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The Bro Code

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"There should be a set of rules to govern how bros comport themselves among other bros."

Just punched your best friend in the face? Put some ice on it and he'll be fine. Just wrecked his car? No prob, he's got insurance. Slept with his ex? Whoa, momma, you're in for a world of hurt!

Even among the closest Heterosexual Life-Partners, there are some lines you just do not cross, and one of them's dating, sleeping with, or otherwise getting involved with a woman your bro has broken up with. If a guy breaks this rule, expect it to lead to incredible hostility in the friendship, lasting ... oh, about thirty minutes or so.

Another facet of the Bro Code is that, if your Bro is into someone, he absolutely gets to make the first move. . . no matter how long that may actually take. Jumping another Bro's claim is just bad manners.

A Truth in Television, as dating/sleeping with/any romantic involvement with a friend's ex, or potential future ex, (without asking first) can be interpreted as a disrespectful stab to the back (as well as to the heart). Depending on how bad the breakup was, the Bro and the ex may not even be able to be in the same building without unleashing epic horror.

See its sub-trope Bros Before Hoes. Compare to My Sister Is Off-Limits, when the conflict is over dating a bro's sibling.


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  • In a Miller Lite series of commercials called "Man Law" delved in many other important subjects like "is a person allowed to stick a finger in a beer bottle to carry it" and "how many beer cans can you take home from a friend's party", and in one a panel of men debate how long you have to wait before making a move on a friend's ex-girlfriend. Opinions range from "forever" to "two Saturdays, or a new hair-do, whichever comes first." Just for the record, the final word given in said argument is "six months".

    Anime and Manga 
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Discussed individually by Shirogane and Kaguya that if Ishigami were ever to get rejected, by obligation as his friends, they would have to put their Duel of Seduction on hold for a certain period of time while he heals.
  • In Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl, when Yawara is stress-eating after seeing Kazamatsuri with Sayaka, her girlfriends ask Kyoko if she wants to make a move on Kazamatsuri. Yawara gives Kyoko one hell of a Death Glare.

  • In Ultimate Enemy, Ben Grimm confesses to Sue that he's fallen for her, but had refused to act on or acknowledge those feelings because she was with Reed. After some consideration, Sue realizes that she felt the same way. Though we never get to see how this might have affected Ben's friendship with Reed, since the team had already dissolved by the time Ben confessed, and by the time Sue and Ben got together, Reed was trapped in the N-Zone, apparently presumed dead.
  • Mostly averted when Werewolf by Night sleeps with Martine Bancroft, the ex-fiancée of his best friend Morbius. Nothing is made of it, except in a video message several years later, when Morbius pointedly asks Martine if she remembers the werewolf.

     Fan Works 
  • In Callisto Hime 's Time Cannot Erase, the major reason for the conflict between Link and Marth is that Marth knew of Link's feelings for Zelda, but he started feeling attracted to her and tried to court her, even taking advantage of her being emotionally vulnerable at the time. This enrages Link so much that he actually tries to kill Marth, and by the sequel it's shown that the two haven't fully reconciled, if at all.
  • Guys Being Dudes: Candela invokes this by name when describing how enraged she is about Spark dating her ex-boyfriend, who happens to also be opposite in moral alignment from them.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: When a random older Ravenclaw sees Harry and Hermione have a fight, he realizes that he has to try to help Harry. Even though he is terrified of Harry.
    Tano didn't particularly want to do this, but Harry Potter had been Sorted into Ravenclaw. The Boy-Who-Lived was, technically, his fellow Ravenclaw. And that meant there was a Code.
    The Boy-Who-Lived didn't say anything as Tano approached him, but his gaze wasn't friendly.
    Tano swallowed, laid a hand on Harry Potter's shoulder, and recited, his voice cracking only slightly, "Witches! Go figure, huh?"
    "Remove your hand before I cast it into the outer darkness."

  • Directly referenced in Neighbors, and the attempt to avert this ends up being one of the strikes against the frat.
  • Team America: World Police has a sort of Gender Flipped version—Sarah tells Lisa that she's attracted to Gary, and when Lisa winds up sleeping with Gary, Sarah feels hurt and betrayed.
  • The second Jimmy learns that Oz slept with his wife in The Whole Nine Yards, he flies into a murderous rage. Literally. Jimmy's a professional killer.

  • The Bible has two:
    "Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife; that would dishonor your brother."
    Leviticus 18:16 (NIV)

    "If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless."
    Leviticus 20:21 (NIV)
    • Leviticus actually has more, such as prohibitions against sleeping with your father or uncle's wife. However, marrying (and sleeping with) a close family member's widow is allowed in some cases, and it's understood that any children produced will be considered the deceased man's children.
  • Male socializing is a hallmark of Dave Barry's work, especially in Dave Barrys Guide To Guys.
  • In an amusing example of defictionalization (see the How I Met Your Mother example below), Barney's 'The Bro Code' has been published as an actual book.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry realizes he's in love with Ron's sister Ginny, and spends a lot of time worrying about how he'll react. Not only is Ron completely fine with it, he trusts Harry far more than Ginny's previous two boyfriends, Michael Corner and Dean Thomas.
  • Harmonic Feedback contains a female example. Kari and Naomi used to be best friends, but Kari now hates Naomi because she hooked up with what she thought was Kari's ex. Kari has no interest in that boy anymore, but she still wants to get revenge on Naomi for breaking the "girl code."
  • Save the Enemy has another female example. Zoey's former best friend Molly hasn't talked to her since she slept with Molly's ex, Donald. Molly and Donald never seemed that into each other, and Molly didn't seem very upset about the breakup, so Zoey thought it would be okay, but Molly felt otherwise.
  • Can You See Me?: In All the Pieces of Me, Tally hears her older sister Nell crying and asks why. Nell explains that she's been hanging out with Tyler, a boy her best friend Rosa liked, and she thought it was okay until they got in a big fight and Rosa stopped talking to her or answering her texts. Tally suggests that Nell write Rosa a letter, which Nell admits is a pretty good idea.
  • The Mermaid Chronicles: During a rift in Cordelia's relationship with Wade, she drunkenly makes out with her friend Trent, who is taking a break from his relationship with Maya. When Maya finds out, she's furious. Cordelia protests, "You were on a break!" Maya says, "What difference does that make? What happened to the girl code?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow: In Season One, this is a standing problem between childhood best friends Oliver Queen and Tommy Merlyn, both of whom are in love with Laurel Lance. Recognizing that Laurel is still in love with Oliver, Tommy breaks up with her. Oliver then entreats Tommy to reconsider and get back with her, since his own life as the Hood would make having a relationship with Laurel very difficult. Immediately after having this conversation, Oliver violates the Bro Code and betrays Tommy by seeking out Laurel and having sex with her. Tommy, on his way to come see her, observes through the window. Then Tommy dies trying to save Laurel, causing Oliver and Laurel to break up out of guilt for having betrayed him.
  • One episode of Burn Notice introduces an old friend of Sam's who Sam punches on first sight. And then again. Because he slept with Sam's wife after Sam left her. Sam eventually reconciles with and forgives his friend, recognizing that he left his wife in the lurch and his friend was there for her and never intended to hurt Sam.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). Fearless takes on and wipes out the Neptune cartel single-handed rather than murder his friend Vicious, as his Syndicate boss ordered him to do. However when Vicious is told that Fearless has slept with his girlfriend Julia, no-one questions that This Is Unforgivable! and Vicious will never stop seeking revenge.
  • Degrassi High: Liz asks if she can go out with Patrick, Spike's ex-boyfriend. Spike says yes, but comes to object it. Because of this, Liz dumps Patrick, which angers him to the point where he completely dumps his Nice Guy persona to angrily confront Spike and accuse her of "meddling" and "dictating" in their relationship, growling and hovering over her while she is trying to study.
  • Drop Dead Diva: Gender Flipped when Jane is upset upon seeing Owen and Stacy on a date, saying Stacy violated the Girl Code.
  • Game of Thrones: Zig-zagged with the Dothraki, of all people. While it’s strictly forbidden for any man to bed the widow of a deceased khal, this doesn’t win the culture many “respect for women” points; when the khal is alive he’s fully entitled to share his wife among his closest comrades, and after his death she is obligated to become a priestess and never set foot outside the capital city again, despite the reverence she is now accorded.
  • How I Met Your Mother: The Trope Namer. Barney has a long list of rules governing how male friends (or "bros") are to act towards each other when there's a woman involved, which he claims was created by his 18th century ancestor Barnabus. (It's worth noting that The Bro Code has subsequently been defictionalized; it's available at bookstores around the world, with the e-book read by Neil Patrick Harris.) This particular rule is only one of many (specifically, Article 150), but it forms the focus for the episode "The Goat" and several episodes that follow, after Barney sleeps with Robin, Ted's ex-girlfriend. It causes such a serious rupture (Ted thought hurting him was one of the few lines Barney wouldn't cross) that it takes Barney sprinting across the city and getting hit by a bus in an effort to get to Ted's side after a car accident before Ted recognizes how much Barney regrets what he's done.
  • Friends: Alluded to several times.
    • Played for Laughs when Ross dates Chandler's ex-girlfriend Janice, and is worried he'll be angry. Chandler initially laughs enthusiastically, but then makes a big deal of forgiving him in an attempt to secure Ross' eventual forgiveness when he finds out Chandler and Monica are secretly dating.
      • They had a more serious issue before, when Ross kisses Chandler's mother.
    • Played more seriously when Joey falls in love with Rachel and agonizes over Ross's reaction.
    • Chandler falls hard for Joey's girlfriend Kathy. Would be normally ok, but Joey is serious about her too... Subverted in that everyone points out that all Chandler had to do was talk to Joey first and Joey would have stepped aside without hesitation. "He loves you." The real betrayal wasn't that Chandler kissed Joey's girlfriend so much as that he wasn't honest and did it behind Joey's back.
  • The Latest Buzz: Wilder talks about this when Michael dates Amanda, calling it one of the 'guy rules,' specifically the rule 'pals before gals.'
  • Neighbours: When Todd started dating Josh's ex Phoebe.
  • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive: Will makes a fake Face–Heel Turn and joins Kamdor and Miratrix. Dax is especially upset... that Will's with his ex. (Miratrix and Dax dated before she revealed she was running a Honey Trap.) While the girls exchange a look, Dax and Mack explain with "Man law!" (Check the Miller Light commercial above.)
  • Psych:
    • In "High Top Fade Out", Shawn, Gus, Henry, Tony, and Joon throw out different definitions of "The Code", (almost?) all of which relate to sleeping with your friend's girlfriend or relative.
    • In "American Duos", Nigel St. Nigel (Tim Curry) has to hide out at Henry Spencer's house and steals Henry's robe, which seriously offends Henry as he takes it as a violation of the "Robe Code". Shawn sympathizes but tells his father to deal with it.
  • Saturday Night Live: Parodied this in a sketch involving two bros who get into an argument over a woman, hash things out, and manage to reconcile, all by using nothing but various inflections of the word "bro".
  • Saved by the Bell: One had Slater convince Zack to go out with one of his old flames in order to convince his current girlfriends that he was over her. Slater then gets jealous when said Old Flame and Zack really hit it off.
    • There was also the episode where Zack kissed Lisa, the object of Screech's affections. That didn't go over well either.
  • Seinfeld: In the episode "The Ex-Girlfriend", Jerry starts dating George's ex-girlfriend, Marlene, and worries that he'll be upset. However, when he eventually tells it to George, it turns out that he doesn't care.
    • The backwards episode involved a variation with Jerry setting George up with an ex had never actually slept with. Unfortunately, Jerry ends up sleeping with her just before actually setting them up. He tries to keep it from George, but its gets out and he's pretty upset over it.
  • Smallville:
    • Clark and Whitney start off as enemies, but at the end of season one, they reconcile their differences and parted on friendly terms. Clark refuses to go after Lana until after she formally breaks things off with Whitney.
    • In season five, Lex gets involved with Lana very quickly after she broke up with Clark, and soon progressed to sex and then marriage. It destroyed what is left of Clark and Lex's friendship.
    • In season six, it's lampshaded when, in an effort to start up a friendship with him, Jimmy affirms to Clark that he is his "bro", not his "foe".
  • Supernatural: In the episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), Wishverse!Dean violates the code when he hooked up with Rachel Nave, Wishverse!Sam's prom date, on prom night.
  • That '70s Show: Kelso was quite upset when he found out that his best friend, Hyde, started seeing his ex-girlfriend, Jackie.
    • Though he more than compensates for this by generally annoying the hell out of Hyde with reminders that he (Kelso) slept with her first.
    • Hyde and Kelso are later reversed in this respect when Kelso starts sleeping with (and dating) Hyde's sister later in the series. Averted in season eight when Fez starts dating Jackie and Hyde and Kelso have no problem with it. Or the entire season of Will They or Won't They?.
  • True Blood: Jason and Jessica start sleeping together after she breaks up with Hoyt. Hoyt angrily says Jason broke the "Bro Code".
  • Two and a Half Men: Charlie definitely did mind when Alan was seeing Chelsea (mainly because he is still hung up about her). Charlie initially forced Alan to not go anywhere near Chelsea's birthday party, he changed his mind later but he felt that he had to out of fear that Chelsea will get mad at him for knowing why Alan didn't show up to her party.
  • You Me Her: Discussed once between Izzy and Nina, who both make clear that sleeping with an ex-boyfriend of either would be utterly unacceptable.

     Newspaper Comics  

     Video Games  
  • Mentioned in Disgaea 4. Fuka briefly considers pursuing Valvatorez as a "reasonable compromise" to finding her Knight in Shining Armor, but decides against it because it would be a total violation of The Bro Code, and both Vulcanus and Fenrich would get all up in her face for it.
  • One of the endings in Catherine has Vincent breaking up with Katherine and Johnny deciding to make a move on her. He was upset at first but easily gets over it.
  • A female variant comes up in Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair. Hiro asks Kamen out while he's dating her best friend Momoko, and she, disgusted, rejects him. She then tells Momoko about it herself, only for Momoko to refuse to believe her. Momoko assumes that Kamen is jealous of her and wants Hiro for herself(not knowing that Kamen is a lesbian who loves Momoko), and threatens to end their friendship if she persists. When Momoko sees that Hiro has been texting Kamen, she decides to kill Hiro and herself to frame Kamen for the murders.
  • As many players point out, in Fire Emblem Fates, it's possible for Kaze to break the "bro code" by hooking up with his older brother Saizo's ex-girlfriend, Kagero. The game never shows what Saizo thinks of this, though.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Super Orion is a shameless flirt, but he will never try to seduce Mash Kyrielight because she is in love with Ritsuka Fujimaru and stealing someone else's girl isn't something a man would do.


     Web Video 
  • A memorable moment in CinemaSins Everything Wrong With Spider-Man, when Peter finds out Harry was dating Mary Jane, despite knowing Peter was in love with her, and Harry defends it by saying "I know you're crazy about her, but you never made a move."
    Jeremy: Bro Code violation in all 50 states, f*cker. (ding!)

     Western Animation  
  • From The Simpsons, in an episode that has nothing else to do with this:
    Lou: Well if you just wanna talk, why don't we talk about Eddie sleeping with my ex-wife?
    Chief Wiggum: I thought the divorce was final.
    Lou: When is a divorce ever final?!
  • In Happy New Year, Charlie Brown Linus ends up dancing with Charlie Brown's crush, The Little Red-haired Girl. Of course Linus claims he didn't know where Charlie went, never mind he saw him go outside to do his homework. And Linus wonders why the Great Pumpkin passes him by.
  • On Daria, Kevin and Brittany undergo one of their many break-ups two weeks before a school dance. Kevin gets all the other football players to agree not to date Brittany, and she gets the other cheerleaders to agree not to date him. However, one of the football players, Robert, is out of town until right before the dance and doesn't know about the situation, so Brittany asks him out to make Kevin jealous. Naturally, it leads to a huge fight in the school parking lot. Robert wins, but Brittany and Kevin reconcile as he's being loaded onto the ambulance.
    • In a more dramatic example, Daria and Jane nearly end their friendship when Daria kisses Jane's then-boyfriend Tom. For added torque, they didn't have much interest in each other until Jane became convinced that they did.
  • In the episode "Tails' Crush" of Sonic Boom, after Eggman sees Tails humiliate himself trying to win over Zooey, he steps in to help with this as his reason.
    Eggman: I can't watch this anymore! You got no game, kid! Let me help you!
    Tails: You? But you're our sworn enemy!
    Eggman: Nonetheless, in situations this dire, the bro code trumps the whole enemy thing.
  • Gender-Inverted on Gravity Falls, when Wendy gets angry that her friend Tambry is dating her ex-boyfriend, Robbie. To complicate things, they're only dating because Mabel used a Love Potion on them in a deliberate attempt to Pair the Spares. In the end, Mabel decides against using another potion to fix things (on the grounds that meddling more might just make things worse), and Wendy just decides to let it go since they seem happy together.

     Real Life  
  • In the UK it's normally called "the Guy Code", and beyond "bros before hos" and not sleeping with your mate's girlfriend, the rest comes off as more as a subconscious knowledge that men share and know automatically and without question when it has been violated.
    • Its most famous violation and discussion came in 2010 when Chelsea and England footballer John Terry slept with Vanessa Perroncel, the former girlfriend of Terry's former team-mate Wayne Bridge. Since Terry was married at the time, he'd committed adultery — but most of the media focus was on the fact that he'd been with his teammate's ex (that and the fact that his lawyers had tried to get a super-injunction to prevent the press from reporting about the relationship, which only served to make people more interested). Things were further confused by the fact that most people thought that Bridge was still in a relationship with Ms. Perroncel, although they had in fact separated.
    • Another notable violation — also concerning a footballer — was when Ryan Giggs (of Manchester United and Wales) was revealed to have had an eight-year affair with his brother's wife, leading several family members to decide that they wanted nothing more to do with him.
  • A New York Times article about life after college included advice from people who made mistakes. One of the contributors was a young woman who'd gone out with one of her friend's exes, thereby alienating her from her entire group of friends.