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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 necessarily 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 that is faked.


As an ending trope, spoilers marked and unmarked are abundant on 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.
  • 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.
  • Oreshura also revolves around this. Masuzu and Eita both hate the very concept of romantic love, seeing it as shallow and destructive based on the terrible relationships of each of their parents. Masuzu, the most popular girl in their school, blackmails Eita into pretending to be her boyfriend so that boys will stop confessing to her. And then they start falling in love for real.
  • In Please Teacher!, due to a mishap involving Mizuho's teleporter putting her and Kei in a very compromising situation, Kei and Mizuho end up having to pretend they're married, which eventually grows into a genuine romance.
  • 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.
  • The whole premise of Rent-A-Girlfriend. After being dumped by his girlfriend, Kazuya uses an online app to rent a girlfriend named Chizuru. Things get complicated by their friends and family assuming they're dating for real, and in the middle of the resulting shenanigans, the two inevitably start falling in love for real.
  • Spy X Family: Loid and Yor start as a fake couple who only agreed to get married to seem less suspicious to outsiders since both have to maintain cover for their secret lives as a spy and an assassin. Over time, it's obvious their feelings are growing into real love.
  • 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. By the end, their relationship has become real.
  • Wolf Girl and Black Prince has this as the central plot. Erika and Kyouya pretend to date because the former has boasted to her friends that she already has a boyfriend and shown them Kyouya's photo as evidence. Eventually, however, love blossoms between the two and they begin dating for 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 
  • In general, this trope is very popular in romance and shipping fics.
  • 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.
  • Hold Back the Dawn: George cons innocent schoolteacher Emmy into a quickie marriage so he can get a green card. Naturally he falls in love with her; Emmy being played by Olivia de Havilland doesn't hurt.
  • Shadowlands: Jack (better known as C. S. Lewis) marries Joy to allow her to stay in England (also a Real Life example.)
  • Two dueling 1999 teen romantic comedies are built around this trope:
    • The formulaic She's All That has Freddie Prinze Jr. trying to get Rachael Leigh Cook to go out with him and set her up as Prom Queen on a bet, but eventually falling for her, with the consequent trust-breaking and relationship repair that entails. It is slightly played with since in the early half of the film it's not clear how much he's "faking" his pursuit of Laney as opposed to genuinely pursuing a real friendship but with ulterior motives. Based on My Fair Lady, which notably doesn't involve the romantic deception.
    • The slightly more well-regarded 10 Things I Hate About You has Heath Ledger being paid to date Julia Stiles so that her father will allow her younger sister to date Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Again, the plot is found out and recriminations and reconciliation ensues. Based on The Taming of the Shrew, which also notably differs from the film's plot in having the suitor be genuine from the start.
  • In Office Romance, Anatoly Efremovich, on the advice of his careerist friend, tries to woo his Ice Queen boss to curry favor for a desired promotion. However, they eventually develop romantic feelings for each other.
  • 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.
  • In Beau Jest, Sarah is dating Chris, but she's keeping it a secret from her parents, who she believes don't like Chris because he's a gentile. So, she hires an actor named Bob to pretend to be her boyfriend at a dinner with her parents. There's just one thing: Bob isn't Jewish either (it turns out, not every guy named Bob Schroeder is automatically Jewish), but he did take part in a production of Fiddler on the Roof once, so he's able to fake his way through the dinner. Her parents like Bob so much, they keep pressuring Sarah to bring him again. Naturally, Sarah and Bob eventually develop feelings for one another, to the point where Bob even considers converting to Judaism. And it turns out that Sarah's parents didn't care for Chris because he looked like a cousin they didn't like, not because he wasn't Jewish.
  • In The Wedding Date, Nick is a professional escort and is implied to have done this sort of thing before. Kat hires him mainly because she doesn't want to show up alone to her sister's wedding since the best man is her ex-fiancé. Their fake relationship evolves into a real one, and Nick quits his job for Kat.
  • Plan B: Bruno pretends to be interested in his ex-girlfriend Laura's bisexual boyfriend Pablo to get him to fall in love with him and leave Laura free to be stolen back by him, only to genuinely fall in love with Pablo in return and ultimately choose him over Laura.
  • In The Proposal, Margaret and Andrew pretend to be a couple so that Margaret can get a Citizenship Marriage and avoid being deported to Canada. They become a real couple by the end of the film.
  • In Trading Places, Ophelia was hired by Clarence Beeks to pretend to be Louis Winthorpe's lover in front of Louis' fiancée as part of a secret plot to ruin his life, only agreeing because Beeks paid her to. However, she pities Louis, so she starts taking care of him, and after a while, they actually fall in love.

  • 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).
    • In "The Case of the Discontented Husband", this plot 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 Katniss gradually developed real feelings for Peeta (who didn't need the ruse to fall for her, as he'd already been in love with her for a long time).

    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 Malcolm 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-defense, and has her executed for what she's done. He immediately regrets it, even before he finds out it was all true.
  • In The First Shop of Coffee Prince, Han Kyul mistakes Eun Chan for a boy and hires her to pretend to be his boyfriend so that his family will stop trying to get him to settle down with a woman. He falls in love with her (and vice versa) even before he learns that she's not actually a boy.
  • Lucifer: When Lucifer breaks up with Eve, Eve begs Maze to pretend to be her girlfriend in order to make Lucifer jealous. Unfortunately, Maze catches real feelings for Eve, but Eve thinks Maze's Big Damn Kiss and Anguished Declaration of Love (through Wonderwall) are all part of the act.
  • In The Good Place, the titular Good Place pairs everyone up with their soulmate. Because of this, Eleanor, who was accidentally sent there instead of the Bad Place, has to pretend to be soulmates with Chidi to prevent others from finding out that she doesn't belong in the Good Place. Despite constantly getting on each other's nerves at first, the two eventually develop genuine feelings for each other that persist even after countless memory wipes and attempts from Michael to keep the two of them apart or assign Eleanor a different soulmate who won't lead her towards realizing that they're actually in the Bad Place.
  • The Last Man on Earth: Phil "Tandy" Miller marries Carol under the belief that she is the last Woman on Earth. She isn't, and while at first he curses being stuck with the quirky, needy Carol, and not the beautiful, glamorous Melissa, after proving her loyalty towards him Tandy eventually does begin to fall in love with Carol, and becomes the most loyal and loving, if harebrained husband, on the face of the newly barren Earth.
  • Chuck has this as the core romantic storyline of its first 2 seasons, with Chuck and Sarah acting as a couple publicly despite knowing they're only in it as a cover story. Of course, their attraction to each other starts immediately, and only Sarah tries very hard to hide her true feelings.
  • Bridgerton: Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, to avoid unwanted suitors enters a fake romance with Daphne Bridgerton, who expects the relationship to raise her reputation in the marriage market once it is over. "Over" doesn't happen.

    Video Games 
  • Can happen twice in Persona 5
    • In the Priestess Confidant, Makoto notices that her new friend is dating a host, and becomes suspicious of the boyfriend. She asks the player character to pose as her boyfriend on a double date, which is helped by her friend being convinced that they're a couple. After the host reveals his true colors, and there's no longer any need for the act, the player character can offer to be Makoto's "study partner" in romance, resulting in their relationship becoming real. In Makoto's Rank 7 event, she responds well to expressing an interest in marrying her, and to being enthusiastic about playing her boyfriend.
    • In the Devil Confidant, Ohya claims that the player character is her boyfriend to get her boss(who doesn't want her to investigate her partner's disappearance) off her case. In her penultimate event, you can get into a relationship with her by saying that that you "took it seriously" while pretending to be her boyfriend.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park has a double deceiver variant that becomes real at some point off-screen. In "Tweek x Craig", the town becomes convinced the eponymous two are a couple after fanart of them by some Asian girls start circulating. At the end of the episode, the two decide to humour the town's delusions and pretend to be together after seeing how upset their staged break-up made everyone. However, that episode is the last time the idea of the relationship being fake is even brought up; by the time South Park: The Fractured but Whole comes around, the relationship is official enough for the two to have a Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario of the romantic kind and a side quest where the player character takes them to relationship counseling to help with the make-up part of said scenario.

    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 later 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 Georg von Trapp, she was actually depressed and angry with the Mother Abbess, the Captain, and God. While she was fond of Captain, she didn't love him, and ultimately still wanted to be a nun, and married him mostly out of her devotion and love for the children. She later remarked, however, that "I learned to love him more than I had ever loved before or after."


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