"Back at the X-Mansion, Rogue and Iceman totally want to make out but they can’t! This, by the way, is the central conflict of Rogue’s character that played out over the course of thirty actual years. Except that in the comics, there was a truly awful Cajun accent involved,
and Matt Wilson on X-2: X-Men United
A situation that occurs when one or both potential partners in a relationship refuses to get involved with the other or take the relationship to the next level for personal reasons, often seemingly intractable ones. For example, Bob is in love with Alice, but unfortunately, he is also a widower, and is concerned about honoring the memory of his dead wife Carol. Therefore, while neither has rejected the other, their relationship isn't going anywhere.
Unlike Ship Sinking
, this can be reversed, but several different outcomes tend to happen:
- The characters overcome their problems and fall in love. In the above case, Bob may decide that Carol would want him to be happy, and fall in love with Alice.
- The relationship never comes to be as a result of the problems, and then:
- The problems prove too great and sink the ship for the person who has them. Bob decides that it would not be right to go out with Alice too soon after Carol's death. Or:
- The problems drive away the unburdened partner or the one that has gotten over his or her problems. Alice realizes that she cannot help Bob deal with his issues and goes out with David instead, even while Bob claims he is willing to get together with her.
- The problem is resolved, but the ship does not go forward for unrelated reasons, often the result of one of the two characters dying. Bob tells Alice he's in love with her, but Alice does not feel the same, for reasons unrelated to either's personal situations.
- Nothing happens. This is often the case in ongoing works where this trope is present, or ones where the author concludes without revisiting the romance.
Compare Cannot Spit It Out
, in which one of the people in the relationship merely cannot work up the nerve to confess to the other; in many Anchored Ships
, the other partner is aware to some degree of how the person with the problems feels. See The First Cut Is the Deepest
, It's Not You, It's My Enemies
and I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship
for some of the reasons why this happens. Ship Sinking
is the permanent variation of this.
As this often discusses the final outcome for couples, there will be spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
- A mix of this and Maybe Ever After for Mustang and Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist. It's been revealed that the reason they aren't married is the anti-fraternization rules in the military. That doesn't stop them emotionally though, and having the rules change after Roy is Fuhrer is perfectly possible.
- The default mode of would-be relationships in Naruto, especially considering that several participants have unresolved personal issues and all of them are involved in the middle of a war that will decide the fate of the ninja world. They don't move forward along the usual lines; they're not in any sort of believable deadlock where each party is unsure of the other's feelings; they're not put off the table; they're clearly not completely forgotten about, either, if the Ship Tease is any indication. They're just... there.
- Inuyasha has still unresolved feelings towards his undead former girlfriend Kikyo, also feeling guilty and believing he must die for her as atonement, and Kagome (who is Kikyo's reincarnation) leaves him after seeing the two talking but then she remembers the party needs her and returns. They come to an understanding of the feelings they have for each other but their relationship stays basically the same. Near the end of the series, after Kikyo dies (this time for good), InuYasha is able to move on and finally realizes he can allow himself to love Kagome. They still don't progress much until the very end.
- Sango & Miroku, since he can't get past his pervertedness and the knowledge that his Wind Tunnel will eventually kill him, so while technically engaged, their relashionship barely changes.
- Hayate of Hayate the Combat Butler is unwilling to start a relationship because the massive debt his parents dumped on him makes him feel he can't fulfil the duties of a boyfriend. (His first girlfriend really screwed up his way of thinking.) The girl who confessed to him is just happy to understand his reasoning and the series throws plenty of other blocks into the Love Dodecahedron.
- Ken and Jun in Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. Jun clearly has feelings for Ken, and he often appears to have some for her despite his utter cluelessness when it comes to romance in general, but because of their duties and the importance of the Science Ninja Team's unity above all else the status of their relationship remains undecided until the end of the third series. Battle of the Planets averted this entirely with Mark and Princess, though.
- The Wallflower: Kyouhei/Sunako are supposed to be the official couple, but because advancing the relationship would require both to suddenly resolve their crippling issues with dating, thus ending the series, the relationship progression is forever stuck in "Denial". The number of times Kyouhei has said "I don't care" or Sunako's been distracted by the creepy, just to string the reader along, is approaching Once per Episode.
- Skip Beat!: Kyoko and Ren had a lot of Ship Tease, and Ren's manager always takes the chance to imply their relationship. However, both have an aversion to "love", so until they get over their problems, serious romantic relationship is impossible. Despite this, Kyoko has admitted to having feelings for Ren and it seems that she will get over her problems soon.
- Ah! My Goddess: Keiichi/Belldandy is an interesting case. Between the manga's "Lord of Terror" and "Mystery Child" arcs, both Keii and Bell had their reasons for not pushing their relationship beyond its sweet, innocent, and gentle early stages, even though both seemed to want to. Unfortunately, later in the series, the two were Flanderized to exaggerate Keiichi's Cannot Spit It Out tendencies, and Belldandy's naïvete, throwing away what could have been an interesting case of Unresolved Sexual Tension.
- Gunslinger Girl. Triela is assigned to guard Mimi, a girl her age who notices her crush on her adult handler Victor Hilshire and encourages Triela to let him know how she feels. Being well aware that Hilshire isn't interested in having an affair with a fourteen-year-old cyborg killing machine whose feelings of love are likely a side-effect of her conditioned loyalty, Triela never follows her advice.
- Rito and Lala are in a state of this in To Love-Ru Darkness. Lala has long ago confessed her love to Rito, and Rito has recently done the same. However, Rito's feelings for his first love Haruna haven't changed, and Rito can't bring himself to go forward with Lala until his feelings for Haruna are resolved. On the other hand, Lala is all for Rito and Haruna getting together, because she believes that OT 3 is the best solution and that that way they can all live together happily.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is a rather...complicated example. Relena admits (in her Image Songs) that she's in love with Heero, but Cannot Spit It Out because she doesn't want to risk ruining the relationship they already have and is okay being Just Friends as long as he's nearby. Heero's feelings are less clear but there are strong signs that he feels the same way, especially in the Expanded Universe works penned by the show's writers, one of which has an implied off-screen kiss. The still-ongoing sequel novel Frozen Teardrop might change things, especially since pretty much every other ship related to these two was sunk thanks to their being turned into Human Popsicle for a good 30 years.
- Out of universe, the director said the show was No Hugging, No Kissing because he thought romance was less important than other elements of the plot, and because he can't write romance. However, he did also say that he could see Heero and Relena getting together somewhere down the line when things have calmed down a bit.
- Jellal and Erza from Fairy Tail. Though they've finally both confessed to one another that they like each other, Jellal feels undeserving of Erza, and is pretending he has a fiancee as an excuse not to act on his feelings. Erza knows he's lying, but is sensitive to his issues and has decided not to call him out on it.
- Mai and Joey/Jounouchi from Yu-Gi-Oh! have their relationship fall into this pattern in the anime. They both obviously care about each other, but Mai has a bit of a "complex" over having been rescued by Jounouchi and Yugi multiple times, to the point of pulling a brief Face-Heel Turn to gain power and prove she doesn't need to rely on someone else to save her (and then has to be saved anyway). Jou doesn't help at all, as his She Is Not My Girlfriend tendencies in a few episodes only served to push Mai away.
- Jin and Misaki in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo an example that ends in a successful resolution. Jin feels an inferiority complex over Misaki, so he played a Casanova front, despite faithful of their Childhood Friend Romance. The issue was resolved in volume 5 of the light novel.
- Alibaba and Morgiana from Magi - Labyrinth of Magic. Alibaba has a Love Revelation Epiphany after one of his friends tells him Morgiana likes him, but Morgiana doesn't fully understand her own feelings for Alibaba, nor the concept of romance in general, so she doesn't feel ready to be his girlfriend. They agree to wait until Morgiana comes to learn enough about romantic love from Alibaba for them to become a couple. Then things are further complicated when Alibaba faces being forced into an Arranged Marriage. He could keep Morgiana as a concubine, but that would go against his principles.
- One could argue this is the case of Ginta from MÄR, in the anime anyway. He might be chaste, but he's not completely clueless to the girl's affections for him. (He'd have to be legendarily thick not to notice eventually). He tends to push the matter aside so he can focus on... you know, saving the world. Once that's done however, he makes the choice to resolve things with Dorothy by not choosing her and instead returning to Earth with his father to be with Koyuki/Snow.
- Batman Begins: Bruce is in love with Rachel, but his career as Batman precludes their getting into a relationship. In The Dark Knight, Rachel gets into a relationship with Harvey Dent, and then Rachel gets blown up by the Joker and dies. She leaves behind a note stating that she was choosing to marry Dent, which Bruce never finds out about until the sequel (and even then he refuses to believe it).
- Rick and Ilsa famously don't get back together.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Li Mu Bai is in love with Shu Lien, but because he failed to protect her fiance and his best friend, he cannot bring himself to tell her. He dies after confessing his love to her.
- Jeffrey The title character, though very attracted to Steve, is unwilling to have a relationship with him because of his fears about AIDS (Steve is HIV positive). In the end he decides love is worth the risk.
- Spider-Man Trilogy: At the end of the first film and for most of the second film, Peter loves Mary Jane, but is unable to get closer to her for fear that if his Secret Identity were to be compromised, she would be targeted by his enemies. Toward the end of the second film, she finds out his identity and says she is willing to take that risk with him at the very end.
- Team America: World Police Lisa is in love with Gary, but was in a relationship with Carson before he died, and is worried about getting hurt by getting into another. Gary, however, convinces her to not worry about controlling her feelings, and the two soon have sex together. Well, to be more accurate, he gets her to sleep with him by declaring, "I will never die."
- The Aeneid is perhaps the earliest appearance of this trope. Aeneas and Queen Dido are in love with each other, but he has to fulfill his destiny and found Rome, whereas Dido is still grieving her dead husband and is dealing with a severe emotional deficit. Dido overcomes her issues, but Aeneas does not. In the context of the origin myth, this is the source of the Punic conflicts that Rome and Carthage engaged in, and serves to eulogize the Carthaginians as being Worthy Opponents.
- The Dresden Files, Harry and Murphy have been this for the last several books. In the early books they were headed in a romantic direction, but in Proven Guilty morphed into Platonic Life Partners when Murphy shied away from the idea—she said she could handle something more casual, without totally deep (and thus emotionally dangerous) commitment, but is right when she says Harry "doesn't do casual". Neither one has given up their feelings for the other, and Harry has admitted in his narrative that he wishes there weren't so many things in the way (especially since his other attempted forays into romance have ended quite disastrously). It looks like the ship is going to stay anchored for the foreseeable future, though, because of all the impediments. Harry's half-brother has told him repeatedly they're both complete idiots, so far to no avail.
- In Changes the stresses of their respective lives finally makes them willing to have a romantic rendezvous, except, 20 minutes before their planned meeting, Harry gets shot dead.
- Also, in a short story written by Jim Butcher, with Murphy as the protagonist, set 40 minutes after the events of Changes, shows she has definite interest in him.
- The 39 Clues has Amy Cahill and Ian Kabra. Ian pretended to like Amy so he and his sister could run off with a clue, but as she began to think that she was getting over him, he actually developed feelings for her. Even if he wanted to tell her how he felt, it is unlikely that his mother Isabel would let them be together. At the end of the series the Sequel Series offers a chance for things to change.
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Ginny finally get together partway through the book, only for Harry to break up with her at the end because he doesn't want her to get hurt while he goes on his wild Horcrux chase. Ginny is actually very understanding, and by the epilogue of the following book they are married with three children.
- The Wheel of Time has several relationships that dally in this territory, but most notably the relationship between Nynaeve Al'Meara and al'Lan Mandragoran starts out this way.
- Light and Dark: The Awakening of the Mage Knight: At first Sabrina refused to consider a relationship with Danny because she didn't want him to distract her from the Chalice of Light tournament. After she discovers he's the Mageknight, she considers herself a distraction to him.
Live Action TV
- Austin & Ally has the title characters anchor their ship via I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship.
- Battlestar Galactica: Lee Adama and Kara Thrace fit this trope fairly well. As Kara was once engaged to Lee's dead brother and she and Lee nearly had a drunken hookup while Zak was still alive, they subsequently felt that hooking up later was disrespectful to his memory. They did hook up briefly but personal issues (like the fact that they were both currently married to other people and Kara didn't believe in divorce) prevented it from sticking.
- Later Admiral Adama and President Roslin start having feelings towards each over but with both having key positions in the fleet (and the politically repercussions of such a union) they decide not to act on it. Well until things go to completely to hell and they decide to put themselves first for a change.
- Bones: Booth and Brennan. He confessed his love for her in the 100th episode and for a while it wasn't too clear where things were going. Eventually season 7 had Brennan and Booth living together and having a baby together.
- Castle: Castle and Beckett. Beckett states that she's free to give it a shot once her mother's murder is resolved, but not before. As of the finale of season 4, they are together. And at the end of the season 5 finale, he asked her to marry him
- Chuck: Chuck and Sarah, due to the complexities of spy life. It gets resolved midway through season 3.
- Dark Angel: Season one at least. Max and Logan don't get together and strongly deny it despite both of them hallucinating the same dream of them dancing... Until The finale, in which, a dying Max hallucinates the two finally getting it on, before flashing back to reality and admitting her love to Logan before dying... Don't worry though. Zack commits suicide to give her his heart.
- In Doctor Who, the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane are Revisioned as this in the revival series. In the original series, they had a lot of UST and tended to be read as Implied Love Interests but in "School Reunion" the Tenth Doctor explains to her that he'd been well aware they'd fallen in love, but broke off the companionship due to his desire not to get involved with her. Their older selves both still love each other, but neither is the person the other had fallen in love with any more (literally, in the case of the Doctor), making it extremely bittersweet.
- Downton Abbey: Bates and Anna, due to Bates' having previously been married. Bates' wife Vera causes them problems for ages, starting out by turning up in the kitchen at Downton in episode 1 and threatening to sell the story of Lady Mary and Pamuk to the newspapers unless Bates returns home with her. Much angst and tragedy ensues; Bates and Anna think they have finally succeeded in buying her off, but Vera appears to win in the end by committing suicide and framing Bates for her "murder."
- Gossip Girl: Chuck and Blair almost constantly, especially in the second season. First, because of Chuck's fear that him and Blair needed the thrill of the chase and would be boring as a couple. Later on, because he didn't believe he could make her happy. Eventually, he realizes he can't keep running from his feelings.
- It also happened once with Blair anchoring the ship, after the disastrous brunch in Gone with the Will.
- Dan and Serena ended their romantic relationship for good when they discover that they share a half-brother together and it would be far too weird and awkward for them to continue their romantic relationship.
- In the end both the aforementioned ships were refloated despite the immense difficulty for all the characters involved.
- iCarly: Carly and Freddie get together in iSaved Your Life, but break it off at the end of the episode because Freddie can't be sure of Carly's true feelings for him, as they may be a result of hero worship.
- Sam and Freddie break up after a 5 episode arc in iLove You. It's not a total sinking, they could come back to it later.
- Carly & Freddie end up sharing a last minute kiss to pull up their anchor, Sam & Freddie stay sunk.
- JAG: This was the case with Harm and Mac for almost nine seasons until it was resolved in the very last episode, "Fair Winds and Following Seas"; due to the fact the they are both career-oriented military officers working at the same place. Plus multiple other vauge excuses were made throughout the series.
- Kings: Michelle is in love with David but can't be with him because she made a vow to devote her life to God after recovering from a near-deadly illness. Eventually she decides that God didn't save her life for her to be miserable.
- LOST: A variation with Sawyer/Kate in the final season. They both make it off the island and their respective love interests both die, making it entirely possible that they eventually get together. However, the sideways world makes it very clear that Juliet and Jack are their respective soulmates.
- The Mentalist: It is strongly implied that this is the situation with Jane and Lisbon. They clearly care about each other, and considering the fact that the last man Lisbon loved was another co-worker, it's unlikely to be the rules keeping them apart; but Jane is still very much married, though his wife has been dead at least three years, and he seems incapable of moving on until he has had his revenge.
- Of course, long after he's had his revenge, he finally admits that he loves her.
- The Nanny: The reason why Max and Fran don't get together at first is that he has loads of emotional baggage (including a dead wife). Later Max proposes to her at the end of the fifth season, and they get married, staying so for the final season.
- Scrubs: Happened to JD and Elliot every time they almost got together. The end of Season 3 and beginning of Season 4 seemed to sink the ship permanently, but towards the end of Season 6 it suddenly resurfaced and became an anchored ship, accompanied by the retcon that JD and Elliot's problems were due to a mutual fear of commitment. By the eighth season they get together.
- Stargate SG-1 Jack and Sam, since fraternization regs are still in practice.
- It's implied after "Threads" that they went ahead anyway, rules be damned, and are simply keeping it low-profile. Deleted scenes from Stargate Atlantis really hammer it home. (Besides, Word of God says they got together the nanosecond Jack retired.)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Picard and Crusher have the shadow of Crusher's dead husband Jack, who was also one of Picard's close friends. At some point in the Grand Finale's alternate future they got married, but eventually divorced and went their separate ways again.
- The Vampire Diaries: Stefan and Elena have gone through this throughout most of the series. This is mostly due to Stefan being a vampire and Elena being a human, leading two completely different lifestyles with different backgrounds. One reason is Elena finding out Stefan is a vampire. A second reason is Stefan enduring blood issues and having issues with his blood addiction and keeping it a secret from Elena. A third reason is Stefan's brother, Damon, who is also in love with Elena, causing issues and tension between Stefan and Elena and their relationship. A fourth reason was Stefan sacrificing himself (turning off his humanity and becoming a blood addicted Ripper) to Klaus in order to save his brother Damon from a fatal werewolf bite by getting the cure (which turned out to be Klaus' blood). A fifth reason is Elena recently turning into a vampire. However, despite all of these issues, Stefan and Elena have managed to overcome all of these obstacles and come together still more in love then ever before and stronger as a couple.
- Not so much by midway though season four, after Elena becomes a vampire and she starts to fall in love with Damon much to the delight of the large and vocal Damon/Elena fanbase.
- Caroline and Tyler become one in season three, because of Tyler getting sired by Klaus. They break up but still have feelings for each other, and Tyler gets Put on a Bus to try to break Klaus' mind control.
- Veronica Mars has this with Veronica and Duncan in season 1 ((eventually they get back together and then break up for good) and later with Logan and Veronica, which ends with no definite resolution, mostly due to the show's cancellation.
- Happens to Zoey and Chase in Zoey 101, after Chase can finally spit it out but ends up stuck in London for the semester. As they don't see a long-distance relationship working, they decide to let it be for now. It all ends well eventually.
- Niles and Daphne were like this for five solid seasons in Frasier: Niles was helplessly in love with Daphne, but he was married and refused to cheat on his wife, and wouldn't divorce her since he loved her too (though why he loved her, no one will ever know). So he never mentioned his love, and though Daphne had mad chemistry with him, she remained oblivious to his feelings, never even considering him due to his marriage. They finally de-anchored when Niles' marriage fell apart for unrelated reasons, but went through a long period of Will They or Won't They?, Cannot Spit It Out, Unrequited Love, Poor Communication Kills, Romantic False Lead, and Unrequited Love Switcheroo before they finally hooked up.
- Danny and Lindsay on CSI NY. At first, she pushed him away because of her emotional problems with having survived an incident that took the lives of her friends. Then, he pushed her away while he grieved for a young boy who'd been shot and killed while out with Danny.
- Jack and Sue in Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, since it would involve one of them quitting their job at the FBI.
- Played for Laughs in The Magnetic Fields' song "The One You Really Love":
I gaze into your eyes of blue
But their beauty is not for me
You're dreaming of someone who's gone
You're dreaming of the one you really love
You're dreaming of...the corpse you really love!
- Arguably, in the Ace Attorney series: none of the possible (or believed) romantic relations involving main character Phoenix Wright come to a viable end, due to several reasons: Iris went jailed (not to mention she is actually a religious vowed maiden in disguise, and apparently returns to her duties at monastery after imprisonment time), Maya left to her village, Edgeworth apparently left the country again and Mia and Dahlia are both dead.
- The most remarkable, however, is that after the gap of seven years passed between the timelines of Trials and Tribulations and the sequel Apollo Justice, none of these characters return to the story: Phoenix in Apollo Justice is portrayed as a single and decadent man, in charge of taking care of an adoptive daughter. No romantic relation or Ship Tease related to him and any of these characters (or any others) is even mentioned.
- As said before: is arguable. Not just because some of these characters are often considered as cases of The Not-Love Interest (Maya, Edgeworth), but also there is still a chance that any of them reappear in a next sequel of Ace Attorney. Anyway, until then (and if occurs), these existing ships about Phoenix Wright are nominally anchored.
- Bittersweet Candy Bowl: One way to see Mike and Lucy ever getting together.
- General Protection Fault: Fooker admits to Sharon that he loves her, but while they are in a relationship, he's hesitant to get married, having seen many bad marriages like that of his parents. Sharon accepts this, and decides to let him decide when or if he's ready to marry (Then again, she did catch the bouquet at Nick and Ki's wedding).
- Housepets!: Peanut and Grape. Peanut has strong feelings for Grape, and she insists that they are more than Just Friends, but also admits that she is not romantically attracted to dogs.
- The Order of the Stick Therkla is in love with Elan, but he is still faithful to Haley. As she is fatally poisoned and dying in his arms, she refuses to come back to life after he is unwilling to be with her.
- Questionable Content gives us Marten and Faye. The UST drives much of the first five hundred strips, but Faye's issues stop this from going anywhere. About strip 500, Faye tells Marten why she isn't ready for a relationship, and not to spend his life waiting for her.
- Sluggy Freelance Torg is in love with Zoe, but Oasis loves him and is willing to kill any potential romantic rivals, preventing him from getting closer to Zoe until he finds a way of dealing with Oasis. Oasis attacks Zoe, causing her to figure out both that Torg loves her and that she loves Torg, only to be killed mere seconds later by Oasis, oddly enough for reasons that had nothing to with hypotenuse removal.
- But wait, with the newest chapters It turns out Zoe wasn't killed after all but kept alive by nanomachines that rebuilt her without memories until Riff restores them by copying her memories the night prior to her 'death' by Oasis via time travel. Now they've gone back to the status quo with him in love with her and her remaining oblivious.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- During "The Ember Island Players," the final episode before the finale, Aang and Katara are forced to assess their relationship. When Aang expresses his desire to "be together" with Katara, she claims to be confused about her feelings and does not wish to be involved with Aang if she's unsure. This may be one of the most briefly anchored ships out here, because at the end of "Sozin's Comet," less then five episodes apart from "Ember Island Players," Katara is finally willing to enter the relationship and be with Aang.
- Also, Jinko, one of the few anchored ships that remain so, is mostly due to Jin's being a one-time character. Zuko and Jin go out once in book two, and after the initial awkwardness, Zuko seems to actually enjoy their date. There is speculation that Zuko truly cared about Jin, going so far as to use firebending to light lanterns so she wouldn't be disappointed, and even returning her kiss. It can be inferred that this is also why he left so abruptly. Jin is never mentioned in the show again, and the finale strongly implies that Zuko eventually marries Mai.
- And Zuko/Mai had been completely open for a long time as well. It was entirely unclear if their childhood crush would develop to anything when they first met again after years and when things seemed to get resolved after The Beach, everything was out in the open again up to and during the volcano prison. Only when she attacks Azula to save him does she commit to accepting his decision to join the Avatar. But then she vanishes again until the finale.
- Phineas and Ferb, Ferb has a crush on Vanessa, which is slightly problematic since she's sixteen and he's "less than fifteen" according to the creators; some evidence would make him as young as nine. Some fans like to think they could get together when they're both adults, or just use some Applied Phlebotinum to equalize their ages.
- Word of God said that he'd like to see them get together when they're older and the age difference wouldn't matter.
- For Gravity Falls, this seems to be more likely the case for Wendy and Dipper as of "Into The Bunker." While she did let him down after he revealed his crush, they are still friends and it is the beginning of Season 2 so anything can still happen. Age seems to be the factor here and not genuine personality.