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Cannot Spit It Out

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"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."

There is a piece of vital information that would clear up a character's problems, whether it is a misunderstanding of romance or combat. If the character would just spit it out already, it would save entire episodes', if not entire seasons' worth of trouble and tears., naturally, they don't.

Whether it's due to embarrassment, ego, or just plain stupidity, they rush into whatever situation is going on. Sometimes this leads to a moral about the benefits of clear-headed conversation over fighting needlessly. However, most of the time it's just to provide padding to the series.

Sometimes, one reason for this is because the other side won't let them, or else they seem to have a wall around their mind against the information.

Other times the character is just an ass. Although the Ineffectual Loner has many chances to clarify his role, most of the time he'll just tell the heroes to figure it out themselves.

Another case is where a problem that would be easy to talk through has gotten mixed up in something they're less willing (or strictly unable) to share. It could be a Dark Secret, the Masquerade, a Secret Identity, or even something mundane — but explaining the easy problem means explaining the hidden one, so the ignorant side must be kept in the dark on both, whether the knowledgeable side likes it or not. This tends to be how the Masquerade starts to kill your dating life... or worse, kill the date themselves.

Of course, any time someone finally summons up the courage to actually say it, they will be interrupted. It could be sudden events in the plot taking priority, or another of their circle of friends suddenly feels the need to announce some unimportant item that needs everyone's attention right now. The moment is lost, and even when it isn't, they likely won't be believed anyway. Sometimes, most tragically of all, the character or the person to whom this needs to be said will die or be otherwise lost forever just as the character has gotten up the courage to make his or her feelings known.

Thinking you have courage enough and finding yourself indulging in Talk About the Weather or other chitchat is also common.

Sometimes overcome by the Green-Eyed Monster, or by Converse with the Unconscious or (worst case) Talking to the Dead.

If a character derives pleasure from withholding information and puzzling others, it is Loves Secrecy.

If it's a magical curse that prevents the character from sharing information, then that character may be Tongue-Tied. If it's simply too personal for the character to talk about, they're Emotionally Tongue-Tied. If both members of a romantic pairing can't spit it out, they're Twice Shy. Should the character find saying whatever it is so alien and repugnant that they are practically incapable of saying it, it's probably Gagging on Your Words. If they're too damn mad to get the words out, you're dealing with a case of Angrish. If the character awkwardly manages something vageuly resembling a confession of love that nevertheless gets the message across, it's I "Uh" You, Too.

In an Unresolved Sexual Tension or Belligerent Sexual Tension situation, or if All Love Is Unrequited, this trope is often vital to maintaining the status quo.

Real Life Cannot Spit It Out is known as Alexithymia, which is an inability to describe or process emotions. Sometimes a trait of introverted people whether or not they have this condition.

See also Aborted Declaration of Love, Interrupted Declaration of Love, You Didn't Ask, Mistaken for Index, Hint Dropping, Snowball Lie. A specific sub-trope of Poor Communication Kills. Sister trope of Tongue Twister. Has nothing to do with being unable to clear one's mouth of a disgusting flavor. Everyone Can See It is what happens when the information is romantically related and blatantly obvious to everyone except those who can't spit it out.

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    Comic Books 
  • The Backstagers: Beckett, for Bailey Brentwood. The subtext is that Beckett fears he'll be rejected for being trans.
  • A 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.
  • Deathstroke's buddy Billy Wintergreen hypothesizes in the DC Rebirth series that Slade loves his kids more than anything in the world and is eaten up with guilt for not being the dad that they need but is too fundamentally broken to tell them that.
  • A magically-induced variation of this trope figures in the origin of Doctor Strange. When Dr. Stephen Strange was staying at the Ancient One's retreat, he discovered that the Ancient One's disciple Baron Mordo was trying to kill his master. Mordo found out and placed a spell on Strange, magically gagging him whenever he tried to warn Mordo's master. Recognizing Mordo's evil and the need to counter it, Strange offered himself as the Ancient One's new disciple. The first thing the Ancient One did was remove Mordo's enchantment from Strange, which he knew about all along ("A student can have no secrets from his master.")
  • 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.
  • Grandville: From the third album onward, LeBrock realizes he is in love with Billie and tries to propose to her several times, but usually can't finish the question — either because the plot decides to attack at that exact moment or because he chickens out.
  • The Mighty Thor: Odin does in fact love his sons Thor and, despite everything, Loki, but it would take a truly phenomenal effort for him to say it. He does eventually say it during Loki: Agent of Asgard, much to the infuriation of an older version of Loki, who bellows that Odin never said that to them. And seconds later Odin gets angry and refuses to say any more on the subject. He says it again to Loki later in that series, when they're in a very dark place (issue #11), together with a lot of other stuff fitting under Vagueness Is Coming.
  • In Mini Monsters, we have Frank and Henrietta. They definitely love each other, but they can't tell their feelings because of shyness. Also, Henrietta's alter-ego Miss Hit does not help at all. Unsurprisingly, all people think they're a couple, and Frank constantly denies it.
  • Mouse Guard: Incredibly, it's the Hot-Blooded Boisterous 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 denouement.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) Spike, 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.
  • Charlie Brown's inability to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl in Peanuts was 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.
  • The Sandman (1989) In "Death: At Death's Door", Despair and the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe like each other, but can't admit it.
  • Shazam!: For most of his superheroing 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.
  • 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:
    • Peter Parker is 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 talked about when May finds out that Peter is Spider-Man and talks to him about it in The Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski) #38. It's one of the most touching scenes in comics, including the part where she specifically points out that she's a big girl and she won't just keel over, and that she will be worried, but he has her blessing. Unfortunately Retcon'd by One More Day.
      May Parker: What did you think would happen if I found out, Peter? Did you think I would just keel over and die?
    • This is subverted in the Ultimate Spider-Man series, in which 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.
  • 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...
  • Sunny Series: Tony, a boy who has a crush on Sunny, struggles for several chapters in Sunny Makes Her Case to ask her out. At least twice he's denied by her having to do something else, including help out at a fondue party her parents are hosting and when her dad sits between them at a football game. It takes Deb explaining things to Sunny for her to realize it. Finally, Tony asks Sunny to go on a date after the regional debate competition, after she agrees to go see his hockey game.
  • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: Danvers has to report the results of her interrogation of Lawson. She's visibly ashamed to open her mouth and say "His name's Captain Marvel and he's a spaceman from the Cree Indian tribe, sir".
  • A non-romantic variant. In the very first issue of X-Men Unlimited, it's revealed that Cyclops is so courteous to Professor X that he literally cannot call him "Charles". He'll call him "Professor" or "Xavier" or "Professor Xavier", but he'll never call him "Charles".

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Our Lady's Child" the main character lies about having opened a forbidden door and continues to do so, despite getting kicked out of Heaven, losing her voice, spending several utterly miserable years trapped in the wilderness and having all three of her children (temporarily) taken away from her as punishment. She doesn't admit to the truth until she's on the verge of being burnt as a witch because her husband's subjects believe that she ate the missing kids.

    Fan Works 
  • Almost literally in Ah! My Goddess fanfiction Haloes. While Urd and Keichi are obviously developing feelings to each other, a nasty bout with aphasia robs the former of her ability to use written and spoken language. Her later Anguished Declaration of Love has the mute goddess develop an entire Starfish Language made of music and translate it in words just to relearn how to speak.
  • In Any Way You Want It (a sequel to Going Anywhere), roommates Tinker and Emma each refuse to reveal to the other why they were running away from Canterlot on the same day until the other does first. For his part, Tinker doesn't want to ever tell her that he left his fiance (in an arranged marriage) at the altar. Though unstated, Emma probably has the exact same reason, being as it was the exact same altar.
  • In ''Blind Man's Bluff", Nick just can't confess his feelings for Ellis. He truly loves him, and God forbid if you ever hurt Ellis in front of Nick, but due to his general standoffish nature and his residual trust issues from his rocky divorce, he finds it difficult to express his feelings.
  • A Crown of Stars: Shinji and Asuka got together after he said to her that he loved her. However, Asuka was still very confused, frightened, and insecure of herself and her feelings. So it took a while until she was ready to admit to herself and him that she needed him and loved him back.
  • Advice and Trust:
    • Subverted. In the prologue, Misato thinks Shinji is incapable to confess his feelings to Asuka and she tries to encourage him to admit them to her. Shinji answers the usual excuses: he does not think that Asuka loves him back, he likes things the way they are right now... in reality, they had got together several weeks ago and were keeping their relationship secret. Before that, though, they HAD been unable to spit it out: Shinji did not believe that Asuka liked him, Asuka was too proud to admit that she had fallen for him and both were frightened of rejection.
    • A bit of Ascended Fanon revealed that the entire human/angel war was set in motion by this. Adam and Lilith were originally in love with each other, but never confessed their feelings before they were converted into carriers for the FAR souls. Lilith's desire to be with Adam caused her to subconsciously follow him to Earth.
  • Pyrrha in BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant has this problem like she did in her home series, only this time, Yang is the one she's in love with. A major reason why she has trouble confessing her feelings is that Yang is the first genuine friendship she's ever had, and while she'd like for it to become something more, she's also terrified of ruining it.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Mittens has trouble admitting her feelings for Bolt to Rhino in "The Ship."
  • The Child of Love: Asuka could not spit it out because she was afraid of admitting she loved and needed Shinji, and she did not believe he was really in love with her. Shinji could not spit it out for a while because he thought she did not love him back. Finally they spat it out in chapter 5.
  • In Children of an Elder God, Shinji liked both Asuka and Rei, but he didn't say anything because he wasn't sure about his feelings or theirs... until Asuka kissed him.
  • In Children of Time, Sherlock Holmes can't even seem to process his feelings towards Beth Lestrade, let alone spit them out. After she makes a thinly veiled Anguished Declaration of Love, he can only say, "Good night, Beth."
  • A Diplomatic Visit: In chapter 24, Moondancer confesses to Princess Celestia that she kept sending hints Twilight's way, but Twilight never figured out what Moondancer was trying to say - that she was in love with Twilight.
  • Doing It Right This Time: In the original timeline Shinji thought Asuka did not like him back, Asuka thought Shinji did not like her back and he loved Rei instead, and Rei was unable to recognize her own emotions. In the altered timeline, neither of them confessed for a while since Asuka was confused because she also started liking Rei, Rei was unsure about her feelings towards Shinji and Asuka, and Shinji thought he would have to choose between both.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Vegeta being forced to ask for help and swallow his pride at the Earthlings that contributed to beating him.
    Vegeta: "Every fiber of my being wants to puke at once when I say this, but I need your he...I need your heaa..."
    Gohan: You need our help?
    Vegeta: That. Yes.
  • Evangelion 303: Asuka kept her real feelings for Shinji secret. She finally managed to spit it out after getting engaged, but even then she was still frightened to say it.
  • Danny and Sam in Hearts and Minds had difficulty confessing their deeper feelings for each other at first.
  • The Fascinating Yet Obvious Twixie spends thirteen chapters of Twilight and Trixie dancing circles around each other without admitting how they feel, for fear of rejection. Given that they spend the entire story together in the same room and get highly intimate for a number of reasons, some severe self-delusions are employed. Once Trixie realizes that Twilight does feel for her, it all comes tumbling out.
  • Fate/Gamers Only: During the first Halloween event, Rikku prepares to respond to Kiyohime calling her husband by saying that her wife is Mash, but cuts herself off before she can finish saying her kohai's name. Mash gets disappointed because she was interested in finding out what Rikku's type was, but Dr. Roman assures her that she doesn't have to worry.
  • Forever And A Mile: One morning, Octavia runs into Oprah, who is surprised that she's at work early. Octavia realizes that she could tell Oprah about her entire strife with O'Brian, even though the last agent that did that apparently got sent to the moon by O'Brian himself, but instead, all she does is give a sheepish chuckle and wish her boss a good morning. Later on, when assigning her a case regarding the World's Largest String Cheese being stolen, Oprah tells Octavia to talk to her if she needs anything, and Octavia simply adopts a hesitant facial expression as she lies and tells her boss that she's okay.
  • One Forgotten Realms fanfiction 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.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: Shinji doesn’t confess his feelings until he is eighteen because he thought that Asuka would reject him.
  • Green: This is the main thing keeping Fluttershy and Rarity's burgeoning romance from being realized. Rarity loves Fluttershy but is worried about what would happen to their friendship if Fluttershy doesn't feel the same way. Fluttershy finds herself in the exact same position. Eventually, Rarity decides to get her feelings off her chest by way of an anonymous love letter, delivered in the dark of the night. She doesn't do a good job covering her tracks, though, and between her signature scent on the letter and Angel Bunny spotting her in the act, Fluttershy is able to deduce who the letter was really from, which gives her the courage to finally give Rarity The Big Damn Kiss.
  • 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.
  • HERZ: Shinji and Asuka’s inability to express their feelings openly and clearly was an additional source of pain. In chapter 2 Asuka remembers their relationship finally improved when she managed to open up to him.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: In chapter 6, Japan was about to confess to Italy only to cut himself short. Nerves got to him. Subverted later on.
  • Higher Learning: Shinji was afraid of confessing Asuka because he is a shy kid who did not think she liked him. Asuka was frightened of confessing to Shinji because she is afraid of opening up to other people, and he had ignored all hints she dropped. It took a bottle of sake for them to reach each other out and blurt their feelings out.
  • In Your Wildest Dreams: Discussed in regards to Pyrrha towards Jaune. Thanks to recent events, Jaune suspects that Pyrrha has a crush on him, but given his track record of misreading signals, decides to just hint that he's open to going to the upcoming dance if anyone wants to ask him out whenever Pyrrha is in earshot. He does this for an entire week and she completely ignores him, so he assumes he was wrong and ends up going with Yang, and the two become a couple shortly after. Jaune later gets confirmation that Pyrrha does have a crush on him and isn't taking the new relationship well, but Jaune can't bring himself to sympathize, and Ren directly calls her out on it when Team JNPR gets into a verbal spat several weeks later.
    Ren: You lump all your doubts and feelings on an idiot! And they're the most obvious feelings in the world. And yet despite these feelings that you somehow think you did a good job concealing, you somehow miss no less than ten opportunities to be asked out to the dance by him, all because you were so afraid of rocking the boat by admitting how you feel that you chose to hide your attraction even when he was trying to ask you out!
  • Last Child of Krypton: Shinji did not dare to confess his feelings to Asuka because he was afraid that she would not love him back or she would find out about his Secret Identity and regard him as something was above her rather than just Shinji. Asuka did not dare to confess her feelings because she was afraid to open up and get rejected.
  • Letters to My Partner in Crime: It takes a lot for Lan Wangji to confess his true feelings towards Wei Ying. Even after, Jiang Yanli and Jin Zixuan get involved, its still a very close call and takes considerable effort of his part thanks to being Emotionally Tongue-Tied.
  • A huge point of the 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 actually feels for Nanoha, other than that it is more than friendship. He does refer 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 coming 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). Particularly, Arthur's fellow forwards often use this as a talking point at lunchtime. 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.
  • Magician's Obsessions: This and an unhealthy dose of Oblivious to Love keeps Trixie and Twilight from realizing their feelings. Of course Trixie only collects those photos and news clippings of Twilight in order to keep tabs on her rival! Of course Twilight is depressed because Trixie left and never came back, because she really, really wants to be her friend! At one point Celestia considers just telling Twilight, "You're in love. Get on with it!"
  • In the Mob Psycho 100 fanfic The Best Laid Plans Teru plans to confess his feeling to Mob over a very fancy dinner date. His plans are derailed when he finds that he forgot his wallet at home, doesn't have enough to pay for their dinner, and falls into a stream. Eventually he does spit it out, though, and it's adorable.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: Shinji didn't dare spit his feelings out because he thought Asuka hated him. On the other hand, Asuka thought that he wasn't interested in her and he hated her.
  • Not the intended use (Zantetsuken Reverse): Chapter 3, talking about a teenage boy with a crush who "doesn't have the guts to even talk to her".
  • Once 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 depend on him keeping his mouth closed).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Second Try:
    • A humorous subversion. Hikari goads Asuka into confessing her feelings for Shinji, believing she is unable to. The audience, however, knows that Asuka had gotten WAY past that step several years ago (or, depending on the point of view, several years later... Time travel is migraine-inducing).
    • Played in an interesting manner in "Love": after an argument in which Asuka told Shinji that he would be unable to notice if someone had feelings for him but was unable to express them, the two have a bit of pillow talk where Asuka timidly points out that she was talking about herself, to which Shinji answers that he understood and has the same feelings for her. Yet, in spite of having finally spit it out, they both tiptoe around each other for the next few days, afraid of making the next move, until Asuka eventually gets fed up with it and decides to tackle the issue, leading to the First Kiss of their relationship.
  • Ships Ahoy!: Oscar is unable to tell Olive about him planning on being a Lab Director and how he wants to remain an Investigation agent to help her achieve her full potential despite Oprah's repeated requests for him to tell her, and it causes major strife in how they see each other. When Olive does manage to find out that Oscar is becoming a Lab Director, it's from his cousin Polly Graph, and the realization hits her like a truck as she believes that he never cared about her and heads back to Headquarters just in time to see him be promoted to the position.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: After realizing he loved Asuka Shinji did not tell her right away because he wanted to wait for the right time to ask her out. Asuka did not tell Shinji she liked him because she was in self-denial for a long time.
  • 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.
  • It's revealed in Sugarcarthesis that Sugarcoat had a crush on Twilight and never told her while she was at Crystal Prep because, well, Crystal Prep is all about academia. By the time she finally does confess, Twilight has ingratiated herself with her Canterlot High friends and has no idea how to react...
    Sugarcoat: I just poured my heart out to my crush, who then folded space to get away from me. [deep breath] We are getting ice cream.
    Lemon Zest: [puts an arm around her shoulders] Fuck yes, we are getting ice cream.
  • In Thousand Shinji:
    • Rei had feelings for Shinji but she couldn't spit them out because she was frightened of being rejected since she was Shinji's mother's clon, and he was dating someone else, anyway.
    • Asuka couldn't initially confess that she liked Shinji because she was frightened of opening herself up and getting hurt.
    • Shinji fell for Asuka as soon as he met her, but he didn't confess for a while because he didn't think that she would accept him.
  • In X-Men: The Early Years, Scott doesn't dare to confess his feelings because he believes Jean doesn’t like him back, isn't interested in a serious relationship and a romance between them would tear the team apart.
    Hank: Why don't you come out and tell her how you feel?
    Scott: Jean and I are just friends.
    Hank: There's nothing wrong with wanting to be more.
    Scott: (glaring) There is if I screw it up and it blows this team apart. There's a lot more to consider than how I feel. Besides, Jean has stated over and over again she's not interested in a serious relationship. So it's better for us to stay friends.

    Films — Animation 
  • Arlo the Alligator Boy: Arlo manages to reach the Met Gala and get Ansel's attention, ready to demand the truth if he's his father, but because of his worries that he may get rejected again, he gets nervous and cannot get one word out. Fortunately, advice from Bertie allows him to break into song about it and get over his nerves.
  • In Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Jack has to recruit the help of Méliès to communicate his feelings for Miss Acacia in the form of a puppet show, since the words get caught in his throat when he tries to say it out loud.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: Poor Sally can't tell Jack that she considers him more than Just Friends.
  • Strange Magic: Marianne and The Bog King are obviously in love with each other by the end of the film but aren't willing to confess. Both really want the other to take the first step while giving weak platitudes about how much their time together has changed them, much to the frustration of everyone around them. It takes a full on Crowd Song to force them to confess.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Several times the people in Ralph's video game ask him what is wrong, but Ralph can't vocalize that he feels disrespected.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 7th Heaven: Chico has asked Diane to marry him, but she wants him to say he loves her first.
    Chico: I can't, it's very stupid.
  • 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. He ends up getting around this by revealing his webbing rather than outright saying it, allowing her to put the clues together.
  • In Amélie, 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 April Showers, Sean cannot seem to tell April he loves her. And then she dies in the school shooting, meaning he'll never get the chance to.
  • Used rather movingly in Batman (1989). Bruce tries to tell Vicki he's Batman, but he just can't bring himself to actually say it. When she walks away to answer the door, he disgustedly mouths "I'm Batman" to himself.
  • 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 Blonde Crazy, Bert can't express his feelings to Anne much to his detriment.
  • 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.
  • Exam: Poor Deaf has a terrible stutter, and he only speaks French. They're only able to understand parts of what he says.
  • 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?"
  • Averted in Ghost Rider (2007): 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.
  • In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Harold is unable to confess his love for Maria until the very end.
  • It Happened in Hollywood: Part of Tim's troubles stem from the fact that he cannot just come out and tell Gloria how he feels about her; thinking that his feelings should be obvious. She eventually realises when he asks her for help for the first time; something the fiercely independent Tim would only do if he was in love with her.
  • Iron Man 2: As the film begins, Tony is slowly dying of palladium poisoning, as a consequence of the palladium in the arc reactor in his chest, and is unwilling to tell Pepper about this, even as he spirals further downwards. After being attacked by Anton Vanko, she asks what's going on, but he's incapable of saying and changes the subject. By the time he does try to tell her, Pepper is beyond furious at his erratic behaviour, and Tony's utter inability to calmly and clearly articulate what's going on just infuriates her further. She only finds out second hand during the climax.
    Pepper: What did [Black Widow] mean "you're not dying"? [...] You mean you really were dying?
    Tony: I was going to tell y-
    Tony: I was going to make an omelette and tell you!
  • 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 MirrorMask, Valentine is almost physically incapable of saying outright that he's sorry.
    Valentine: If I was to say s-s-something apologetic... it would reflect my feelings in this matter.
  • In The Perfect Score, Desmond finds it hard to voice his opinion to his mom. Roy calls him out:
    Roy: So why don't you pro?
    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.
  • Save the Date (2012): Sarah tries multiple times to tell Jonathan she's pregnant by him, but can't bring herself to. The end comes right before it's implied she finally does.
  • The hero of Shock Corridor experiences speaking impairment in critical situations as a result of the electroshock therapy he received.
  • 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.
  • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter stumbles on his words in nearly every conversation he has with Liz Allan, and is staring at his feet when he finally tells her about his crush on her. However, she's already figured it out and offers to be his date for the school dance.
  • Peter and MJ both in Spider-Man: Far From Home. They care about each other but aren't comfortable putting it into words quite yet. Peter has psyched himself up by planning out a Love Confession, which keeps getting derailed by his life as Spider-Man. When they're finally alone together and he's about to tell her, he's thrown off-guard by MJ revealing she knows his secret identity. She then accidentally devastates him by claiming that her interest in him was only about seeing if her theory was correct, but bigger problems emerge before she can explain that wasn't what she meant. After Mysterio has been defeated and they reunite, they finally tell each other how they feel and they have their First Kiss. By the denouement, they're a couple.
  • Used in Star Wars: 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 then drive 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Whole Town's Talking, Jones never mentions his undying love for Miss Clark — only when drunk.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: Quicksilver just can't tell Magneto that the latter is his father. Peter knows he'll say it to him someday but just couldn't do it even when standing right in front of him at a moment where doing so could've convinced Erik to fight against Apocalypse sooner.


By Author:

  • 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 that 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).
    • A woman accepting a marriage offer from the Romantic False Lead because she thinks The Hero should have told her he loved her. 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).

By Title:

  • In Black 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 because Maria also enchanted the mother to basically hang around and be a housekeeper.
  • The gay action series Cut and Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux has this in spades, as befits a pair of troubled FBI tough guys who enjoy antagonizing each other almost as much as sex, and whose relationship is shaped by brutal, successive traumas. Ty (who's never been in love) and Zane (whose long-dead wife was the love of his life, or so he thought) can't manage to acknowledge to themselves that they're in love, much less to each other. Ty admits it to himself late in book two and to Zane deep into book three, but Zane doesn't come clean to Ty until well into book four.
  • 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 Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mice trilogy, Audrey is in love with Piccadilly, though he has been led to believe she hates him. Before he leaves with Thomas, Arthur, and Barker to confront Jupiter in The Final Reckoning, Audrey attempts to confess her feelings to him, but what she manages to say comes out in an awkward and confusing manner. Before she can clearly explain what she's trying to tell him, she is interrupted. She never sees him again before his death.
  • In the Discworld novel Soul Music, Quoth the Raven has trouble revealing that Susan's grandfather is Death, going "Dah Dah Dah Dea" (as part of a dramatic build-up). At which point Susan assumes that he's bothering her to inform her that a grandfather that she's never knowingly met is DEAF.
  • This happens a lot throughout The Dresden Files:
    • 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.
  • Frankenstein: Victor keeps the monster a secret, justifying this by saying that people wouldn't believe him anyway or call him mad. He still refuses to divulge the truth when Justine is tried for the monster's actions and eventually executed.
  • 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.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts:
    • Kolea cannot bring himself to admit to Dalin that he is his real birth father.
    • Gaunt and Curth, during a series that has spanned well over a decade, have only come close to saying how they feel about each other a handful of times.
  • Harry Potter:
    • 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.
    • Snape doing this arguably sets off the entire story. After he calls Lily a "Mudblood" in a fit of anger, he tries to apologize, but Lily points out that he acts prejudiced towards all Muggleborns, asking flat-out, "Why should I be any different?" Snape seems about to answer for a moment, but ultimately remains silent, and they break off their friendship. This, of course, leads directly to Snape's Face–Heel Turn, which itself leads to Voldemort learning of the prophecy and trying to kill Harry as a child.
    • Harry finds out in the last book that Dumbledore had been eaten up with self-loathing for causing his sister’s death for about a century. He let his brother Aberforth continue to (understandably) resent him for that long. Aberforth had just assumed he was able to move on with his life and become the best wizard of the era. Harry has to be the one to explain to Aberforth that he was “never free” from it all because he could never bring himself to apologize to Aberforth or tell him that he loved him and their sister.
  • In the first trilogy of the Heralds of Valdemar series, Talia, Dirk, and Kris end up in an Imaginary Love Triangle that would be instantly and painlessly resolved if Dirk just told Talia he loves her — which he doesn't, because he thinks she's in love with Kris and he's already been in a similar situation that ended badly.
  • 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.
  • Sophie Hatter in Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is cursed to take the form of a 90-years-old woman — and part of the curse is that she can't tell anyone. If she tries to, she's either interrupted or people misunderstand her.
  • In Hyperion Cantos: 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 That Irresistible Poison by Alessandra Hazard, it takes a long time before Seyn and Ksar can say “I love you” to one another.
  • Jeeves and Wooster: Most, if not all, of Bertie Wooster's problems can be traced back to this trope, combined with his being an Extreme Doormat. Besides being unable to correct any girl who thinks she's engaged to him, at the end of The Inimitable Jeeves he 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 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 a somewhat unusual example, Richard Dalloway from Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway has a terrible time working up the courage to tell his wife that he loves her! (She understands his feelings anyway, and reciprocates them.)
  • 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...
  • Seregil from Nightrunner takes at least a book and a half to spit out anything: the secret of his protege's heritage, his true feelings for his protege, his own murky past...
  • In Isobelle Carmody's Ashling, part of The Obernewtyn Chronicles, 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.
  • Lilac and Aiden from Of Fear and Faith fall for each other immediately but can't spit it out due to fear (of being rejected and getting attached, respectively). Aiden, naturally, still flirts with Lilac and she eventually musters up the nerve to flirt back, but they both try to pretend they don't have deeper feelings.
  • Simona Ahrnstedt gives us a really painful example of this in her debut novel, Överenskommelser. It's the story of young Beatrice, who's bullied and pressured by her abusive and tyrannical uncle into an engagement with a man. A man who's not only like forty years older than her, but he also treats women like they're dirt under his shoes. So what does she do? Of course, she tells nobody the truth about why she agreed to marry this man (he would get her beautiful but weak cousin instead, if she didn't sacrifice herself). To be fair, she really is in a crappy situation, but still, yikes... And unfortunately, her love interest Seth is no better. Since he thinks that she willingly rejected him to marry an old disgusting aristocrat, stupid pride keeps him from admitting that he loves her. Several misunderstandings between them (sigh...) lead to much misery for them both (including that Beatrice gets brutally raped and battered on her wedding night).
  • In Parzival, this is the cause of Parzival's problems: when he first sees the Grail, he thinks of the question he should ask, but fails to ask it, setting in motion the rest of the plot.
  • 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 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.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, the first thing Darcy says about Elizabeth is that she's not pretty enough to dance with (which she overhears). When she walks to Netherfield to visit her ill sister, his opinion of her starts to change, but he doesn't do anything beyond Longing Looks until he tries to propose to her many months later, fully expecting that she was hoping for it. He did have a good reason for keeping his feelings quiet; as he helpfully explains, he was trying to reason himself out of wanting to connect himself with her inferior family. How odd, then, that she should refuse him! Of course, after Elizabeth's refusal, Darcy takes stock of himself based on her complaints about him and starts to shape up, becoming a much more polite and empathetic person. This causes Elizabeth to begin loving him, but feels incredibly awkward about it given how violently she refused him, and also feels guilty because half of the jerkish acts she accused him of weren't even true. So she says nothing to him about it, partly due to the awkwardness and partly because she feels like he couldn't possibly love her back after the crap she gave him. Then Lydia elopes with Wickham, exposing the Bennet family to potential, devastating shame which would make Darcy's marrying Elizabeth social suicide on his part, and complicates it all even further.
  • 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.
  • In the book Destiny (book 3 of the Rhapsody series), dragon-blooded character Ashe cannot reveal the identity of his new wife to his soulmate, the equally self-centered lead character, Rhapsody, for reasons that were never made very clear.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Had Doran Martell told his plans to his nieces and daughter that he wants to help the remaining Targaryens reclaim the throne as their revenge against the Lannisters, then Myrcella wouldn't have lost an ear and Ser Arys Oakheart wouldn't have died, which would have prevented Qyburn in providing Cersei's Kingsguard champion for her upcoming trial. In fact, this is Doran's weakness, which Ser Barristan Selmy acknowledged to Quentyn Martell that had he revealed it earlier, then Daenarys Targaryen wouldn't have stayed in Meereen and married one of the nobles to stabilize the city, something which Quentyn came too late to prevent.
    • Likewise to his daughter, Arianne. Had she confronted him about the letter regarding her inheritance, then she wouldn't be brooding about it for years, which resulted in her failed coup, Myrcella's injury, and Arys' death.
  • In Space Glass, even alone on the Aggressor in cozy conversation, Amy can't bring herself to tell Bob about her crush on him.
  • Sweet & Bitter Magic: Tamsin and Wren have quite a hard time telling each other they're in love, even after both have realized the fact.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Justified in The Trials of Apollo — while Apollo has clearly figured out some plot-important information, he forgets it at the worst possible moment due to him being Brought Down to Normal. Of course, Apollo gets frustrated at how often this happens.
  • In Vampire Academy, Dimitri's feelings for Rose are intense and genuine, but boy does he take his time to admit to them.
  • 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?
  • The Windwater Pack: Cian is a bit tongue-tied when he finally tells Moira he loves her. As she put it: “It’s a good thing you’re cute, because that has got to be the most awkward proposal in the history of wolves.”
  • In A Wolf in the Soul, Greg can't summon up the courage to tell anybody about the weirdness happening around him for the entire first two-thirds of the book. He even blames others for not seeing the pain he's working so hard to keep under wraps. At least in the last third of the book he gets better, but he can still barely bring himself to tell the people from whom he's begging for help unless they tell him they already know he's a werewolf.

  • Franco De Vita: The theme of "Preso de mi propio sentimiento" (Slave Of My Own Feelings"). Franco is unable to tell his Love Interest about his feelings, and as a result, his mind and heart are being tormented over the prospect that said feelings may never be outed.
  • 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.)
  • Same with "When You Walk in the Room", most famously covered by The Searchers. "Wish I could tell you how much I care / But I only have the nerve to stare".
  • Also, "Company Calls Epilogue" by Death Cab for Cutie.
    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. The last verse also reveals that the narrator has a second neighbor of 24 years who's been watching him and Alice and now, that she sees that he's missed the chance to tell Alice his feelings for her, decides not to make the same mistake and finally confesses to him.
  • "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"
  • "Things I'll Never Say" by Avril Lavigne. She wants to tell her Love Interest that she cares and wants a Relationship Upgrade, but she's insecure.
  • "Tácticas de Guerra (War Tactics)" by Lucero. She is literally omnipotent but would find it easier to figure out how to win a war (hence the title) than how to talk to the man she wants.
  • "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".
  • The rather minimal lyrics of Mercury Rev's "Car Wash Hair" hint at this:
    Wanna ask but I just stare
    Can I run my hands through your car wash hair?
  • Jim Croce's "I'll Have to Say 'I Love You' in a Song"...because of this trope. "Every time the time was right/All the words just came out wrong..."
  • "The Chase" by Kane (Christian Kane's band) is about how this causes a breakup.
    I can't believe you're leaving
    Over three words I couldn't say last night
    'Cause you could hear it in my voice
    See it on my face
    You left me with no choice
    But to leave you
    For the chase
  • "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 teenage 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 German a capella band Wise Guys have a song called "Relativ" which is made of this trope. The singer spits it out in the last line, though.
  • "Heart on Fire" by Scars on 45.
    So bowl me over black and blue, it's far too hard to say "I love you"
  • "Too Shy to Say" by Stevie Wonder. The singer describes his feelings toward the object of his affections, as well as what relationship he wants. But, of course, he can't say it out loud.
  • Vocaloid's "I Like You, I Love You" by Kagamine Rin features a shy girl awkwardly attempting to confess her love.
  • The Imagine Dragons song "On Top Of The World" is about telling those you love you love them before they leave.
  • The Backstreet Boys' song "Shape of My Heart" is about confessing your love to your significant other after a fight over this trope.
    Looking back on the things I've done
    I was trying to be someone
    I played my part, and kept you in the dark
    Now let me show you the shape of my heart
  • Virtual band Prozzäk cover this in "Pretty Girls". The singer describes various professions that he would take up in order to get to know the girl ("If I were a dentist I would take the opportunity to look in your mouth/Maybe if I did, then I could better understand just what you're talking about") because actually talking to her is "something that I know I'd never have the guts to do".
  • Garbage's "Why Do You Love Me" has the emotionally struggling narrator eventually going through this:
    Now I've held back a wealth of shit, I think I'm gonna choke
    I'm standing in the shadows with the words stuck in my throat
  • "First Love Picture Book" from HoneyWorks' Confession Executive Committee ~Love Series~ tells the story of Mio Aida, who fell in love with her schoolmate Haruki, and the two were really close, but she never found the courage to "close the last 10cm distance" between them, and they eventually parted ways and moved on from each other. Tragically, Haruki's song, "Goodbye, Our Mutual Unrequited Love" reveals that he actually feels the same way about Mio, but likewise was too scared to actually confess to her.
  • "2Shy" by Shura is about how the singer is deeply in love with a friend, but as the chorus goes, she is "too shy to say it".
  • Mothy's "60 Second Love" sung by Rin Kagamine is about a school girl who is in love with a boy who reads her bus but can't bring herself to tell him.
  • "To the Reticent You" by the above producer and singer is about a girl who wishes for her boyfriend to tell her he loves her so that she knows his love for her is true. Subverted a bit, as they are already in a relationship and apparently living together; he simply hasn't said the words yet he does by the end of the song, though.
  • Florence + the Machine:
    • "No Light, No Light":
      Cause it's so easy to say it to a crowd
      But it's so hard, my love, to say it to you out loud
    • "Mother":
      Make me a big grey cloud
      So I can rain on you things I can't say out loud
  • Ranko Ukulele has "W tramwaju", a song about a lady who's too embarrassed to chat up a guy she sees everyday in the streetcar.
  • "I Can't Begin to Tell You" by Bing Crosby.
    I make such pretty speeches
    Whenever we're apart
    But when you're near, the words I choose
    Refuse to leave my heart

  • Red Panda Adventures:
    • This pretty much sums up the entire relationship between the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel. For all her flirtation, the Flying Squirrel can't bring herself to say what she feels. By the same token, the Red Panda can't voice his own feelings and he thinks the Squirrel is just kidding around. At the end of Season 3, everything comes out into the open when the Red Panda thinks the Squirrel's been killed and plants a "Shut Up" Kiss on her when she reveals she's alive. Season four's intro proceeds to introduce the Flying Squirrel as the Red Panda's fiance, and season five onward introduces her as his wife.
    • In the Season 3 episode "The Terrible Two", supervillains the Mad Monkey and Jackrabbit team up. Upon capture, the two declare their love for one another, the Mad Monkey even forgoing his chance to escape since he can't do it without leaving her. The Flying Squirrel is utterly flabbergasted that they can just come out and say it.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Tales from Muppetland: The 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • According to the Yu-Gi-Oh! "Master Guide", Gorg seems to have a crush on Meanae but can't express his feelings due to his stone-faced nature and lack of emotions.

  • The chorus of "If I Loved You" from Carousel describes an inability to overcome nervousness and proclaim your love to someone.
  • Both Le Bret and Christian try to convince Cyrano de Bergerac that he should tell Roxane that he loves her, but he's too ashamed of his perceived grotesqueness due to his big nose (and has serious mommy issues) to entertain the thought.
  • In Pokémon Live!, Misty can't tell Ash she loves him because she thinks he's too busy with Pokemon to notice her.
  • RENT: Roger spends much of the first act wanting to tell Mimi that the reason he's rejecting her is that he's HIV positive, but he's unable to muster the words; the closest he comes is saying there's something he should tell her before abruptly shutting down. What he therefore doesn't find out until almost the end of the act is that Mimi is HIV positive too, making his concerns moot.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • An interesting example: It takes a borderline Heroic BSoD (or maybe Villainous Breakdown is better considering the character) for Viconia in Baldur's Gate II to admit that she loves the protagonist. She has no problem sleeping with him, but confessing love is trickier.
  • Catherine's Vincent can't spit anything out. As the game involves him getting into an unintentional affair, this causes some problems.
  • Corpse Party: 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 she nor Seiko feels any better and they end up separating which leads to Seiko's death. In Book of Shadows, Naomi actually has a coughing fit.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Not necessarily romantic, but the Arishok in Dragon Age II is utterly unable to directly compliment people who are not followers of his religion outside exceptional circumstances, and even then he seems to understate a lot. One of the earliest 'compliments' 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 it's not like she can just ask him out for a drink, but it's still hilarious.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition has a significantly less cheerful romance example: Solas's inability to admit that he is the Dread Wolf during his final romance scene is at least part of why he breaks up with the Inquisitor, and ultimately ends up leaving the Inquisition.
  • This drives the entire plot of Emily Is Away. You keep backing out of telling Emily how you really feel about her, and that leads to her getting together with Brad, even after a brief breakup, and you losing the only other girl you showed interest in.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Faris of Final Fantasy V can't bring herself to admit that Lenna is her sister until they're about to (make a failed attempt to) save the last crystal on their world.
    • Final Fantasy VII
      • 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 a mission that took place in his hometown in which his idol Sephiroth, went insane and burned it all down, 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 his friend Zack died defending him he utterly snapped, adopting an elaborate system of Fake Memories and osmosed identity from Zack, who actually was in SOLDIER. And so Cloud relates the events of that day as if he was in Zack's position. Aforementioned childhood friend Tifa is spooked by the fact that Cloud can tell the story accurately despite him apparently not being there. Little does she know that Cloud was with them on that mission, but disguised as a Shinra grunt. The discrepancy causes Tifa so much confusion, doubt, and worry about what might happen if she confronts Cloud over this that she chooses to bottle up her concerns. The end result of this is when Sephiroth starts telling Cloud various half-truths in order to drive him insane, Tifa's lack of understanding of the situation finds her unable to refute any of Sephiroth's claims.
      • 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 about 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.
    • In Final Fantasy Dimensions, Glaive pines after Diana but refuses to say anything about it because she, in turn, is quietly in love with Sol (who is separated from them in the other world for most of the game). Everyone besides her can tell Glaive's feelings.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, 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...
    • A familial example from Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Due to their seeming lack of emotions, the protagonist Byleth has difficulties expressing any form of affection towards their father Jeralt. In Three Houses this manifests as them crying for the first time in their life when Jeralt is killed and in Three Hopes is shown in their support conversations, in which Byleth goes out of their way to gift Jeralt flowers as a way of showing affecting and thanks for the life they've had with their father after growing concerned that they never expressed the love one might expect between parent and child. Thankfully, Jeralt reasssures them that he's always know even if they didn't show it.
  • In Growing Up, Richard starts avoiding you and becomes tongue-tied in high school for reasons unknown. Trying to push him to talk will make him avoid you more, but he'll eventually confess that he fell in love with the summer camp instructor while also having feelings for you. He couldn't tell you earlier because he was so hung up with his emotions regarding his crushes.
  • Played for Drama in Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Rocket was in love with his deceased friend Lylla, but never told her because he'd always thought they would have more time together. This weighs heavily on his mind and, unfortunately, causes him to be totally unreasonable about the Eternity Forge. He can only see it as a chance to bring Lylla back and undo his mistake, not as the dangerous object it really is, and gets insanely pissed if you decide to destroy it.
  • 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.
  • Riku is hinted at keeping something hidden from Sora a few times over the course of the Kingdom Hearts series. What exactly Riku wants to tell him is up for debate.
    • The KH character files state that part of why Riku gives into the darkness is because of his 'complex feelings towards Sora'. The other part is his 'impatience to save Kairi'— with no mention of any such feelings toward her.
    • Nomura stated in II's Ultimania that the opening theme song, "Sanctuary" ("Passion" in Japanese), was written with the theme of Sora and Riku's reunion in mind. Which includes the (infamous) backwards lyrics, "I need more affection than you know".
    • And then there's a couple lines from the II and DDD novels:
      II: The things that mattered the most were what he couldn’t tell Sora. It had always been that way.

      DDD: Of course, Riku couldn’t tell him everything, but Sora was still a friend with a special place in his heart.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, Juna Crawford wants to thank her instructor, Rean Schwarzer, for saving her and her siblings during Calvard's failed attempt at invading Crossbell. This is despite her friends even setting an opportunity for her to do it and in part because her feelings about Rean are complicated, due to him being a hero of the Erebonian Empire and the Empire having annexed Crossbell. She finally gets up the nerve to thank him in Cold Steel IV, thinking that he doesn't even remember the incident. As it turns out, though, not only does he remember it, but he knows that it's been weighing on her.
  • Mipha from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had multiple chances where she could have made her feelings about Link known to him but didn't. "The Champions' Ballad" reveals that the scene where the two talk atop Vah Ruta was originally intended to be when she would have presented the Zora Armor to him (the traditional method for Zora princesses to propose to their intended husbands), but she didn't. The scene where she was about to advise Zelda on awakening her powers is implied to be her admitting that she thinks about Link when using her healing magic, but she brings the topic up so haltingly that she can't get to that part before Calamity Ganon returns. And each time you fight against Waterblight Ganon in the Illusory Realm, she'll bring up the times they spent together and the Zora Armor but always stop short of saying she loves him; she'll even demand in an uncharacteristically angry manner that he not read her diary, which does explicitly mention her love for him.
  • Love & Pies:
    • After discovering that her mother is the the infamous thief called The Purple Fox, Amelia tries keeping it a secret from her friends. Joe is most concerned by her and he tries assuring her that she can tell him anything and that he won't judge TPF for whatever reason for their crimes, but she still refuses to tell him.
    • Sebastian has always wanted to tell Amelia since the day she returned to Appleton that he is her father, but he got worried about her mother when she went missing on the night of the arson.
  • 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.
  • Kaidan, at least in Mass Effect. He shows interest in a female Shepard early on but has difficulty spelling it out. The third game revealed that he had an even harder time spitting it out if Shepard is a man. Shepard being Oblivious to Love did not help. Shepard can call him on it, too:
    Kaidan: You have something up your sleeve, Shepard? What am I talking about, of course you do. That's what I lo- appreciate about you.
    Shepard: Galaxy in the balance and you trip talking to me.
  • Amazingly subverted in Mass Effect 3 when you are asked to betray your teammates and keep the genophage from being cured. If you attempt to inform your teammates to prevent the sabotage, the shuttle you're on suddenly hits turbulence and interrupts you, making it look like a straight example of this trope. You're given a second chance a couple of combat sequences later, and a third chance (to tell Mordin / Padok specifically) right before the curse is released.
  • In Mega Man Zero 3, Cyber-elf X seems to be hiding a very important piece of information from 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-Crazy Omega Zero is the original body. Naturally for Zero, he still doesn't care about it when he finds out.
  • 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...
  • Neverwinter Nights 2:
    • Casavir 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.
    • Anden in the fan module A Dance with Rogues has severe issues with this trope, probably due to his extremely straight-laced attitude in a world of Black-and-Grey Morality.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has a bartender keep a letter from Bobbery's deceased wife away from him for several decades. It's not until the player needs the Bob-omb that the bartender gives you the letter to give to the ex-sailor.
  • Potion Permit: Despite being a self-proclaimed extrovert, Reyner struggles with conveying what he actually wants to say. He also tends to downplay any problems he's having so as not to worry others, prompting them to point out what exactly it is.
  • Prayer of the Faithless: Mia accidentally does some Lying by Omission by front loading the good news, then being unable to deliver the bad news that is a consequence of the good news:
    But when the time came, I just... froze. Just like when I had to face him in the Proving. My mind just locked up, and I couldn't force out the words I needed to.
  • Pretentious Game: The blue square is willing to climb mountains, leap cliffs, dodge fire, and use whatever is necessary in the pursuit of the pink square...but is also unable to confess his love to her.
  • Used absolutely heartbreakingly in Prey (2006). 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.
  • In Puyo Puyo!! 20th Anniversary, Feli finds Lemres and tries asking him out on a date. She struggles to say it and ultimately winds up asking for a "delicious" Puyo battle from him instead.
  • In Rhythm Doctor, there are two young patients named Logan and Hailey who obviously love each other, but cannot bring themselves to say it.
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse: It's hinted by her older brother and confirmed by her human soul that Rottytops harbours a secret admiration for the titular heroine and genuinely wants to be friends with her, but never gets around to admitting it.
  • In Solatorobo, this is pretty much the only reason that Red and Elh aren't together by the end of the game. Merveille designs a virtual simulation to invoke a Rescue Romance to get them to admit their feelings, but the program ends too quickly and Red forgets what he was going to say. There's also a minor, nameless female NPC who constantly tries to tell herself to spit something out to another male NPC. Subverted when the guy just owes her some money.
  • Knuckles and Rouge in Sonic the Hedgehog seem to have a mutual affection for each other, as heavily hinted at in their last interaction in Sonic Adventure 2, but their respective duties as guardian of the Master Emerald and government agent keep them from pursuing things further.
  • Tales Series:
    • 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...
  • Valkyria Chronicles 4 has Raz trying to confess to Kai. When he actually DOES get it out, and makes it to the end of the conversation without being shot down, he's left laughing jubilantly in relief.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Aquarium: Aqua can't tell Theo she's the girl from his dreams because it may negatively affect his amnesia recovery. And also because they can't be romantically involved. Theo also falls in love with Aqua, but similarly can't say it due to his higher social status.
  • A few of the minor spirits never seem to get around to telling Yuuto how they feel in Aselia the Eternal - The Spirit of Eternity Sword. Unless they do it during the sex scenes, which aren't part of the English release. On a more important note, neither Kyouko nor Kouin ever confessed to the other despite the two actually dating. Both have their own reasons.
  • 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-existent self-esteem, she absolutely cannot let him know how she feels.
  • 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 because she approached him looking for an excuse to drop her vendetta.
  • In Shiny Days nobody can ever say anything important when it would be appropriate. Surprisingly given the genre, the one who's worst about this is actually Setsuna after she's started dating Makoto. She never takes the opportunity to tell Kotonoha that she's dating Makoto even though Kotonoha is one of the girls nice enough to instantly back off if her crush is taken. She also won't tell Makoto that the new substitute manager at Radish is her father, not her ex-boyfriend. While Makoto's reaction is way overboard and rather dickish, the whole problem could have been resolved if she could just say four simple words: "Shun is my dad."
  • Yo-Jin-Bo is absolutely full of this trope. Jin is the worst about it, but all of the guys do it. Even when confessing their feelings, it often comes out as "I "Uh" You, Too".

    Web Animation 
  • Non-romantic version in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, when Magnus asks Kitten for the reason behind the latter's resignation. Kitten tries to explain it to him but realizes that Magnus doesn't remember a thing from his mad rampage which caused Kitten to make the Deal with the Devil to stop him, and decides to hide the fact, mangling the account immensely.
  • RWBY has this problem with Team JNPR as the girls, Pyrrha and Nora, are in love with the boys, Jaune and Ren, but they don't come out and say it normally. It's much more noticeable, especially with Nora, in their respective Image Songs, "Dreams Come True" and "Boop". In the Volume 3 finale, Pyrrha finally is able to fully express to Jaune how she feels about him... just before she goes off to what turns out to be her death. RWBY Chibi parodies this for all it's worth.
  • In X-Ray & Vav, X-Ray has this problem towards his pal Vav — Vav's head over heels in love with Intrepid Reporter Ash Samaya, and X-Ray is both insanely jealous of him and insanely terrified of losing his pal to a girl. Vav is completely clueless to this (and other things) that he thinks that X-Ray's being an asshole with Hilda frustrated that the two just won't sit down and talk lest their egos clash. Doesn't help that The Mad King used this against them. Thankfully, they get this worked out in the end.

  • 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.
  • In Charby the Vampirate, Nikodemus keeps delaying informing Vita of his feelings for her even after a coworker has informed her of his very obvious crush. Her annoyance with his hesitation eventually leads her to turn her attention to Quixoto.
  • The Dreamland Chronicles: Silly girl just say something
  • Dr. Frost: As the story develops, The Watson character Yoon develops an obvious crush on the Sherlock Homage character of Frost, which is made clear in every way except a straight confession.
  • Homestuck:
    • Jane has it so bad that even when the friend she has feelings for outright asks her whether she has a crush on him she panics and instinctively denies it, a rejection he takes at face value. Dirk theoretically averts this as he's apparently planning an Anguished Declaration of Love towards the person he's in love with, 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 (though he does indeed know, and doesn't reciprocate), nor Kanaya with Vriska before she found out that Vriska liked Tavros instead and bitterly gave up. Karkat and Terezi seemed to have similar problems.
    • Eridan also was this. He's in a moirallegiance with Feferi, and their dialogue implies that they've known each other for a long time. But their moirallegiance goes badly, and by the time Eridan's got up the courage to confess that his feelings for her are romantic, Feferi wants to break up with him and is too emotionally exhausted to consider a romantic relationship.
    • Karkat has a great deal of trouble spitting out tragic events to his friends, such as the deaths of some of the other trolls and Gamzee going insane.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: Shakespeare. Ophelia. Does it really have to be spelled out?
  • 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.
  • Eric (one of the Loserz webcomic's protagonists) has this problem with Alice, even after she told him she liked him. See here.
  • Megatokyo:
    • It took years (real-time) for Piro and Kimiko to admit that they had feelings for one another, 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.
  • Chiaki in My Impossible Soulmate has a crush on her best friend Fumiko and longs to confess her love to her. But her extreme awkwardness prevents her from even starting a confession, let alone finishing one.
  • 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.
  • Nightvee: Creamarina has a crush on Nightvee, but she's too shy to tell him about it.
  • No End: Cotton is a cheerful Team Dad but has a bad habit of ignoring his own feelings to focus on the group. When he develops a romantic interest, it takes a long time, a lot of coaxing, some mortal danger, and a very deliberate sit-down to make him admit it.
  • No Pink Ponies. Jess's inability to "Spit It Out" is taken to ridiculous lengths. And heights. And, eventually, depths.
  • The Order of the Stick: Haley is unable to confess her love for Elan for the first several hundred chapters. Elan, being the resident Cloudcuckoolander, is the only one oblivious to her feelings. Then she is struck with aphasia, and takes advantage of the situation to confess multiple times to Elan's face, secure in the knowledge that he can't understand a word, when actually confessing (say, through writing, or just grabbing him and smooching) would cure her.
  • In Rascals, Reiko when she tries to tell Skye that she loves him on this page here.
  • 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, although 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.
  • 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.
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • In the second part of the Love Potion arc, Gwynn curses Torg by causing him to bray and start turning into a donkey every time he tries to say something important in order to make sure that he does not tell anyone about her plan. Unfortunately, while Torg is on a date with Zoë, Oasis arrives and abducts him, kicking Zoë in the face in the process. Under the curse, Torg is unable to tell anyone what happened, causing Gwynn to believe he mistreated Zoë, but he eventually manages to get Riff to find out the truth. By writing it down.
    • In "The Immortal King", it's revealed that the demon K'Z'K spent time in the Never as Rithuly's guest. Rithuly fell in love with him but wasn't able to confess it until the moment when K'Z'K was finally summoned away. This quite possibly happened just so that Rithuly, a Cthulhumanoid Eldritch Abomination parody, could utter the pun that he wasn't skilled in the "love-craft".
  • Split Screen: Jeremy wouldn't confess his feelings for Jan because he feels he's not good enough for her and he'd hold her back on her career path. She's too stubbornly prideful to just ask him how he felt. This went on for more than a decade.
  • A fair chunk of the early portion of Their Story focused on Sun Jing's efforts to befriend the girl she has a crush on, Qiu Tong. She loses her nerve and ends up walking away after stammering out a "hi" each time, and her suspicious behaviour causes Qiu Tong to avoid her, out of fear that Sun Jing wants to beat her up. This lasts until chapter 81 when Sun Jing finally confesses to Qiu Tong and makes her romantic interest clear.
  • Tripping Over You: Milo makes his big confession to his friend Liam in the very first chapter... then admits that he's been in love with him for a good two years. Which was fairly obvious to everyone but Liam.

    Web Original 
  • In Entirely Presenting You, Alexis can't tell her closest family and friends about her secret identity as the bloodsucking superhero known as Blank Face.
  • 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 Twig, Jamie advises Lillian against following this trope with her feelings for Sy, since none of them want that kind of regret on their shoulders. Then, noting his own hypocrisy there, he admits that he's also in love with Sy, who is shocked and cannot reciprocate.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role: Percy and Vex'ahlia dance around this for 70+ episodes! He builds multiple things for her and calls her his "favorite," while she gives him kisses on the cheek in return for the things he makes for her and calls him "dear" and "darling", but neither of them tells each other about their feelings because of the trauma in their pasts—he thinks he would be unhealthy for her, and she thinks he doesn't and can't think of her that way at all. Not until Percy's resurrection ritual in episode 69 does she admit her feelings, and her player Laura Bailey revealed that without something as drastic as his life on the line, Vex never would have said anything. They spend the next three episodes dancing around each other, and then finally Percy gives her The Big Damn Kiss to end Episode 72.
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: 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 the Echo Chamber episode Dumbass Has a Point, Dana has a bit of trouble apologizing:
    Dana: Sorry I was... [long Beat] ...yeah.
  • Jreg: In The Mental Illnesses, Anxiety tries to confess to Depression in "The Mental Illnesses 4", possibly an Interrupted Declaration of Love.
    Anxiety: Depression, people really care about you. I care about you. I... I might even l...lo—...l—.
  • They go into a relationship anyway, but The Nostalgia Critic looks ready to cry when he chickens out of holding The Nostalgia Chick's hand and telling her that he's in love with her.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Jimmy and Cindy 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.
    Jimmy: "L? L? Like? Loathe? Love? WHAT!?"
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Aang tries to tell Katara how he feels about her multiple times, but something always gets in the way. Instead of properly confessing, he just takes a Now or Never Kiss from her before he heads off to face the Firelord in the Day of Black Sun. Even then, it still takes them another season of avoiding talking about their feelings before they become a couple in the Grand Finale.
    • As seen in a flashback, Aang's predecessor, Avatar Roku, apparently had the same problem of having no idea of how to talk to the girl he liked. He gives Aang hope by showing he did get the girl at the end.
  • 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 the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Good Times, Bat Times", Chip tries to reveal his feelings to Gadget. Twice. He always fails.
  • Class of the Titans: Archie has this for fellow hero Atlanta, and pretty much everyone can see it. Theresa and Jay both have their moments as well until the finale.
  • In Code Lyoko, even after seasons of UST, Ulrich and Yumi can't speak of their feelings honestly.
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door, it's a cute Running Gag between Numbuh 4 and Numbuh 3 where the former almost admits his crush to the latter only to not go through with it. Funnily enough, one episode is about Numbuh 4 trying to tell Numbuh 3 something important and after many interruptions, he does spit it out at the end... But it wasn't a Love Confession.
  • In the Craig of the Creek episode "Breaking the Ice", Wildernessa has trouble trying to tell Craig how she feels about him, so she tells him through a birdlike mating dance, which just confuses him.
  • Sam from Danny Phantom is outspoken on so many things... except her obvious crush on Danny. She's had a lot of close calls with other romantic rivalries as a result. They (predictably) got together in the end.
  • Played for Laughs on Disenchantment, as Elfo has an unrequited crush on Bean, but always deflects when asked directly.
    Luci: Just say "Bean"! You wanna watch the sunrise with Bean!
    Elfo: Stop saying what I mean!
  • Doug does this a lot when it comes to Patty. She can't spit it out, either.
  • In Exo Squad, not only are Nara and Marsala both unable to express their feelings for each other, they each have instances where they unknowingly slap the other down.
  • 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).
  • In Hey Arnold!, Helga is too much of a Tsundere to admit her crush on the title character. She does finally admit it in Hey Arnold! The Movie, but the two later agreed that it was just "the heat of the moment".
  • 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 an 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.
  • The titular heroine of Miraculous Ladybug suffers from a combo of this and an Unrequited Love Switcheroo with her crime-fighting partner Chat Noir. What makes it really frustrating is that their identities are only covered by a Domino Mask for each of them. This is handwaved by a magical ability that the costumes have, but it still kinda makes you want to go inside the TV and tell them yourself.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • The Owl House:
    • Following Amity Blight's Character Development and eventually developing feelings for Luz, she doesn't have the heart to tell her how she feels, especially in "Wing It Like Witches" whenever they cross paths. This probably has something to do with the fact that the idea of Luz rejecting her is unambiguously stated to be her greatest fear. Ultimately, she does manage to blurt it out in "Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Hooty's Door", though she defers to Luz and allows her to be the one to initiate the Relationship Upgrade.
    • In "Reaching Out", Luz gets phone reminder about an important event that day she is unable to attend, but she is too scared to reveal the truth to anyone, especially Amity. When Amity demands the truth some time later, Luz finally reveals the event she missed: it was the anniversary of the day her father passed away, and every year she and her mother visit the cemetery to do a special ritual of picking flowers and placing them on his grave. Naturally, Amity understands her feelings and they pick flowers at the Grom tree to make up for it.
  • Try as she might, Isabella from Phineas and Ferb can't work up the courage to tell Phineas how she really feels about him. Years in the future, Phineas now likes her back, but neither of them confesses until Isabella leaves for college.
  • Sonic Boom:
    • Amy Rose's Boom counterpart, like the main universe version, is in love with Sonic. But Boom!Amy tries to keep this to herself rather than obviously fawn over him. In "Translate This", Amy is actually visibly horrified when the Universal Translator nearly blurts out her crush for her, so she smashes it with her hammer.
    • In "Fortress of Squallitude", after the team comes to rescue Amy from Eggman's lair:
      Sonic: We might have a hard time saying it, Amy, but... (disengaged) well you know.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • In the episode "Fools in April", after Squidward has played a prank on SpongeBob, he realizes how much he's humiliated him and goes to his house to apologize... but because of his hatred toward him, every time he tries to say "I'm sorry", he just can't pull it off without doing weird cartoon-takes.
    • In "Krusty Love", Mr. Krabs becomes enamoured with Mrs. Puff when he sees her in his restaurant. Spongebob encourages him to ask her out, but he is unable to form any real words and needs Spongebob to "translate" for him.
    • SpongeBob is hit with this hard in "Treats!" when Gary becomes addicted to a snail treat and wants to eat them nonstop, and SpongeBob can't bring himself to say no to his "widdle Gare-Bear". It's only through Patrick's advice does SpongeBob learn to be firm and tells Gary no, which in turn finally makes Gary stop.
  • Initially played for laughs, then played for drama in Star Wars Rebels episode "Jedi Night". Hera, who is a bit delirious due to being given a Truth Serum while being interrogated by the Empire, spends the entire episode trying to tell Kanan something while he breaks her out of jail, only to Bait-and-Switch to something silly ("I have to tell you something... I hate your hair."). At the end of the episode, she finally manages to tell him that she loves him... and then he dies right afterwards, leading to her anguishing over why didn't she tell him sooner. The Grand Finale later heavily suggests, however, that she was trying to tell him something elseshe's pregnant.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce 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.
  • Zig-zagged in ThunderCats (2011):
    • 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 it's 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 Problem 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 unrequited feelings, confessing her love and kissing Tygra, which is of course the moment Lion-O enters the scene.
  • Carrie to Devin in Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race for most of the series until she gives up on him and decides to just focus on the competition. Which happens just in time for him to realize he's in love with her and suffer from this trope as well!
  • Winx Club: Flora is 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.

Alternative Title(s): Cant Spit It Out


Gru Confesses to Lucy

But he didn't. He decided to burn it all up.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / AbortedDeclarationOfLove

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