Enemies to Lovers

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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)Enemies to Friends to Lovers
Related tropes/genresRivals to Lovers
See alsoEnemyslash, Friends to Lovers, Hatesex, Love-Hate Relationship
Related articles on Fanlore.

Enemies to Lovers is a popular trope in erotic and romantic literature that also appears in fanworks.

The two characters often have a long history of conflict with each other. They may be the protagonist and antagonist, or they may be side characters. They may be on opposite sides of a struggle, or may have just met under unfortunate circumstances and their personalities clashed. There is often a lot of bickering and UST.

Works using this trope differ from Enemyslash and Hatesex fics, in that these characters don't actively hate each other or want to harm one another. These relationships are rarely violent or non-con.


Enemies may be forced to work together to achieve a common goal and come to respect one another, building slowly to a sexual relationship. Their relationship may change as a result of circumstances. Fic authors have used Forced Marriage, Sex Pollen, Amnesia or Soulmates AU to get their pairing together.

It is sometimes heavily debated exactly how "enemies" is defined in the trope, and what kind of enemies people should be for their romance to still be plausible and enjoyable. There are those who argue that some scenarios are too dark for them to support and some characters too evil to be redeemed, while others are against such limitations. Different opinions among enemies to lovers fans may lead to disagreements.

In pairings where there is no doubt two characters are enemies, the work may not be tagged with this trope; with authors viewing the pairing tag as a content warning in itself, and adding more specific tags related to the other story tropes employed.

Enemies to Friends to Lovers

Although Enemies to Friends to Lovers and Enemies to Lovers can be thought as one and the same, that is not always the case. Sometimes two characters who are enemies, and have UST, pivot quickly into having a sexual (or romantic) relationship, skipping the step of developing a friendship first, for some fans this is satisfactory because they wish to see the pairing together, but for many the friendship component is crucial for them to accept and enjoy the pairing.

I mean I SAY I love the ‘Enemies to Lovers’ trope but what I really MEAN is that I love the

‘Enemies to Resentful Allies In A Time Of Crisis to Grudging Mutual Respect to Growing Fondness Concealed By Snark to Hurtful Betrayal to Slow Reconciliation With A Greater Understanding Of Each Other to Strange But Solid Friendship to Unexpected Feelings In A Time Of Crisis to Denying Their Feelings While Growing Closer As Friends to Epiphanies Of Love In The Worst Possible Circumstances to Mutual Pining to Unbearable Sexual Tension to Lovers’


Rivals to Lovers

Rivals (to Friends) to Lovers differs from Enemies to Lovers in the severity of the antagonism between the two characters. They will usually dislike each other for less serious reasons, and may feel competitive rather than wishing true harm on the other. Rivals to Lovers works typically involve more fluff as two people learn to get along but do not have to overcome any significant moral disagreements.

learn your dynamics

enemies to lovers: two people on opposite sides of a war, a battle or feud who fall in love and work together to give an end to the conflict.

rivals to lovers: there's no war, battle or feud. if there is, they're on the same side. they just hate each other.[2]

having a rival just means youre gay i know we cover this every time but 'rival' is code for fated lover and everyone knows it. i know it. you know it. the people writing it know it.[3]

The distinction between rival and enemies is sometimes unclear. The "Rivals to Lovers" tag on AO3 is synned with "Enemies to Lovers" tag. Some disagree that the two tropes should be equated and strongly prefer one over the other.

“I like enemies to lovers but only when they just disagree or prank each other” u don’t like enemies to lovers then. U like rivals to lovers maybe.

enemies to lovers inherently needs suspension of disbelief & a willingness to look at stories through a non-literal lens[4]

Fan Comments

Appeal of the trope


Do you know why I love the “enemies to friends to lovers” trope so much? Because a relationship like that involves RESPECT. They start off hating each other and then they have to work togerher until they realize they have something in common, so they develop a respect that slowly turns into love. Those are the most solid ships y’all.[5]


Maybe bc I'm acearo I never had imagined myself while reading a romance book (also bc it was all too hetero™ for me lmfao) so I enjoy enemies to lovers more for the complexity of the change of relationship and conceptions than anything else[6]

Discussions of the trope

there’s a difference between the ‘enemies-to-lovers’ trope and shipping someone with their abuser[7]

If a ship has someone literally harassing, assaulting, and hate and traumatizing, and then it’s just a kiss and no remorse or apology or growth, it’s abusive. It’s toxic. There’s a difference.[8]

enemies/rivals-to-lovers is a rad trope but it only works if the characters don’t get along because of a dumb misunderstanding not because one of them has committed literal genocide

i love enemies-to-lovers as much as the next person but shipping characters with disgusting bigots/their abusers/etc and calling it "enemies-to-lovers😍" just....ain't it, chief[9]

That's not enemies to lovers, that's a high school debate club lmao.

Also you can't commit "literal" genocide in fiction.[10]

the enemies-to-lovers debate is stupid. here let me solve it for you: it works and is sexy when they're gay. if they're straight it doesn't work because a man who hurts a woman deserves to be arrested. here you go[11]

just so we're clear on this: enemies = people fighting each other on opposite sides of a conflict, or hating each other and fighting for no good reason

people who compete and fight bc of that = rivals one side tortures/manipulates the victim regardless of relationship = abuse

the lines are obviously not so clear but what defines enemies for me is that they dont have a shared goal (bc thats competiton/rivalry), and abusive relationships arent synonymous with being enemies so obviously thats not what im talking about

(also yeah obvs relationships can be mutually abusive but its a complicated set of circumstances that isnt based on "hate each other and openly want to tear each others throats out")

all that said, romantic rivalry between gay people is also usually infinitely better and sexier than between a man and a woman

This whole thread is embarrassingly sexist without even realizing it. It patronizes women as supposedly inherently weaker than men and it draws a line between what counts as abuse and what doesn't according to the genders involved.[12]

Some of y'all don’t know that it’s supposed to be “Enemies to Allies to Cordial to Friends to Lovers” and not just teleporting from Enemies straight to Lovers and it shows[13]

and as a woman, boy do i personally get the appeal of this trope (as a general concept, even when specific ships don’t resonate w/ me). like we live in a world where men think it’s “weird” that their girlfriend swears or farts; not shaving is a cardinal sin. women’s humanity is disgusting to so many men and even to so many fellow women. women’s righteous anger is laughed at, our legitimate fears are routinely dismissed and belittled. if we’re not nice, if we’re not sweet, if we’re not doormats, we’re discarded; if we are any of those things, we’re looked down on, we’re targeted, we’re blamed.

and people can’t understand at all why we might be drawn to stories where the very forces that oppose us, are so transformed by us, so drawn to us for everything that we are, that they literally leave their old selves behind in the dust to join us and devote themselves entirely to our victory?

[...]and furthermore, since nobody asked me…. the idea that we have to “protect” women from enemies-to-lovers stories, when those exact stories can offer some of us a cathartic brand of fantasy…. whew, fandom. stay infantalizing us i guess.[14]

Some of you need to understand that enemies to friends to lovers is " we started on the wrong foot and eventually learned how to look past eachother's flaws and gradually start to love the whole person" not " I hate you but I tolerate you because I want sex" [15]


  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - Zuko had a canon redemption arc in the series, and this meant that many later works pairing him with characters from Team Avatar often involved elements of the enemies to lovers trope. It is most prevalent in the Zuko/Katara ship as their canonical relationship was the most antagonistic before the two became close friends. Zuko/Aang is the next most common pairing, due to Zuko's obsession with Aang and the two having many a moment that laid the foundations for their later friendship.
  • Arrowverse - the Coldflash pairing, in which Captain Cold is one of The Flash's villains. While this is the most popular Hero/Villain ship in the arrowverse, it is not the only one. Some works in those pairings also employ this trope.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - the pairing of Buffy/Spike had a canonical enemies to lovers story arc, that was controversial among fans. Many fans had been exploring this trope in fiction before their relationship became canon, and other fans used fanfiction to fix which they viewed as a poorly managed narrative arc.
  • Death Note - the pairing of L/Light often involves the two attempting to manipulate each other through a disingenuous relationship
  • Harry Potter - most often in the pairing of Draco Malfoy with either Harry or Hermione
  • Star Wars - the pairing of Reylo ships canon adversaries Rey and Kylo Ren, who are discovered to have a Force Bond.
  • The 100 - the pairing of Clexa prior to their short lived romantic relationship in canon, as well as the pairing Bellarke, who often find themselves in conflict. The Kabby pairing had a canonical enemies to lovers story arc
  • Pokemon (anime): - The pairing of Ash/Misty is often seen as such, due to the pair arguing constantly in the beginning and slowly forming a friendship.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender - the pairing of Lance McClain/Keith. Usually classified as "Rivals to Lovers." The pairing of Keith/James Griffin experienced a surge in visibility after the fans first saw them together in the season 7 trailer.
  • Fire Emblem Fates - Any pairings of the Nohrian royals Xander, Camilla, Leo, and Elise with Hoshidan royals Ryoma, Hinoka, Takumi, and Sakura. The game allows the player to canonize the m/f ships, but Leo/Takumi, Camilla/Hinoka, and Ryoma/Xander are also incredibly popular.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Dimitri/Edelgard is an example of Friends to Enemies via their canon backstory and the events of Crimson Flower and Azure Moon. Fans who ship them together will often concoct AUs in which both of them survive and try to rekindle their old feelings despite all that's passed between them. Rhea/Edelgard is also popular due to Crimson Flower, where the two fight each other directly.
  • Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes - With the new protagonist Shez taking center stage and Houses protagonist Byleth in an antagonistic role, the ETL potential for Shez/Byleth made it the most popular ship among Three Hopes fans. The fact that Byleth can be recruited to the player's side and become an ally only strengthened this.

Example Fanworks


An often recced and well known Coldflash Soulmates AU. (Not tagged enemies to lovers)
As of Feburary 2019, is the second most popular work in the Enemies to Lovers tag.
An extremely popular BTS fanfiction that, as of Feburary 2019, is the most popular work in the Enemies to Lovers tag on AO3
A very popular Reylo arranged marriage fic that is often cited as an example of how to employ this trope. (Not tagged enemies to lovers)


Further Reading

Archives & Fannish Links


  1. ^ 27th May 2018 tumblr post by enigmaticagentalice
  2. ^ Oct 27, 2019 by broccolux
  3. ^ 4:55 PM - 2 Apr 2019, Archived version @blingeed
  4. ^ Jan 12, 2020 by beverlylove
  5. ^ Apr 22nd, 2019 by dustineverypage
  6. ^ "Linest⁷ it's about homoeroticism on Twitter:…". 2022-03-26. Archived from the original on 2022-03-27.
  7. ^ deanpinterester, 2016-09-01
  8. ^ Acaprioglino's tumblr post on the difference between enemies to lovers and abusive relationships.
  9. ^ Jan 11, 2020 by kzabrekker (archived)
  10. ^ Jan 11, 2020 by jannahskywalker
  11. ^ Jan 12, 2020, Archived version by lordephrim
  12. ^ 4:14 AM Jan 13, 2020 by HimeTweets
  13. ^ the-apprentice-bebop, Jan 28th, 2020 (dead link)
  14. ^ do folks genuinely not understand the appeal of the “enemies to lovers” trope, a Tumblr post by robotmango (January 2, 2020)
  15. ^ See: tumblr post by crystallizedpistachio, Archived version