Side Couple Syndrome, It Exists!

Though it seems like something that was made up by trolls on the internet, second couple syndrome does exist and is more common than you think.

SCS occurs when the audience is more invested in the side couples story than the main couple. The side couple is usually a friend, a relative or an acquaintance of the main couple. One or both of the characters in the side couple are usually introduced at the very beginning of the season but their story garners no development until halfway through the series. After a few scenes we start to see the appeal of the second couple, we begin to relate to them and feel more connected to them. We find ourselves feeling impatient waiting for the second couple to come back to our screens, sometimes even skipping the scenes with the main couple just so we can get a fix. The spotlight is essentially taken away from the main couple and it shines on the second couple.

There have been several theories as to why second couple syndrome exists in the Boys Love universe. The most common theory being that we simply get bored of the first couple. It’s not a secret that once a “ship” takes off that couple will get more shows where they lead. Off Jumpol and Gun Attaphan are perfect examples of this. After achieving fame in “Senior Secret Love: Puppy Honey” they have starred in “Our Skyy”, “Theory of Love”, “Not Me” and upcoming “Cooking Crush”. And while their talent is unquestionable, it becomes tedious watching the same couples over and over again. How many times can you watch the same two people fall in love before they lose their appeal.

Another theory that was put on the table is that second couples don’t have a lot of pressure placed on them during filming as compared to the main couple, thus making their connection more effortless. Their chemistry seems almost natural; it doesn’t look forced or coerced. Take for example the side couples in “My Engineer”. At the end of that series Ram and King weren’t together. The same goes for Frong and Dr. Thara. They weren’t pushing themselves to be a couple after a certain amount of episodes, their association was undemanding and easy which made them all the more interesting to watch. They were no promises, no expectations just anticipation for a continuation of their stories.

Now what happens when the second couple overshadows the main couple. This means that the side couple have a better story and much better chemistry than the main. It rarely happens but when it does it’s so fun to watch. As was the case in 2Moons2, Aam Anusorn’s version. I think we can all agree that while Phana and Wayu’s story was cute, it wasn’t necessarily memorable. Beam telling Forth that he feels disgusted with himself after their drunken hookup was haunting. Not forgetting Ming and Kit’s epic confession after meeting the parents. And though we never saw a real conclusion to these couple’s stories, the memory of Joong Archen as the university moon and Pavel Naret as the engineering bad boy will forever be etched in our brains.

There are some cases were writers will intentionally leave the story of a particular couple open-ended so as to keep the narrative of that universe going. The series “Kiss Me Again” was not of the Boys Love genre, but it introduced us to Pete and Kao. They played such a small role but because their story was incomplete it encouraged a sequel. Kiss Me Again did not satisfy our human need for completion thus opening the door to “Dark Blue Kiss”. And while Pete and Kao’s story may be over there are a lot of possibilities with Sun and Mork’s story. Sun and Mork were not necessarily a side couple, they were cast as main characters but they were treated like a side couple. Pork and Tong from “Gen Y”, Jack and Li An from “HIStory3: Trapped” Phayu and Rain from “Love at 9”. All these couples presumably had happy endings but they always make you feel like something is missing, like their story is not over yet. That they could essentially be promoted from their side-couple status and lead in an all new season.

The unpredictability of the second couple also makes them interesting. Tin and Can from “Love by Chance” was unexpected. Nobody thought Mean Phiravich and Plan Rathavit would get their own season, and a subsequent series after that, I remember their kiss being described as the worst ever seen on a BL screen. But chemistry can’t be ignored and we will never forget Tin screaming in the shower after Can broke up with him because he was afraid of falling in love. And when he said “I don’t want you to be my friend” I think the earth shook from the sound of a million BL fans screaming at their TV screens. The same can be said for Vegas and Pete in “KinnPorsche”, who knew the sadistic son of the minor family could love. That he would find common ground with the doe eyed bodyguard. That’s the beauty of second couples, unlike main couples there is no rule that they have to end up together. They can move to a different country (Phu in Oxygen), they can choose to chase their dreams (Pob in Don’t Say No) or they can just be unsure of their feelings (Mil in Still 2gether) it’s that uncertainty that keeps us hooked. Not knowing is the string that drags us to the 13th episode. The imagination fuels the audience to a point of frustration. And that’s where the second couple syndrome is borne.


One thought on “Side Couple Syndrome, It Exists!”

  1. Sometimes the side couple pops off the screen simply because they portray a very different dynamic. While all the other pairings in BETWEEN US involved a difference in ages – and therefore a tension involving status / power – plot that influenced their relationship (WinTeam, DeanPharm, WanTul, and PruekManow), BeePrince was a sweet coming-of-age story between two peers experiencing their first love. Instead of one more scene of Win/Dean/Wan/Pruek being the wise one & Team/Pharm/Tul/Manow being the naive one, the BeePrince relationship felt refreshing, dealing with determining if a relationship that needs to remain secret (and one in which one of the character has a surer understanding of their sexual identity than the other) can grow and endure. I can see why fans flocked to this endearing couple despite the stumbles in early episodes of Benz’s bad make-up and Tae’s over-the-top acting style.


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