Rachel: I know. Me too. Well how come Monica and Chandler could do it?
Joey: ...I guess they weren't as good friends as we are.
Two people date for a while, realize they're Better As Friends, and use that as their excuse when asked why they broke up.
This trope is for when it happens once and won't happen ever again.
Note that this isn't just people who stay on good terms after a break-up, but who really do remain good friends to the point where the plot uses them as an Odd Couple at times.
- Amicable Exes: They were in a relationship, but despite the breakup are still on good terms.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: When Just Friends crosses over into willful stupidity.
- Fan-Preferred Couple: It won't happen even though some people are rooting for it.
- Friends with Benefits: The duo is friendly with one another and has some good sex, but they are not currently an Official Couple.
- I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: They're Just Friends, and worried about losing that if they try to become something more.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Someone realizes that a relationship wouldn't work out and stays away so that the other person can find happiness elsewhere.
- Just Friends: Denial's not just a river in Egypt. They are totally Just Friends. Until they aren't.
- Like Brother and Sister: It won't happen because it would be too squicky for them.
- Platonic Life-Partners: It just won't happen. Ever.
- Romantic Runner-Up: The unlucky third wheel of a Love Triangle.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Yes, she is. Or, at least, she will be.
- Michiru and Aso from Zombie Loan, after one date. He kept affectionately rubbing her head, like how a parent would do to a child, and she even referred to him as a "father" once.
- In Doraemon the protagonist's love rival Dekisugi describes himself as this toward Shizuka when the story explores the main characters' future, which partly explains why she and Nobita become a couple despite how the episode initially suggested otherwise.
- In Random Walk, Yuka reveals that she used to date her good friend Hiro during her first year of middle school, but since they were too immature to handle a romantic relationship at that time, things got too awkward between them, and they eventually broke up. When they meet again during their third year, each has already found new love interests, and return to being friends.
- In Phil Foglio's Angel and the Ape miniseries, sentient gorilla Sam Simeon is turned human by a superpowerful cosmic thingy (long story) and shares a long kiss with his partner Angel O'Day...then backs off; he feels that their relationship as friends is too important to mess with. She agrees, a touch wistfully.
- Joe Quesada is trying to set up Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson as this after they spent multiple decades as the Official Couple and Happily Married. Needless to say, fans aren't buying it (both literally and figuratively). It finally ended when they got back together in 2018.
- Spider-Man also has this dynamic with his two other exes, Betty Brant and Felicia Hardy.
- In the Archie Comics spinoff Jughead, Jughead befriends Pop Tate's hamburger mascot girl (it's a bit of a challenge since he doesn't like girls, but he warms up to her over time; also, she's constantly dressed as a hamburger, which he loves). When she springs a date on him, he tries to go along, but the unfamiliar territory (and getting poor advice from Archie and friends) make him uncomfortable and the date ends disastrously. After a day of wacky revenge hijinks (did we mention that the girl in question is Sabrina the Teenage Witch?), they have a heart-to-heart talk, when he admits he's not interested in dating at all but is okay with being friends. It ends on a happy note.
- In another Archie Comics story, Reggie saves Betty's life when she's knocked into traffic, she knits him a sweater as a thank you, and they start dating. They realize that it's starting to get serious after they each turn down a date with their typical objects of desire (Archie and Veronica) to keep a date with each other. They talk about it, and kiss... and she says "Oh Archie" and he says "Oh Veronica." They burst out laughing and decide to just be friends.
- Robin (1993): Zoanne and Tim Drake only go on a handful of dates but end up not staying together as a couple because of Tim failing to show up for dates and falling asleep on dates but they remain friends and Zo thinks they work better that way. Another contributing factor was Stephanie Brown's return to Gotham since she and Tim quickly realize they still love each other.
- Glitched Miko AU: Downplayed. Hector and Miko agree that there might be something more between them, but its way to soon in their 'relationship' to be sure of that and they both agree that for the moment at least its best if they stick to being friends.
- Solidad and Brock are revealed to be this in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. They went on a couple of dates but ultimately settled down as friends. She's still there to offer him some moral support when he's going through a rough phase after his parents die, and indirectly her efforts to cheer him up help him find someone else.
- Shego and Drakken in Vacation from the Norm. They had dated briefly after the events of the Kim Possible finale, prior to the beginning of the fic, but they both felt awkward, with Shego finally realizing that Drakken was more like an uncle to her than a paramour. They moved on to being friends and the awkwardness disappeared.
- In Total Drama fanfic A TDA Love Triangle with Betty, Cody, and Gwenny: Cody's love life until this point; apparently, he had been friend-zoned multiple times. While he feels bad over not getting a girlfriend, he still likes to know that he can comfort and help his female friends if necessary.
- Subverted in When Harry Met Sally.... Harry is convinced "that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way". In relation to his acquaintance with Sally, he's right.
- In Badly Drawn Roy, Roy and his girlfriend Ruth eventually break up since they couldn't take the relationship to the next level, but they remained friends.
- This is what Shaggy and Velma decide after they kiss at the end of Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster.
- Having flirted with edging out of this category in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Bruce and Natasha have reached a version of both this and Amicable Exes in Avengers: Endgame, with the pair on good terms following the five-year time jump in the wake of Thanos' death.
- Alanna and Jonathan in Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet, due to intentional Ship Sinking by the author after she realized the relationship didn't work. Alanna becomes Jonathan's King's Champion and they both marry other people.
- Zeb and Maggie from Robert A. Heinlein's If This Goes On—. The hero sort of wants to pursue a relationship with her but doesn't want to get in the way, at which point he's told laughingly that by now they're great friends but that their personalities are far too aggressive to ever be stable together.
- Jo feels this way about Laurie in Little Women. She says that the two of them are too much alike ever to pursue a romantic relationship successfully. Laurie disagrees until he marries Amy, after which he tells Jo he's happy to love her as his sister. As the Like Brother and Sister analogy was used to describe both his relationships with Jo and Amy, this has done nothing to convince shippers from the 1860s onwards that they are not better as friends.
- The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue to Dave Barry's novel Big Trouble has this as the fate of Jenny and Matt, after her mother and his father getting married makes them feel a bit Like Brother and Sister.
- Happens several times in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, most notably to Kris and Talia of the "Queen's Own" trilogy and Daren and Kerowyn of "By the Sword." They all go on to relationships with other people, and very happily so, without losing their friendships. Except for Kris, who gets killed.
- Subverted with Talia and Skif, who fall comfortably into this trope without ever getting into an actual physical relationship (they try, but various bits of serendipity get in the way). Amusingly, their peers assume the trope played out straight.
- One of Gerald Morris's Arthurian novels, The Ballad of Sir Dinadan, has the hero end the book by going to find his female companion, who is currently training to be a nun. He proposes to her. When the Mother Superior comes out and realizes what has happened, she prepares to go pack her pupil's bags.
Dinadan: Yes, I asked her. And she's made me the happiest man on earth.
Mother Priscilla: Ah, she has, has she?
Brangienne: Yes, I have. I turned him down.
- In Keeping You a Secret, Holland realizes two things: that she's a lesbian, and that starting a sexual relationship with her childhood friend Seth had been a big mistake that ruined their friendship. She tries to tell Seth this when she breaks up with him, but he doesn't understand and is furious.
- Though only mentioned as backstory, Nathan and Cynthia are this in The Memory Wars, having dated briefly in college, but remained close friends.
- Vampire Academy:
- How Rose thinks of Mason. In Frostbite, she eventually agrees to date him (in an attempt to get over Dimitri) but she's never truly attracted to him.
- Ultimately, Rose and Adrian too.
- In Hope and Red, things are briefly awkward after Nettles breaks up with Red, but they eventually settle into this.
Nettles: Look, I wanted a fun, easy toss. You wanted romance. I'm sorry we couldn't give each other what we wanted. But whatever else we were or are, I will always be there to pull you out of a bind.
- In The Traitor Son Cycle, after two and a half book of UST, Red Knight and Amicia finally agree that this isn't going anywhere and they're better off as friends.
- After a book-long Will They or Won't They?, Mikey and Henna in The Rest Of Us Just Live Here finally have sex. It's awesome. And immediately after, they decide they don't want to have sex again and/or start a romantic relationship; they'll be best friends instead.
- In Weaveworld, Suzanna puts a stop to any sexual progression of her relationship with Cal, declaring that they are too much alike to be lovers. And they carry on grandly as friends throughout the story. Except for a few moments of over-enthusiastic affection. And a few open-ended conversations. But grandly - as friends.
- The Adventures of Pete & Pete tried to pull this with Big Pete and Ellen, though the show's reluctance to bother with continuity meant it didn't stick and Big Pete was back to pining for Ellen a mere seven episodes later.
- After a (very) brief marriage, Babylon 5 characters John Sheridan and Elizabeth Locksley realize they have made a horrible mistake and that this trope definitely applies to their relationship. Despite years of separation and being on opposite sides in the war they still have implicit trust in each other and an excellent working relationship. They prefer not to tell people they are exes though, they may draw the wrong conclusions.
- Bernard and Fran on Black Books.
Bernard: Well, I did [remember what happened] for a while. I think so. Then she made me block it out. That's it - she remembers, and I'm not allowed to.
- In Bones we have Booth and Cam. Dated before the show started, broke up, hooked up briefly after she joined the cast, broke up again, and seem determined not to mention it ever again. Since he's obviously in love with Brennan, the fans are mostly willing to accept this.
- Willow and Xander in Buffy, whose Unlucky Childhood Friend and Oblivious to Love statuses only give way to romance when they're both in other relationships. Willow chooses her relationship with Oz (and then, after they break up, discovers she's a lesbian) and she and Xander remain best friends.
- Also Cordelia and Wesley, whose smoldering UST when they met in Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to a head with their first kiss — which quickly became their very awkward and physically uncomfortable last kiss. Their friendship continued to grow in Angel, but they aren't above playfully making fun of each other over which one's the worse kisser when recounting the story for others.
- In Clarissa Explains It All, Clarissa and Sam try dating in one episode and even share a kiss, but they eventually decide on this.
- In Community, Jeff Winger and Britta Perry have zigzagged between just good friends and Friends with Benefits. It was revealed in the latter half of season two that they'd been hooking up on occasion, but since then it appears they've just settled into a "purely platonic friends" dynamic.
- Between season three and four, Troy and Britta start a relationship but near the end of the season, they decide to go back to just being friends.
- In Criminal Minds, JJ and Reid go on one date . . . and end up close friends, and nothing more.
- Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23: Mark and June. They become fast friends in the pilot and share some Unresolved Sexual Tension throughout most of the show's 2 season run. They finally hook up in the series finale, but neither enjoyed it. Played for Laughs when the two tried having sex again several times afterward, ultimately coming to the conclusion that it was really bad and agreeing they were better off as friends.
- El corazón nunca se equivoca: Diego and Temo dated briefly before the start of the series, and broke up because Temo was still in love with Ari.
- ER has Doctor Kovac and Nurse Sam after they dated and decided to remain friends. Likewise with Abby and Carter. Even earlier, with Elizabeth and Peter, when she finally realizes that their personalities are far too different and that he'll never get over his discomfort with their interracial relationship.
- Frasier Crane and Roz Doyle in Frasier.
Roz: You've always been just like a brother to me. Which is weird, I know, because we slept together and...
- Friends: Rachel and Joey provide the page quote. In the last few seasons, they undergo an Unrequited Love Switcheroo ending with them getting together at the end of Season 9. However, a few episodes into the tenth and final season they realize having anything more than a platonic relationship isn't nearly as good as they hoped and so they amicably break up and go back to just being roommates.
- Game of Thrones:
- Arya gets m'lady-zoned by Gendry in "Kissed By Fire," when Gendry recognizes that even if he serves House Stark as Arya wishes, class differences mean the two can never be equals.
- iCarly had Sam and Freddie date for 5 episodes. It was pretty horrible, constant fighting, hurting each other and so on. In the 5th episode, they mutually break up because they were forcing a platonic friendship into something more. Freddie says he loves Sam, but it's clearly as a friend.
- Jonathan and Maddy in Jonathan Creek. After having loads of UST and sharing a few kisses under non-traditional circumstances in the first two seasons, they eventually end up having sex, only to agree that it was too weird and they should never do it again. The UST never entirely disappears, but that seems to be mostly unintentional.
- 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. In the end, the two girls blurt out simultaneously, "Let's just be friends."
- In My Mad Fat Diary, Rae and Archie quickly come to this conclusion after Archie discovers that he's actually gay.
- Finn and Chloe seem to have a similar fate after Rae and Chloe reconcile.
- Harry and Christine in Night Court (lampshaded later where, after Christine turns down an invitation from Harry, Harry responds giddily "Isn't it great? We can say 'no' again!")
- In the Grand Finale of Radio Enfer, even though they were supposed to get married, Jocelyne and Giroux ultimately decide against it and to remain friends.
- David and Stevie on Schitt's Creek sleep together in season one and briefly have Unresolved Sexual Tension afterwards, but quickly settle back into a platonic friendship to the point that in later seasons they call themselves best friends.
- Jerry Seinfeld and Elaine. One UST episode that doesn't actually seem to be canon. It's Played for Laughs in the last episode as they seem on the edge of a Dying Declaration of Love during a plane crash, only to quickly backpedal once they survive (Elaine claims she was about to say "I've always loved U...nited Airlines").
- In Smallville, Chloe lusted after Clark Kent in the earlier seasonsnote , and it initially looked like her status was going to be as the Romantic Runner-Up and Unlucky Childhood Friend, but ultimately she got over her infatuation and moved on with her life; and she and Clark ultimately decided that they were Better as Friends and developed a Like Brother and Sister relationship.
- This is the case with Matt Donovan and Elena Gilbert of The Vampire Diaries. In both the TV show and the book series, Elena and Matt dated before the series beginning, with Elena (in the show) describing it as those friends who've known each other forever deciding to give a relationship a shot. It's revealed later in the series that the death of Elena's parents was the final nail in the coffin of her romantic relationship with him, and while he still has feelings for her through most of the series, they remain good friends.
- Also seems to be the case with Bonnie and Jeremy—they still seem to care about each other, but there has been no indication that they intend to resume their relationship.
- Ditto Caroline and Matt. They broke up after Matt realized Caroline was a vampire, and while he eventually got over it, she moved on to Tyler.
- The Wonder Years ends like this for Kevin and Winnie.
Still we never forgot our promise. We wrote to each other once a week for the next eight years. I was there to meet her when she came home...with my wife, and my first son, eight months old.
- The point of Gwen Stefani's "Cool":
And after all the obstacles
It's good to see you now with someone else
And it's such a miracle that
You and me are still good friends
After all that we've been through
I know we're cool
- Saizou and Kagerou from Fire Emblem Fates used to be lovers but decided to split up so they'd be able to serve their sworn lord better. If the player doesn't pursue their whole support chain, they stay like this and are free to either stay single or find second loves.
- Mass Effect 2: Jacob reveals at one point that he and Miranda slept together a couple of times but never went any further than that. Their relationship nowadays is purely professional.
- In Thousand Dollar Soul, this happens between Todd and Angela if they go to Africa (due to an unspecified Noodle Incident), or in Ending #34 (he meets another girl and lets her marry someone else).
- Miriam and Clayton in Out There. Although Miriam being Miriam, one never knows for sure about the "never happening again" part. Also, Miriam and Rod.
- Bowler and Creepknight in Voodoo Walrus. It's been eluded to that long ago there was something more romantic about there relationship. But that's most definitely not the case now.
- Honestly they seem to have more of sibling relationship than anything else.
- Homestuck: Meulin and Kurloz dated for a while and were pretty happy together, but after a disturbing and painful incident for the both of them, they broke up. However, they are clearly still very good friends. Unless one thinks Kurloz's Mind Control is a bit more extensive than it's been seen so far, anyway.
- Subverted in El Goonish Shive. Justin and Melissa were childhood friends who decide to have a Relationship Upgrade... but it's this very thing that makes Justin realize he's gay. They decide to remain friends... but here's where things get sour. Melissa was so distraught by this revelation that she confides in her sister... who is a huge gossip. Soon, everyone at their school knows, and Justin's parents even learn it by overhearing it at the grocery store. It also leads to lots of bullying aimed at poor Justin, who came very close to committing suicide over the whole ordeal. Justin blames Melissa for all this, which leads to the end of their friendship.
- A happier example comes from Elliot and Sarah, who start dating early in the comic. Much later, they both, around the same time but independently, come to the conclusion that the relationship isn't really working out, and (very amicably) break up, going back to their old Childhood Friend dynamic.
- Ally and Alan from Sunstone had an incredibly political relationship back in college, which is in extreme contrast to how laid back their strong friendship is now. This was due to both of them being quite strongly dominant in their sexual desires, which they learned through hard experience was not a compatible mix.
- Galaxion: Fusella and Darvin are perfectly Amicable Exes, to the point where she tries to set him up with her Best Friend (neither Darvin or the friend are averse to this).
- After some drama, Sara and Daphne of Penny and Aggie have a Relationship Upgrade and date for a while. However, Sara eventually breaks up with Daphne, who is bitter about it for some time. The epilogue eventually shows Daphne in a relationship with another woman (with Sara's girlfriend existing but not being present) and reveals that Sara and Daphne came to the conclusion that they worked better as this.
- Bree and Daniel from lonelygirl15, after much arguing, much Will They or Won't They?, and a fair amount of Wangst.
- This is the theme in Luka Megurine's song "Just be friends". The man in the song (from whose viewpoint it's sung) is still in love with the girl and wishes he could get back to the past to begin again, but also recognizes that the relationship now is going nowhere and prefers to split and save whatever remains of friendship can be salvaged.
- Thalia and Hephaestus in Thalia's Musings. Hardly anyone remembers that they used to date. Hephaestus is in love with Aphrodite in spite of her constant cuckolding, and Thalia is totally not in love with Apollo.
- Bob's Burgers: Tina and Josh. Tina and Josh initially date but breakup when she can't choose between him and Jimmy Jr.
- This leads to an interesting inversion of this trope in another episode, when Josh invited Tina to his ballet recital. Both thought the other had romantic intentions and spent the episode trying to find a way to let the other one down gently. They were relieved to find they were this trope after all.
- This is one-sided in Danny Phantom when Valerie gives Danny the It's Not You, It's My Enemies speech and declares they should just be friends. Danny is visibly upset for a time but gets over it by Season Three.
- In El Tigre, despite the romantic persistence of Manny's father Rodolfo, his ex-wife Maria keeps insisting that they should remain Just Friends.
- Interestingly enough, this is Played With. She still loves him, but she can't bear the sight of him getting hurt from being a hero. Word of God states that they remarry once he retires.
- Jen and Alex from MTV's Downtown skirt very close to sleeping together in one episode, but decide that it makes more sense for them to remain friends than romantic partners.
- In Code Lyoko Yumi and Ulrich try this, but it is clear to both their friends and the viewers that it is only causing more tension from their UST.
- In The Legend of Korra, Korra and Asami each dated Mako at some point. By season three, Mako and Korra agree that they won't work out as a couple but are awesome as friends, and the same goes to him and Asami. Which, as of the Grand Finale, paves the way for the girls dating each other.
- Regular Show: Mordecai and Margaret. They dated for a while, went through an awkward patch where they weren't sure what they felt for each other, then finally made peace when they realized neither of them was ready for a serious relationship.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, when Peter breaks up with Liz, he admits that she's been a really great girlfriend, but he feels they'd be better off as friends. Unsurprisingly, she doesn't take it well, as she'd been genuinely in love with him.
- Gravity Falls: Dipper and Wendy come to this conclusion in "Into The Bunker", partially cause she likes him better as a friend and partially because she's fifteen while he's twelve-going-on-thirteen and it's clearly a puppy dog crush on his part.
- Also Wendy and Robbie to a certain extent. After Wendy dumped him he initially didn't take it well. But after Mabel sets Robbie up with Tambri ( with the use of some magic dust she stole from the Love God), him and Wendy appear to go back to being friends in subsequent episodes.
- Lou and Peter Berryman, who met in college, started performing and writing wacky songs together, got married, got divorced, married other people, all the while (and still) writing and performing together.
- Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo were a couple for a few years in the mid-nineties but continued to work together after they broke up. They even wrote a book about it, as a parody of celebrity self-help books.
- The French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir met in their early 20s and became a couple. Though de Beauvoir declined Sartre's offer to get married, they never moved in together, and both had all kinds of other lovers, they stayed together for the next 50 years until their deaths and are even buried together. Better as friends, though friends with benefits.
- This is the main reason why Hilary Duff and Mike Comrie have separated.
- It's said that this is more or less how the relationship between Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary and his wife Elisabeth of Wittelsbach aka Sissi evolved towards the end of the latter's life.
- Henry VIII of England certainly wasn't happy about his political marriage to the German princess Anne of Cleves, and there are good reasons to think the feeling was mutual. Nonetheless, after their divorce, they actually became close friends, with Henry sincerely calling Anne his "beloved sister".
- Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen first met after being set up in the early ‘90s by a mutual friend. They didn’t hit it off romantically but have been best friends ever since.