Top Ten Relationship Tropes I Secretly Love


It’s Valentine’s day this weekend! For today’s Top Ten Tuesday, I’ve decided to list my top ten favourite love tropes and give some examples. A trope is a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression. A lot of these are ~guilty pleasures~, but thankfully, some of them aren’t. I’M LIVING A LIE, YOU GUYS. 😛

1) Forbidden Love

You know this one. It’s when a character falls in love with someone they absolutely cannot, should not have. The reason might be anything: a disapproving parent (har har), their love will ruin galaxies and end the earth as we know it, etc. Whatever happens, they CANNOT fall in love.

“Do people always fall in love with things they can’t have?”
“Always,” Carol said, smiling, too.
― Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt

WHAT I LOVE: There’s heightened drama without making things super complicated within the relationship. They’re happy, but the world is against them. What do?


  • Who can forget Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet?
  • I haven’t read this one yet, but Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma has a brother-sister relationship.
  • Laia and Elias in An Ember in the Ashes, arguably.

2) Friends-Turned-Lovers

If lions can fall in love, SO CAN WE. Have faith.

Usually involves childhood friends, but not necessarily. Maybe involves a character who’s always been in the friend zone, too (however much I don’t like that term).

Zazu: One day you two are going to be married!
Simba: Yuck!
Nala: Ew!
Simba: I can’t marry her, she’s my friend!
Nala: Yeah, it’d be too weird.
The Lion King

WHAT I LOVE: Out of all the things in this list, I feel like this one is the most realistic when it comes to real life. It’s probably a good basis for a healthy relationship too.


  • Ron and Hermione in the classic Harry Potter series.
  • Penelope and Colin in Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn, a regency romance novel where the main characters have been semi-friends/acquaintances for 10 years.

3) Arranged Marriages

This used to be my favourite animated movie.

Also known as Marriage of Convenience. With this one, two characters are married—not out of love but for something else. Perhaps money, perhaps protection. They may or may not have to pretend that they’re in love to other people. Occasionally, they might just have to be married but they certainly don’t have to act like a couple.

“Perhaps I’ll seduce you in the future, after some other men have taken the trouble to educate you.”
“I doubt it,” she said sullenly. “I would never be so bourgeois as to sleep with my own husband.”
― Lisa Kleypas, Devil in Winter

WHAT I LOVE: That moment of realisation—“GASP! I’m in love with my own husband.”


  • Evie and Sebastian in Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas. This book has SO MANY of my big no-nos when it comes to romance but I can’t help myself. D:
  • Khalid and Shazi in The Wrath and The Dawn. Well, sort of.

4) Pretend Relationships

This one is similar to number #3 above except that the characters don’t have to be married or even necessarily close to it. They just have to pretend to be in love.

Mal: Whatever happens, remember that I love you.
Zoe: Sir?
Mal: Because you’re my wife.
Zoe: Right, sir. Honey.
Firefly, “The Train Job”

WHAT I LOVE: First it’s all for show. The little touches. The gentle kisses. And then suddenly, you’re pretending when you don’t have to. There’s questioning from both sides. There’s despair, perhaps some sexual tension. One of you will think you’re the only one feeling things.


5) Enemies-Turned-Lovers

Similar to forbidden love, except their love isn’t exactly forbidden—it’s more than they hate each other with the passion of a thousand exploding suns.

I know that I hate her even though I love her
She’s making my heart hurt, I can’t describe, describe
— Blake Lewis, Hate 2 Love Her

WHAT I LOVE: The passion’s already there. The (very thin) line just has to be crossed.


  • Shazi and Khalid in The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (again). It’s really more of a one-sided hate from Shazi’s end, but Khalid isn’t exactly friendly either at first.
  • To a lesser extent, Katherine Heigl’s and Gerard Butler’s characters in The Ugly Truth.

6) Friends with Benefits

Ya, that works.

Two characters are friends, but they, well, receive benefits from each other. Usually it’s sex. It could also be that they make some sort of a deal where character A teaches character B something and gets some sort of compensation.

Tommy: What, you guys going out now?
Dylan: No, no, no, we’re just friends. We’re… messing around a little bit.
Tommy: What do you mean?
Dylan: Sleeping together. But it’s just sex.
Friends with Benefits

WHAT I LOVE: Watching two clueless people fall in love with each other and try to pass it as ‘friendship’, very simply, TICKLES MY FANCY. “I know we’re just friends, but I really don’t want you to date other people.” ❤


  • Firsts by Lauren Elizabeth Flynn.
  • Friends with Benefits, a movie featuring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis that’s also one of my most rewatched romantic comedies. 😛

7) Second Love

This one is when a character has loved someone else before, that relationship fell through for whatever reason, and he finds someone else.

Sorry, girl, but you missed out
Well tough luck, that boy’s mine now
We are more than just good friends
This is how the story ends.
— Avril Lavigne, Sk8er Boi

WHAT I LOVE: I think I’m just really done with the whole ‘first love’ type of thing. I also don’t like it when couples who already break up get back together. Plus, there’s a certain charm in knowing that you can love more than one person in your lifetime. It’s hopeful. 😛


  • Monica and Chandler and Phoebe and Mike in Friends. Monica has genuinely loved Richard before, and Phoebe was dating David the scientist guy before he moved to Minsk.

8) Rich Guy, Poor Girl

The grand entrance.

Or vice versa, but I usually like the rich guys because… suits. This one is self-explanatory.

“I hope you will change your thinking that commoners’ pride can be bought with money. People’s hearts can’t be bought either.”
– Jan Di, Boys Before Flowers

WHAT I LOVE: Honestly, I don’t really know how realistic this is in real life because I do believe there’ll be a divide in the way these characters approach finances, and that’s really quite difficult to deal with. However, a millionaire boyfriend that sweeps you off your feet. However, houses with bathrooms that are bigger than your whole apartment. However, fancy suits. ❤


  • Boys Before Flowers, whose first episode I recently rewatched with Le Boyfriend. It was his first Korean drama ever and he didn’t complain! He’s been such a good sport. 😛
  • Tons of other Korean dramas. I promise.

9) Amicable Breakups

Plenty of people decide to go their separate ways because they just don’t click anymore, and breakups, while incredibly tough, can actually be quite amicable.

We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up
—Katy Perry, Hot n’ Cold

WHAT I LOVE: Let’s be real—people don’t always have explosive breakups in real life. No one stabbed anyone. No one killed anyone.


  • … Oh wow. I can’t think of anything. D:

10) I’ve Loved You for Years

Mark Ruffalo, OMG. *heart farts*

Usually involves the friend zone and occasionally overlaps with the friends-turned-lovers scheme. This is where a character has loved another for so, so long (perhaps years, perhaps even decades)… until one day, there is hope.

I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more
— Christina Perri, A Thousand Years

WHAT I LOVE: The tearful “I’ve loved you for years”s declarations. The years and years and years of agony and pining. The happy finally.


  • Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (again!). No wonder this book remains one of my top comfort books of all time.
  • Ginny and Harry in Harry Potter.

What are your favourite relationships to see in fiction? Got any plans for Valentine’s day? Let me know in the comments or link me to your TTT! ❤

48 thoughts on “Top Ten Relationship Tropes I Secretly Love

  1. Love the Firefly quote 😉
    So many great tropes! I think the “pretending to be in love” one is fascinating and under-utilized. It’s one of the things that made The Hunger Games so interesting.


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