I’ve noticed over the years in my television watching that the most common method of getting two characters together is to introduce romantic competition. Typically Girl A and Guy B will be in some sort of platonic holding pattern – usually platonic co-workers, good friends, or good enemies – but either one of them has a secret crush on the other, or they both have secret crushes on each other, or they believe they don’t have secret crushes on each other but the audience knows they do. No one wants to upset the comfortable apple cart, until – BAM! Romantic competition shows up and swoops one half of the platonic couple. This leaves the other half jealous and distraught, which leads to shenanigans that may or may not bring our destined couple closer together, but at the very least primes the audience’s pump for a juicy future romantic reconciliation. Friends exploited this trope over and over and over, keeping the audience’s interest in Ross and Rachel alive for a decade. Bones is doing the same for Booth and Brennan, as is Castle with Castle and Beckett (which I don’t watch but this is my understanding of what’s going on). How I Met Your Mother appears to be going there with Barney and Robin, The Big Bang Theory is currently doing it with Penny and Leonard, and one of my favorites, Gilmore Girls, kept up the song-and-dance for years with Luke and Lorelai.
This is all fine and good for interesting television, but does this scenario ever play out in real life? If you’re a guy and you have a female friend whom you have a bit of a secret crush on, are you going to act if some other guy steps into the picture and starts dating her? Or are you just going to sit back and ride it out until she’s free again? If you’re a girl and believe you don’t have a crush on your male friend, how do you deal with unexpected jealousy when he starts dating someone new? Is romantic competition a motivator for getting out there and fighting for the person you’re attracted to, or does it make you step down and sit it out? (Please note that these questions refer to singles only. Married people had better fight if there is a potential interloper.)
Relating to this concept – are people off-limits if they’re “in a relationship”? In my opinion, any person not married is free game, although in practice, people tend to treat those “in a relationship” with quasi-marital respect, and attempts to break up an unmarried but established couple are considered akin to homewrecking.
I feel silly jockeying with other girls for a guy’s attention, especially if I’m not receiving any preferential treatment, so I tend to withdraw. But maybe other people are different?