True love — but not like that! It’s no secret that Law & Order stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni are super close, but were they ever more than just friends?

“There’s so much love and there’s so much trust and there’s so much ease and there’s so much chemistry,” the actress told Today in September 2021 of their 23-year-long friendship. “And the gift of it is that it has truly stood the test of time.”

Keep reading for details on their friendship and romance rumors.

Did Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni Ever Date?

The acting duo started playing Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU when the show premiered in September 1999. After 13 seasons, Christopher departed from the show, however, he and his costar stayed close in real life. When the actor returned to the franchise to reprise his role as Elliot in Law & Order: Organized Crime, which premiered in April 2021, he and Mariska shared the screen once again.

“It’s all underneath percolating,” Mariska also told Today of their characters’ onscreen feelings for each other. “Right now after Stabler being gone for 10 years and the way that he left and the complexity of what’s happened and how he came back surprising me, we’re still finding our way.”

Are ‘Law & Order’ Stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni Dating? Inside Their Friendship
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She added, “But it’s complex and real, and I think what I love about it most is that it’s earned. This relationship is truly earned. Not a lot of people have a 23-year relationship.”

However, when it comes to their real-life feelings for each other they’re nothing more than friends. In fact, when asked during their Today interview if they ever dated, the Chicago P.D. guest star joked, “For four years, and we just broke up two months ago.” Christopher, for his part, added, “Don’t tell our spouses.”

While fans have shipped them offscreen for years, Law & Order: SVU viewers are also holding out hope that their characters, Benson and Stabler, will end up together. One of the show’s writers, Julie Martin, seemingly alluded to this in a Twitter post from November 2022, revealing that Benson will “will talk to Rollins [Kelli Giddish] about her feelings for Stabler in Episode 9, Dec 8th.”

During the episode, Benson revealed that “Stabler was my home,” before he left the SVU division. “But he left me, Amanda. And I’m not over it,” she added. “And the thing is that I didn’t have a right or a claim. He’s somebody else’s husband.”

So, when Benson and Stabler came face-to-face during the January 23 episode — season 24, episode 12 — they almost kissed. “I want to, but I can’t,” Benson confessed. “Elliot, I’m not ready for this.”

Ahead of the episode, Christopher teased the near-smooch while appearing on the Today Show.

“I think the end game is they want us together,” he said of the fans. “I think there’s a world [where they are together]. I used to not. I think we’re all trying to still figure out what the exact steps are and what that end game is. Are they going to be together?”

Who Is Mariska Hargitay Married To?

The actress and fellow Law & Order: SVU star Peter Hermann have been married since August 2004. Together, they share three kids — August, Amaya and Andrew. Peter, for his part, thinks it’s hilarious that people think he’s part of a “throuple” with his wife and her costar.

“We make it work,” the Younger alum joked to E! News in May 2021. “Sometimes Chris and I have some things to negotiate but we’ve gotten really good at communicating with each other. There’s a lot of give and take. Kind of in the end all three of us are really happy.”

Who Is Christopher Meloni Married To?

The actor married Doris Sherman Williams in July 1995. Together they share two kids — Sophia and Dante.