"If I fall in love with someone else, I will tell him/her now, and not shyly procrastinate, thereby dooming the object of my affection to perish just as I was getting up the courage to make my feelings known."
In one of the songs from the albums, "November Rain," the lyrics imply that Ranma is uncapable of letting anyone, even himself, know what his true feelings for Akane are.
Ranma: I'm not being true with myself. Yes, I know, but I can't say those words.
Don't forget how Ryōga actually spends the entire manga obsessing over how much he loves Akane, but never actually tells her without being interrupted by something. to make things worse for him, the one time he spits it out, it turns out to be a Mistaken Declaration of Love.
Urusei Yatsura: Ataru can't admit he really loves Lum because if he did, he'd have to give up his dreams of a harem. (It should be noted that this makes sense to no-one other than Ataru, given his horrible luck with women.)
Also during the second tag duel in the fifth movie, Ataru refuses to say that he loves Lum despite the stakes — because under those circumstances the words wouldn't be meaningful.
Maison Ikkoku: Godai is openly in love with Kyoko, but is too wishy-washy to 'fess up. Kyoko is aware of this, but is conflicted both by a rich rival suitor and her inability to let go of her dead husband.
Inu Yasha: Although Inu-Yasha and Kagome seem to have "reached an understanding" as to how they feel about each other, neither has been able to actually say the words, even to themselves.
Even worse, and more obvious is the Sango/Miroku quagmire, where one side can occasionally get their feelings out, but the other either locks up or spoils the moment, though they did eventually get on the same page.
One Pound Gospel: Thoroughly averted with Kosaku Hatanaka, who's quite vocal about his wish to live with Sister Angela and have her as his girlfriend. Subverted with Angela herself; she likely could spit it out, if this didn't conflict with her wish to become a full nun.
To clarify: it took the vast majority of the fourteen volumes of the published manga for the male protagonist to even get past "I L...". The entire rest of the manga consists of the same happening to the female lead. It's fun to follow, but incredibly excruciating at the same time.
In Hana Kimi, Mizuki loves Sano, and Sano loves Mizuki pretty much from chapter 3 onwards. Also, that's about when Sano also finds out that Mizuki really is a girl. And neither knows about what the other knows until chapter 133.
Keroro Gunsou spent an entire episode milking the trope, as Momoka's attempts to refer to Fuyuki on a first-name basis lead to increasingly absurd changes in the conversation.
How anime fans (and indeed anyone with half a brain) react to Arashi No Yoru Ni. They keep saying the word "friend" but you keep thinking one of them should just blurt out the obvious.
Many love triangles, such as the one in Kimagure Orange Road, have a third wheel who thinks that the main character returns their feelings. In the case of KOR, he doesn't, but feels it's far better to lead her on for the entire series instead of sitting her down and explaining the situation, as he does care for the girl as a sister and can't bring himself to hurt her feelings. It certainly doesn't help that the girl whom he does have feelings for is the best friend of the third wheel and an Action Girl who already promised to help the wheel girl, as well as willing to beat the shit out of him if he causes said girl harm.
In the first two seasons of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the villains have their own reasons for doing what they're doing, but refuse to tell why despite Nanoha wanting to talk to them. Nanoha (whose main characteristic is her honesty and straightforwardness) decides that the only way to get them to explain their actions is to beat them in combat and demand an explanation. It works.
The Wolkenritter are concerned about Hayate being uncovered as master of the Book of Darkness and being labeled a criminal as a result, which could be one reason why they don't tell Nanoha and her friends their story.
Also, all of the TSAB's experience with them at that point was as emotionless, deadly constructs who would stop at nothing to protect the Book of Darkness - not exactly people with a trustworthy reputation. Even if Nanoha and Fate are willing to think otherwise, it's clear they're not the ones calling the shots on the case.
In Eureka Seven, three of the characters, a seasoned rebel named Holland, his girlfriend/second in command Talho, and a young boy named Renton get into an argument over an injured teammate. Holland pretends he doesn't care, and goes on a mission to save a head priest "for a lot of money." Renton is furious that he doesn't care. Talho understands that Holland is saving this priest because he can save their teammate. Holland beats Renton up for his suggesting they try to save their teammate, Talho slaps Holland for not telling Renton that he wants to save their teammate, she also slaps Renton for not realizing that Holland wants to save their teammate (but she doesn't tell him this). This leads to Renton leaving the crew, and falling into the company of a rival mercenary. Just because everybody Cannot Spit It Out.
In another example, Renton, who's looking for relationship advice because he wants to tell Eureka he loves her, winds up looking at a porno rag, and of course, he gets caught. The men think he wants to do it with Eureka, so they convert his room into some sort of love nest, and Holland of course finds out and beats the shit out of Renton.
Shorter, maybe, but not much. Tina already had a strong suspicion, Mayu clearly doesn't care if Kaoru is taken (even after he's married), Taeko never considered actually chasing after him until very late, and Chika... hard to tell just how serious she was being.
Tina is a even better example. Her inability to confess her love to Kaoru before the series begins leads to her going on a year-long trip around the world, mainly to try and get over it.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! stars Tsunayoshi "Tsuna" Sawada, an Unlucky Everydude with a crush on his classmate Kyoko who Cannot Spit It Out. One of Reborn's first tasks in making Tsuna a suitable heir to the Vongola Mafia family is using his "Dying Wish Bullet" to make Tsuna confess his love to Kyoko. But in the end, she still thinks he was joking, and he has yet to convince himself to confess a second time.
They also tend to use a unique variations of this trope especially with the dreamseers. Who can see the possible futures both good and bad. They'll tell the rest of the cast whenever the future is good, however when the future is generally bad they won't say anything. The reason behind this is because as long as they don't tell the key players that future then they can change it, but telling others of that future can set it in stone. And the only dreamseer who actually DID say the future was still unchanged... said so after her death.
The inability of various characters in School Rumble to confess their love, Harima's feelings for Tenma being the principle example.
Hagino in Blue Drop for the largest part doesn't tell Mari that she is the commander of the space ship that caused the disaster in which Mari's parents died.
In Tekkaman Blade, an early episode has D-Boy's transformation crystal being broken, forcing him to use a modified Pegas robot to transform into Blade. Late in the series, when he's losing his memory due to a Deadly Upgrade, he forgets that his crystal broke and starts trying to transform on his own. Despite that he is searching the ground frantically and asking, over and over again, where his crystal is, Pegas refuses to say even something as simple is "I have your crystal, give me the command," instead uninformatively urging D-Boy to transform. Later, he dryly explains, "D-Boy refuses to access my Tek-Set function."
In Kanon, Yuichi's aunt Akiko never thinks to mention to him that the girl whose death traumatized him 7 years ago was still alive in the hospital until the memory resurfaces.
England in Axis Powers Hetalia. Seriously, a great deal of time involving England and America has this on both their ends constantly, mixed dangerously with England's tsundere tendencies and America's Jerk with a Heart of Gold habits targeted right back. This Ship Tease has affected the fandom as well as the canon universe immensely.
Sweden — every time he tries to talk to Finland, he becomes flustered and can't finish what he was about to say. It doesn't help that Finland seems to be Oblivious to Love, either.
In Kaleido Star, Ill Boy Ken Robbins tries often to tell Sora Naegino that he greatly loves and admires her, but never gets the chance. In a more adult version, Kalos Eido loves his best friend Sarah Dupont, but feels guilty for their common past and doesn't want to let her know. And last, Jerry the policeman can't tell his best friend Kate that he loves her since they've been friends for decades and he fears to lose that friendship When he does tell her, he graduates to Victorious Childhood Friend.
In Princess Tutu, Ahiru can't tell Mytho that she loves him — Not because of nervousness, but because she'll cease to exist once she does. This becomes very troublesome in the first season finale when Princess Kraehe offers to return Mytho's emotion of love, but only if she says that she loves him.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Scarcely a character in the entire series is capable of admitting his or her deeper feelings toward those he or she loves most. Often even the exceptions turn out not to be exceptions. For example, Asuka's flamboyant confessions of love for Kaji are to mask her growing attraction to Shinji. Of course, it doesn't work. Unfortunately, the consequence of that situation was the End of the World as We Know It, and it could have been averted if the characters (mainly Shinji and Asuka) would have been more open and sincere with each other.
In Chrono Crusade, it's hard to say that the plot would have changed had he told Rosette, but Chrono constantly dodges around telling Rosette about his past — to the point that "one of these days, I'll have to tell you a story" practically becomes his Catch Phrase. The few times he does seem to be about to explain it, he's interrupted. In the manga, Rosette has to go into his soul and dig around in his memories to find out the truth.
All Daisuke needs to do in D.N.Angel to stop transforming into Dark is to get the girl he loves to love him in return — but that includes loving Dark, since Dark is a part of him. Daisuke is unable to bring himself to tell her the truth, partially because he's scared of rejection and partially because part of him isn't sure if he wants Dark to leave.
Subverted in Yu Yu Hakusho. Just before Yusuke leaves to face his demon heritage, he has one last meal at the Yukimura diner. Cue Yusuke's marriage proposal, which Keiko reacts to rather nonchalantly. The subversion comes when Keiko returns to her room — Yusuke drops "Oh, come on, Keiko... you know I love you." without nary a second thought. Keiko's response? An even more nonchalant "Yeah, yeah."
Hinata regarding her feelings for Naruto. Until she did spit it out late in the series. And almost got killed by Pain immediately afterward.
Only to survive and have Naruto ignore it. At least until they meet on the battlefield again.
In Hidamari Sketch, Sae has trouble telling her little sister Chika how much she really cares for her.
Tatsuya and Minami in Touch. He likes her and she likes him, and she even kisses and confess to him before the 20th episode. It still took over 100 episodes...
Mahoraba takes the romantic variety to insane levels, leaving you to wonder if either of the mains have tongues at all until the last episode.
Effectively invoked in Mahou Sensei Negima!, when Negi tries to ask his father's allies who his mother is. Unfortunately, Rakan swore them to silence until he "acknowledges Negi as a man", seemingly so that Negi would have even more incentive to beat him in their upcoming fight.
Naturally, it's then revealed with no build up at all, by a newly introduced character. It's later confirmed by Jack Rakan, in the same offhand manner:
Jack: Oh, by the way, Arika really is your mother. See you later. (heads off to bathroom).
But can you really stop there? The entirety of Negima is comprised of characters who can't spit it out. Nodoka, Yue, Chachamaru, Evangeline, Asuna, Negi, Kotarou, and a slew of side characters have relationships they refuse to act on, for reasons ranging from denial, feelings of unworthiness, fear of hurting others feelings, or amnesia.
In Saki, Nodoka desperately tries to cover up her feelings for Saki whom she keeps referring to as nothing but a friend—not to much avail, though.
In Letter Bee, Connor is unable to bring himself to tell Lag that Gauche, whom Lag befriended while being delivered to Cambel Litmus, was fired from his Letter Bee position after going missing. In a one-shot story, a woman's maid is unable to reveal herself as the person who had sent her the picture postcards, because she had been forced to sell the gift she had received from her future employer when the two were younger. One of Lag's Heart Bullets reveals the secret, which the woman takes well.
In Full Metal Panic, through the entire anime, Kaname was unable to bring herself to come out and confess to Sōsuke. Granted, anyone should have been capable of noticing her feelings without a direct confession, but... SôsukebeingSôsuke, normal methods don't work with him.
He probably had a clue and by the look of the Second Raid finale, he reciprocated even though he wanted to keep it a secret from Mithril for obvious reasons.
Gauron did spit it out. Not that Sōsuke liked the idea especially after Gauron had Yui-Lan nearly assassinate Kaname out of jealousy.
The title character of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is totally unable to take initiative in starting a romantic relationship with Miu, even though she obviously likes him. All of the masters are constantly guessing (and probably betting on) when he'll finally say something.
And then comes Miu's grandfather claiming that he will only let Kenichi and Miu date after he becomes strong enough to defeat him, the man who never lost a fight IN HIS WHOLE LIFE.
In Tona Gura, would-be couple Kazuki Arisaka and Yuuji Kagura sometimes get so flustered by their obvious feelings that they cannot speak to each other at all, not out of anger, but out of trepidation. In one instance, where he has fallen on top of her (legit in this case, despite his immature tendency to grab at her), they are at this point so tongue-tied that a primal Accidental Pervert/Tsundere moment passes with only a few "Excuse Me"s — and that's all.
A large amount of problems in Gundam SEED and its sequel could have been avoided had Athrun actually spoke his mind to various people, instead of moping around silently and constantly going "it's nothing" when people asked him what he thought.
The foundation of pretty much all the tension and drama of Sasameki Koto is based on Sumika's inability to tell Kazama that she loves her. Kazama likes girls too, and very openly... But Sumika isn't her type, and is petrified that a confession of love would destroy their friendship. As of chapter 20, the tension is even more balanced on this, from both sides: Kazama is in love with Sumika as well, but doesn't know that Sumika likes girls (or even just her), so she is also terrified that confessing her love would tear them apart.
True, it can be argued that she's a Roman Catholic nun and heir to the throne of Albion, AKA England, and, as such, is already spoken for, and that he's a vampire noble/"unholy beast". But in the Trinity Blood universe, chastity among the religious hierarchy in general doesn't seem to be as virtuous a trait, or enforced as zealously, as it is supposed to be in the real world. And while some may question Esther's feelings for Ion, he does a much poorer job of masking his own emotions.
Don't forget, the empress of the vampire empire told Ion and Esther that love between a "Terran and Methusalah [was] forbidden" so that could also play a factor.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: Kyon seems to be the only cast member who is oblivious to the fact that Haruhi is attracted to him (even though she would likely die before admitting as much, perhaps even to herself).
Conversely, Kyon has admitted on multiple occasions (in the novels, at least) that he is attracted to both Asahina Mikuru and Nagato Yuki (but never confesses as much to either girl). In a subversion of the latter, Asahina warns Kyon that he mustn't allow himself to become too close to her.
This trope mostly applies to Haruhi, who would simplify things a lot if she actually said something, and unlike Kyon, doesn't have a reason to keep quiet.
Kyon at least has rational reasons for not saying anything Haruhi's moodswings alter reality, and she's already almost rewritten reality out of jealousy once, so him being carefull makes some sense.
Including it in the Anime & Manga section even though it's technically an Original English Language manga. In Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, despite three years of blatant flirtation and the fact that, like Kagome and Inuyasha, each has more of less come to an understanding with regards to the other's feelings, neither Christie or Matt openly confess their feelings before the story's final act.
In Junjou Romantica, Misaki has enormous difficulty on two counts: he can't bring himself to tell Usami he loves him, and he's so concerned with never being a burden to anyone that he's pretty much incapable of saying what he wants from other people, even when they flat-out ask him and are obviously willing to do whatever he wants. Naturally, this leads to complications, as he tends to go along with what other people want — even when the reason why they want it is because they think it'll make him happy...
Those Who Hunt Elves. All it would take to save the group tons and tons of trouble every episode is for somebody to approach an Elf and say "Hello, there. This might seem like an odd request but my friends and I are looking for fragments of a very important spell that's been imprinted on the bodies of five random Elf women. You don't happen to have recently found yourself with a strange marking on your body, have you? You HAVE? Great! Would you mind if we went to a quiet, private location to check if it's one of the fragments and remove that for you if it is?" Instead of, y'know, randomly assaulting and ripping the clothes off every one they come across.
A particularly heartbreaking example occurs in Berserk during the Eclipse. Judeau wants to confess his love for Casca after being seriously wounded by one of the Apostles. When the time finally comes, all he can say to her is "I'm glad to see you cry.". He dies painfully in her arms immediately after.
In Yuria 100 Shiki, Yuria can't tell Shunsuke how she feels about him, because she's Sex Bot and has no idea if her feelings are real or just part of her programming. Also because she doesn't really know how — everything outside of "how to be a sexbot" she's had to learn on her own and is still very naive about most things.
In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and second anime, Winry and Ed have this in SPADES. To the point where he'd rather recite the periodic table of elements than admit his feelings.
Bakemonogatari brings this to the logical conclusion. Hanekawa never confessed her feelings towards Araragidespite knowing him for years, so he gets taken away by Senjougahara who confessed to him not long after realizing her own feelings. Araragi never realized this until the cat possessing Hanekawa spit it out to him.
B Gata H Kei: Takashi Kosuda has moments of this when trying to express his feelings for the series protagonist, Yamada. When he finally works up the courage to confess his love to her, his message is garbled by train doors closing on his neck before he is whisked away.
It took until the very last episode of Super Dimension Fortress Macross — more than 2 years after it became painfully obvious to everyone — for Misa (Lisa) to finally drop the L bomb on Hikaru (Rick).
Sammy in particular is a good example: she hides her concern and growing affection for her master Rikuo, and is afraid to be seen at the cafe even after he finds out she's a regular.
Played with in To Love-Ru. In the first chapter, Rito plays it straight and then subverts it when he does finally confess to Haruna. Only for Lala to get in the way. It then plays the trope fairly straight for a time. However the reason changes from shyness to indecisiveness as he is no longer sure of his feelings. As soon as he is sure of his feelings for Lala, he confesses to her immediately, then goes to confess to Haruna who he still loves, making it a subversion.
Played straight by Saito and Louise in the first season of the Zero No Tsukaima anime, averted early in the second. Particularly surprising considering who these characters are expies of.
In Bakuman。, Moritaka Mashiro's uncle Nobuhiro was in a correspondence with his classmate Miyuki Haruno (Miho's mother) for years, but was unable to confess his feelings to her until he was able to make a living off of manga, wanting to date her with the intent of marrying her and feeling unable to do so considering her rising to become the secretary to her company's president. Miyuki eventually fell in love with another man and had children, as while she felt the same about Nobuhiro, she was unable to wait any longer. Kaya's father notes that Moritaka and Miho admitting their feelings to each other is the crucial reason why their relationship will have a different outcome.
Blood+: Haji. Poor Haji loved Saya for the entire series but he remains the stoic quiet guy. For centuries, ever since a young Haji saw Saya in 1870, he pined away but he never tells her until the very last episode at the very last moment when Saya is trying to kill Diva's babies and wants to die herself - and even then he only coughs it up when Kai forces him to. Of course, a few minutes later Amshel shows up and wrecks their moment, leaving Haji buried in rubble. Just think how much better Saya's life would be if he had said it sooner.
Although Gun X Sword begins with Wendy offering to marry Van as a reward for saving her hometown, Wendy never confesses her deepening feelings for him, despite some good opportunities. Instead, her feelings for him are displayed mostly through Green-Eyed Monster moments. Her decision not to say anything when they part in the finale looks a lot like an Aborted Declaration of Love, but since they end up being reunited in the Distant Finale —at a time when she's actually old enough to be in a relationship with him— things work out in the end.
Although most of the girls of Hayate the Combat ButlerUnwanted Harem have the ability to use this trope, the only one who really gets it enforced on her is Hinagiku, though she did manage to confess once, it was timed so that he couldn't hear it, and otherwise it gets mixed with interuptions or her simply, as she explains to Ayumu, wanting him to start the confessions.
Kotetsu from Tiger & Bunny has this tendency to the point of it being a Fatal Flaw. He doesn't like hurting people or worrying them with his own problems, and so prefers to keep unpleasant information to himself. This is a frequent cause of misunderstandings and leads to quarrels with both his daughter and his partner.
In Tsukigasa, Kuroe and Azuma have this in regards to their feelings but also on the larger scale of failing to communicate exactly what happened in the incident where Azuma cuts off Kuroe's arm and all the fallout from that.
In Smile Pretty Cure, Yayoi decides to pull an April Fools prank, saying that she's going to get transferred to another school. It's all fine and dandy, except for one hitch - the person she told it to was Miyuki, who panics and begins spreading the news, spiraling into Reiko holding a farewell party with the rest of the class and Yayoi unable to say anything because the other girls keep putting words in her mouth. It isn't until Akaoni reveals the truth through a manga Yayoi drew and lost that the girls realize that it was a lie. They're pretty disappointed at her... until they realize it was Miyuki's fault for believing it in the first place!
Jeremy from A Cruel God Reigns encounters this a lot. He can't tell his step-brother Ian about Greg's abuse after Ian tells him that he vows to make their new family a happy one. He can't tell his mother Sandra about it out of fear that she will be Driven to Suicide. He tries to tell his boarding school roommate William about it by saying that he got the whip marks on his back from an evil spirit (Greg) that beat him in his house's torture room (his bedroom), but William doesn't get it. All in all, Poor Communication Kills. Literally.
Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss has some real problems admitting his feelings to Nanami. Part of it comes from the fact he's her servant and bodyguard and he was forced into that position against his will. Part of it stems from the fact that he disapproves of Interspecies Romance (he's a Kitsune and she's a human). And part of it is simply the fact that he is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
In Kotoura-san, there is Haruka and Hiyori to Manabe. Interestingly, Manabe and Haruka's romance progresses fine regardless.
In Girls Und Panzer, the three members of the Oarai student council are the only ones who know that if the school does not win the tournament, it will be shut down. Naturally, while this motivates many of their decisions, they don't reveal it, with Anzu making a vaguely worded threat that Miho won't be attending school at Oarai for long if she doesn't join the tankery club, silencing Yuzu when she is about to tell Miho and Yukari the truth, and even being unable to tell Miho when she invites her to dinner for that exact purpose (leaving Miho suspicious). This proves counterproductive to the student council's plans when those Locked Out of the Loop are less concerned about winning, and they are ultimately forced to tell the truth when Miho considers forfeiting the match rather than risk people getting hurt.
Charlie Brown's inability to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl in Peanuts.
Inspired by the rejection of a proposal to marriage Charles M. Schulz offered his girlfriend in 1947. The woman later married a fireman, the woman and Schulz remained friends for life, but Schulz was significantly affected by the rejection. Unrequited Love was a constant theme in Peanuts.
In the 1990s Marvel Comics series Sleepwalker, Rick Sheridan finds himself unable to explain his sudden sleeping problems, caused by Sleepwalker being trapped in his mind, to his girlfriend Alyssa, mostly because he's afraid of how he thinks she'll react.
Spider-Man suffers from this trope in spades, with Peter Parker unwilling to reveal his dual identity to his Aunt May, because he fears the shock will kill her, and later because he doesn't want her constantly worrying about him risking his life as Spider-Man. It became even worse when Peter wouldn't tell his first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, the secret either. He never told Mary Jane while they were dating, either — she had to tell him that she knew his secret.
This is subverted in the Ultimate Spider-Man series, where Peter reveals that he's Spider-Man to Mary Jane in issue #13. Mind you, that's really early in the series by Bendis standards. Then again, it takes him nearly a hundred to tell this to Aunt May.
And when Ultimate Peter does tell May, her first reaction is not to say she's proud of him, but to kick his 15-year-old ass to to curb.
And Ultimate May does indeed have a heart attack brought on by a shock shortly after. It was caused by other shocks in addition to Peter's secret, but still, his concern wasn't totally unfounded.
The current Cable series tends to get sapped of any and all momentum it may have built up at least once an issue, as all the conflict roots from Bishop's complete inability to simply explain his apparent Face Heel Turn to the X-Men he's been working with for years, despite countless opportunities to do so.
For most of his super heroing career, Captain Marvel Jr couldn't tell anyone his name, because it happened to also be his transformation phrase (minus the "Jr"). (He's now known as Shazam, having taken over for Billy Batson, who took over for the Wizard Shazam as guardian of The Rock of Ages.)
Mouse Guard: Incredibly, it's the Hot BloodedBoisterous Bruiser Saxon who embodies this trope. In Winter, we learn that he's been sitting on his feelings for Gwendolyn for years. He spits in the denoument.
Happens several times in the Squadron Supreme limited series. Sometimes it's sheer plot convenience, as a character is found withholding information that could've averted a problem later on. Other times, it's due to higher-priority instructions given during brainwashing...
Jon in Garfield has a really serious case of this. He can't even spit it out when his Love Interest is not present!
One rare example in ElfQuest (rare because the elves tend to practise Brutal Honesty): Zhantee keeps his love for Leetah a secret, likely because Leetah is lifemated to their chief, Cutter. He's open about his respect and admiration for her, but never says that his feelings are romantic. When Cutter finds out, he tells Zhantee that they could have been a threesome centuries ago if Zhantee had only told him. Too bad this is moments before Zhantee dies.
In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic IDWSpike, when confronted by Nightmare Rarity, can't quite bring himself to admit his feelings for her. This is immediately lampshaded by Nightmare Rarity, who coldly mocks him for it.
In Peggy SueFan FicOnce More With Feeling, Shinji can't spit two things out to Asuka: his feelings towards her (because he is certain of she'll run for the hills if he confesses too soon); and the bit about him being a time-traveler and being awfully sorry for all what he did and did not to her (because her life and safety depends on him keeping his mouth closed).
In The One I Love Is Asuka had a very hard time confessing openly her feelings to Shinji. And the fact of Shinji has also a very hard time with this is part of what moves the plot forward.
One Forgotten Realmsfanfiction had Drizzt trying to tell Catti-brie how he feels about her at the most perfect moment — on a balcony during a ball — only to be interrupted because Delly was having a baby.
Happens twice in the Elizabeth Quatermain series. First, when one character proposes to the woman he loves, he can't quite bring himself to actually ask the question (luckily, she answers it anyway). the second time, another character just can't say the words until he's practically arguing with the object of his affections, finally blurting it out in an Anguished Declaration of Love.
A plague of this happens in many, many, many, Harry Potter fanfic stories. Harry falls for Ginny Weasley (or insert your own particular favorite shipping character here... it doesn't matter who you're shipping, this is so common...). Ginny falls for Harry. Unfortunately, since neither character seems capable of opening their mouths and admitting their feelings to the other character, you get chapter after multitudinous chapter of Wangst about it.
Who says this is limited to Harry Potter fanfics?
This happens in World Of Warcraft fanfic Children Of The Stars, where Keleria - madly in love with Ayuri and most certainly wanting to express her feelings - won't allow herself to spit it out rather than wanting to and just getting cold feet.
A huge point of plot in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha fanfic Toward the World's End. Protagonist Arthur is clearly in love with Nanoha, which is obvious to everyone except Nanoha and himself. Arthur constantly grapples with the fact that he has no clue what he actualy feels for Nanoha, other than that it is more than friendship. He does reffer to Fate as his "rival for Nanoha's love" toward the end of the 2nd fanfic however, with the revelation more directed at the fact that Arthur now understood Fate's feelings, rather than his own. However, it may suggest that he is at least slightly comming to terms with how feels.
This gets so extreme that the other characters make jabs at Arthur about it, and several of them have a "side" that they're on (Either supporting Arthur or Fate ending up with Nanoha). Particualy, Arthur's fellow forwards often use this as a talking point at lunch time. Subaru in particular. None of these characters have any problem spitting it out to Nanoha either, making several jokes about Arthur's feelings around her.
A Growing Affection has this as part of Konan and Nagato's backstory. Things might have gone differently if Nagato had not suffered from this.
Desmond: "You don't know my mom, man. She's all about college degrees. She works three jobs. If I blow my knee out in college, all I got is credits. If I blow my knee out in the NBA, I got a four-year guaranteed contract. Millions."
Roy: "What does she say when you tell her that?"
Desmond: "I can't. You don't know my mom, man."
Roy: (chuckles) "All 'cause you can't talk to your mom?"
Desmond: "What? You can?"
Roy: "Mine's dead. (pause) But if she wasn't... Yeah, I would talk to her."
In the movie Spider-Man 3, Harry Osborne has a terrible grudge against Spider-Man, as he believes he was responsible for the death of his father, Norman. As one of the only people who knows Spider-Man's real identity, he spends the greater part of the movie making things difficult for Peter Parker, battles Spider-Man a few times as the Green Goblin, and eventually, in one of said battles, gets injured. Later in the movie, Peter asks Harry to help fight the team of Venom and the Sandman, but Harry declines the offer. At this point, the Osborne family's loyal butler Bernard arrives, and tells Harry that Spider-Man was really never responsible for Norman's death, and that he died of his own folly. Apparently, the butler knew this all along, but still allowed Harry to play out his vendetta against Spider-Man. According to the DVD extras, the butler was a hallucination for Harry to justify himself. Note how only Harry sees him during the entire movie.
There's also Mary Jane. If she had just said that she got fired from her job, about half of the conflict in the movie would disappear.
Peter is unable to tell Aunt May about how Uncle Ben died until late in the second movie. Justified in that he was partly responsible.
Peter in The Amazing Spider Man is the absolute definition of this trope. Despite being a budding scientific genius, plus highly articulate and witty when it comes to taunting criminals he's captured and stupid cops, whenever he tries to speak to Gwen he deteriorates into gibberish.
Used in The Empire Strikes Back to comedic effect. C-3PO notices that the hyperdrive motivator had been damaged by blaster fire and tries to tell Han Solo a few times. Each time Solo shuts him up, so when they try to escape from an Imperial Star Destroyer by escaping to hyperspace and the drives peter out, 3PO says the equivalent of "I told you so" and Solo gets a look of extreme embarrassment and moves off to fix the hyperdrive. If 3PO had just been able to talk to Solo, he might have plotted a course away from the Imperial blockade and found a place to hide out and repair the ship. He also would never have gone to Cloud City and would have made it to the rendezvous with the rest of the Rebels.
Used rather movingly in the 1989 Batman film. Bruce tries to tell Vicki he's Batman, but he just can't bring himself to actually say it. When she gets tired of waiting and walks away he disgustedly mouths "I'm Batman" to himself.
Tragically used in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Shu Lien and Li Mubai are deeply in love with each other and pretty much everyone knows, including themselves, but Shu Lien's first love and fiancé was actually Li Mubai's best friend, and he tragically perished in an event that Mubai still blames himself for. Therefore, to not shame the dead guy's memory, they can't act on their love. And don't do so until Li Mubai is fatally poisoned and, in his last moments, he shares a Last Kiss with Shu Lien.
Maybe it would disgrace the late friend's memory according to Asian codes of honor. However a Western hero could be safely assumed to approve of his best friend and girl getting together after a decent interval of mourning. In fact heroes have even been known to ask their best friend to "take care" of their girl if "anything should happen" with pretty obvious sub-text.
Averted in Ghost Rider: Johnny's love interest confronts him about breaking their date... so he tells her that he turned into a burning biker skeleton possessed by a spirit of vengeance. Naturally, she finds this preposterous, but when she sees proof that he was telling her the truth, she unhesitatingly steps up to help him.
One of the protagonists of Better Than Chocolate keeps starting to come out of the closet to her mother, only to have her mother interrupt, assuming she was trying to disclose something else.
In Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back: Jay's trying to figure out where their monkey's being taken. Silent Bob spots a sign on the back of the leaving car reading "Critters of Hollywood." Silent Bob gestures wildly to Jay, who can't figure out what the hell Silent Bob's saying. Until finally...
In Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, the titular protagonist plays numerous games with her Love Interest, ostensibly in order to whet his curiosity about her, but actually because she's painfully shy and terrified of the prospect of actually making a connection with him. The two times she attempts to set up a meeting with him with the genuine intent of introducing herself to him, her shyness causes her to freeze up and she finds herself incapable of approaching him.
In Galaxy Quest, when they couldn't stop the self-destruct countdown, Jason was just about to confess his feelings for Gwen ... when the countdown stopped on its own at 00:01. ("It always stopped at 1 on the show!") Gwen then briefly chases him down, asking "What were you about to say?"
In Watch It, John can't tell Ann how he feels; the closest he gets is after she gets back together with Michael, and John says to her, "I don't know that I don't love you." He immediately realizes how ridiculous it sounds, and of course, she doesn't believe him either.
The fall and damnation of Satan, the eternal struggle between heaven and hell, and the loss of quite a few demigods is due to all the characters in To Reign In Hell performing an extended dance remix of this trope.
In The Rise of Endymion, the main character spends a great deal of energy angsting over a period of time that his love spent unaccounted for while he was off touring planets, having kidney stones, and eluding the Space Pope. No, really. He deduces that this time was spent with another man, and angsts accordingly. At length. Of course, he can't bear to ask her about it; otherwise she might have told him that thanks to some time travel tomfoolery, the other man was him. However, considering how much of the plot's pacing hinges on said lover's constant reluctance to give information that would explain anything to anyone, maybe not.
In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, all characters assume they know best. Each lies or hides the truth "for the greater good." The resulting confusion, interpersonal conflict, jealousy, and setbacks invariably stem from the main characters' inability or unwillingness to communicate. In the end, it turns out all the good guys are on the same side! Who knew?
A recurring theme in Anne McCaffrey's books, where couples spend entire books (occasionally several) pining for each other until something forces one or both to admit their feelings. (See: F'lar and Lessa in Dragonflight, Afra and Damia in Damia, Sebell and Menolly in Dragonsinger)
The most absurd example has to be in Dragonsdawn, where Tarvi didn't tell Telgar he loved her until she was about to die... and they had been married for years and had several children.
In the book Destiny (book 3 of the Rhapsody series), dragon-blooded Marty Stu Ashe cannot reveal the identity of his new wife to his soulmate, the equally sueish lead character, Rhapsody, for reasons that were never made very clear (possibly spelled out in greater detail in the previous book). It turns out that the wife was Rhapsody herself (who had the memory magically zapped from her mind for the same reason Ashe couldn't tell her himself).
Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier). The heroine is convinced that she's a complete failure compared to Rebecca, her husband's first (dead) wife, until she finds out that Rebecca was evil and the husband never loved her and murdered her. Which cheers her up immensely.
Done a lot more literally in the Miyazaki film, in which, whenever she tries to tell someone about the curse, her mouth actually locks shut.
In Aunt Maria, the protagonist Mig spends a good part of the book trying to convince her mother that the evil Aunt Maria has turned Mig's brother into a wolf. The mother refuses to believe this and continues to insist that he's just around the corner, mostly due to the fact that Maria also enchanted the mother to basically hang around and be a housekeeper.
In another of Diana Wynne Jones's other books, The Homeward Bounders, no Homeward Bounder is allowed to tell anyone else still in play about what they really are, and who They are.
Jamie also repeatedly mentions how well it turned out that he never tells Helen about Him On His Rock, though there were situations where he nearly did.
In Isobelle Carmody's "Ashling", Rushton and Elspeth love each other, but neither of them admit it until Rushton has an emotional breakdown and tells her that he thinks that she doesn't love him because he can't use his psychic powers, when she was actually ignoring him because she thought he was carrying on with Freya. So sad.
In The Name of the Wind, Kvothe finds himself unable to tell Denna how he feels, at first out of mischance (and her frequent, frustrating absences), but later it is because he fears he has nothing to offer her, and that if he were to pursue a romantic relationship with her it will end badly, as most of her relationships apparently do. Instead of trying to work up the courage anyway, he ends the book as an Unlucky Childhood Friend. Of course, this is only the first part....
Harry Driscoll from The Frog King hates the word "love" at first, then when he has the chance to attempt to redeem himself to his ex-girlfriend and show how much she means to him... he abuses her and her new author/boyfriend and only realises he never said he loved her until it's too late.
Edgar Rice Burroughs used this trope a lot. His character's justification was usually that they thought the other person already knew, or that they didn't realize the information was important. Unless it's love, in which case Oblivious to Love generally covers it. This results in these situations:
In A Princess of Mars, although aware of the Culture Clash, Dejah Thoris is so offended by John Carter than she declares him unfit to clean the teeth of her grandmother's cat. Later, when he finds that she is crying, believing him dead, he talks with her companion, saying that Dejah Thoris is distressed that her grandmother's cat would have no one to clean its teeth.
A character fighting alongside another for several days before realizing the other character is his long lost father (The Gods of Mars).
And when she's been kidnapped, and the hero has helped her, she coldly declares that how he acts in the future will determine what she thinks of him. A little hurt, he manages to shrug, and it's her turn to be hurt — he has to know that she is honor-bound not to encourage him.
A man in love with a woman thinking she's already married because she mentions she loves another man when really she's just talking about how she loves her brother (Tarzan at the Earth's Core).
A character thinking he's a genetically engineered monstrosity when really he's a totally normal amnesiac human (The Monster Men).
Stephen King's The Dark Tower series does this a hell of a lot: Whoops, pregnant with a shapeshifting daemon baby and I'm one of the fathers and there's two of us. Funny part is I never had my way with you. My seed is being passed to you by an oracle who'll proceed to rape you for a good 30 pages. Gosh darn, can't not love Stephen King.
In Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Ginny is about to blurt out her Big Secret (also the solution to the deadly mystery at the center of the story) to Harry and Ron when Percy comes blundering in and scares her off.
In the Half-Blood Prince, a large part of the story is getting a memory (essentially, a magical retelling of events) from a man who fudged the version he originally gave. This memory is considered very vital by Dumbledore for understanding Voldemort. However, it takes a potion of felix felicis to get the memory from him. Horace was unwilling to part with the proper version of events because he was horrified and ashamed of what he had done, believing he had done "great damage".
And let's not forget Order of the Phoenix, where the adults' unwillingness to tell Harry about his connection with Voldemort and all that it entails is largely responsible for Sirius's death.
In the Discworld novel Soul Music, Quoth the Raven has trouble revealing that Susan's grandfather is Death, going "Dah Dah Dah Dea". At which point Susan assumes that he's bothering her to inform her that a grandfather that she's never knowingly met is DEAF.
Just about every single heroic character in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and its sequel series The Heroes of Olympus, suffers from this. Nobody who has has any sort of vital information about anything can reveal it straight away, either because they for various reasons Cannot Spit It Out or because they're interrupted by someone else arriving or something important happening. The single exception to this rule is Butch, a minor character from The Lost Hero, who at his first appearance explains exactly what's going on the moment he's asked.
American Wife has one of the most tragic examples of this trope.
In Gaunt's Ghosts novels, Kolea cannot bring himself to admit to Dalin that he is his real birth father.
Most, if not all, of Bertie Wooster's problems can be traced back to this trope, combined with the fact that he's an Extreme Doormat. Besides being unable to correct any girl who thinks she's engaged to him, at the end of The Inimitable Jeeveshe can't work up the courage to fire Jeeves, or even tell him off, after Jeeves has fooled one too many influential people into thinking he's insane. He tries to start a conversation to that purpose several times, but repeatedly ends up saying, "Oh, nothing!".
A lot of harm could have been avoided in The Traitor Game if Michael confronted Francis properly about his supposed betrayal or if Francis managed to tell Michael that he is gay sooner.
Harry not telling mundanes about the magical world because they can't handle the truth or knowing can put them in danger.
In Dead Beat Mavra telling Harry that if he asks for help in getting the Word of Kemmler she'll come down like the sword of Damocles on them.
Live Action TV
The first season of Everwood. One of the fundamental source of Ephram's antagonism toward Andy is the latter's seemingly inexplicable decision to uproot his family and move from New York to the eponymous little mountain town. We learn in episode 1 that Andy did it because his wife made him promise before she died. Ephram even points this out in the season finale after Andy finally tells him (after they've worked out their differences): "You know, this would have been a lot easier if you had told me straight away."
This drives most of the entire story of Mad Men. If Don Draper came clean about his "dark secret", then he would be able to straighten things out with his wife, stop looking over his shoulder generally, and would have saved his brother's life.
Near of season three he does come clean to Betty about it, but only after she forces his hand by finding out about much of it herself. At the end of the season it looks like they're headed straight for a divorce.
Firefly has an example with Simon and Kaylee. It makes sense for Simon, giving what else he's got going on, but less so for Kaylee, and is the source of much UST until the end of the Movie.
One of the worst ongoing examples is from Monk; the title character has obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it's almost never mentioned, even when it would help. On one occasion, he shook hands with two white women, then a black guy, then asked his assistant for a wipe, like he frequently does. The black guy assumes Monk is racist, and explicitly asks him if he has any excuse. They tried to say Monk wasn't racist with Natalie saying "He loves Rainbows!" and Monk doing a rainbow-type of a hand motion.
Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Once More, With Feeling", in which several "Can't Spit It Out" plot threads that could have been milked for weeks, if not seasons, are dragged into the open by a demon's musical curse.
Since this was season six, the plot threads were still milked, but in a different direction.
In Season 3's "Revelations", where Willow wants to admit that something to Buffy which gets interrupted by a fight. Then Willow lies to Buffy to avoid saying what's going on and it later nearly costs Willow her relationship with Oz. Could've saved a half a season's worth of relationship drama (and she helped break up Xander/Cordelia).
Yet another example was Xander's crush on Buffy in the first season. It took the entire season before Buffy caught on to the blatant hints as well as Willow's crush on Xander.
A different application of this trope occurs with the Spike/Buffy relationship in Season 6, which she conceals from the Scoobies because she's ashamed of it. Tara eventually finds out, but has to guess it from Buffy's expression. It's only when she says to her old flame Riley, "I'm sleeping with Spike" (even though he already knows, having caught them in bed together) that Buffy finds the courage to end their Destructive Romance. When the Scoobies find out after the event they're shocked, but generally supportive as they know Buffy has been going through a rough time.
Buffy herself admits she has a hard time saying "I love you" to anyone, likely due to how Angel's Super Powered Evil Side crushed her completely when she told him. The only other times she says it are to Dawn and to Spike right before he pulls his Heroic Sacrifice.
Even when he gets a second chance to tell her in "Journey's End", the Doctor is too broken to say more than "Does it really need saying?". However, his part-human clone fares better.
Also in 'The Satan Pit', where it looks like he might finally ask another character to pass 'I love you' along to Rose, the Doctor bails out at the last minute - in a very sweet way, mind. "Tell Rose, tell her...Oh, she'll know."
"Let's Kill Hitler" reveals that this was a problem for Rory before we met him. In this case, Cannot Spit It Out + Single-Target Sexuality = the girl he's in love with assuming he's gay. When Mels tries to get them together, he panics and runs out of the room before Amy catches on.
Lost. The episode where they all think Sawyer has Shannon's inhaler, if he just told everyone he didn't have it there would have been no torture, but also no first Kate/Sawyer kiss...
And then of course, the castaways ignore good advice that is spit out. Even by themselves. "Don't wander alone in the woods full of tree-smashing monster-thingies." Always good advice. But no....
There is no charactrer on Lost who is capable of completely summing up any event completely. They'll tell one mysterious event on an expedition, but will not tell the rest. They also never pull everyone at the crash site together to compare notes.
In the series Smallville, many problems befalling the characters stems from Clark's refusal to tell anybody about his powers (though Clark's fear is quite justified considering that fact that superpowered individuals and their loved ones tend to get targeted by government conspiracies and mad scientists in the SV-verse).
After being told the secret, Pete ended up leaving town, Lois and Chloe risked their lives about thirty times and Lana promptly got killed, so...
This trope caused a lot of problems between John and Aeryn on Farscape.
On Lizzie Mcguire, Gordo pines after Lizzie for the entire duration of the show. He nearly tells her several times, but falls victim to this trope. Lizzie ends up finding out from Kate, not Gordo. The Movie finally gets them together.
In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, if Riley talked to John, John talked to Sarah, Derek talked to either of them, Sarah told people where she was going OR they just had a nice, normal family dinner once in a while, they would figure out in about 5 seconds that Jesse was holding Riley hostage, that she had pretended to be a school official to get info on John, was lying to Derek and is not on their side. Instead they remain oblivious and one of them gets killed.
You're asking the Connor family to act like normal people? That's pushing it.
A lot of problems in the show Reaper come from Sam's inability to tell Andi about his problem with the devil.
However, he does tell her about them later, in the First Season when she witnesses Sam beheading one of the souls.
Almost every single thing that happens between Serena and Dan towards the end of the first season of Gossip Girl could have been avoided if she had just told him about Georgina.
Can also be used for Blair, Chuck, and those "three words, eight letters."
If it weren't for this trope, there would be no Sports Night. Every character on that show is far too busy talking and having emotions to f#&%ing communicate with each other.
The second season of Heroes could have been about fifteen minutes long if characters who were on reasonably cordial terms at the end of the first season a) remembered each other's phone numbers and b) bothered to discuss the, y'know, impending pestilent apocalypse with each other.
The Mohinder/Bennet subplot was a particularly awful in this regard: Mohinder spends the entire season obsessing about the world-killing virus. Bennet waits until the second to last episode of the season, after their partnership has imploded and Mohinder has consequently shot him, to mention, "Oh yeah, the Company has been experimenting with that for decades."
Season One has a number of more specific examples of this, with metahumans hiding their powers from others. Particularly notable are Nathan's constant lying to everyone about his flying (he doesn't even think to tell his invulnerabledaughter what he can do), and the half-dozen or so times Claire tries to tell her parents (or, as she later admits, "trying to not tell" them) about her healing.
This trope is the fuel that powers every soap opera ever written and is what allows them to keep babies switched for years, lovers separated and family members feuding. In addition to situations where a character is too afraid to say what needs to be said, soaps love to use "last minute interruptions" where JUST as someone is going to tell their big secret to the person who needs to hear it, someone else comes in the room and not only derails the conversation, but usually says something that ends up convincing the one with the secret that it's a good thing they haven't said it out loud quite yet.
The last two episodes of the first season of Jeeves and Wooster has Bertie making several attempts to get Gussie to confess his love for Madeline Bassett. The first time, Gussie loses it just a little and starts rambling on about newts at length until Madeline, who is actually waiting for him to confess his love, gets fed up and leaves.
In To Love and Die, Hildy tracks down her estranged father, stalks him to his workplace, gets a job working for him, finds out he is a contract killer, follows him to and interrupts his latest hit, is consequently captured by his associates and interrogated on suspicion of being a rival contractor. One would think that the perfect time to finally reveal that she's his daughter would be when he has her tied to a chair and is demanding, on pain of death, to know who she really is, but even then, she manages to spend the entire interrogation rambling, and doesn't blurt out the truth until he's already given the order to kill her and is seconds away from leaving the room (fortunately, he listens).
Big Wolf on Campus has Tommy trying many times to make his obvious crush on Stacy known to her. While it's pretty apparent that she suspects this and likes him in return, kisses, dates, hugs, or other intimate moments are usually interrupted by Tommy turning wolfy (caused by feelings of extreme emotion) and thus forcing him to run away.
Frasier: the titular character's brother, Niles, spends seven years pining after Daphne, his father's physical therapist and (default) housekeeper (in fairness, he does spend much of that time married). Despite trying to confess his feelings to her several times, his attempts are continually thwarted (usually owing to his own fear of rejection or, unwittingly, by Daphne herself). He remains unable to give voice to his emotions until the eve of Daphne's marriage to another man, and even then only after learning that Frasier has already let slip Niles' little "secret".
In the final season of the series Frasier and Niles' father, Martin, displays a similar inability to confess his growing feelings for his girlfriend, Ronee.
Odo of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine spent the better part of a decade in love with Kira without ever being able to confess his feelings to her (well, unless you count his Anguished Declaration of Love to what turned out to be a changeling that had taken Kira's form or the confession made by a 200-year-older future Odo in "Children of Time"), to the point that when he finally does Jadzia comments "It was about time".
Multiple examples of this trope are mixed in with the thick Belligerent Sexual Tension between Castle and Beckett in the show Castle. Some are almost painful to watch.
Castle: If, if anything happens to her... It...*sighs*
Martha, his mother: Go on.
Martha: Oh, Richard, Richard. For a man who makes a living with words, you sure have a hell of a time finding them when it counts.
In the Leverage episode "The Double Blind Job", Parker, who often has trouble in social situations, can't quite bring herself to tell Hardison that she has feelings for him, and ends up blurting out "I have feelings for... pretzels." Unusually for this trope, Hardison knows exactly what she really means, and responds, "They're right here when you want them."
This is later used as a cute Call Back when after defusing a bomb she tells him that she is in the mood for pretzels.
The Fast Show - The Ted & Ralph sketches wouldn't exist without this trope.
The Office does this with Jim and Pam, with Jim not revealing his feelings for Pam. In one episode, Jim has been jinxed into not speaking and Pam tries goading him into talking (and thus, losing the game): 'It looks like you have something to say.' Cue longing look that says more than words could. He eventually spits it out in the season two finale.
Community does this with Annie. She interrupts Troy and Randi's date and to tell troy she has feelings for him.
Annie:NO! Before you two proceed, I have one thing to say. (long pause) Troy: ...Did you...say it already?
In the Criminal Mindspilot, Gideon deliberately provokes the stuttering Footpath Killer until he gets so angry he literally can't talk.
In Zoey 101, Chase spends 3 seasons pining after Zoey. In one episode, he tries to text his feelings to her, and her cell phone falls into a fountain. After Zoey finally finds out how he feels...he gets Put on a Bus to England.
In Merlin, most of the problems presented in each episode could be quite easily solved by briefing King Arthur as to what is going on. For example, when Lancelot came back from the grave in the season 4 episode Lancelot Du Lac, nobody bothered to tell the king that Lancelot was a magically-controlled zombie and as a result didn't know that Guinevere had been enchanted and so was forced to banish her from Camelot the day before their wedding.
Married... with Children: It's Valentine's Day, and all Peggy wants is for Al to say "I love you". He'd rather have sex.
Barney goes the entire fourth season of How I Met Your Mother without telling Robin he's in love with her, mainly because he's terrified she'll laugh him off because he's built such an infamous reputation as a shallow, womanizing sleazeball. He does tell Lily (who then tells Marshall) and Ted figures it out halfway through the season, but Lily and Marshall don't know Ted knows and vice versa, so all three of them sit on their hands in impatient silence for several months waiting for Barney to get a grip or Robin to get a clue.
This also comes up in Seasons 7 and 8, again with Barney and Robin while they deny their feelings to themselves/everyone else, until they got together again.
Ross doesn't tell Rachel he loves her for the entire first season of Friends, chickening out every time the opportunity arises. This has the unfortunate result of Rachel only finding out from Chandler while Ross is on a trip to China, and when she realizes she loves him too, he's already met someone else there.
Doubled down in "Tableau Vivant", a third-season episode of Modern Family. Phil can't bring himself to tell Mitchell, his brother-in-law, that he's fired as the new agency's lawyer. Mitchell can't bear to tell Phil that he really doesn't like the work, which is in addition to his regular job.
Inverted when Lisa Landry met Terrence in Sister Sister. Lisa did spit it out to Terrence when meeting him. Unfortunately for both her and Terrence, it was the wrong kind of "spit it out."
In Once Upon A Time, a number of times characters try to make confessions to others but are unable to finish.
David's unsuccessful attempt to confess to Kathryn that he and Mary Margaret were having an affair.
Emma tries to take back her lie to Henry about how his father died, but can't bring herself to do it.
On Teen Wolf, Derek spends a sizable chunk of the first season being a creepy, cryptic, lurker and leaving Scott believing that he is the one that turned him into a werewolf. He also could have been more forthcoming with details about what Allison's family does.
This is the premise of the song "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police. The narrator is in love with a girl, but can't work up the courage to tell her. (Also "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da." Same narrator, I guess.)
"You were the one, but I can't spit it out when the date's been set..."
Radiohead's "Creep" is about a self-loathing guy who tries to work up the nerve to admit his feelings, but can't. The "she's running out the door" verse implies he spectacularly fails.
In "Living Next Door to Alice", most successfully covered by Smokie, the narrator has been in love with his neighbor for 24 years, but couldn't tell her. And now she's moving away.
"Everybody Knows (Except You)" by The Divine Comedy. The narrator can tell literally anyone about his feelings, and does (his parents, his friends to the point of driving them crazy, random strangers on the street and even making a small child cry) but he cannot bring himself to tell the one oblivious object of his affections.
"Hiccup" by P!nk is nothing but this trope: "Why every time I try to tell you how I feel / It's like a hiccup-up-up / And it won't come, come, come / As soon as I think I'm about to share my lovin' / That's when the hiccups come in."
"Hello" by Hawk Nelson as well: "Every time I want to say, 'Hello'/ Every time I want to stay, I go/ Can never find the words to let you know/ Sometimes you plague my mind a million times..."
"Unsaid Things" by Mc Fly: "And I've still got so many unsaid things that I want to say / And I just can't wait another day / I wish she knew"
And the similarly titled "Things I'll Never Say" by Avril Lavigne: "Marry me today / Guess I'm wishing my life away / with these things I'll never say"
"She's Out of My Life" by Michael Jackson, which is basically about regret from post-relationship failure because of this trope: "So I've learned that loves are not possessions / And I've learned that love won't wait / Now I've learned that love needs expression / But I've learned too late" and later "Damned indecision and cursed pride / I kept my love for her locked deep inside / And it cuts like a knife / She's out of my life"
"Was It Something I Didn't Say" by 98 Degrees is about a breakup caused by this.
"If Only You Knew" by Patti Labelle: "I must have rehearsed my lines / A thousand times / Until I had them memorized / But when I get up the nerve / To tell you the words / Just never seem to / Come out right".
"Big Brother" by Kanye West provides a friendly example. He made the song when the relationship between him and Jay-Z hit a rough patch.
If you admire somebody you should go 'head, tell 'em,
People never get the flowers while they can still smell 'em.
Played for laughs in Madness' "House of Fun"; the teenaged protagonist would find his life a lot easier if he could just actually tell the chemist he's talking to that he wants to buy some condoms in a way that makes it clear that he's talking about condoms; instead, he comes out with a whole load of increasingly bizarre euphemisms that ends up making the confused chemist think he wants to buy some balloons.
The Muppet Frog Prince had a particularly silly version of this. The Princess's evil aunt places a spell on her where she is unable to speak straight. Despite trying her hardest to explain that "Tant Aminella" (Aunt Taminella) is the evil witch, no one catches on. Of course, this is aimed at kids, so no deep plots here (not bothering with spoilers tag since it's painfully obvious to anyone over the age of about... 8).
The chorus of "If I Loved You" from Carousel describes an inability to overcome nervousness and proclaim your love to someone.
Older Than Steam: Romeo and Juliet uses this trope. Tybalt confronts Romeo, challenging him to a swordfight. Romeo tries to explain that there's no reason for their two families to keep feuding, since he and Juliet recently got married. Tybalt won't let Romeo get to the part about marriage, assuming Romeo's unwillingness to fight is simply the act of a coward. Then Tybalt makes the whole conversation moot when he fights and kills Mercutio instead.
Final Fantasy VII did it, but it did it right. Cloud is convinced he used to be a member of SOLDIER, and all evidence points towards this — he has the uniform, the sword, the skills and the glowing eyes. However, after leaving town to join SOLDIER, he failed to get in, and instead enrolled as a basic grunt. After his idol, Sephiroth, burned down his hometown, maimed the closest thing he had to a childhood friend, nearly killed his best friend, and stabbed him through the chest, he was patched up by Evilutionary Biologist Hojo as part of an experiment. However, the combination of the drugs and trauma completely destroyed his mind, and when they escaped and Zack died defending him he utterly snapped, adopting an elaborate system of Fake Memories and osmosed personality from Zack. The only person who knew all this was Tifa, who met Zack on the mission. But she was unable to tell him anything in fear of what effect it could have on his mental state. Her inability to do so earns Cloud a Mind Rape and a Heroic BSOD at the hands of Sephiroth, which Tifa has to fix in a Journey To The Center Of The Mind, after the damage has been done.
Possibly justified in that Tifa was actually doubting her own memories. Cloud's story had details that she thought he couldn't have known — remember, he was hidden under a Shin-Ra grunt's mask, so she didn't know he was there — so she wasn't sure she was remembering correctly, or whether her memories had been muddled by her injuries.
On another note, Tifa's inability to tell Cloud her feelings for him is a definite Cannot Spit It Out as well.
There's also Irvine's inability to mention his past association with the other main characters and even the villain in Final Fantasy VIII. He alludes to it for a while, but it takes a rather random event to make him open up with it.
In Final Fantasy XIII, due to being just a Tagalong Kid in a series of horrible events and emotional trauma, Hope cannot bring himself to confront Snow about his mother's death for over half of the game's story.
Vanille also does this for the first half or so of the game, especially towards Sazh.
Kaidan, at least in Mass Effect 1. He can show interest early on, but has difficulty spelling it out.
In Fire Emblem, Hector and Florina's entire support conversation set is based on Florina being unable to say two words to Hector, when all she wants to do is thank him for saving her from certain doom in Laus. It takes Hector and her pegasus fighting to get her to finally spit it out. Of course, her androphobia didn't exactly help...
Used absolutely heartbreakingly in Prey. Tommy asks himself in the mirror why he won't just tell Jem he loves her. He eventually does after having had to kill her.
Of course, this is entirely in-keeping with drow culture. Hell, in the few cases where drow have fallen in love, the relationship tends to collapse under the weight of suspicion. Love Hurts, especially when both partners have Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
Casavir from Neverwinter Nights 2 has this problem. He can't even admit his feelings to people who * aren't* the one he's in love with, though said feelings are painfully obvious to the rival...
Said rival is an even more extreme version, in that he won't admit to himself that he might just be attracted to the Player Character...until the endgame, where he strongly implies that he did indeed feel affection for her. Shame he had to betray her first.
Gann in the expansion defies this trope, swearing that if he is ever in love, he'll say so.
Elanee in the official campaign is very reserved. It takes the foundations of her world being ripped from under her and the only person she has left being set to duel a really nasty giant evil guy to force her to admit she cares about him.
Shandra's severe embarrassment when Grobnar inadvertently reveals her extreme concern for the PC's fate before said duel also probably qualifies her for this.
Nathyrra in the original game has a bit of trouble with this.
Toward the end of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Toadbert recovers his memory, and becomes frightened by the brothers? gathering the Cobalt Star shards, but runs away before he can tell anything. He tells the brothers to rub some dirt off the sketch he had given to them earlier, which reveals the other Shroob Princess, but gets turned into a mushroom before he can say anything else. Peach is about to tell the brothers about the Cobalt Shard before a flying saucer attacks, and misses several opportunities to tell them before Bowser pieces together the shards, freeing the elder Shroob Princess.
In Mega Man Zero 3, Cyber-elf X seems to be hiding a very important piece of information to his best friend Zero (even though X doesn't have a problem revealing it to someone else; what were you thinking, X?!). It was the Big Bad that revealed the secret behind Zero that X was trying to hide: Zero is using a clone body and Ax CrazyOmega Zero is the original body. Naturally for Zero, he still doesn't care about it when he finds out.
Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door has a bartender keep a letter from Bombery's deceased wife away from him for several DECADES. It's not until the player needs the Bomb-omb that the bartender gives you the letter to give to the ex-sailor.
Most of the problems in the last act of Phantom Of Inferno could have been solved early on if Reiji had done what most normal people would have done and greeted Cal as joyfully and warmly as what he had expressed in his monologue and explained to her why he ran instead of using the opportunities that she gave him to speak to be confrontational and non-expressive. ( "...Leave Elen out of this." "Cal..." "..." "Wait, Cal!" etc., etc., etc.) Made doubly frustrating by the fact that she approached him looking for an excuse to drop her vendetta.
A few of the minor spirits never seem to get around to telling Yuuto how they feel in Eien No Aselia. Unless they do it during the sex scenes, which aren't part of the English release. On a more important note, neither Kyouko or Kouin ever confessed to the other despite the two actually dating. Both have their own reasons.
Sadira of Vanguard Bandits has a huge crush on the Hero Bastion that everyone can see(including him if the player chooses). If the player decides to go after her ending, she finally manages to work herself out to say it though.
Arguably this applies to many characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Sonic and Blaze is a possible example of this based on previous games.
Not even remotely romantic, but the Arishock in Dragon Age II is utterly unable to directly complement people who are not followers of his religion outside exceptional circumstances, and even then he seems to understate a lot. One of the earliest 'complements' you hear from his mouth is: "I have a growing lack of disgust for you."
And on the romance side, Aveline's ridiculously awkward attempts to woo Donnic. In all fairness, she is his superior at this point, so its not like she can just ask him out for a drink, but its still hilarious.
In one of the saddest moments of Mother 3, Bronson brings news to Flint, the father of Lucas and Claus, but has trouble getting it out.
Bronson: ... I'm not sure what to say... But just stay calm and hear me out. I have good news, and I have bad news. Which do you want to hear first...? No... Let me start with the good news first. I picked up a giant "Drago Fang". It'll make for a great weapon. I figured you could probably use it. ...... As for the bad news... ...... The bad news is... ............ ...It's where I found the Drago Fang. It was...... in your... It was pierced through your wife's heart...
In Tales Of Symphonia, a character refuses to be rescued from a dungeon when the Boss mentions Lloyd "killed her grandmother," referring to the game's second Boss Battle against a friend of Genis' who had been turned into a monster. Lloyd hangs his head in shame, the girl lets the bad guys take her away and the party has to track her through two other dungeons to rescue her again, much later in the game. All he had to do was let the girl know that her grandmother was very much alive after the battle, that she came to her senses after being defeated (which was the only reason they even knew the monster was her) and died saving them from the villain who had transformed her.
Whether we're talking about the above, Judith in Tales Of Vesperia, or Arietta in Tales Of The Abyss, this is one of Tales' writers favorite tactics when they want to preserve conflict that could be cooled off just by the characters sharing facts, explaining things, or saying what they're thinking. Of course, if they do manage to spit it out, and the writers want that conflict, they'll be met with some half-baked Hand Wave (if the character that needs convincing is calm and collected) or rage-filled dismissal (if the character is not) anyways, so...
Catherine's Vincent can't spit anything out. As the game involves him getting into an unintentional affair, this causes some problems.
Poor Naomi! Not only is she unable to spit out her feelings for Satoshi, but because of her Tsundere nature, she is unable to apologize when she knows she's gone too far, so neither her nor Seiko feel any better and they end up separating which leads to Seiko's death. In Book of Shadows, Naomi actually has a coughing fit.
Imperial Agent act 2. You can choose actions and dialogue protesting your orders, but Imperial Agency's brainwashing prevents you from actually doing anything against them.
Immortal Souls has John unable to bring himself to tell his Love Interest Allison that he's a vampire, that he's the one who accidentally caused her brother's coma, or even just admit that he is in love with her. This causes him all manner of problems, as since he's a Heroic Neutral, both the bad and (Manipulative Bastard) good guys take advantage of the matter on a regular basis. As a result he's constantly forced to choose between keeping his secrets, protecting Allison, and/or going along with whatever scheme either side has cooked up for him.
Fate/stay night: Sakura eats, cooks and does the next-closest thing to living in Shirou's house for 2 years and is completely smitten with him, but due to her completely non-existant self-esteem, she absolutely cannot let him know how she feels.
For the first year of Avalon, the characters seem (progressively less) unable to say the word "lesbian", which complicates Ceilidh's attempts to ascertain whether her best friend Phoebe is one (as rumor would have it). When she finally asks Ryan outright why he would ask out a lesbian, she learns all about what started the rumor, among other things. Unfortunately, by this time Ceilidh's constant innuendo has half the school — including Phoebe herself — convinced that she's a lesbian.
Eric (one of the Loserz webcomic's protagonists) has this problem with Alice. Despite the fact that she already told him she liked him. See here.
In the second part of the Love Potion arc of Sluggy Freelance, Gwynn curses Torg by turning him into a half-man, half-donkey and causing him to bray every time he tries to say something important in order to make sure that he does not tell anyone about her plan. Unfortunately, while on a date with Zoe, Oasis arrives and abducts him, kicking Zoe in the face in the process. Under the curse, Torg is unable to tell anyone what happened, causing Gwynn to believe he mistreated Zoe, but he eventually manages to get Riff to find out the truth.
Red String and Reika and Eiji. Despite the massive piling of sexual tension, despite Eiji beating the hell out of his former best friend for impugning her honor, despite even getting a book cover together, it took thirty-seven chapters for them to become a couple, regardless of the fact that it was obvious that they were going to hook up as early as the third or fourth chapter. The situation was lampshaded when Fuuko asked Miharu point blank if they'd hooked up yet and a weary Miharu answered in the negative.
Nadia from The Key to Her Heart hides her sexuality from her friends, and thinks it will help keep anything from getting out if she doesn't let on that she knows about Juliet's "condition," not because she's worried about homophobia, but because she's trying to dissuade her lesbian best friend. It's not clear how she thinks the Masquerade will help, but the general secret-keeping drives pretty much every problem they have.
Dave and Helen from Narbonic gradually become attracted to each other. This week of strips gives you a good idea of their relationship. Eventually, they end up together. Then break up. Then almost destroy the world. Then get back together. Then plot to destroy the world together.
In Sakana, Jiro, who is already unlucky enough, simply can't build up his courage to talk to "Cashier Girl" , who is working across from him and who he's been in love with for two years without even knowing her name. They do go on a date together after some time, but only after Jiro had some help from his big brother and his best friend.
It took years (real-time) for Piro and Kimiko to admit that they had feelings for one another in the web comic Megatokyo, even if it was only about a week in comic time (or about seven weeks if you count Chapter 0).
Depending on how you look at it, it may have taken even longer in the case of Largo and Erika. Even though it's pretty much a given that they're a couple, neither one has ever voiced his or her feelings for the other in-comic.
Even more mysterious is the Yuki/Kobayashi relationship, such as it is. It's been intimated that he's spent years pining for her, and that just about everyone other than Yuki was aware of the fact, but it remains unclear whether she considers him a potential romantic interest or "just a friend". Either way, she isn't telling.
Actually, her friends did mention they had been teasing him for it within their group. She just seemed to think he was over it for some reason.
They were teasing her about it. But they tease her about everything, so she assumed they were just screwing with her.
Oh dear. Lucy from Bittersweet Candy Bowl spends YEARS - both in-world and in real life - trying to come to terms with her feelings before she finally announces how she feels. Disappointingly, she left it just a bit too late.
No Pink Ponies. Jess's inability to "Spit It Out" is taken to ridiculous lengths. And heights. And, eventually, depths.
In Homestuck, Jane has it so bad that even when Jake outright asks her whether she has a crush on him she panics and instinctively denies it, a rejection Jake takes at face value. Dirk theoretically averts this as he's apparently planning an Anguished Declaration of Love towards Jake, but even he's been crushing on him for three years (to the point where his autoresponder seems to be trying to provoke him into action) and he's noticeably tight-lipped about the exact details, or even if he's really going to go through with it at all.
Also, Nepeta never got around to telling Karkat that she liked him, nor Kanaya with Vriska before she found out the Vriska liked Tavros instead and bitterly gave up. Karkat and Terezi seemed to have similar problems.
The entire reason Dr. Horrible wanted to make a Freeze Ray was so that he could work up the courage to talk to Penny. Unfortunately, due to his own terminal shyness and his later vendetta against Captain Hammer, he never does get to tell her how he feels about her. And then Penny dies.
In Shadow Of The Templar, Simon and Jeremy are a perfect example. Despite spending years in an exclusive Secret Relationship and risking their lives for each other multiple times, they are apparently incapable of expressing their feelings for each other. Jeremy just acts like a Tease, and Simon hesitates to even think of Jeremy as his friend.
In one episode of Spongebob Squarepants, after Squidward has played a prank on SpongeBob, he realizes how much he's humiliated him and goes to his house to apologize... but every time he tries to say "I'm sorry", he just can't pull it off without doing weird cartoon-takes.
In the Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Good Times, Bat Times", Chip tries to reveal his feelings to Gadget. Twice. He always fails.
Subverted to an extent in Family Guy. Brian has confessed his feelings to Lois (and in one instance at least to her husband, and Brian's best friend, Peter) on more than one occasion, but she always turns him down (it has been implied that she has always known of Brian's romantic feelings for her; ironically she seems oblivious to next door neighbor Quagmire's naked lust for her despite his repeated and shameless advances).
It's Quagmire. What would change if she acknowledged it?
In Exo Squad, not only are Nara and Marsala both unable to express their feelings for each other, they each have instances where they unknowningly slap the other down.
Justified, because Nara is human and Marsala is Neo-Sapien. That is two different species being brought up here. Can you imagine the complications that would ensue if they did express their feelings for each other?
Another example: from 'A Bird In The Hoof', Princess Celestia meets Twilight's friends for the first time in person. She's been told about them and what they do. When Fluttershy is introduced to Philomeena, Celestia merely asks Fluttershy "Isn't she lovely?" Cue the bird losing a few feathers off of her already near-featherless body and making a horrible hacking cough as though she's dying (She is. She gets better.). Long story short, the entire episode could have been skipped if Celestia had simply thought to mention to Fluttershy that Philomeena is a phoenix.
Winx Club falls under this trope with Flora being unable to tell Helia about her feelings for him. And when she finally does it turns out he felt the same way all the time...
In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, potential couple Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne suffer from this. By the time Hank works up the courage to say anything, he goes unconscious right after saying the word "love". He doesn't manage to actually proclaim his feelings for Jan until after she goes unconscious.
In Jimmy Neutron, Cindy and Jimmy do this with each other all the time, with a handful of Suspiciously Specific Denial thrown in for good measure. Especially Cindy in "The N-Men". She tries to calm Jimmy down by admitting her feelings for him, but goes "I l-l...I l-l-ll..." and then faints. Jimmy is understandably curious.
When asked directly, young Prince Lion-O doesn't disclose that he saw a frightening vision in the Sword of Omens during a Rite of Passage ceremony, both unaware of its significance, and all too aware of his father King Claudus's disdain for him as a Cloudcuckoolander. Court Mage Jaga deliberately mentions that "Sight Beyond Sight" exists, in an attempt to convince Lion-O that its safe to confide in him, which succeeds. Unfortunately, satisfied that Lion-O trusts him enough to tell him eventually, Jaga gives Lion-O an indulgent Not Now, Kiddo, to allow him to get back to a party. Unbeknownst to either of them, Lion-O's vision is very time-sensitive. The next evening, too late to do anything, Lion-O realizes he saw ancient Outside Context Villain and Big Bad Mumm-Ra.
Also Zig-zagged with a Sibling Triangle subplot between Lion-O, his brother Tygra and shared Love Interest Cheetara. Rather than explicitly state that they both have feelings for her and asking if she reciprocates, they complicate matters by treating their interactions as (yet another) passive-aggressive competition, hoping she'll give an indication of "choosing" one of them eventually. In "Between Brothers" Cheetara finally understands the extent to which the pair have been feuding over her, and apologizes for playing this trope straight. She admits that she's also harbored unrequieted feelings, confessing her love and kissing Tygra, which is of course the moment Lion-O enters the scene.
Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force Go: This sums up Sprx and Nova's relationship fairly well, especially in Sprx's case; it's obvious he loves her, and comes fairly close to saying it a couple of times, only for something to interrupt or chicken out at the last second. In the final episode, it's Nova who finally spits it out, in order to break Sprx out of his Brainwashed and Crazy state.
Metalocalypse: Nathan Explosion has an "apology problem," in that he finds it hard to say that he's sorry for his actions. This turns out to be a actual physical incapability during Roy Cornickelson's funeral: as he tries to apologize to Pickles, he stammers over the phrase and even vomits blood before he can finally spit it out.