order to become a knight, and he's the heir to the throne, they keep this under wraps.
- In The Bible, Abraham kept his marriage with Sarah a secret from two different local rulers (claiming she was his sister) for fear that those rulers would murder him so they could take her for themselves. This makes this Older Than Feudalism.
- Used a lot for some reason in Warriors, as there are four separate Clans and the cats have a bad habit of falling in love with someone from another Clan. As you can imagine, these never end well.
- Not to mention the fact that the medicine cats keep on falling in love even though they're not supposed to.
- Matt and Kate in Starclimber. Kate's parents want her to marry someone else, and would definitely not approve of her marrying Matt because of his working-class origins.
- Terence and Eileen in The Squire's Tales series. Terence is the main protagonist of the first two books; Eileen first appears in book 2, and they start a romance but don't make it public because Eileen is a noblewoman and her reputation would be ruined if she were known to be in love with a squire. The next few books focus on other characters, with Terence and Eileen making only cameo appearances. Then in the ninth book, it's revealed that they've been married since shortly after book 2, but have kept it a secret for fifteen years - though at least one other character can tell the moment she sees them together, and is confused when she finds out they don't share a room. Then at the end of the book, they decide "the hell with it" and have a second wedding in public... and Terence gets knighted, making it a non-issue anyway.
- Jaime and Cersei Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire. This is problematic because they share a last name not due to marriage, but due to blood relation, and the fact that he fathered her children instead of Cersei's actual husband helps kick off a civil war.
- In Jane Austen's Emma, Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax are into a secret engagement which they hide extremely well. They feared that his family would not approve.
- Sense and Sensibility: Edward Ferrars and Lucy Steele got engaged when they were but teenagers, and kept the relationship secret for four years because he would be disinherited had he married her. She's a scheming and calculating girl who really doesn't deserve him or like him, but figured that a genteel man without money is still a catch.
- It's revealed at the very end of Northanger Abbey that Elinor Tilney was in love with "the most charming young man in the world". Their attachment was not of recent origin, and they got married when he became rich and a titled gentleman.
- King Stephen and Queen Anne in The Death Gate Cycle. Theirs was a politically Arranged Marriage and they hated each other at first; after that changed, they kept up the facade for use in court intrigues. (And as a useful excuse for shouting matches.)
- Honor Harrington:
- The People's Republic of Haven assigned political watchdogs to scrutinize their naval commanders. In one instance, though, the watchdog and the admiral wind up in bed and in love with each other. "Conflict of interest" doesn't begin to describe it. As in, if they'd been discovered, the kindest thing that would have happened to both would have been summary execution. The watchdog and admiral in question are Eloise Pritchart and Javier Giscard, future President and Fleet Admiral of the Republic of Haven, and theirs is one of the most touching love stories in the whole series.
- In addition, Honor and Hamish Alexander have a secret relationship for a while due to a number of circumstances, namely a) he's already married (though his wife, who's almost completely paralyzed, approves of and even encourages their relationship), b) Hamish is Honor's superior officer and, like virtually all militaries, fraternization between Manticoran officers in the same chain of command is forbidden, and c) Honor's adopted planet, Grayson, is very religious and does not approve of out-of-wedlock sexual relations (they're not on Grayson, but Honor's high status in Grayson society could have been damaged if it were known). The issue is eventually resolved when Honor marries Hamish and his first wife in a polygamous marriage (not that unusual in the Honorverse), taking care of the first and last issues, and by that point Hamish is the civilian head of the military, so the second issue is no longer a problem.
- Christine and Raoul need to keep their relationship secret because Christine (rightly) fears what The Phantom of the Opera would do if he found out.
- Wives and Daughters: There are several Secret Relationships.
- Osborne Hamley, the Squire's eldest son, is secretly in a relationship with a woman his father would never ever approve. He needs to marry a woman from a solid English family who would bring money to their family estate. He married a French woman who is a Catholic, penniless, with no family or friends and who used to be a nursery-governess. They even have a child together.
- Roger falls in love with Cynthia and proposes, but he has to leave England for two years, so he doesn!t want her to consider it binding. She also insists that nobody knows about it. Her family knows, and Mr Gibson feels obliged to tell his father because it's an honourable thing to do.
- There are hints that Cynthia is involved in a troubled relationship. She got engaged to a man who lent her money when she was fifteen, but she wants to break it off, and he doesn't want to, claiming he loves her.
- There is gossip in the town that Molly Gibson is involved in an ill-advised relationship that might ruin her or at least her reputation. She isn't. It was just a misunderstanding.
- In The Mill on the Floss, Maggie Tulliver and Phillip Wakem keep their friendship (and later, their romance) secret for over a year, due to the Tullivers' feud with John Wakem.
- David Hassid and Annie Christopher have this kind of relationship in the Left Behind series while they're both working for Nicolae Carpathia in New Babylon, with the additional secret being that they're also Christian believers. Unfortunately, Annie was killed during Carpathia's "resurrection" in The Indwelling when Leon Fortunato called down lightning to slay the disloyal among the gatherers at the funeral.
- Before this, Buck and Chloe kept this going for ages under similar circumstances. Fred Clark's review of the series contends that the underlying fatalism of the premise (the apocalypse is God's will, and the "heroes" know that they couldn't stop it if they tried) meant there was no meaningful conflict to create tension, and the Secret Relationship plotline was put in in order to create the illusion of it, despite there being no particular reason for them to keep it a secret at all.
- Secret Relationship: John and Ravishan naturally have to be very discreet, since homosexuality is penalized by death. They don’t ever have sex for the first time until after leaving Rathal’pesha. Nonetheless, Fikiri, spying on them out of the Grey Space at the monastery, sees them kissing and blackmails them. It also turns out that one of the other supposedly-celibate priests at Rathal’pesha is secretly married (Hann’yu, one of the few truly good people at the monastery — Aesop: forced celibacy is bad).
- Horribly played in one of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer's "Leyendas", named "La Promesa" ("The Promise") A young Count and a peasant girl named Margarita keep one of these, but he has to go to war so he leaves her. (And even more so, the Count has lied about his origins to her.) When he returns, he learns that Margarita was found out and then subjected to Honor-Related Abuse, and now all that's left from her is her un-buried hand with a ring that he gave her. He "marries" her, or better said her hand, and only then she can rest in peace.
- Curly and Laurey in Oklahoma!. Inevitably, their duet "People Will Say We're in Love" is reprised as "Let People Say We're in Love."
- Jason and Peter in bare: a pop opera have one of these.
- In Street Scene, Mrs. Maurrant goes to lengths to conceal her affair with Sankey from others. Unfortunately, most of her neighbors already know about it.
- In the execrable Full Motion Video game Phantasmagoria 2, the protagonist Curtis insists on this with his co-worker girlfriend. Which paves the way for freaky BDSM sex with the only other female co-worker.
- Persona 3 Portable: This is the Female Main Character and Ken's relationship because of the normal reaction to a 16 and 10 year old couple. You can suggest coming out, though Ken reminds you of the circumstances of doing so and tells you to keep it a secret.
- One option for Damien's path in Magical Diary, at the end. To avoid alienating your friends, you have to keep it a secret. Potsdam knows, no matter what, but she doesn't do anything besides suggest that you cover up your hickey. Failure to do so leads to your friends turning on you if they find out - but by this point, they've seen their worst nightmares about your relationship with him come true, so they're justified in believing that you're suicidal and possibly insane for trying to continue any kind of relationship with him.
- In Mass Effect 3, Diana Allers' romance is this, as she says her career would be jeopardized if her relationship with a source came to light.
- Then subverted when Liara finds out if you were dating.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: One early quest playing as a Jedi involves a pair of Padawans in a clandestine affair (in this era, Jedi are discouraged from attachment, but not outright forbidden). The player can choose to expose them or not. The female Jedi Knight can play this straight with Doc, who even offers suggestions on hiding a pregnancy. Averted with the female Jedi Counsular; Iresso may be laid-back, but he refuses to break the law or get the Consular in trouble.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the mage Belial and Sultana Razia have a secret affair. They can't make it public due to the political ramifications of a Sarquil ruler being intimate with a foreigner, which would be frowned upon in the court. They're eventually discovered, however, which leads to a coup in which Razia's twin sister Adela kills her and takes over the throne while Belial and his bastard children Khalid and Sumrah are sent into exile to Belial's homeland.
- In the web series Shadow of the Templar, both Simon and Jeremy keep their relationship a secret from everybody else. That's probably a good thing, because one is an FBI agent and one is a high profile Gentleman Thief. Thoroughly subverted in High Fidelity when Simon admits to his team and to his boss the nature of his relationship with Jeremy.
- In Lovelace One Two, Andi figures out that Mr. Stone and Ms. Seok are secretly an item.
- Principal Skinner and Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons: they keep it a secret for half an episode, get found out, get fired, hold the empty school hostage, then pretend to break up. Afterwards, they (literally) put their relationship back in the closet, with varied degrees of secrecy after that. It's one of the few Simpsons plots not completely affected by Negative Continuity.
- Edna and Ned Flanders tried to keep their relationship a secret too. Or at the least, until Edna unintentionally revealed that she and Ned eloped some time ago.
- Jake and Rose form one within the Dating Catwoman scenario in Disney's American Dragon Jake Long.
- Shaggy and Velma in Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. At first it seems like Shaggy's just afraid of commitment and using Scooby as an excuse.
- Kick Buttowski gives us Kendall and Ronaldo, after Kick finds out about them in "Frame Story"... albeit, even the viewers are confused about wether they're together or not, consistently. Since that episode there have been numerous episodes in the second season where they're still dating, yet Kendall either breaks-up with Ronaldo, prefers Kick and even cheats on him behind his back (literally behind his back).
- Young Justice Season 2 reveals that Red Arrow and Cheshire developed one during the Time Skip, including a (probably) secret marriage and a kid.
- In Season 1 Superboy and Miss Martian tried to keep their relationship secret...and failed, hard. Only two people actually needed the relationship pointed out to them and both times literally pointing in their general direction provided all the proof needed.
- Continuing off of the movies, Star Wars: The Clone Wars even goes so far as to deconstruct Anakin and Padme's relationship in the "Lost Missions" episode, "Rise of Clovis". When Padme's old flame, Rush Clovis, shows up and she starts getting close to him to get some information, this does not sit well with Anakin, who can't really say she's already married to him since he isn't supposed to be married in the place. After he nearly beats Clovis to death in a fit of jealous rage, Padme not only calls him out on him going too far with his possessiveness, but on how screwed up their relationship actually is. They aren't able to do the things that legit married couples get to do and there's some distrust between them. As a result, she decides that they should stop seeing each other for awhile (which only lasts seemingly until the end of the next episode).
- Cindy and Jimmy have one of these in the "Stranded" episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
- Romeo and Juliet could have learned a few valuable lessons from Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille, who determined to unite both themselves in marriage and their kingdoms into the unified Spain. This they accomplished in defiance of both their families and the Church's ban on marriage between second cousins (which is what they were) besides through numerous secret letters sent to each other, a couple of clever ruses, Ferdinand disguising himself as a traveling merchant at one point, and a Papal Bull of dubious authenticity. In addition to their success in consummating their secret relationship, they also proved to be very cunning political partners. Seriously, their history sounds a lot like what Romeo and Juliet's tale might have been like if Niccolo Machiavelli had written it instead of Shakespeare. Today, every Royal House in Europe is descended from them - usually many times over.
- Australian astronomer Ruby Payne-Scott was forced to marry in secret because the law did not permit married women to hold a permanent position in the Commonwealth public service. She was eventually discovered and forced to leave her position, despite being a pioneer in the development of radiophysics and radio astronomy.
- Some teens do this when their parents do not allow them to date.