Trope Tuesday: The sweet angst of the Fake Dating trope

We have talked about the enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, and forbidden love tropes. This week, we will be discussing another one of our favorite young adult tropes: fake dating. 

Motivation behind the “fake date”

Funnily enough, characters in our favorite books rarely decide to participate in a fake relationship simply to experience a relationship with their paramour, despite the fact that it is a fake experience (until it’s not).

Characters almost always decide to fake-date each other for public image purposes. Whether it is characters getting fake-married for the sake of getting government aid for college, fake-dating at one of their exes’ weddings to show off how happy they are in their new relationship, or fake-dating as a way to get their parents off their backs, the decision is made to put forth the image that they are in a happy relationship for the sake of someone else. 

Golden Circle Films

For example, in the film The Wedding Date, Kat Ellis hires male escort Nick Mercer to pose as her boyfriend for her sister’s wedding. She does this to show off how ‘happy’ she is to her ex-fiance, Jeffrey, who had dumped her several years ago. Yet, while it began as a way to make Jeffrey jealous, Kat and Nick’s relationship eventually does develop into a true romance. 

More than that, however, the decision of fake-dating stems from a deeper desire for characters to rid themselves of loneliness and to appear desired. “Fake it until you make it” appears to be the message that underlies the choice to fake-date: if you fake happiness, eventually you will be happy. 

ABC Studios

Why do we care? 

That sweet, delicious angst and tension.

When our favorite fictional characters decide to engage in a fake relationship, we immediately know that, more often than not, it is a countdown to when they catch feels and get together. The journey towards that end is filled with rich, one-sided emotion and desire, and we are left in anticipation for when the other shoe drops. 

Take Teddy Altman and Henry Burton in Grey’s Anatomy. Henry was in dire need of health insurance due to chronic illness, and Teddy agreed to marry him so that he could get onto her insurance plan long enough to be treated for his disease, get better, and obtain a job for his own insurance. Now we are not condoning committing insurance fraud, not at all. 


However, this action brought Henry and Teddy into the same orbit of life for a long time. Their marriage, false as it was, allowed for them to become close friends, even best friends. Their chemistry as friends was riveting, and it made it so that the audience was apprehensive for when they finally got together, especially once Henry realized that he was in love with Teddy while she was dating other people. 

The fake-dating trope is chock-full of tense drama and waiting games, but it is all worth it when the romance truly gets started and the real relationship can begin!

Recent Book Recommendations: 

  1. While We Were Dating by Jasmin Guillory
  2. You Say It First by Katie Cotugno
  3. Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
  4. Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
  5. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
  6. Frankly in Love by David Yoon

This feature is part of a series called Trope Tuesday here on the Books section of The Young Folks. In this series, we choose a trope that we love and explore its history, what is special about it, and provide recommendations!



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