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I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship

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"Your friendship much can make me blest,
O why that bliss destroy!
Why urge the only, one request
You know I will deny!"

"Your thought, if Love must harbour there,
Conceal it in that thought;
Nor cause me from my bosom tear
The very friend I sought."
Robert Burns, Love in the Guise of Friendship

A Stock Phrase, used when two people are Just Friends, and a Relationship Upgrade seems to be in the cards but isn't quite happening yet. There are at least two different forms this can take:

  1. Said by one member of the couple to the other. This can be a nicer way of saying "I'm not actually in love with you"; even if it isn't, it will inevitably be perceived that way.
  2. Said to a third party, as part of a discussion about whether or not to pursue the upgrade.

Note that in the first variant the friendship is usually already ruined — or at least radically altered — just by bringing this up. A Love Confession is Serious Business, and sometimes there's no way to turn one down without hurting their feelings and making things awkward for a while if not permanently; this is why the trope exists in the first place. On the other hand, some people (especially the so-called "Nice Guys") tend to misinterpret this as All Girls Want Bad Boys and start pushing the issue and being jerks about whichever they choose, making the ruined friendship a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. That is if the interested party were honest enough at least to be initially interested in a friendship instead of planning on an upgrade all along. After all this, distancing themselves from their Love Interest seems like the reasonable choice.

Compare/contrast Better as Friends or Stupid Sexy Friend.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Comes up indirectly in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time when Chiaki suddenly asks Makoto out on a date. Just wanting things to be the way they were before, she responds by using Time Travel to go back to the moment he told her he liked her so she can keep it from happening. Since she knows how he feels, though, the friendship's still effectively ruined (only now Chiaki doesn't even know why).
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • This ends up being a major plot point regarding Kaguya and Shirogane's Battle of Wits, although with a slight twist. The main reason why Kaguya tries to get Shirogane to confess to her rather than simply confess herself even after she admits to herself that she likes him is because she's afraid that all the signs that he likes her are just her misinterpreting his natural Nice Guy personality.
      Kaguya: If you were to reject my confession, there's no doubt that our friendship would be ruined. That's why I want to be confessed to. Because if I were to confess, I might fail. However, if you were to confess to me, your chance of success is 100%!
    • This is also the reason why Tsubame is so hesitant to give Ishigami a definitive answer when he unknowingly confesses to her. She isn't really sure if she's romantically attracted to him (along with other issues like the fact that she's going to be graduating soon), but she knows that turning down such a heartfelt confession would break his heart and destroy their already existing relationship. Her attempts to ask Kaguya for advice don't really help due to a case of One Dialogue, Two Conversations.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has a self-inflicted example, where Relena's Image Songs have her admit that she's in love with Heero, but won't make a move because of this trope, and so is okay with her feelings staying "Always a Secret".
  • Rent-A-Girlfriend: Kazuya couldn't confess to Chizuru for fear she will be gross out and pushes him away despite realizing that she has done a lot more than a rental girlfriend is expected and possibly breaking the agency's rules for his sake.
  • We Were There: This is basically Takeuchi's response to his best friend Yano when asked if the former planned to pursue the latter's on-again-off-again girlfriend, Nanami Takahashi. Unfortunately, things get much more complicated after their conversation since Takeuchi decides to ignore the risks and go after his best friend's sort-of-ex anyway, fully aware that he could end up losing his best friend in the process, since Takeuchi believes "he can make her happier." Thankfully, the boys' friendship stays intact by the end of it all.
  • In Whispered Words, this is Sumika's attitude to her relationship with Ushio for a loooong time. And later vice versa.
  • Halloween of Witch Hunter doesn't confess her feelings for her contractor Tasha, because she has seen how he treats girls who are attracted to him, with complete and total respect and kindness, but a clear message he is not looking for a relationship. She is entirely happy being his supporter, as it means she is the closest person to Tasha and able to understand and see more of him than anyone else, including having a literal mental connection to him.

    Comic Books 
  • Used in American Born Chinese: Melanie tells Danny that she doesn't want to ruin their friendship after he asks her out to the movies. (Though he initially thinks she's rejecting him due to thinking he'll be similar to his annoying cousin Chin-Kee.)
  • Robin (1993): While Callie Evans and Sebastian Ives go on a number of dates in their freshman year of high school by the time he decides to ask her to be in a more serious relationship she's decided she doesn't want to endanger their existing friendship for what would undoubtedly be a temporary high school relationship.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Child of the Storm universe, this is why Harry and Carol insist on staying Just Friends despite their intense amounts of UST. They are best friends, and both are aware that neither is psychologically in a good place for a Relationship Upgrade (especially given Carol's trust issues, and Harry's emotional trauma - which risks turning any relationship into a codependent mess). Therefore, they decide to stay where they are in their relationship, the intensity of their feelings be damned. Later, after one Sleep Cute too many in the sequel, and Harry quoting a certain line from The Princess Bride, this morphs slowly into agreeing that they probably will date, but they're still in no hurry. In chapter 46 of the sequel, they finally firmly ruin it with a kiss.
  • This is part of what makes Lydia hesitate about moving forward with what otherwise seems like a very logical Relationship Upgrade in Cinderjuice. She doesn't discuss it with anyone, but she's very introspective and gives it a great deal of thought, noting that the relationship is "sacred ground" and she's very uncertain that changing the status quo is wise. It ultimately turns out to be very wise, as the sequels eventually reveal.
  • In Field Practice, there is a variation with "I Don't Want to Ruin Our Frenmity". The man figures that he has had several lovers but only has one Friendly Enemy, so while he sees the latter is all grown up and they feel a mutual attraction, he tells her they shouldn't rush into things. She agrees, feeling she isn't ready for a Dating Catwoman relationship.
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters: In Chapter 30, Jade and Irma finally address their mutual attraction. They both admit to having feelings for each other, but acknowledge the possibility that a relationship might not work out, which could negatively impact their friendship and the overall team — which would be especially bad at this particular point, as they're preparing for the Final Battle with Phobos. So, they decide to wait until after the war is finished to give a Relationship Upgrade a try.
  • In The Legend of Korra fanfic Book 5: Legends, this is the main reason for Asami not wanting to confess her feelings to Korra, despite already guessing that Korra does return said feelings. She values their friendship greatly and doesn't want to risk it. Korra reassures her that their friendship will not end even if their romance doesn't work out.
  • In More than Meets the Eye, this is part of the reason why Ash rejected Misty's Love Confession, despite returning her feelings. The other part was him being an Insecure Love Interest and feeling that he wasn't good enough to make her happy, even though she said otherwise.
  • The first chunk of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic A Delicate Balance is more or less entirely about this trope; Twilight's biggest obstacle in reaching a Relationship Upgrade with Applejack is both ponies' reluctance to risk screwing up their friendship by injecting romance into it.
  • Almost used in A Pleasant Surprise by both Fluttershy and Midnight. The former didn't want to be unfair to the latter by pressuring him into a relationship. The latter didn't think that there was any way that the former would ever see him romantically, much less consider it seriously.
  • To Hell and Back (Arrowverse):
    • Why Laurel refused to go on a date with Tommy; not only did she not have strong feelings for him, the man she actually has feelings for is Oliver (who, ironically, was the one to push Tommy to ask her out) — she didn't think it would be fair to try for a relationship with Tommy when it was his best friend she really wanted. It's also the reason she has yet to tell Oliver her feelings, as, having just recently returned to Starling City after ten years of being stranded on an island hell, he's clearly not ready for a romantic relationship.
    • Just like in canon, Barry's reasoning for not telling Iris his feelings. It's only aided by his ten-year disappearance and Iris' current relationship with Eddie.
  • In the One Piece Tell It to the Marines Ace has been in love with the SI OC Riskua since his early teens but does not tell her out of fear of ruining the friendship that they have.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): Discussed when Nora is trying to teach Sun how to be a friend to Blake, so that they'll eventually start dating.
    Sun: Don't girls always say friends shouldn't date friends?
    Nora: Sun. That's the excuse we give when we're turning a friend down.
    Sun: Oh...
    Nora: Yeah. Now, if we liked that friend, that rule would be thrown out the window faster than you can blink.
  • In X-Men: The Early Years, Cyclops spent years keeping quiet about his feelings for Jean Grey because he was convinced she didn't love him back and he'd ruin their friendship.
    Scott: Jean and I are just friends.
    Hank: There's nothing wrong with wanting to be more.
    Scott: (glaring) There is if I screw it up and it blows this team apart. There's a lot more to consider than how I feel. Besides, Jean has stated over and over again she's not interested in a serious relationship. So it's better for us to stay friends.
  • Naru-Hina Chronicles:
    • Naruto's friend Yoshiko was hesitant to confess her feelings towards some other guy who already had a girlfriend as she didn't want to make things awkward between her and him. Naruto encouraged her to do so anyway, given that Sakura was still friends with him despite being aware of his feelings for her at the time.
    • Initially, when she started dating Choji, Ino didn't want to consider it official because she wasn't really sure she wanted to risk her friendship with him, especially since she had this habit to rush into relationships.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Fierce Creatures, Vince is convinced that he's on the verge of bedding his sexy co-worker Willa, whom he helped get her job, and is too immature and self-absorbed to realize that she's blatantly stringing him along. When he tries to make another move on her, she tries to deflect with "it's too soon", and finally tells him, "our friendship is special". Vince frustratedly whines, "No, it's NOT!"
  • In Plan B, Pablo is reluctant to do a Practice Kiss with Bruno because he fears he'll lose Bruno as a friend if their kiss ends up feeling too romantic. Bruno reassures him that nothing will change between them, but their friendship still ends up being ruined soon after that for different reasons. Fortunately, they're able to mend and upgrade their friendship after they finally come to terms with their feelings for each other.
  • With Honors. Having finally realized his feelings for his friend and roommate Courtney, Monty kisses her passionately and declares, "I'm ending our friendship."

  • In the sequels to Anne of Green Gables, Anne is in denial of her romantic feelings for Gilbert in Anne of Avonlea and most of Anne of the Island, so she tries to prevent him from confessing his love, afraid to ruin their friendship.
  • In the novel Doctors, Barney and Laura have never had this discussion, despite a 30-something year friendship that began when they were in kindergarten. When they finally do realize and admit that they love each other, the narration sums it up:
    And that night ended their friendship.
  • In first three books of Dora Wilk Series, Dora gives it as an explanation as to why she's not with Miron. The ride's bumpy, but in the end, they do manage to pull off Relationship Upgrade.
  • The ultimate resolution in Haganai, as Kodaka realizes that dating any of the girls will mean sacrificing his friendship with the rest.
  • Harry Potter series:
    • Harry doesn't tell Ginny of his feelings for her in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because he doesn't want to risk his friendship with Ron. Probably justified, since Ron is shown to be incredibly protective of her and going as far as accusing her of getting around, though in the end, Ron just shrugs and seems fairly all right with, or at least resigned to, it.
    • Not so much discussed as much as silently considered by Harry who certainly worries how a break-up between Ron and Hermione would affect their group dynamics.
  • Vince and Camille from Super Powereds. Camille wanted to be sure that she could always be around to save Vince when he got hurt and didn't want to take the risk of a stronger but less stable relationship. Vince, for his part, never realized how strongly Camille cared for him until she had already changed her mind.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Austin & Ally has multiple episodes and an entire song dedicated solely to this trope.
  • On Babylon 5, this turns out to have happened in the past between John Sheridan and Elizabeth Lockley. The two of them had fallen in love and gotten married, but both quickly realized the marriage was a mistake and got divorced just as quickly. The divorce saved their friendship.
  • On Baywatch, as Matt and Summer discuss the burgeoning relationship between her mother and their boss. She prattles on about how friends shouldn't date, as it "complicates things". Matt gazes at her the whole time she's talking, slowly realizing his growing feelings for her. When he leans in to kiss her and she asks what he's doing, he declares, "I'm complicating things".
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Raj has this reply when Penny says the line ... "You can't ruin friendship with sex. That's like trying to ruin ice cream with chocolate sprinkles!"
  • Bones' Brennan does this to Booth, although it appears to have only been a temporary setback. She changes her mind after getting too involved in a case of another lonely woman who let a good guy get away. By that point, though, Booth has a girlfriend. After he breaks up with her (she refuses to marry him), he's disillusioned with women and insists that his and Brennan's relationship be strictly professional (and friendly off-duty). Then things changed again sometime later and now the two have a baby together and are married.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the season one finale, Xander finally works up the nerve to ask Buffy out, only for Buffy to use this line. Xander's response is uncharacteristically bitter, feeling with some justification that it's just an excuse for rejecting him in favor of Angel. Buffy mentions the trope again when explaining to Faith why she's never had sex with Xander — much to Faith's bewilderment, to whom sex and friendship are entirely unrelated. Xander finds that out the hard way when he assumes his one-night stand with Faith means something to her.
  • Community: This trope is the reason Annie was hesitant to say something to Troy during the first half of Season One.
  • Control Z: In a moment of comfort between María and Claudia, the former kisses her, leaves ashamed, then wordlessly starts avoiding Claudia. Later on, as they are trying to steal Raúl's money to save Natalia, María lampshades this to Claudia.
    María: Clau, about the other day...
    Claudia: You don't have to explain yourself to me.
    María: I just don't wanna lose you.
  • The Devil Judge: Soo-hyun reveals that she's asked Ga-on out five times since kindergarten and he's turned her down every time. Ga-on explains that she's his best friend and he doesn't want to lose her.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Downton Abbey has Isobel Crawley, who manages to give this speech without knowing she's giving it to Dr Clarkson in the 2012 Christmas special. That takes talent.
  • Happens in Eureka between Carter and Allison. There was already plenty of sexual tension between them (especially after the kiss 60 years before). When Carter finally asks her out and confronts her about their relationship, she gives him that speech. He leaves, only to run back and kiss her. She doesn't resist, to put it mildly. Cue the many cases of Get a Room! in later episodes.
  • The Flash (2014): Barry Allen is very protective about those he loves after the death of his mother and losing his father. As a result, the biggest reason why he never told his best friend Iris West that he was in love with her was that he was terrified she wouldn't feel the same and he would lose her too. It was only after Iris got a steady boyfriend did Barry realize that he couldn't lie to her anymore, because even without telling her, he lost her anyway.
  • In Friends:
    • Done twice with Chandler and Monica. The first time the viewers see it is the first episode of season five the day after they slept together for the first time. Having agreed to meet up again, Chandler tells Monica he's thinking they should back out of it because he's worried about what it'll do to their friendship. She agrees with his concern, then they abandon the worry anyway. It's later revealed that they also discuss this after they first see each other naked just before sleeping together for the first time.
      Chandler: Well, I think it's safe to say that our friendship is effectively ruined.
      Monica: Eh, we weren't that close anyway.
      • They have a similar exchange even earlier in the series. The phrase isn't stated outright but clearly implied. Chandler asks why Monica won't date him and she says she loves him but he would always be the guy who peed on her. In other words, their friendship is too close to gamble with, dating would make it weird. They end up Happily Married. Yeah...
    • Phoebe and Joey get along very well to the point of being a Fan-Preferred Couple. Phoebe suggests a few times that she finds him attractive and wouldn't mind dating him, but she values his friendship even more. At one point Monica falsely tells her Joey has feelings for her, and Phoebe considers the possibility for a moment before saying outright that she's not willing to risk their friendship. For what it's worth, in the final season Joey ends up performing Phoebe's wedding ceremony to Mike.
  • In the Fringe episode "White Tulip", Peter has this conversation with Olivia when addressing their near-kiss. While a slight variation, he claims that he doesn't want to do anything to jeopardize their family dynamic.
  • Glee: After Kurt confesses to Blaine that he has a crush, Blaine is shocked. He doesn't turn Kurt down completely but tells him that he doesn't want to ruin their friendship by taking things too fast, so they'll remain friends. For now. A few episodes later though, Blaine gets his Love Epiphany and they start dating.
  • Jonas: Joe and Stella are beyond dedicated to this due to being childhood friends.
  • The Office:
    • Jim and Pam have this conversation jokingly after they start dating.
      Pam: [sarcastically] I now find you repulsive.
    • After Jim confesses to being in love with Pam in Season 2, Pam tries telling him how important his friendship is to her, bringing Jim to tears.
      Jim: Don't do that. I want to be more than that.
  • One Life to Live. Max says this to Luna when she confessed her love for him. She blasts him for being afraid to risk getting hurt again (he just recently got his heart broken).
  • Scorpion: In "Love Boat," Happy tells Toby that yes, she does like him the way he likes her, but she's never been best friends with someone before like she is with him and doesn't want to jeopardize that by getting romantically involved.
  • Played with in typical Seinfeld fashion. Elaine reveals to Jerry that she faked all her orgasms with him when they dated. Jerry is bothered by this and asks Elaine for one more bout of sex, but since they've already established they're Better as Friends, Elaine turns him down, name-dropping the trope. Jerry thinks she's just lording her non-orgasms over him and this makes them irritable to each other until they realize they have to subvert the trope to get past it and agree to one last non-romantic tryst. However, Jerry inexplicably can't get it up.
    Elaine: We have to have sex to save the friendship!
    Jerry: save the friendship! [starts to undress] Well, if we have to, we have to!
  • In Smallville, this is basically the reason why Chloe and Clark decide not to date, after going on a grand total of one date.
  • On Soul Food, Teri has spent years resisting her feelings for her best friend Brian due to fear of this trope. Sure enough, when they finally do attempt a relationship, it falls apart very quickly (aside from her myriad of personal issues, she isn't over her ex-fiance) and this trope plays out.
  • In Star Trek, this comes up several times.
    • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, this is referenced when Shakaar asks Odo's advice about whether or not to pursue a relationship with Kira.
      • A future version of Odo says this himself after confessing to Kira that he has feelings for her, and has since well before the point in time she's currently at.note 
        Kira: Why didn't you ever say anything?
        Odo: I didn't think you could possibly care for me the way I care for you. I suppose I was afraid of ruining what we had. Our friendship meant everything to me. It still does.
      • Subverted with Ezri and Julian. They both tell each other this trope, then the next day they are making out in the Ops turbolift.
    • Possibly happens for real in the Next Generation episode "Tapestry". Q zaps Picard back to his days as a young officer so that he can fix his past mistakes. Among other things, Picard sleeps with the girl whom he was Just Friends with originally. The next day, however, she awkwardly realizes that she didn't want the Relationship Upgrade after all, likely destroying the friendship they had previously. However, it isn't shown what happened to her after this in the alternate timeline, so it's possible they managed to stay friends anyway. An Expanded Universe novel has her (and Picard's other friend from the Academy) show up again. She is an admiral in Starfleet Intelligence now, while the other guy is a Section 31 agent (as is her boyfriend). This is the original timeline, though, so she and Picard never slept together.
  • On Zoey 101, this is Chase's reason for not telling Zoey that he's in love with her.

  • "Jenny" by Studio Killers is about defying this trope:
    I wanna ruin our friendship
    We should be lovers instead
    I don’t know how to say this
    ‘Cause you’re really my dearest friend

    Video Games 
  • Hayate says this to Hitomi in Dead or Alive 5.
  • If a female Shepard starts to romance Garrus in Mass Effect, this is what she'll say if she breaks it off.

    Visual Novels 
  • One of the romance paths in Coming Out on Top is with a character who initially seems like he's suffering from a severe case of Gayngst. It turns out his fear is this trope, instead.
  • In one scene in Little Busters!, Riki admits that he does actually have kind of a crush on Kyousuke, but doesn't want to tell anyone because he's sure their friendship would break down if he knew.
  • Minotaur Hotel: If Pedro and Oscar grow their bonds strong enough, then they'll have a scene where Oscar indirectly asks Pedro if he wants to be in a relationship. Pedro rejects, stating that even though he likes him, and is attracted to him, he can't in good faith start one with Oscar since there's such a big experience gap. He then tells him that he will reconsider it when Oscar's more mature enough to live on his own.
  • Henrietta Irving gives this as a reason as to why she hasn't confessed her love to Bram Stoker in Shikkoku no Sharnoth. It's subverted soon after but doesn't end well.

  • Daily JoJo: When Wan and Eunjo meet up after being apart for a year, Wan drops several hints that he likes Eunjo and leans in for a kiss when he feels the moment is right. Eunjo does want to kiss, but she thinks Wan is acting on impulse and pushes him away. She previously lost a mentor in her previous boyfriend, so she's afraid she would lose a good friend this time. After carefully looking into Wan's past actions, Eunjo realizes that he really does like her and decides to start dating him.
  • In El Goonish Shive, both Elliot and Susan have listed this among the reasons that they aren't likely to become a couple any time soon. Beyond worrying about their own friendship though, they are also worried about the general dynamics of their social group, particularly concerning Sarah, who is both Elliot's ex and Susan's best friend.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Clone High, Joan of Arc asks Mr. Butlertron for advice on Abe, who doesn't view her as a romantic possibility. Mr. B tells her that "maybe [Abe] just thinks you don't think he doesn't want to not ruin the friendship." When parsed: "maybe [Abe] thinks you think he doesn't want to ruin the friendship," which doesn't seem quite apropos either.
  • In Daria, Daria says this at one point of the unaired pilot "Sealed with a Kick"... as part of a complicated revenge plot.
  • In Freakazoid!, Freakazoid bemoans how pretty girls always tell nerdy guys "Let's not spoil our special friendship!"
  • Harley Quinn (2019): Harley is Poison Ivy's best friend and the most important person in her life, but unlike with Kite Man, Ivy can't trust Harley won't do something that could break her heart or ruin their relationship. After Harley went back to the Joker and let Ivy down so many times, Ivy can barely allow herself to keep Harley as a friend, so becoming lovers with her is too much of a risk for Ivy to take with all the emotional baggage she already has. After Kite Man spells it out for Ivy that her heart really belongs to Harley in "The Runaway Bridesmaid" and breaks off their engagement, she allows herself to reciprocate Harley's feelings.
  • Kim Possible. The main reason why Ron Stoppable doesn't get together with Kim before the Relationship Upgrade the two undergo is because of their strong friendship since childhood. Kim's reason is partially due to this, but also because of "the food chain" in social conventions and doubts about Ron's maturity. In Ron's case, it almost leads into I Want My Beloved to Be Happy during So The Drama, where Ron decides against telling Kim how he really feels, leaving her to attend the prom with Eric whilst he doesn't go and instead sits in Bueno Nacho feeling sorry for himself... where he learns that Dr. Drakken is using Bueno Nacho as part of his new plan, leading to the reveal that Eric is a synthodrone and allowing Ron the chance to confess to Kim, who returns his affection.
  • It's played with on The Legend of Korra between the titular character and Mako. Mako is already in a relationship with Asami, but he and Korra develop mutual feelings for each other. Mako and Korra sort of try to do this trope, but it turns into a Love Triangle that they don't have time to properly deal with (what with Equalists and all). It ends with a sort of unspoken-but-mutually-agreed-upon breakup between him and Asami, after which Makorra becomes the Official Couple. For about a season.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Star is worried about losing her friendship with Marco after her crush was publicly revealed and they agree to pretend that her Song Day never happened, with Star telling him that the person who revealed her crush was mistaken. Star decides to have a fun summer with him and not act on her crush, especially since Marco is already dating someone else. Once she finds she's leaving with the possibility of never coming back, she decides to tell him how she feels anyways. Later, in the next season of the show, Star has seemingly moved on and is dating someone else, and Marco realizes he's in love with her... and keeps silent about it for the same reason until he's tricked into doing so by a third party.

    Real Life 
  • Victoria Justice from Victorious has been best friends with her co-star on the show, Avan Jogia, for a long time. If you're a big fan of her, you'd think they are meant for each other, given how close they are and that they spend so much time together. But she has stated that the reason he isn't her boyfriend is that she doesn't want to risk something going wrong and not seeing him again outside of on set.
  • Comedian Greg Behrendt, who co-wrote the infamous self-help book He's Just Not That into You, cites this as one of the many things guys will say to avoid hurting a woman's feelings by admitting that they're not attracted to her.
  • Josh Hutcherson said in an interview that he doesn't want to ruin his Like Brother and Sister relationship with his The Hunger Games co-star Jennifer Lawrence.