"Okay! What is wrong with the two of you?! Seriously! He likes you, and you like him, and you should just be together! Jeez, Louise! Happiness is not that difficult!"When two characters are attracted to one another, but are both so incredibly shy and awkward that neither one of them has the guts to do anything about it. In the end all it usually takes is for someone (or something) else to give them a gentle nudge in the right direction and they'll get together. The pair usually comprises a regular character and a Temporary Love Interest, but it can also be a Beta Couple with a Will They or Won't They? plot of their own. It may also involve some Dramatic Irony if the audience is made aware of the pair's mutual crush before they are. Subtrope of Birds of a Feather. Compare with Belligerent Sexual Tension which also has trouble getting together, but for different reasons. May be a driving force behind Will They or Won't They?, Not to Be Confused with The First Cut Is the Deepest, a trope also described as "once bitten, twice shy."
— Lily Aldrin, How I Met Your Mother
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Anime & Manga
- Firo and Ennis in Baccano! take this Up to Eleven by engaging in Innocent Cohabitation for upwards of seventy years, despite his falling in love with her pretty much as soon as he met her. Somewhat justified since Ennis has a hard time figuring out what love, marriage, and sex even mean.
- In Bakuman。, Mashiro's uncle and the woman of his dreams Azuki's mom were completely crippled by this. It's likely that Mashiro and Azuki would have fared even worse, if Takagi hadn't dragged Mashiro bodily into speaking with her and agreeing to draw manga.
- Captain Tsubasa:
- The captain of the Furano team, Matsuyama, has this going with his assistant Yoshiko, At first it seems that he's Oblivious to Love regarding Yoshiko's feelings for him, but some Ship Tease-ladden flashbacks state that he likes her too. The fact that she has to leave for the USA due to her father's work doesn't help.
- To a degree, Sanae and Tsubasa fell into this trope during their Relationship Upgrade manga chapter. She's been very smitten with him since childhood, but he seems to have only very recently caught up thanks to Kumi's Anguished Declaration of Love to him and since he's going to live abroads, he isn't sure of how to tell her.
- Ran and Shinichi of Detective Conan. Every single time Shinichi turns back, they just keep beating around the bush instead of telling each other how they feel. For 16 years (not in story). Straight. Shinichi did end up giving Ran an indirect confession in the London Arc, though.
- Kiri and Elraine from Double Arts. She's too shy and thinks he's clueless about her feelings, and he's convinced that the boost in sexual tension caused by confessing to her would make life trapped together too awkward.
- Alzack and Bisca in Fairy Tail, until the timeskip.
- In Full Metal Panic!, Sōsuke and Kaname fit this trope to the "T" — especially later on. Kaname has problems taking on the aggressive role of romantically pursuing Sōsuke (as she's shown to constantly be waiting for Sōsuke to take the initiative, and is constantly disappointed when she finds out she misunderstood his actions as being romantic advances). And Sōsuke... has huge issues with romantic intimacy. He's shown to become very nervous when confronted with anything "inappropriate" and too sexual, and has a tendency to clam up or run away. The most he appears to be able to muster with Kaname is to shyly hold her hand, which results in some highly frustrating Will They or Won't They?.
- Examine the freak-out he had in the beautician shop (he didn't at all like the idea of someone holding blades near him.) Then examine how, with Kaname holding a pair of scissors near his head, he is somehow relaxed enough that he falls asleep while she's trimming his hair. He's not even that relaxed around Tessa, or Kalinin. They Will. And They Did.
- Feldt and Setsuna in Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer show signs of this. Feldt's feelings for him are so obvious Everyone Can See It but Setsuna has his own intimacy issues, not to mention his recent transformation into an Innovator. The farthest they get is a hug when Setsuna wakes up from his ELS Mind Rape-induced coma... at least that's what we see; exactly what happened between the hug and Setsuna calling the bridge that he's taking the 00 Quan[T] (with a teary Feldt following closely) is left up for interpretation.\\\ However, Setsuna does directly address her and only her when he's about to sortie. After this, Setsuna ends up leaving to the ELS homeworld , and the end of the movie fast forwards to many years later, leaving a giant gap in which the only details we know of being another war involving an "old human faction". Whatever may have happened between him ( now likely immortal due to fusing with the ELS ) and Feldt (who is probably ancient unless she ended up assimilating like other humans are shown to have done in the future) will likely never be known.
- Ippo Makunouchi and Kumi Mashiba from Hajime no Ippo. For reference, Kumi was first introduced in chapter 36, the manga is already past its 900th chapter.
- Suiren and Kawasumi from Hibi Chouchou. She's shy and with bad social skills due to years of isolation, he's extremely awkward around girls.
- Junpei Manaka and Aya Toujo in Strawberry 100%. Actually, this trope is even the main reason why this series DOESN'T end with a First Girl Wins scenario.
- I"s would probably be about half the length if it weren't for this trope.
- Inverted in Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai. Both Kaguya and Shirogane are aware of each other's love and want nothing more than to provoke a Love Confession to be the dominant one in the relationship (in a non-sexual way). However, they are entirely unaware of — and can't admit — their own feelings.
- In Kase-san, both girls get plenty of hints from the other that they're interested, but both are way too awkward and nervous to do anything about it for a full year in-universe time.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple:
- Kind of exists between Kenichi and Miu. It's slightly subverted in that they're very good friends, but Kenichi is too nervous to take it to a romantic level, and Miu is incredibly jealous of any other girls who hang around with Kenichi, but she doesn't take the initiative either. Also a case of Everyone Can See It, as all of the masters are totally aware of it, and are watching to see what will happen.
- Later on in the series, this trope is subverted in a unique way. Both Kenichi and Miu acknowledge their feelings for each other (well before the end of the series at this point by a 100+ chapters mind you) but they decide not to date until Kenichi has enough power/skill to protect Miu. In the last page of the entire series, a small picture is shown on the side of the page that depicts a small girl is shown between two unknown figures, implying that not only Miu and Kenichi started dating, but eventually married.
- Sawako and Kazehaya of Kimi ni Todoke. She's shy, innocent and unassuming to a fault, he's a truly genuine Nice Guy who doesn't want to push it. Without Yano, Chizu and Ryu nudging them, they would probably both graduate before they got around to doing so much as hold hands.
- Naruto has been unable to comprehend Hinata's feelings as romantic, even after she spit it out to him. When he finally realizes her feelings in The Last and starts returning them, he's acting no differently from Hinata — the irony of which is not lost on anyone.
- Raku Ichijo and Kosaki Onodera of Nisekoi quite blatantly have feelings for each other, however they are unable to admit their feelings for each other. Of course, the fact that Raku has to pretend to be in a relationship with another girl due to family issues doesn't help. It takes over two hundred chapters for their relationship to change at all when Onodera finally confesses and gets turned down. She was simply too late by that point because the entire manga had been spent developing Chitoge and Raku's relationship until he finally cared more for Chitoge instead of her.
- In Nyan Koi!, both Junpei and Kaede like each other, but neither one seems willing to make the first move. Other girls expressing interest in him also serves to confuse Kaede as to whether he's dating them, or may not really be interested in her.
- In Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!, both Yuuta and Raike are interested in each other, but neither one seems able to admit their feelings to the other.
- Rurouni Kenshin went through this so long, it almost got annoying. Kaoru was too shy to tell Kenshin how she felt, and Kenshin wasn't sure if he deserved someone like her, especially since he accidentally killed his first wife Tomoe.
- Sailor Moon has Shy Blue-Haired Girl Mizuno Ami meet a similarly shy genius named Ryo Urawa (who also had Psychic Powers). Only the intervention of her friends (and her saving him from his inner great monster) gets them on a date in one episode.
- Julia and Ran from Strawberry Shake Sweet: they're both girls and each assumes that the other is straight, so they spend a good chunk of the manga orbiting each other in an increasing spiral of Unresolved Sexual Tension.
- Rito and Haruna in To Love-Ru are the very definition of this. Rito tries confessing a few times but is always interrupted. She takes so long that while Rito still loves her, he also falls in love with Lala, making the situation even more complicated.
- This is one of the main draws of Tonari no Kashiwagi-san. Yuuto and Kotone share several traits that make most of their problems and mistakes come from assumptions based on their insecurities.
- Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle plays with this. In the beginning Syaoran and Sakura already too close but have yet to tell each other their feelings. However, Sakura's amnesia causes the relationship to reboot with Syaoran also distancing himself due to the fact that in order to help to her memories, he pays with all of her memories that include him. However, across the series the two start feeling attracted once again until the two nearly die and confess their feelings.
- You're Under Arrest!: Miyuki and Nakajima are in love with each other. Everyone at Bokutou Precinct knows it. It's even implied that they're both aware of how the other feels, but they can barely look at each other without blushing, or getting cold feet. Their friends have even set them up on dates, to give 'em a push, but without success. Making the situation as frustrating for them, as it is for the audience.
- In the early Spider-Man stories, Peter Parker tended to assume that his love interests simply couldn't be interested in a dweeby little science nerd. Once he hit off with Gwen Stacy, though, the rest was history.
- Cloak & Dagger: Ty's too shy to ever think a girl like Tandy would be interested in him. Tandy thinks Ty only loves her as a friend. Cue the UST...
- In the early X-Men stories, Scott and Jean could very well serve as the page image.
- Naruto and Hinata in Escape From The Hokage's Hat. Hinata's a Shrinking Violet with low self-esteem who still thinks he holds a torch for Sakura. Naruto doesn't want to jeopardize one of the only healthy female relationship he has and is afraid to be rejected. It's takes a Freudian Slip to actually help them.
- A Growing Affection: This is the reason Yahiko's Operation: Jealousy fails, Nagato and Konan are both afraid to alienate him, due to their respective pasts.
- In Tomorrow's Doom, it's quite obvious that Amaya and Tadao like each other, but neither wants to admit their feelings to the other. Aiko finally decides that enough is enough and nudges the pair toward each other during the festival.
- The Stalking Zuko Series, it becomes obvious to everyone that Katara and Zuko both like each other due to their history and self-esteem issues, they think they are not good enough for each other or are in love with someone else.
- Lance and Gwen's relationship in The Student Prince. Neither can work up the courage to ask the other out for a long time, both of them thinking the other is out of their league.
- Hachiman and Yukino have a slight variation of this from The End of the Affair. While neither is really shy in the conventional sense, they both refused to ever admit their feelings for each other due to their similar philosophies towards life.
- Weiss Reacts: Ruby and Weiss. It takes Ruby making the first move, caught up in the surge of victory after winning the music festival, for her to confess to Weiss, and for Weiss to respond in kind.
- Lucina Reacts: Lucina and Robin. It's immediately clear both have massive crushes on the other, but are too shy to express it. It takes, of all people, Cordelia, Chrom, Maribelle and Robin's sort-of sister Reflet working together in tandem to get them to confess to each other, and even then Cordelia is forced to fall back on her second plan when her first plan backfires.
Films — Live-Action
- Magrat Garlick and King Verence II in Discworld. Not only did he stick around, they got married.
- The Remains of the Day deconstructs this painfully.
- In Invisible Stanley, one of the sequels to Flat Stanley, Stanley helps a shy couple get married by creeping up invisibly behind the man, imitating his voice, and proposing to his girlfriend.
- Nick and Lirael had the subtlest of hints towards a mutual infatuation in Abhorsen, which were complicated by his death. Luckily he got better, or else Garth Nix wouldn't have been able to confirm their infatuation in the short story "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case".
- Piro and Ibronka in The Viscount of Adrilankha.
Ibronka: My dear Viscount, come over here and kiss me before I die of embarrassment.
- Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Both are calm people who do not crush easily and hide their feelings. Proper Elinor is aware that she must not appear too eager, especially when his family strongly disapproves of the match. Moreover, Edward is the Master of the Mixed Message and involved with somebody else.
- Beta Couple Jane Bennet and Mr Bingley in Pride and Prejudice. Jane is usually sweet but composed, so it's obvious only to her family and close friends that she likes Mr Bingley. Mr. Bingley thought she liked him but was easily persuaded by his friends that she was indifferent. Had there been no meddling, those two would have got engaged after the Netherfield ball in the first third of the book.
- To Live has Fengxia and Erxi...and they are both absolutely adorable, especially considering the setting of the novel.
- The Princess Diaries: Michael and Mia, who have to resort to sending anonymous love letters and replying via a computer program in order to get their feelings out in the open.
- Eleanor And Park begin like this, developing their romance just by sitting next to each other on the bus, not even speaking.
- The Apprentice Adept book, "Robot Adept": Agape (in the body of Fleta the Unicorn) is approached separately by Trool, the Red Adept and the vampiress Suchevane. Trool (a literal troll) confesses he's head over heels in love with Suchevane, but fears Suchevane would never come to him, except out of fear or pity, and doesn't want to press the issue himself, not wanting Suchevane to think he's leaning on her. Suchevane, on the other hand, fell in love with Trool, the first man who's ever treated her as a person, rather than unapproachably beautiful or a concubine. Agape suggests Suchevane tell Trool her feelings, then offer her companionship to ease their mutual loneliness, until such time as he finds a more suitable mate. Agape assures her he won't look any further. (He doesn't.)
- Mavis Riley and Derek Wilton from Coronation Street. They were both incredibly shy and dithering, and this made their repeated attempts at a relationship very difficult.
- In Smallville, Clark and Lana, and Chloe usually does the prodding when she is not head-over-heels for Clark herself. Lana on the other hand is not so happy about Clark and Chloe getting together.
- Manny and Roweena in Black Books. It takes Bernard bellowing "Offer her something, you fool!" at him to get Manny to make any headway with her.
- Jeff and Julia in Coupling. (A rare example where the new character actually stuck around, as opposed to mysteriously vanishing by the next episode.)
- Kaylee and Simon in Firefly. Although in Kaylee's case, it's less that she's shy (hell, she got her job on the ship thanks to a one-night stand with the previous mechanic), and more that she feels inferior around Simon.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- The page quote is from season 1, where Robin was pining over Ted who had been pining over Robin, but had just gotten over it and moved on.
- Barney and Robin in the fourth season. Funny when you consider how much of a Handsome Lech Barney is. It seems like that old stuff: quick flings are one thing, but getting into a steady relationship is something completely different.
- One episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch had Valerie be too shy to ask out a guy. Sabrina decides to intervene by calling Cupid and asking him to make the guy in love with Valerie, but Cupid responds it would be a waste of an arrow because it's already clear that they both like each other.
- Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax certainly give off this vibe in the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In the end, They Do.
- "I've Got This Friend" by The Civil Wars, with the obvious implication that the "friend" each singer is talking about is actually themselves, while the other suggests that their "friend" sounds perfect for them.
- Honey Works' "Friday's "Good morning" and Friday's "Good morning -another story- tells the story of two students who see each other at the train car on their way to school everyday, and have spent weeks after weeks practising saying "good morning" for each other, but neither ever worked up the courage to approach the other to say the simple greeting.
- Anton Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard. Self-Made Man Yermolai Alekseevich Lopakhin, the buyer of the titular orchard, has a troubled relationship with Varvara aka Varya, the Tsundere adopted daughter of its former owner, Liubov Andreevna Ranyeshkaya. In one of the last scenes, he works up the courage to ask Varya to marry him, but ultimately feels too shy and guilty to do so. This scene fits in well with the overall tone of the play —which has all of its characters suffering because of their inability to act decisively.
- In the musical Double Digits, the duet "Oh, no!" is sung by a popular jock-boy and a quiter girl who is tutoring him in maths. To wit:
Boy: She's so smart, I'm so dumb.
Girl: He's so cool, I'm so glum.
Boy: Why would she...
Girl: Why would he...
Together: ... have any interest in me?
- Older Than Steam: In Much Ado About Nothing, careful attention to Beatrice's dialogue reveals that, at least on her end, the Belligerent Sexual Tension between her and Benedick has something to do with this.
- Seymour and Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. He is a poor grunt at a failing flower store who is constantly told he is an incompetent loser who thinks Audrey is just the prettiest girl ever, and she is an equally poor girl dating an abusive jerk is is also told constantly that she is dumb and worthless who just thinks Seymour is the sweetest guy.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: In a subquest in Windfall Island, you can photograph two persons who have this problem. (They share a look.) The quest-giver will then use this photograph to help them along.
- In Skyward Sword, this is the situation between Pipit and Karane, Link's fellow students at the Knight Academy. When Karane receives a love letter from another student, Cawlin, her public rejection of Cawlin's affections leads to her and Pipit revealing their feelings for each other.
- Some Fallout fans speculate that this trope is going on between the Lone Wanderer and Amata in Fallout 3.
- A cut ending to Knights of the Old Republic 2 would have a female Exile's relationship with Atton resolved to look like this was going on for almost the entire game.
- Used as a running joke in MOTHER 3 between a woman and man, both with almost identical dialogue. Their relationship progresses through the game.
- Xenoblade: It's apparent, from the start, that Shulk and Fiora are in love with each other, yet both are too shy to take the next step. It takes Fiora almost dying during the Mechon's attack on Colony 9 and eventually being revealed to have survived to give Shulk the push he needed to finally convey his feelings to her.
Shulk: [resolutely] I won't let you go, Fiora.
- A running theme in Immortal Souls for John, who's too worried about others finding out about his secret life to seriously flirt, and Allison, who worries about whether or not he's doing OK too much to ever get a chance to get beyond that. Though Allison finally eventually perks up enough courage to ask him out for coffee by the end of the first game.
- Fire Emblem Awakening has three cases:
- Olivia can potentially have this going with Lon'qu. Specially bad because Lon'qu Cannot Talk to Women in general for his Dark and Troubled Past, in which his First Love Ke'ri was murdered before his eyes (though it seems Olivia ignores this "little detail"). Whether they properly develop a romantic relationship or not, it depends on the player.
- Olivia and Prince Chrom as well, if the player manage to get their supports. (Easier said than done). This is played differently: Olivia starts out scared of Chrom due to his status as the Prince of Ylisse, Chrom tries to approach her but only manages to scare her off due to his No Social Skills, and their support chain is laced with awkwardness until the end. Again, whether they fall in love or not depends on the player.
- Lucina and a male Avatar have this going on in their S rank support. Their circumstances are just so weird that, through their supports as a whole, the Avatar actively tries not to fall in love with her, but if the supports are completed he does anyway. And who could blame him considering she's his best friend Chrom's daughter from the bad future? If the Avatar comes clean to her in the S-Support, she's able to admit her own feelings as well.
- In Fire Emblem Fates, it turns out that Ryoma and Elise can fall into this if they reach S-Support, since during said support Ryoma is under the mistaken impression that Elise likes another guy rather than him...
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, if neither are romanced it is implied that Blackwall and Josephine are secretly attracted to one another but both are too insecure and shy respectively to openly make any move.
- In Until Dawn, Chris and Ashley
- Bram and Henrietta in Shikkoku No Sharnoth. After a conversation with Mary, Henrietta decides to make her feelings clear. Too bad Bram dies pretty much immediately after she calls to meet up with him.
- Varied because they already went together, but fell apart then in this strip of Loserz.
- Emily and Matt in The Senkari.
- Elan and Haley from The Order of the Stick are this for a while, which can be best seen in their Will They or Won't They? plot near the beginning of the Azure City arc. Due to character personalities, it's played out as Elan being Oblivious to Love and Haley deliberately refusing to ask Elan out because she is taught to mistrust people. But as it is seen in this strip they are both attracted to each other for a very long time.
- Elliot and Susan from El Goonish Shive have gradually developed into this situation. The former fails at perversion and needs to work on his introspective and guilt issues. The latter is a Broken Bird with a Dark and Troubled Past, and wants to avoid causing a Yoko Oh No situation. They're completely unaware that the other is attracted to them. Meanwhile, everyone else has either figured it out or at least has some inkling of it.
- Danny and Sam from Danny Phantom. Though it comes to a Last Minute Hook Up it's still freakin' annoying.
- And Fanon in Phineas and Ferb uses this to explain why Phineas and Isabella aren't together yet. While Isabella has very clear attractions to him, she has yet to actually confess her feelings to him. Phineas, on the other hand, is so ambiguous towards her it rivals sadism.
- The movie more or less confirms this. Right before they have their memories wiped, Isabella kisses Phineas. Phineas is both very surprised and very happy.
- Again in "Act Your Age". Phineas developed feelings for Isabella in high school but was convinced he was in the "friends zone" and Isabella had given up on him ever recognizing her feelings so neither of them said or did anything. After a soul-crushing duet about what might have been, Phineas ends up chasing after her car and they share their Big Damn Kiss.
- Candace and Jeremy seem to be a canon example, though for a long time it was hard to tell if Jeremy even liked her back. Season two made it a bit more obvious that he was nervous around her, with the episode "Nerdy Dancing" specifically switching their usual dynamic (he was trying to impress her rather than the other way around).
- The movie more or less confirms this. Right before they have their memories wiped, Isabella kisses Phineas. Phineas is both very surprised and very happy.
- My Little Pony:
- Bright Eyes and Lancer in My Little Pony Tales until their friends' failed makeover attempts forced them to come clean and admit their feelings for each other in a Be Yourself moment.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Hearthbreakers", Pinkie Pie introduces Marble Pie (her younger sister) to the Apple Family. It's obvious by the painfully little dialogue and subtle gestures of affection between Marble and Big Macintosh that the two have feelings for each other. Pinkie Pie ends up speaking for both of them at the party at the end of the episode.
- On Goof Troop, PJ got a crush on a girl in his class, Rose Deckenbloom, after she recited a poem about being a Shrinking Violet, which he could relate to and thought was beautiful while everyone else in the class hated it. Then he spends much of the episode following everybody's bad advice about how to get her to like him. He tries to give her a present, but is too shy, so he asks Max to do it for him, which he does. Rose mistakenly thinks Max likes her and is delighted, but once they are at the dance she and PJ start to hit it off at the punch bowl... until Pete comes in and "helps" (he was trying this time, honest!) which causes Rose to run away in tears, thinking PJ doesn't like her. He then recites the opening lines of her poem and confesses to all the things he tried, she says she likes his true self more, and then this happens:
PJ: I don't suppose you wanna... sorta dance?
Rose: Umm... okay...
- On Young Justice, Superboy and M'Gann can be interpreted as one example of this. Word of God suggests that Wally and Artemis are even more so, despite both always acting tough or flirtatious (toward other people) to cover it.
- The Ever After High characters Alistair and Bunny both believe that the other is friendzoning them. How they came to this conclusion is never explained.
- In Over the Garden Wall, Wirt alludes to some kind of romantic trouble with a girl named Sara, complicated by another guy who is far too perfect for him to compete against. However, in the Whole Episode Flashback when we see these events, it's pretty clear to the viewer that Sara also likes Wirt, even if she isn't as ridiculously awkward about it, and that she doesn't return Jason Funderberker's interest in her.
- The Yaghan language, spoken in Tierra del Fuego, is able to express this in one word. Mamihlapinatapai. "Two people are both at a loss as to what to do about the other."
- Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, who were often cast together, both had crushes on each other but sadly didn't act on them before his death.
- Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi were classmates in their youth and each had a crush on the other. They would not admit this until many years later.