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Inappropriately Close Comrades

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Carter: Sir... are you sure there wasn't something else that you're not admitting?
O'Neill: What are you talking about?
Carter: Something neither of us can admit given our working relationship, our military ranks?
O'Neill: Oh! [Beat, less enthusiastic] Oh. That.
Stargate SG-1, "Divide and Conquer"

Many highly regimented organisations, particularly militaries, have rules against their members having intimate relationships with each other (especially if they're both in the same chain of command). The rule-makers tend to feel that such relationships are unprofessional, and that they may give rise to favouritism or abuse of power if the people in question are of different ranks.

Such regulations are a good way to prolong Unresolved Sexual Tension, as characters are forced to maintain a Strictly Professional Relationship despite being clearly attracted to each other. On the other hand, the Secret Relationship which may emerge if characters don't follow the rules can provide plenty of drama itself.

Rules like this are pretty standard in military organizations unless they're only Mildly Military or the writers are using Artistic License regarding military matters. (The relevant military word is fraternization, although that term is much broader than most examples here, with some militaries banning any kind of social relationship between people at different levels in the same chain of command.) Non-military organizations which employ similar levels of discipline can also have this kind of rule. For relationships between people in less tightly controlled workplaces, which aren't necessarily prohibited, see Office Romance. If holding a certain job requires that you forgo amanous relationships with everyone (not just with colleagues), see Vow of Celibacy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Played With in Black Clover: Charlotte has a close friendly relationship with her subordinate Sol, while Sol clearly is in love with her. Meanwhile, Charlotte has feelings for Yami, the leader of a different Magic Knights squad. Interestingly, each of these infatuations resulted from the crushee rescuing the person who likes them.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Colonel Roy Mustang's assistant and bodyguard, First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, would probably be more than a comrade for him if not for the fact that they're both in the military and it would be forbidden; in fact, Word of God has stated that the only reason they're not married by the end of the series is that the resulting restrictions would prevent them from getting what they wanted as colonel and lieutenant, but suspiciously worded the answer in such a way that didn't exclude other possibilities.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: While it's never shown onscreen (due to taking place in the Time Skip between A's and StrikerS), Chrono was Amy's commanding officer during at least part of the time that they were dating, though Amy had retired by the time they get married. Of course, it's implied that this sort of thing is actually encouraged since it leads to the next generation of mages being loyal to the TSAB. Having family members serve in the same unit is also fairly common, dating as far back as the first season where Chrono was his mother's XO, although in that case, Chrono kept things completely professional with Lindy (e.g. calling her "the captain" rather than "Mom").

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: These are known as "extra-judicial liaisons" - Judges are NOT allowed to have romantic relationships, including with non-Judges (though these rules were somewhat relaxed under Chief Judge Goodman, as shown when Dredd visits his twin Rico shacked up with a rich woman). Judge DeMarco is a noticeable exception who eventually chose to resign when the Special Judicial Squad started to hound her over her affairs with other Judges. There are two exceptions to this rule within the department: The Wally Squad and the Holocaust Squad. Wallies are allowed to have relations in order to maintain their cover. Holocaust Squad judges, on the other hand, have such a ludicrous fatality rate, even among judges, in responding to the worst disasters that they're given special dispensation to drink, do drugs, and have sex, given that their number could be up at any time.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): During the Golden Age Col Darnell quietly seemed to encourage the budding romance between his secretary WAC 2nd Lt Diana "Prince" and his top operative USAAF Lt Steve Trevor. He didn't seem to be aware they were actually dating once Wonder Woman and Steve became an item as he was supposedly unaware that Diana and WW were one and the same.
    • In Wonder Woman (1987) Steve's position in the Air Force is somewhat unclear and flexible under the various writers, but at one point he and his wife seemed to be working under the same superior officer.

    Fan Works 
  • In Bait and Switch (STO), Starfleet has apparently finally introduced these, which means that Eleya's relationship with her operations officer Gaarra is blatantly illegal. Her first officer Tess has turned a blind eye to it using some creative interpretations of the relevant regulations: she tells Eleya to always put the ship first, not Gaarra, and once threatens to remove her from command over it in Reality Is Fluid.
  • The End of the World: In addition to Haymitch and Effie's constant UST as they work to keep the kids under their care alive, Blight had a romantic entanglement with Gia Pepper and her three successors as District 7's escort, causing Caesar only to assign men to be District 7's escort.
  • The Greil Mercenaries in It Takes a Mercenary Team are essentially family. They operate well regardless, except Commander Ike finds performance reviews awkward when he has to evaluate his sister, husband, best friend, and surrogate parents.
  • Kokuten: Fukurou Uchiha, aka Owl, sustains a romantic affair with her captain Kakashi, aka Hound-taichou. Her previous lover was Badger but he was killed in action. Fukurou's fiancée, Itachi (aka Crow), also belongs to ANBU but he knows she's had sex with other men and that it's because he's still too young for her (he's thirteen while she's sixteen) and both of them got betrothed by their parents. In spite of that, the two of them occasionally kiss and touch each other in the hopes of falling in love or at least developing some kind of mutual affection before getting married.
  • Myrmidons: While running an inquiry into an Attempted Rape case aboard her flagship, Kanril Eleya compares the Moab Confederacy Defense Force's regs on this to Starfleet's. While it's legally not allowed, Starfleet traditionally ignores shipboard relationships between personnel (except officer-enlisted relationships) unless they interfere with ship operations, due to simple practicality: since Starfleet ships are often sent on months- or years-long missions, they view it as "impossible and frankly unkind to try to keep people from trying to satisfy basic biological urges". The MCDF is much stricter: in the case of an officer-enlisted relationship, the officer is usually demoted and the enlisted man flogged.
  • People within a single chain of command in Son of the Sannin are allowed to be in a relationship, though it has to be approved from the higher ups beforehand to avoid abuse of power. The only time it really comes up is during Haku and Tenten's Relationship Upgrade (which happened right after the latter had received a promotion), and they instantly get the okay due to Jiraya wanting Haku to start a family and add the Yuki clan's Bloodline Limit to the village's forces.
  • In To the Stars, the military has regulations in place to defy this, necessitating that magical girls be in reasonably separate commands if they are in a relationship. In one instance in a flashback however, a particularly brutal You Are in Command Now situation leaves Asaka forced to have her lover's unit perform a Heroic Sacrifice to buy the rest of her forces time to regroup. This necessity causes her to suffer a near-fatal Heroic BSoD.
  • Zootopia fanfics vary in regards to the ZPD's attitude towards fraternization. Some writers add an element of drama to Nick and Judy's relationship by banning romance between officers, others don't have rules keeping them from sleeping together. This mirrors real life in that there isn't a standard policy among the various police departments about partners being romantically involved. The only universal prohibition is against a superior dating someone below them in their chain of command.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alien Cargo, crew on the freighter are prohibited from having relationships, but the two protagonists do anyway. Because only two crew members are out of cryogenic sleep at any given point, a couple who can arrange to be awake together is fairly safe from detection.
  • The makers of Top Gun were asked by the US Navy to change Maverick's love interest from a female enlisted member of the Navy to a civilian contractor with the Navy, due to the US military's prohibition of fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel.
  • In line with the usual tendency to ignore this in Star Trek, Kirk's "Captain's Log" segment at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond discusses overt sexual relationships being formed and split up among the crew as just something that happens on a long space mission. However, Captain Kirk, whose casual affairs were emphasized in the previous two movies, is noticeably devoid of a Girl of the Week in order to emphasize how utterly bored he is with his years-long mission.
  • Starship Troopers: There's quite a lot of fraternization in the military. Rico even turns down an offer from a squadmate only for the CO to tacitly encourage him to take her up on it. But that's merely one of many symptoms of discipline that the Federation military is clearly shown to be lacking in.
  • Wing Commander uses this trope and displays why it's a bad idea. Marshall quickly shacks up with squadron member Rosie while Blair develops a slower burning romance with squadron leader Angel. When Rosie gets shot down (after she and Marshall decide that it would be more fun to go shoot more Kilrathis than follow orders and return to the ship), Marshall falls apart.

  • In 86 -Eighty-Six-, this trope clearly describes the dynamic between Lena* and Shin*. While under normal circumstances, blatant fraternization between a commanding officer and a direct subordinate would've been swiftly punished, the situation surrounding them and the story as a whole is anything but normal. If anything, everyone who knows their relationship is openly supportive of it, even their own superior officers.
  • The Lost Fleet
    • It's noted that Victoria Rione, a politician, is the only person in John Geary's fleet that he could legitimately have a relationship with since everyone else is part of his command. Later, he falls in love with Tanya Desjani, the captain of his flagship, but pursuing a relationship would involve breaking the rules, which neither is willing to do. They get around it when Geary resigns his admiral's rank and they both disappear for a wedding and honeymoon before the government can promote him back up again. They still have to go back to their best behaviour while on active duty.
    • In the spin-off series The Lost Stars, it's mentioned that the enemy Syndicate Worlds also put restrictions on relationships, but that these rules were often broken. Given the nastiness of the Syndic system, however, the breaches were often a case of either Sleeping Their Way to the Top or Sexual Extortion rather than actual romance.
    • Likewise, Geary's ancestor in The Genesis Fleet gets together with a civilian contractor rather than anyone under his command.
  • The titular character of the Paul Sinclair books gets early advice from a shipmate never to break the navy's rules against relationships between crew on the same ship since it's impossible to keep something like that secret in the cramped conditions on board. In fact, the two end up breaking those rules themselves, although not too severely — an upcoming transfer is about to make the relationship permissible, and they just get started slightly early (and not on the ship itself). The ship's executive officer figures it out anyway but is prepared to let it slide.
  • In the Honor Harrington books, the Manticoran navy has rules against fraternization in the same chain of command, which is one of several reasons that Honor's relationship with Hamish Alexander (her superior officer) is kept secret. This problem is resolved when the latter is made First Lord of the Admiralty, which is a civilian role (equivalent to a Secretary of Defense) despite its military focus. One of the earlier books mentions, though, that the RMN is a lot less strict about fraternization than the Earth militaries that preceded it, recognizing the realities of cooping up mixed-gender crews with no shore leave for weeks or months at a stretch (the commanding officer is apparently the only one seriously inconvenienced by the rules). The general rule seems to be no fraternization with someone who is in your direct chain of command and no fraternization between Officers and Enlisted.
    • Beowulf's military, on the other hand, has no such rules, in keeping with their Free-Love Future hat, and sex between comrades is regarded no differently than any other recreational activity.
    • Grayson's military also has no such rules, though in their case, that's because they're a gradually-modernizing Cult Colony that until very recently simply didn't allow women in their armed forces, so they didn't think they needed such rules.
    • Meanwhile, over in Haven, not only do the same rules apply to the Havenite navy as to the Manticoran one, but while technically not in the same chain of command, a romantic relationship between a flag officer and their People's Commissioner is less "against the rules" and more like "treason". Not that this stopped Commissioner Eloise Pritchart and Admiral Javier Giscard, whose romance was so insanely dangerous that they knew very well every minute they had was borrowed time, and who loved each other so fiercely that they were willing to risk it anyway.
  • In The Flight Engineer, it seems that relationships between officers and enlisted personnel is forbidden, but relationships between two officers would not be since Chief Petty Officer Paddy Casey decides to apply for officer training so that he can get together with Second Lieutenant Cynthia Robbins. At the end of book three, protagonist Commander Raeder arranges for Casey to get a field commission, and Casey immediately asks Robbins to marry him.
  • In Temeraire, lack of concern about this sort of thing this is part of the more relaxed attitude taken by the Aerial Corps relative to other branches of the military. The protagonist himself even becomes lover to a Senior Captain, even though at that point he's only been with the Corps and a captain in the Corps for not even a year at that point, and she continues the relationship even after she's made an Admiral, and his direct superior.
  • Kris Longknife:
    • In Defender, Kris and Jack plan and execute their wedding in about four hours while the king is revising orders that would place them in the same chain of command. Kris is willing to call it off in deference to regs right up until "speak now or forever hold your peace".
    • Kris later chooses to significantly relax the rules on fraternization down to "no officer/enlisted relationships, no relationships with direct superiors or subordinates" due to ground conditions in her command at Alwa and the fact that she herself is now married to one of her officers, deciding to "treat sailors like adults". There's resistance: one captain rebels against this and gets herself relieved of command for disrespecting a superior officer (as well as unrelated poor captaining), and later (in Unrelenting) a supply noncom sabotages a shipment of contraceptive implants, causing over seventy unplanned pregnancies (including Kris herself) and getting a dishonorable discharge.
  • In Sten, it's thought that there might be some sort of libido suppressant added to everyone's food to make this a non-issue, although Sten's view is that simple tiredness would have the same effect.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • The possibility of a relationship between Cain and Colonel Kasteen was mentioned by Cain, but neither pursued it as it could have given rise to the type of problems seen in the description (the fact that Cain is frak-buddies with Inquisitor Vail probably helped a little). That said, before he meets Vail he has no problem using his personal charm at any level of the Guard command, nor does he have a problem letting Kasteen go up the stairs before him so he can look at her ass (which incidentally saved their lives, as he wouldn't have noticed an incoming Attack Drone otherwise). He does idly wonder if he'll have to have a word with Kasteen and Broklaw (her second in command) at one point, but never follows up on it.
    • The Valhallan 597th is a mixed-gender regiment created from two different single-gender regiments, and it's mentioned in passing that pregnancies happen often enough that Cain is familiar with baby behavior.
    • Cain is also aware of a less-than-regular relationship between Corporal Magot and Sergeant Grifen, but chooses to stay well out of it, since he prefers to avoid being as much like harsher commissars (who tend to die of friendly fire far from enemy lines) as possible. Additionally in The Traitor's Hand, Cain notes that Beije probably suspects that he's in this relationship with Magot, because he's being lenient with her (to avoid damaging the morale of her squadnote ). He notes that even if she wasn't a lesbian, he already has enough dangerous women in his life (a clingy planetary governor's daughter, a daemon princess, and the aforementioned Inquisitor, who chooses to take this remark as a compliment).
  • In Rangers At Roadsend it is mentioned that relationships between Militiawomen are prohibited, but also that this is not very strictly enforced as long as it's not affecting their professional behaviour while on duty. Katryn gives such a relationship as the reason why she has been transferred to Fort Krowe.
  • In Angel in the Whirlwind, Captain Kat Falcone and Space Marine Major Pat Davidson were in a relationship on a previous assignment together but broke up when they were reassigned to different ships. They get back together after he's assigned to be the commander of her shipboard Marine complement, essentially saying "screw it, we're in love and we could both die tomorrow". This one slides into a legal gray area: despite being part of the ship's crew the Marine complement is technically a separate chain of command.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, the Kel military caste has an extremely strong taboo against sexual relationships with any other Kel, even in completely different units, to the point that it's an executable offence. This is because of the Kel "formation instinct" brainwashing, which makes it impossible for a Kel to even consider disobeying or even disagreeing with anyone of superior rank, meaning that any sexual activity between people of different ranks would be Questionable Consent at best. The Kel attempt to reduce this further by supplying troops on campaign with libido-suppressing drugs, copious supplies of porn and, for the higher ranks, courtesans. However, it still doesn't entirely prevent it. In one example we see, the questionably-moral point-of-view character convinces themselves that they don't need to report it because the lower-ranking person seems to be enjoying themselves.
  • The Locked Tomb: The Sixth House makes an official policy of Invoking this trope to reel in spouses and Chosen Conception Partners from other Houses. It even fields a unit of Good-Looking Privates whose primary duty is to go on offworld reserve and mingle.
    There's a lot of waiting around in the reserves. Lots of sulky necromancers with nothing to do. Lots of soldiers who didn't make the cut, doing a single tour for their family or because they thought it would be fun. Add Sixth House soldiers at the peak of physical performance whose last exam was to memorise erotic poetry. They say it's a massacre.
  • Space Academy: Vance struggles with the fact that all of his love interests are people either part of his crew or in his chain of command. Which isn't illegal in Space Fleet (if you do the right paperwork) as other races don't have the same problem with it as humans but is frowned upon. It's especially problematic with Shelly, who was formerly his commanding officer before he was promoted past her then assigned under him (no pun intended).
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Miles Vorkosigan, the main protagonist of the series, has two such relationships. He manages to make himself captain of a fleet of space mercenaries (as "Admiral Naismith"), but eventually goes on to form a serious long-term relationship with a beautiful subordinate—Commander (later Captain) Elli Quinn—in spite of having gently rebuffed her the first time she made a pass at him. Before that, he had begun a relationship with a genetically-engineered super-soldier who wound up under his command as Sergeant Taura. He does try to rationalize away the inappropriateness of that relationship by agreeing with Taura's argument that, at the point the relationship starts, she hasn't technically finished signing up with the mercenaries and is therefore a guest of the fleet. But he then goes on to have occasional dalliances with Taura even after she is clearly in his chain of command (even while also carrying on the aforementioned long-term relationship with Elli Quinn).
  • Spellster: The administration of the tower forbids relationships between their trainees, a rule which is broken all the time. However, being reported for it results in punishment.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Occurs in Battlestar Galactica (2003), where fraternization in the military is frowned on.
    • Tyrol and Boomer are an enlisted/officer couple and keep their relationship secret, but Tigh catches them and informs them that the two of them are an Open Secret anyway: he turned a blind eye when Galactica was slated for decommissioning but now that they're reactivated he orders them to break up. Eventually deconstructed in "Litmus" when one of Tyrol's crewmen lies under oath to protect him and Boomer when they're implicated in a Cylon suicide-bombing on Galactica. Tyrol comes clean to Adama but Adama lets the crewman's dismissal stand, punishing him for perjury and Tyrol for jeopardizing ship's security to meet Boomer. Tyrol and Boomer have a nasty breakup after this.
    • Any rules against fraternization aboard Galactica actually go against the president's own words in an early episode where she states outright that the only way the human race will survive is for people "start making babies". Presumably, this includes the military personnel, not just the civilians. Illustrated by the fact the president, over the course of the series, enters into a romance with Adama himself.
    • Before the series Starbuck was involved with Adama's son Zak while she was a flight instructor and he was one of her students. Her love for him motivated her to clear him for flight duty even though he was, by her own admission, a terrible pilot. As a result she carries a lot of guilt over his accidental death while flying.
  • Arises more than once in the JAGVerse:
    • JAG:
      • In the pilot, a regulation-breaking relationship was being concealed between Lieutenant Arutti (the murder victim) and someone in the same unit.
      • In the first season episode "Boot", Harm and Meg are investigating a marine's murder, and there's more than one person obviously keeping secrets. It turns out that Sergeant Gonzales is in a relationship with the base commander, but that this is independent of the murder. Harm decides, conditionally, not to report it.
    • In NCIS, this is what Rule #12 is about: "Never date a co-worker."
      • Interestingly, this is a Gibbs rule and not an agency rule. When Gibbs yells at Tony for violating the rule in season 8 with someone on another team, Tony informs him that NCIS has no rules forbidding agents from dating each other and that they can even be married. Good news for Deeks and Kensi, who married in season 10 of their own show.
      • The Christmas Episode "Newborn King" involved the team trying to protect a female Marine who had gotten pregnant by the son of an Afghan chief she'd worked with on deployment. Her CO docked her pay and sent her home.
    • NCIS: Los Angeles once has the team tracking some kidnapped Marines towards Mexico. They briefly suspect the kidnapping was staged to cover up a Love Triangle among the unit turned violent (the female squad member was pregnant by the dead one), but this is quickly ruled out.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1 has the relationship between Colonel Jack O'Neill and Captain/Major/Lt. Col Samantha Carter being inhibited by the rules: they've admitted to their mutual attraction on-screen but agreed to keep it professional. Though multiple Alternate Universes have appeared where Sam is a civilian and she and Jack were a couple. Word of God has it that they got together when Jack was promoted out of the main cast after "Threads", which took him out of Sam's direct chain of command. Jack's temporary love interest even points out that there's an easy solution to the problem - Jack can resign. (Which he does in one iteration of the "Groundhog Day" Loop in "Window of Opportunity", immediately before kissing Sam. Of course, then the day starts over again.)
    • Stargate Atlantis: Major/Colonel John Sheppard is professional enough not to engage in this, and the most Ship Teasing involving him were with Elizabeth (the civilian head of the expedition) and Teyla (an alien ally who never officially joined any formal organization). The first has official authority over him and the latter is part of his field team, but the potential conflicts of such were not explored. However, there is a version of him who clearly bucked the rules in the Alternate Reality Episode "Vegas". When Sheppard was stationed in Afghanistan, he ignored direct orders to retreat so he could attempt a failed rescue mission that got him discharged from the Air Force. The alternate universe version of Rodney McKay figures out that it was because Sheppard was in a relationship with one of the soldiers he tried to rescue, which he doesn't deny.
    • Stargate Universe depicted way more fraternization to increase the level of personal drama amongst the Destiny crew. The pilot episode shows that at least two separate illegal relationships were taking place on the base among the military staff, one between Colonel Young and Lt. Johansen, and another between Lt. Scott and 2nd Lt. Vanessa James. In the former case, this even resulted in a pregnancy.
  • Andromeda features rules like these — including, apparently, for warship AIs. It's implied this is a major reason for the lack of Robosexual relationships — most AIs are warship AIs, and the organics they interact with often enough to form relationships with are mostly their crew, who naturally count as part of their direct chain of command. One episode dealt with the consequences of a relationship between a ship's AI and her captain. The AI refused a direct order by the captain to self-destruct in order to keep sensitive data out of Nietzschean hands and, instead, blew up the planet the captain was on, and consequently went insane.
  • In The Last Ship, Danny Green and Kara Foster play out this trope well, even endangering a mission because of their feelings. Averted: Because Dr.Scott is a civilian and a triangle arises between her, Tex, and the Captain.
  • NYPD Blue: One Victim of the Week is a Marine Corps recruiter who is having an affair with his married partner. Though she's married to a recently retired General.
  • Any inhibition about sexual relationships within the military is usually completely thrown out of the window in Star Trek. Starfleet has always been Mildly Military since its charter combines military duties with scientific and diplomatic ones. On very few occasions, the potential pitfalls were discussed.
    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Change of Heart", Worf and Jadzia (a married couple) are sent alone on a mission together in wartime, and he abandons it completely to save her life. Worf faces some serious career consequences in the aftermath, and Captain Sisko issues orders that the two of them are never to be sent alone on a mission ever again.
    • Another example is in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lessons", where Captain Picard breaks off a relationship with one of his officers, after ordering her into a life-endangering situation. Even before then, she found the stoic mask of command he had to maintain between them rather awkward.
    • Also Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager avoids relationships with her crew, despite overt Ship Tease with Commander Chakotay. However, she puts no prohibition on others getting together, resulting in (amongst others) Paris and Torres not only becoming a couple but getting married. Justified given that, for most of the series, she and her crew are under the assumption that they will live out their remaining lifetimes before the ship travels far enough to return to the Alpha Quadrant, and somebody has to fly the ship.
      • Though early on in the relationship, Capt. Janeway does have to admonish Paris and Torres when it gets to her that they may be getting a bit too...friendly while on duty.
      • But she was being tortured by invisible aliens at the time and was uncharacteristically touchy, so it’s unclear if she would have delivered the same admonishment in her normal frame of mind.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise travels this road for the first two seasons why generating significant Ship Tease between Capt. Archer and his first officer, T'Pol, cranked up by the controversial episode "A Night in Sickbay" in which Archer makes a reference (albeit accidental) to T'Pol's breasts. In Season 3, this ship is mostly anchored (except for a story set in an alternate timeline in which T'Pol gives up her career to become Archer's caregiver after he loses his ability to retain memories for more than a day). Instead, she enters into a sexual relationship with the chief engineer.
      • An Enterprise novel does address the issue and points out that Starfleet does have anti-fraternization rules in place, but a crewmember points out that they're just copied from the old navy and don't really apply to long-term space missions.
      • Though in an early episode, Archer mentions that romance isn't actively discouraged, but finding appropriate "alone time" with a potential partner could prove impractical.
    • In TOS it's stated early on that The Captain and only him is not allowed. Kirk states that Spock can notice Yeoman Rand, but he isn't. There is some heavy Ship Tease early in the series, however. Kirk did have a previous relationship with another Starfleet officer, but she was a lawyer and there's no indication they were ever in the same chain of command. There was apparently a possible one-night stand after the science lab Christmas party which he appears a bit embarrassed about.
      • In "Balance of Terror", we see the (interrupted) marriage of two crew members. A few minutes later when the ship is preparing for battle, the groom reminds his bride-to-be that he is still her superior least for a little while longer.
  • In Babylon 5, there's a Running Gag about a minor character, the nerdy bridge officer Lt. Corwin, being secretly in love with Commander Ivanova, who is the second-in-command of the whole station, and later again with her replacement Captain Lochsley. The humor is all based around how out of his league his superiors are in terms of attractiveness, with the chain-of-command issues never hinted at.
  • A sexual relationship between a doctor and a nursing sister is at the heart of the UK medical drama Bodies (2004), with its appropriateness (or lack thereof) addressed.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: In "Murder & the Maiden", one the secrets Phryne uncovers on a RAAF base is a sexual relationship between two of the officers; one of whom is a Sweet Polly Oliver.
  • In Power Rangers Beast Morphers, Grid Battleforce forbids Rangers from being in relationships with each other. Blue Ranger Ravi insisted on breaking off his relationship with Roxy (the original Yellow Ranger candidate) for this reason. Deconstructed midway into the second season where Zoey (the current Yellow Ranger) and Nate (the Gold Ranger) have been secretly dating way before then and Commander Shaw concludes that the Rangers' bonds are one of the biggest reasons that they always succeed so she drops the restriction,
  • While they are not actually comrades per se, Richard Castle and Kate Beckett have to hide their relationship from her boss, as regulations would force them to either break up or to have Castle stop working with the police. As it turns out, their boss already knew, but chose to ignore it for plausible deniability, as she acknowledges that Castle is useful at helping.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: Inverted. The witches are not only allowed to get into relationships and/or have sex together, it's actually encouraged as male trainees visit Fort Salem. For same-sex relationships no one seems to care either, since Raelle and Scylla make no secret of being involved. Sex and attraction can be used as an energy source for spells so it makes sense that the military would allow these relationships to happen as it would result in stronger soldiers.
  • A French Village: Marcel and Suzanne become a couple, despite relationships between members being forbidden under Communist Party regulations.
  • S.W.A.T. (2017):
    • Hondo and Cortez date clandestinely due to fraternization rules preventing a relationship between them (she's his superior too). Once they get caught, it forces them to break up.
    • This is the main factor preventing Chris and Street from dating too. At first she flat out says she'll never date a fellow cop regardless to him.
  • Played for Laughs on Firefly. Serenity isn't a military ship but Captain Mal Reynolds still tries (unsuccessfully) to forbid crew mate romances. Zoe and Wash got married before the story begins, and in The Movie Simon and Kaylee get together.
    Mal: Shipboard romances complicate things.
    Wash: For who? For you?
    Mal: For everyone.
    Wash: Well what about love?
    Mal: I ain't against it as a rule. But in situations such as ours, tends to cause problems. It splits loyalties.
    Wash: Know what I think? [...] This policy you got against shipboard relationships, that's just you projecting your own intimacy issues onto everyone else.
  • CSI has Sara change shifts because she’s dating her supervisor, Grissom, and it’s forbidden.
    • This may be something of a subversion, however, as Ecklie notes that if Grissom had just told him, he could've gotten Sara's reviews done by Catherine and avoided anyone having to leave.
  • Hightown: In Season 2 Jackie joins the Providence police, and soon gets involved with her partner Leslie Babcock. Leslie reveals she'd had an affair with Ray before when they were in the same unit, and it led to both their divorces once this came out. While no specific regulation gets cited against this, it's pretty clearly frowned upon.
  • The Love Boat, while not actually military, the members of the crew (including Captain Steubing) seem to get involved in romantic tangles with passengers on occasion. In Real Life, pretty much all cruise line employee regulations forbid this emphatically.
  • Both averted and played straight on different episodes of M*A*S*H. In numerous episodes enlisted and officer characters mix and mingle, even romantically without much comment from anyone (except, of course, Frank Burns, who calls it "against the natural order of things"). For instance, Klinger romances and falls head-over heels with a officer nurse in "Ain't Love Grand?" with the only drama being that the nurse just wants to have a one-night stand with him, while he's thinking of a life together. Even Maj. Margaret Houlihan has an off-again, on-again romance with the enlisted Sergeant (later Private) Scully, with nobody seeming to care overmuch. Meanwhile, in "Lt. Radar O'Reilly", a nurse pursues Radar exactly because regulations forbid it, and when Radar is temporarily promoted to Lieutenant (to pay off a poker debt), she loses all interest in him. Once he is demoted at the end of the episode, she suddenly pursues him again.
  • The Rookie (2018): In Season 5 Lucy and Tim become a couple. They both know they'll get in trouble if one doesn't transfer, as he's her superior officer. Lucy plans a transfer into another station, then Tim moves to a desk job at the same one before she can so she's not in his chain of command, letting them stay together.
    • Rookies Chen and Nolan have a relationship early in the first season. While technically allowable, they break it off after being told that female cops who sleep with male cops suffer for it with their peers and commanders.
  • Class of '09: Poet and Daniel see each other while they're both trainees at Quantico. Drew notes that, although not forbidden, this will hurt Poet rather than Daniel if it goes wrong. They break up later, and Poet gets involved with Hour instead, even getting engaged to her-this has no discernible repercussions.
  • Played With in the Law & Order-verse, mostly because it rarely gets the opportunity to be addressed. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the one most likely to see any of the main team dating each other, where it's portrayed as frowned upon for its impact on the team dynamic rather than outright banned for institutional reasons. This trope does come up in a big way in season 23, though when Rollins and Carisi start dating. In a twist, he's no longer on the squad, he's moved onto being an ADA. But since he prosecutes SVU's cases, it's addressed that keeping their relationship secret runs the risk of being accused of professional misconduct since it's a massive conflict of interest for for the DA's office. They end up disclosing and nothing more is said about it.

  • This is the subject of the music video for the Reba McEntire and Vince Gill duet "The Heart Won't Lie," which involves feelings between a Navy cadet and her Marine drill instructor that are unable to be acted upon. It's implied to be due to fraternization rules, making the song a Distant Duet.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: This trope shows up rather often:
    • The Clans actively practice Free-Love Future and have no restrictions on sexual relations, the idea of fraternization basically doesn't exist for them.
    • In the Inner Sphere, fraternization shows up on a near-constant basis, as many mechwarriors enter into romantic relationships with other members of their unit. Grayson and Lori Carlyle, for example, became a Battle Couple as the commander and executive officer of the Gray Death Legion. Numerous other characters have been noted to have been involved with members of their direct command.

    Video Games 
  • The subject is raised in Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, you can read an email from Ashley Williams to her sister in which she describes the problem:
      There's all sorts of problems that can happen when two people in the same unit get together. Let's say your unit is in a tight spot. [...] Someone has to be left behind. You think it's going to be someone you're sleeping with? [...] I hope I never have to decide who lives and who dies. But if I have to, my decision can't be muddled up by magic-sparkly-hearts-and-stars feelings.
    • Later on in that game, that situation can cease to be hypothetical, although it's not Ashley making the choice but players. Either Ashley or another crew member, Kaidan Alenko, must be left to die, and players may indeed be in a relationship with one of them when it happens. If s/he saved his/her love interest, Shepard will wonder in dialogue if s/he left the other to die for the sake of the mission, or for love's sake.
    • Also, at one point in their romance arc, FemShep can respond to Kaidan's confession with "You're not wrong. But there are regs," indicating that at that point in the story, they're an Anchored Ship because of Alliance fraternization regs. It doesn't last.
    • In the second game, by contrast, it's specifically noted that Cerberus (an N.G.O. Superpower with a Mildly Military approach), does not have rules against this.
    • In the third game, the rules about fraternization can be invoked for once — by Shepard's clone against Samantha Traynor, with whom Shepard may be having a relationship.
    • In the fourth game, protagonist Ryder can, like Shepard before, flirt with and even have romances with more than one of his or her crewmembers. Although the Pathfinder team is explicitly described as non-military (despite having a human commando as a member), players are given dialogue options can be used to friendzone any undesired romance, or any romance at all; several of these reference Ryder wanting to keep a professional distance. (Successfully friend-zoning everyone results in a funny visual gag during one sequence where, otherwise, Ryder would be seen cuddling with his or her beloved.) One character, ship's doctor Lexi, while happy to flirt, states directly that a romantic relationship for someone in her position is unacceptable; that doesn't stop her from crushing on grumpy Krogan Drax or implying that she gave up her life in the Milky Way because a fellow doctor she'd grown close to asked her to come along.
  • Some of the romance options in Star Wars: The Old Republic run up against this.
    • Elara Dorne, a romance option for Republic Trooper characters, isn't really supposed to get into a relationship with her commanding officer but is sufficiently well-versed in the regulations that she can find the right way to fill out forms to make it happen.
    • In the Imperial Agent plotline, any romance with Watcher Two gets cut off (by her) when she gets promoted to a position where it would be improper to continue it.
  • Sunrider:
    • Before Kayto Shields and Ava Crescentia were the captain and commander of the military starship Sunrider, they were high schoolers in love with each other. Kayto still has feelings for Ava, but Ava rejects any attempt to resume their old relationship because their love is against regulations and could compromise their judgment. Her fears can be realized during the Battle of Helion, where Kayto can throw away his one chance to sink the PACT flagship Legion by refusing to let Ava go down to a compromised section of the Sunrider and manually fire the Vanguard Cannon, the potential risk to her life being more than he can bear.
    • Ava's rejection ends up driving Kayto into the arms of his chief engineer Chigara, who is technically a civilian, and by Sunrider Liberation Day they've become the Official Couple. This also ends up impairing his judgment: he ignores the mounting evidence that Chigara might be a Prototype spy and puts his blind faith in her, which has dire consequences for the whole galaxy.
  • Axton in Borderlands 2 was married to his commanding officer, until his Military Maverick behavior ended in a simultaneous discharge and divorce. Really, Axton's backstory comes off like a way-over-the-top action movie.
  • In Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, Captain Marcus Cromwell eventually realizes that he has feelings for Commander Sweetwater, which is why they're constantly arguing. He never acts out on those feelings in the game, partly because they're too busy trying to save the galaxy from the Mechanoids, but also because she's technically his subordinate, even though his commission in the Noah fleet is only temporary (he's actually a SpaceTech employee), and she's on loan from the Ghosts. It also doesn't help that Sweetwater grew up among the Ghosts, having little interaction with other humans until recently, so her abrasiveness is partly a result of a lack of social skills.
  • Shogo: Mobile Armor Division: Protagonist Sanjuro Makabe was in a relationship with his fellow mecha pilot Kura Akkaraju until she was killed in battle (she's actually gone undercover in enemy territory). He then started dating her sister Kathryn, who was previously dating Sanjuro's brother Toshiro, who was killed in the same battle as Kura (he's actually become Brainwashed and Crazy courtesy of the Big Bad). Just to make things even more interesting, Kura and Kathryn are Sanjuro's CO's daughters.
  • In Time Crisis 5: True Mastermind Edition, it's revealed that VSSE frontliner Keith Martin and VSSE internal auditor Christy Ryan were dating some years ago, before the latter got killed by VSSE traitor Robert Baxter for uncovering one of their plans.
  • In SEVEN's CODE, Yuito and his commander Mirai are explicitly dating one another, with the latter having the former sign a pledge so that she doesn't get charged with abuse of authority or sexual harassment. Much later, this bites them in the ass when Mirai becomes infected with the sin of Envy, mistaking Yuito for cheating on her with Sayoko. Unbeknownst to Mirai, Yuito was involuntarily Body Surfing and ended up in Sayoko's body, and Yuito-as-Sayoko is attacked by Mirai and has no choice but to kill her in self-defense.
  • In "Episode 2: Memory" of Code 7, you find out that EIU agents Bear and Raven are married; they did a free ceremony two years ago. The EIU weren't happy about it, since an agent shouldn't let anyone get too close to them, or it could be used against them. However, Bear couldn't ignore his feelings. He told Lion he'd rather quit, and she decided she didn't want to lose an experienced agent.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, the support conversation between the straitlaced Kent and Fiora has them arrange to hold a meeting to devise a method of curtailing any unprofessional romances from developing between other unit members. If you reach their A rank, one thing leads to another between them, and they mutually decide to scrap the notion.
  • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, during Chrom and the Female Avatar's S Support, the Female Avatar will bring up that it wouldn't be right for the prince of Ylisse and head of the Shepherds to get married to his chief tactician, so they wait until after the war with Plegia ends to get married.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Monica's Ascension Quest culminates in her subordinate Jansen declaring his love for her. She protests that she's his superior officer, with the implication of it being inappropriate to be with a subordinate, but he's willing to wait on a time when their enemies will be defeated and their respective ranks will become defunct.

    Web Comics 
  • The pilots don't have to worry about this for the most part in Evangelion 303, since Misato doesn't really care who they're sleeping with, but it's played completely straight in chapter 19 when they're told that all illicit relationships are forbidden while they're aboard the aircraft carrier (with special attention being drawn to the recently hooked up Kaworu and Rei).
  • In Galaxion, the captain of the titular starship believes that regulations of this sort are silly, and actively plays The Matchmaker to her crew.
  • In Schlock Mercenary Tagon's Toughs have some rules against relationships with superior officers, but they're loose. The engagement between Dr. Bunnigan (lieutenant) and Reverend Forbius (sergeant) is tolerated because neither of them has any commands, though the chaplain is promoted to lieutenant after their marriage. While Captain Tagon brushes off Elf's advances when she is a lieutenant and suggests she get together with Commander Andreyasn after she's promoted to Cmdr. Most of the other relationships between Toughs don't have this brought up at all: Elf and Hob, prior to his death, were both corporals and therefore acceptable; Sergeant Schlock's crush on Breya wasn't reciprocated; Nick's relationship with Liz started while she was a civilian food service worker who was brought along on a mission under less-than-ideal circumstances, and her subsequent promotions and assignments eventually land her a position leading a specialist research task force; and the Ship Tease between Para Ventura (an ensign, later lieutenant, later coxswain) and Aardy (a private) never has any problems brought up other than that Para is nineteen and looks young for her age (it's not even discussed during the difficult period where Para is revealed as a UNS mole and ends up awkwardly kludged back into the command structure out of sheer necessity).
    Elf: You and the Reverend are engaged, and you're an officer, and he's a paper sergeant.
    Dr Bunnigus: No, no...see, our relationship is different.
    Elf: Because the ranking officer is female, or because the ranking officer is you?
    Dr Bunnigus: A little bit of both?
  • In S.S.D.D. Julian and Tessa aren't technically supposed to be sleeping together according to the CORE Marine's regulations, but their corporal has been unofficially helping to get them together.
  • In Legostar Galactica, Bob Smith and Shauna Finelli actually subvert this. As a Navy Captain and Marine Colonel, they're technically within two different branches of the service and are of equivalent rank. Of course, even if it was against the rules, Bob and Shauna aren't really the kind of people who would let that stop them.
    • When Lieutenant Pascal comes aboard as First Officer, she tries to use this rule to break Bob and Shauna up. Of course, her main drive in this pursuit is so she can try and date Bob instead, even though she does answer directly to him and ranks lower than him in the same Chain of Command.
    • There are a few other romances in LG, but most of them are between characters of the same rank or at least separate branches of command. The most prominent is the marriage of Ensign Red Shirt to Ensign Cindy Wright. They're both the same rank, but she's the backup Communications Officer while he's professional Cannon Fodder.
    • The one relationship that is truly stymied by this is between Major Johnny Danger, the Muffin's pilot, and Ensign Tenka Nerok, the backup pilot. She may be the only woman who's genuinely attracted to him, but she can't act on it because he's her direct superior. By the 2409 sections of Season 18, they've gotten together as a couple, but it's implied that this was only made possible by Johnny's retirement from the military.

    Web Original 
  • Red vs. Blue demonstrates exactly why such laws exist:
    Capt. Butch Flowers: Men, your delightful tomfoolery puts a spring in my step and a bounce in my britches. If I weren't your Commanding Officer, I'd pick you both up, give you a big bear hug and make you call me "Daddy".
    Church: Uhh... Thank God for the Chain of Command?

    Real Life 
  • This is normal in most modern militaries around the world. For example, all branches of the United States Military bans fraternization between officers and enlisted soldiers. It should be noted, as in the page description, that this extends beyond romantic relationships; any relationship which could create an appearance of favoritism or abuse of power, regardless of whether that abuse is actually taking place, is banned. There is some flexibility in the rules; generally a relationship is allowed "one up one down" (one rank above and below the servicemember's rank) and a relationship before there was a rank disparity is exempted (e.g., if two service members began dating while enlisted, and one of them was later commissioned as an officer, they don't have to break up).
    Fraternization is a military crime punishable by a maximum of two years in prison, and a dishonorable discharge for enlisted personnel and dismissal for officers. While the Army defines fraternization differently from the other services, the maximum penalty is the same in all. As a practical matter, though, fraternization alone is rarely prosecuted; instead, most such cases are handled with administrative punishment like a letter of reprimand.
    New York Times, Pentagon to Tighten Army's Fraternizing Ban (July 28, 1998)
  • It was an Inverted Trope in Ancient Greece, where it was virtually a prerequisite of acceptance into a military unit to sign up alongside one's (male) lover. The Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite fighting group, was actually composed of 150 Battle Couples. (Other Wiki.) The idea was that each pair consisted of a Lover and Beloved and each pair would fight harder to avoid the shame of their significant other witnessing their cowardice. This idea was taken up by other Greek cities including Sparta and Athens.
  • This also applies to relationships that are purely business without any friendship or romance involved. The Thai military is one example where business deals are regularly performed between officers and subordinates, something that would be unthinkable in most other militaries. Unfortunately in 2020 this led to one of the worst mass shootings in Thai history when a soldier who had a financial grievance with his commanding officer over a real estate loan business they were involved in murdered his CO and then shot up a Buddhist temple and a mall, killing 29 people in total before he was put down.