Strictly Professional Relationship
aka: Just Partners
"So, Mr Rochester's coming back. Great! I am awaiting the return of my employer with the limit of emotions acceptable for professionalism."
"Ours is a Strictly Professional Relationship." Does it sound like a Suspiciously Specific Denial
? Very well might be.
These characters feel attracted to each other
, but they don't want to pursue anything because they already have a professional relationship, and going down the path might complicate things. They can be business partners or colleagues, or there might be ethical issues involved. For instance doctor/patient or teacher/student relationships
are prohibited or frowned upon.
The characters might try
really hard not to start the love affair. There's probably a Will They or Won't They?
element between the two characters. There are often countless instances of She's Not My Girlfriend
or Everyone Can See It
. The depth of their relationship is often comparable to Heterosexual Life-Partners
and Platonic Life Partners
with strong and sincere bonds.
It's typical for more than one protagonist to work toward a goal or a mission, especially in detective stories. Adding a tickle of romance, not full-on groping in the copy room, is an ideal device to humanize characters that would otherwise be perceived as too cold in their ways. It's common to happen with partners in law enforcement, because mutual trust is vital in their profession. Their one-on-one time on the job, they get to know each other very well, which especially sets them up to develop feelings for each other and they don't have the option of avoiding each other.
However, as the story develops and the plot thickens, the characters may reconsider their decision. Their desire gets really strong, and it may happen that Romance Ensues
, and your characters perhaps decide to have a Relationship Upgrade
and they start an Office Romance
. Romantic feelings and deep love often develop from trust and friendship.
Compare with Just Friends
in which the characters decide that their relationship is best on friendly terms but the audience is teased with possibility of stepping over the platonic feelings. Contrast Mistaken for Romance
Compare to a similar trope No Hugging, No Kissing
, however, Strictly Professional Relationship is from characters' perspective, not from the authors's point of view.
Examples from media:
Anime and Manga
- Patlabor has two examples:
- Captain Gotoh nurses unrequited feelings for Captain Nagumo, who strictly maintains a working-class relationship between them.
- This is also the case between Officers Noa and Asuma, in the OVA continuitynote . But near the end of the Mobile Police/New Files continuity, they show signs of possibly becoming "more than friends".
- Batou and Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, although Everyone Can See It. The other members of Section 9 rib him for it in stand alone complex (specifically, his overreaction to her apparently dying in the previous episode).
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Roy Mustang and his direct subordinate Riza Hawkeye claimed to have Strictly Proffessional Relationship. Of course, Everyone Can See It. However, they had been in a relationship before they joined the military, which has an anti-fraternization law. They'd like to have more than a professional relationship and sometimes they slipped a bit, but they just have to.
- Ghost Talkers Daydream: Kadotake has a one-sided crush on Misaki and knows it's not gonna change, because she mainly sees him as a business contact from the Livelihood Preservation Group.
- Rune Soldier Louie averts and parodies the harem genre by having Louie join a travelling party of beautiful women, but makes it clear that there's no romantic feelings between them. To them, he's a means to an end since their group needs a magician, even if he's a lousy one. And Louie never develops any interest in any of them either.
- In If You Believe, Tom is a first time writer and Susan is an editor of his novel. They both feel attracted to each other but Susan tries to persuade herself that she doesn't want him romantically because of their friendly yet professional relationship. However, she's also afraid of commitment because her ex-husband was emotionally abusive.
- In A Few Good Men, LT Kaffee and LCDR Galloway clearly seem attracted to each other, but focus more on solving the case at hand than pursuing a relationship. Once the trial ends, they both go their separate ways.
Live Action TV
- Ciaphas Cain mentions that at the end of his first assignment working with Colonel Kasteen, they exchanged a look that could have led to more than just friends, but neither pursues it because they don't want to deteriorate their working relationship. Besides, he prefers blondes. And more to the point, Amberley Vail would kill him.
- Invoked by Philip in The Americans. Philip is pretending to be an FBI Internal Affairs investigator and has convinced a FBI secretary to help him investigate the counter-intelligence division. The secretary is clearly attracted to him and he makes a big show of convincing her that he reciprocates her feelings. Until his investigation is concluded, they have to maintain a strictly professional relationship. However, Philip is actually a Soviet spy and has no romantic feelings for the secretary whatsoever.
- Bones: Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan, a brilliant scientist working in a medical-legal lab, and her partner FBI Agent Booth, though everyone can see that they should be together. People actually ask them why they aren't having sex.
- Castle: This is one of the roadblocks to the relationship of Detective Kate Beckett from New York Police Department and Rick Castle, a writer who is allowed to tag along in her investigations in order to gain inspiration for his new novels. They get together romantically in season 5.
- ZigZagged on Friends with the Rachel and Tag story-line. Rachel was promoted and was supposed to hire an assistant. She chose Tag despite the fact that he was not very suitable for the job in order to spend time with him. She then fretted because she couldn't date him as his superior but did all she could to prevent him from dating anybody else, such as telling him that all the women he flirted with are gay. She invited him as a friend for their Thanksgiving dinner and blabbed that she liked him but tried to take it back and say that it's just physical and doesn't want to pursue this any further. Tag, however, liked her too, obviously, and they started a secret office romance.
- Lovejoy: Lovejoy and Lady Jane, business partners brought together by a love of antiques, teetered on the brink for a long, long, time but never really got there - they just about kept it platonic. Her successor in the role, Charlotte, did succumb, though.
- The cool-to-warm variant occurs on Remington Steele, starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan. When Laura Holt put her detective skills on the market, she got no takers. Laura then created the fictional Remington Steele as her "boss". Soon a handsome fellow came by, and announced that he was, in fact, Remington Steele. Laura bristled at idea at first. However, Steele soon proved intuitive and useful as a partner. A slow thaw pervaded subsequent episodes.
- Frasier: Crane and Roz Doyle, who for ten long years failed to see the obvious. Even after they finally got it together both were scared of destroying a friendship and never repeated the experience.
- How I Met Your Mother: Ted tries to win Stella and keeps asking her out. She insists that she doesn't reciprocate his feelings, and as a doctor, she can't date her patient.
- The X-Files: Agents Mulder and Scully. They started out purely professional but their relationship has been very strong since season 1, with several sweet bonding moments when they assured each other of their trust and loyalty.
- Mulder and Scully's relationship got spoofed in The X Fools when Agent Sulky explains why she can't have a relationship with Smoulder. "Iím a doctor and youíre like... my mental patient."
- The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and his partner DS Barbara Havers. He's rich, titled, and went to Oxbridge. She's working-class, cranky, and went to Ealing Tech. At the start, she hates him and he's completely frustrated by her. Two seasons in, putting her life and her career on the line for him is nothing short of instinctive. Three seasons in, the only thing capable of keeping him from going in unarmed and unprotected to rescue her from being held hostage at gunpoint is a full tactical assault squad. By the final episode, they're each other's Not Love Interests to the fullest extent of the trope.
- Subverted in Golden Boy. It looks like a standard dynamic between partners, but Det. Tony Arroyo and his partner Det. Deb McKenzie are secretly dating from the beginning.
- The Stargate franchise uses this multiple times for the current series' primary pairing. In Stargate SG-1, O'Neill and Carter have a thing for each other throughout most of the series but since both of them are in the USAF and she's his subordinate, they never act on it. It even becomes a plot point in one episode when there's a Manchurian Agent on the base and everyone has to make testimonies while being hooked up to a machine that shows if the user is hiding something, even unintentionally. O'Neill's testimony regarding a mission where he went against orders to not leave Carter behind triggers a positive response and he comes under suspicion of being the Manchurian Agent until he admits that he indeed hid something from his official report: he went back for her at least partly because "I care for her... a lot more than I'm supposed to." In several alternate universes, the two are in an actual relationship or even married, most of the time due to Carter not being in the military or O'Neill having retired, thus fraternization regs no longer being an issue.
- Stargate Atlantis has Sheppard and Weir, with the excuse that while not military, she's still his superior. On the other hand, she does go the extra mile to get him promoted from her unofficial second-in-command to official one.
- Halo 3: ODST: Captain Dare was once in a relationship with Sergeant Buck, but broke it off because of her work with ONI. She intends to keep things professional when the two are put in the same unit again, but he's openly angry at her and she eventually starts letting her affection show through.
- Street Fighter Alpha plays the trope straight between Col. Guile and Chun Li, who's an agent for the Chinese branch of Interpol. The series has them conduct a joint investigation of Shadowloo, out of their mutual interest in bringing M. Bison to justice for professional reasons as well as their own personal vendettas against him.
- Generator Rex: When told he needed to "be a friend" to Dr. Holiday, Agent Six responds, "I...prefer to keep it professional. Keeps people from getting hurt." 'Doesn't change the fact that he asks her out at the end of that same episode.'
- The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, a Setting Update Vlog Series modernizing Jane Eyre: Young tutor/nanny Jane has feelings for her older employer, E.D. Rochester. There were several electric moments in their interaction. In the episode "Cleaning House", she tries to check her enthusiasm about Mr Rochester's upcoming return.