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Romantic Fake–Real Turn

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When a person or couple fake a romantic relationship, and then fall in love.

There are two major variants, depending on who is in on the deception. In the solo deceiver variant, one of the couple is trying to fool the other about their feelings. A classic example is when a Gold Digger falls in love with their mark. This can resolve in various ways — the deception is undiscovered and we end with a loving couple; the deception is discovered and the deceiver has to reestablish trust to achieve the happy ending; or the deceiver is discovered and rejected and suffers a romantic failure as well as the failure of their initial plan.


In the two deceiver variant, both participants know the relationship to be fake. They might pretend to be dating, or announce an engagement with no intention to actually marry, or marry without intending to live as a married couple. There must be an element of deception — the couple intend at least one person to believe the relationship is real. Common motives are for one of the couple to gain legal status (citizenship, health insurance coverage, freedom from a parent) or because one of the couple has lied about being in a relationship and now needs a stand-in for the fictional partner. This variation usually ends happily for the couple.

This trope is the intersection of Fake Relationship (a fake romantic relationship) and Becoming the Mask (what started as a facade becomes real). Overlaps with The Beard if the Fake Relationship began for the purpose of perpetrating a deception.


The two deceiver variant overlaps with Marriage Before Romance, and Marriage of Convenience. Marriage Before Romance does not require deception (e.g. people understand that in an arranged marriage, the couple do not initially love each other) and this trope allows relationships other than marriage. A Marriage of Convenience usually involves deception, and so becomes this trope if the couple fall in love.

The single deceiver variant is a subset of In Love with the Mark, when the mark was to be targeted romantically rather than, for example, targeted for assassination. The romantic option of The Bet frequently leads to this trope. There is also overlap with Sex–Face Turn, but this trope does not require sex, and that trope does not require deception.

Not to be confused with Fake-Real Turn, where it is some sort of organization which is faked.


As an ending trope, spoilers marked and unmarked are abundant in this page. You Have Been Warned.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Marmalade Boy: Ginta and Arimi pretended to be dating to get Miki (Ginta's crush and best friend) and Yuu (Arimi's ex boyfriend) back, respectively.
  • Flay Allster from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED initially seduces Kira to manipulate him into killing the people who murdered her father, but when they are separated by circumstances later on, she realizes that she has fallen in love with him for real.
  • Princess Jellyfish: Shoko Inari pretends an (aggressive) romantic interest in Shu, to use his political influence to advance a real estate project. She realizes (after he's seen through her wiles) that she has fallen for him. By this point Shu distrusts her completely, so no relationship ensues.
  • Summer Wars: Natsuki has lied to her family about having an awesome boyfriend, and recruits Kenji to play the role when attending an extended family gathering.
  • Nisekoi basically revolves around this trope, with the main characters — Raku and Chitoge — paired off by their fathers, good friends and yakuza bosses, to prevent a bloody feud between their gangs. (The rank-and-file gang members are not in on this deception.) And that was after both teens got off to a bad start when Chitoge accidentally bumped onto Raku, causing him to (temporarily) lose his precious pendant, given to him by a long-forgotten childhood love. As much as they openly claim to hate each other's guts, they soon discover that their fake romance is slowly becoming real.

    Comic Books 
  • In Runaways, Karolina and Xavin's relationship initially began as a ruse to try and end the war between their respective species, but over time, they grew to care about each other.
  • Zig-zagged in X-Statix, where Phat and Vivisector initially became a couple as a desperate ploy to raise their popularity and discourage their publicity-hungry bosses from killing one of them for drama, but after the death of Edie Sawyer, they decided to pursue a genuine relationship... only to figure out that while they are both gay men, they're not actually attracted to each other.
  • Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip To Love revolves around Leo and Vega "fake-dating" for a week. It starts as a way for Leo to prove she can be a great girlfriend and "decent lesbian" so Vega will return her beloved motorcycle, but as the week goes on, it becomes clear that they're developing real feelings for one another.

    Fan Works 
  • A very common fanfic trope in general. Every piece of media with a significant number of fanfics will undoubtedly have at least one of these somewhere.
  • The Tangled Web starts with Mara pretending to be Luke's girlfriend to keep away a Fangirl with a highly influential father. Luke lasts about a day before it becomes real.
  • In Refiner's Fire, Harry asks Ginny to be his pretend girlfriend to keep away a crowd of... interested... schoolgirls. After a couple of weeks, he asks her out for real.
  • In Girlfrenemies, future destined enemies Apple White and Raven Queen pretend to be girlfriends in order to ease tensions between the royals and rebels at their school. As it turns out, Raven is secretly in love with Apple. Apple also likes Raven but hasn't even realized she's a lesbian yet. Duchess is the only character who knows that Raven and Apple are faking their relationship, but no one believes her because it's so obvious that the two are in love. At the end of the fic, Apple and Raven officially become a legit couple.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Can't Buy Me Love: Ronald, an unpopular nerd, helps a popular girl/cheerleader Cindy. In return, she pretends to be his girlfriend, so he can become more popular.
  • Green Card: Georges and Bronte marry for residency (green card) and an apartment respectively.
  • Shadowlands: Jack (better known as C. S. Lewis) marries Joy to allow her to stay in England (also a Real Life example.)
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before has Lara Jean and Peter fake a relationship to deceive the student body before both develop nebulous real feelings for each other.

  • Captain Vorpatril's Alliance: Ivan hurriedly marries Tej to give her Barrayaran citizenship and immunity to arrest by Komarran police. They intend a quickie divorce, but the judge (a relative of Ivan's) determines that no grounds for divorce in Barrayaran law are met and refuses. (In a society where arranged marriages are common, not being in love is not a ground for divorce.)
  • Cotillion by Georgette Heyer: Kitty needs a fiance due to family and inheritance pressures and to enable her to travel to London. She bullies Freddy into the role.
  • In Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie,
    • In "Problem at Pollensa Bay", a young man comes to Parker Pyne for help with his overbearing mother who refuses to accept the man's fiance. Parker Pyne plans a complicated Operation: Jealousy that involves the man being seen with (and acting pathetically devoted to) a stunningly beautiful woman who's sure to irritate the mother even worse than the first girl, causing her to sympathize with the fiance. The plan goes off without a hitch, although the man does end up getting a crush on the woman (Parker Pyne's assistant).
    • A similar plot is used in "The Case of the Discontented Husband", but it goes completely wrong as the man falls head over heels in love with Parker Pyne's assistant and says so in front of everyone (she herself has no feelings for him, since it's just another job to her).
  • This is how Katniss and Peeta of The Hunger Games trilogy ended up together: at first they were pretending to be in love with each other to be appealing to the Capitol audiences, then they gradually developed feelings towards each other.

    Live-Action TV 
  • As the World Turns: Simon and Katie entered a Citizenship Marriage so that he could stay close to Lily and eventually fell in love.
  • Grey's Anatomy: Teddy marries a patient because he has a chronic illness and cannot afford surgery so that he will be covered under her insurance. She originally has no romantic interest in him, but they fall in love, though he unfortunately dies shortly after.
  • In The Americans, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings were initially paired off by the Centre to pose as a couple so that they could work closely together without arousing suspicion among their American neighbors. After so many years together, they have grown to genuinely love each other. In the fifth season, they even decide to marry each other for real, in the traditional Russian fashion.
  • Subverted in Malcom in the Middle: A girl who has been focusing on maintaining a high GPA at the expense of all else hires Reese to be her prom date so she can experience some social interaction. Over the course of the episode, Reese is a perfectly charming gentleman, apologetically going off-script to defend and compliment the girl, and even talking about how something that starts fake can lead to something real... but it turns out all the stuff about it no longer being an act was just part of the act, and he abandons her when her time is up.
  • The Musketeers: It's implied Milady de Winter was originally after Athos for his title and money, but she definitely came to love him. Unfortunately, when he finds out she used to be a thief, he can't believe she ever loved him, ignores her claim that she only killed his brother in self defence, and has her executed for what she's done. He immediately regrets it, even before he finds out it was all true.

    Real Life 
  • C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, as dramatized in the film Shadowlands.
  • Sofia Kovalevkaya (Korvin-Krukovskaya) couldn't follow her passion for mathematics in Russia, so she married Vladimir Kovalevskij to be able to leave Russia and study mathematics in Berlin, becoming the first woman to be awarded a doctorate in mathematics, and a prominent mathematician of her day. Their marriage became real enough that they had a daughter, although they latter separated.
  • In her memoir, Maria von Trapp admitted that unlike the happy sequence in The Sound of Music, on her wedding day with the real Captain von Trapp, that she was actually depressed and angry, for while she was fond of him she didn't love him and married him mostly out of her devotion to the children. That said she later admitted that "I learned to love him, more than I had ever loved before or after."

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