Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Designated Love Interest

Go To

Irene: Ryu, what is the payment you already received?
Ryu: She's right in front of me.
[The Big Damn Kiss]
Ryu: I don't even know your name.
Ninja Gaiden (NES version)

A character in a story who, despite being presented as the One True Love of a central character, doesn’t seem to have that kind of dynamic with their supposed significant other at all.

There are many reasons this can occur; the couple could be suffering Shipping Bed Death, there could be a bit too much Slap and not enough Kiss in their Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic, they could be Like Brother and Sister or Platonic Life-Partners, maybe the relationship developed offscreen (making their romance Out of Focus during the series), or there could just be bad writing involved. Whatever the reason, these characters don’t feel like they’re in a romantic relationship while canon insists they are. This isn't a matter of their love being subtle — it's more like the love just isn’t there.

Sometimes writers add this to a work to have a Token Romance, and their lack of interest in the relationship is reflected in the writing of the ship itself. The relationship violates Show, Don't Tell by telling the audience that these characters are a romantic couple without showing the romance. A Shipper on Deck will have no issues helping the narrative tell the audience how the two are a couple despite lack of any real logic behind it, and in extremes cases, the entire cast agrees, shilling for a relationship that the audience simply doesn’t see.

Subtrope of Relationship Writing Fumble. Compare Shipping Bed Death and Why Would Anyone Take Him Back?. Compare and contrast Strangled by the Red String, where two characters are suddenly paired off with little interaction at all prior to the hookup; while these tropes frequently overlap they're not mutually inclusive, as a couple who pair off with little build-up could still have decent chemistry and romantic interactions afterwards, whereas Designated Love Interests could have decent build-up only for the actual relationship to fall short.

Contrast Satellite Love Interest, in which the character is all about being the love interest and nothing else, rather than having characterization that doesn't fit being a love interest. Also contrast Romantic Plot Tumor, where a romantic subplot is given too much screen time to the detriment of the main plot. Inversions of this trope include Implied Love Interest, where the characters aren't canon love interests but are purposefully written in a manner that lends to that interpretation, and Platonic Writing, Romantic Reading, where the characters are accidentally written into a relationship that can be easily seen as a romantic relationship when the intent was much, much different.

Please don't use this trope as an excuse to bash characters or ships.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • While Cain of Count Cain flirts with (and presumably sleeps with) as many women as possible throughout the series, when he finally gets paired up with Meridiana it feels ridiculous since she's just as vapid as any other woman he's met and slept with. She has nothing to distinguish her; she is the least unique character in the entire series. Even the author admitted that the fans didn't like her; she seemed surprised.
  • Dragon Ball Super: The relationships between Present Trunks and Mai and Future Trunks and Future Mai can both come across as this, in some sort of attempt at a destined romance-type plot.
    • Present Trunks, whose exact age is hard to pinpoint given vague timeline and animation designs, only claims that Mai is his girlfriend to impress Goten in the Battle of Gods movie; the sub-plot is not mentioned in the anime retelling, which makes it very jarring when Mai and the Pilaf Gang turn up in Trunks' house a few sagas later without explanation about the relationship except that they seem to like each other. Also jarring in the manga equivalent. Furthermore, it's given shades of squick since Mai is chronologically older than Trunks' mother Bulma and clearly has the mind of an adult woman in a child's body.
    • Meanwhile, in the alternate future, there was no indication throughout Dragon Ball Z or supplementary material that the Pilaf Gang had survived the Android apocalypse before Future Mai randomly turns up as his ally and designated love interest. Like Present Mai, she has been de-aged and is chronologically older than Bulma, as shown in the manga one-shot. She's also apparently much more competent than she originally was, and never mentions her former friends as Future Trunks doesn't know a thing about them. Whilst there's not as much squick, given Trunks is an adult, the fact that it seems Mai has not told him the truth is a tad off-putting. A new character could have been invented and fulfilled the same purpose to the same effect.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Bulma and Vegeta basically got together because "a kid from the future said so." They had exactly two on-screen interactions before the three-year time skip when for some unknown reason Bulma dumped her previous love interest in favor of having a baby with the guy who'd once tried to massacre the planet. The implication seems to be that she simply had sex with him once and that any actual romance between them didn't come until after another time skip... but even then, no explanation is given for why she hooked up with him on any sort of permanent basis.
    • Krillin rather suddenly decided that he was in love with Android 18 — because she kissed him on the cheek after briefly taunting him. What makes this moment even sillier is that Krillin fully knew she intended to kill his best friend, and had just witnessed her and her brother beat Vegeta, Piccolo, and Tenshinhan within an inch of their lives.
  • Fairly common in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, where, aside from Josuke and Yasuho and maybe Jonathan and Erina, most romances seem to happen to justify the Joestar bloodline continuing. Joseph and Johnny had almost all their interactions with their wives happen offscreen, and Jotaro's wife isn't even named. Outside of this, Yukako and Koichi get together rather quickly considering her prior interaction with him was trying to murder him for love. Jolyne is a particularly odd example, in that she doesn't get together with Annasui, and spends the entire story viewing him as a creep... but her alternate-self reincarnation double gets together with Annasui's, with no explanation other than that it's true in the new world.
  • Emily Almonde from Mobile Suit Gundam AGE seems to exist sorely to bleed the second generation's hero by the story's standpoint. While she loves the protagonist Flit Asuno, the boy shows no romantic relationship with her because he's too busy fighting UE and building a relationship with a doomed Mysterious Waif Yurin L'Ciel. Even at the end of the arc, it stays as it is — a one-sided love with no development. Then comes the second generation, where she gets married to Flit, has two children, and departs on a bus. It's also pretty obvious that Flit only ended up with her because Yurin died.
  • In Noein, the relationship between Haruka and Yuu seems to have been invoked purely for plot convenience, since they are not shown to have all that much chemistry, even considering their age.
  • Rumiko Takahashi, author of Ranma ˝, Inuyasha, and Urusei Yatsura, is especially guilty of introducing characters just to pair up with other characters, and then forgetting about them. Usually, they make a token appearance and then are never heard from again, or perhaps two or three times at best. Her justifications have driven away many former fans; she has stated on multiple occasions that she only creates some characters to attempt to deter fans from inventing pairings she didn't intend.
    • Ranma ˝:
      • First of all, there's Akari Unryū; apparently, the demand for Ryōga to get a happy ending led to the creation of this girl, who is so blatantly perfect for Ryōga, and shows up so few times in her subsequent appearances that she has been derided as a canon relationship sue.
      • Mousse got some major attempts at redeeming his character, which can actually come off as rather jarring due to the fact he spent the early series trying to kill Ranma; and once boasted along the lines that he would gladly break any rules and forsake any honor to get Shampoo, though Shampoo never changed her opinion of him — while she did occasionally show him some "soft" moments towards him, she spent most of the series outright abusing him and, on one occasion, was perfectly willing to go and play video games while abandoning him to what she believed would be certain death at the hands of a life-sapping demon.
      • Ukyō got an (attempted) and very literal Last-Minute Hookup in the form of an effeminate crossdressing ninja master named Konatsu, who appeared less than Akari did. Not helping matters was how she seemed to pity him more than actually love him.
    • Urusei Yatsura is a case where this might actually be the happy ending.
      • Initially, Shinobu, the Tsundere with Super Strength, seems to be the Unlucky Childhood Friend, though she legitimately falls out of love with Ataru Moroboshi due to recognizing that he is an apparently irredeemable Lovable Sex Maniac... her next choice of crushes? Handsome Lech and Royal Brat Shūtarō Mendō, who's not only just as bad as Ataru in terms of lustfulness but is also chasing after Cute Monster Girl Lum. Meanwhile, she's being pursued by the gonkiest character in the series, a hulking, repulsive moron who repeatedly tries to ambush her. Finally, she earns the attention of Inaba, a shy and clumsy, but sweet, innocent, and genuinely romantic character, whom she grows quite fond of. And then he only shows up in about one story...
      • Ryūnosuke has a similar case happen to her at the end of the manga. Towards the end of the manga, she gets betrothed by her father to Nagisa, the cross-dressing son of her father's friend. Nagisa however, only appears in two two-part storylines in the manga, and an OVA, and the big manga finale.
  • Usagi and Mamoru in Sailor Moon's animated adaptation. During one of The Movies, Usagi is slightly depressed that she has no idea what Mamoru is like, can't have a conversation with him, and doesn't even understand his interests. Their later failures to really interact with each other may have to do with the television writers not finding him very interesting, aside from a character for her to emote at — which is really his fundamental purpose, after all.
  • In Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Yotaro is simplemindedly head-over-heels for Konatsu, who is cold to him, but not in a Tsundere kind of way; she never once says or does anything romantic towards him, or have any romantic thoughts about him even after they get married. This creates the very strange situation of Yotaro having a "wife" who treats him as a close friend at best and a "son" who isn't even his actual child.
  • The relationship between Max and Milia in Super Dimension Fortress Macross — as well as their Americanized counterparts in Robotech — was hardly romance at its best. This is somewhat deconstructed in Macross 7, where it showed that Max and Milia's marriage is mainly unstable and troubled.
  • Umi Monogatari has Kojima, with whom Kanon doesn't even have a fraction of the chemistry she has with Marin.

    Comic Books 
  • The Page Sisters from Jack of Fables . Despite showing no interest in the main character and outright despising him, all three ended up sleeping with him more than once. It got especially bad when Robin, who had spent the previous issues hating Jack with a passion, had no problem with the idea of a foursome. It then becomes outright horrifying when it's revealed that they're his half sisters.
  • The Incredible Hulk: In the earliest days, Betty Ross was one of these. Much of her page-time was spent mooning or swooning over Dr. Banner, while he scarcely afforded her a thought, even without the hassle of the Hulk or the latest villain of the week making trouble. The Hulk was more interested in her than he was.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Played straight in Brand New Day with Carlie Cooper. Everyone, including Mary Jane, is trying to get her together with Peter and gushing about how perfect and wonderful for him she is. Too bad she hasn't really done much to live up to that hype, and the major problem that started with the pairing is that each writer seemed to have their own take on who should end up with Pete. Slott was in the Carlie Cooper camp, Mark Waid focused on Pete and Michelle, and Joe Kelly always had Peter and Norah. The latter two actually went through lengths actually showing the chemistry while Slott spent more time simply presenting Carlie as the perfect match. When Carlie hooked up with Peter it looked like this trope would stick. And just to add some Squick: Joe Quesada invented Carlie Cooper solely so he could sink the Peter/Mary Jane ship. Who did he base Cooper on? His own daughter! Luckily Spider-Island put an end to all of that, and the finale of Superior Spider-Man put the final nails in the coffin.
    • Gwen Stacy was absolutely this when she was alive. Stan Lee after playing with a love triangle between Peter/MJ/Gwen for a few issues had Peter get into a relationship with Gwen which astonished many readers who were wondering what the long-buildup and wait for MJ across 20 issues was all about. Even after they got together, Lee and Romita Sr. never properly developed her as a character aside from shilling her (such as fan-favorite MJ becoming a shipper and cheer-leader for them, which writers and editors later had her do for Carlie) or having Peter constantly say out loud how much he loves her and vice versa. They are never shown going on dates or having any interactions as a couple and the tension Peter had in that relationship was his work as Spider-Man, the death of her father George Stacy, and Peter wondering if he should tell her identity while Gwen would constantly cry and whine whenever he's not around. Gerry Conway who had her killed off to make MJ Peter's One True Love cited this whenever fans take him to task for killing Gwen, in his view her death made her far more memorable and important in comics history (as The Lost Lenore and Peter's Shocking Defeat Legacy) than she would have been had she faded away and been Put on a Bus (which happened to MJ numerous times but fan demand always returned her to the heart of the stories).

    Films — Animation 
  • Oddly, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 kind of does this to Flint and Sam. An Immediate Sequel, the movie opens at the end of The Big Damn Kiss from the first film, and they're shown as a couple again in the Creative Closing Credits, but that's about it. Flint even refers to her as a "friend" rather than "girlfriend" one or two times, probably to emphasize The Power of Friendship as the main Aesop.
  • One of the few criticisms of Klaus (2019) is that Alva feels like this for Jesper. While the pair come to admire one another and become friends over their efforts to improve the town, there's nothing to suggest they're anything more until Jesper reveals they got married and had children in the epilogue. Jesper's narration indicates this outcome was inevitable, but considering neither character had expressed any romantic attraction to each other up until this point, viewers weren't as convinced.
  • The Little Mermaid. The relationship between Ariel and Eric obviously needs to exist because it happens in the original fairy tale and it gives Ariel her main motivation to want to become human. However, the whole thing is complicated because they really only know each other for three days, and she's unable to speak for almost that entire time. Of course, the original fairy tale has a major Downer Ending, where the prince never loves the mermaid and on his wedding day, she dies and becomes an air spirit. But in the Disney version, they get a Happily Ever After ending that feels forced even if you cling to an "it's a fairy-tale" mindset.
  • The Gene Dietch adaptation of The Hobbit gives Bilbo a love interest in the form of Canon Foreigner Princess Mika. Given that the film is only eleven minutes long, there really isn't a lot of time to form any kind of connection between the two. Mika has an angry speech where she declares that if none of them will go fight the dragon, she will go alone, then Bilbo declares that this is a crazy thing for a child to say, at which Gandalf tells them that this means he should go along as well. A few minutes later, in the midst of the climax, the narrator mentions that Bilbo has a "growing love" for the Princess. This is the sum total of their romantic development before it's announced that they got married in the ending. It becomes especially weird in light of the fact that the book claimed Bilbo to be 51, and Mika is repeatedly described as a child—one desperately hopes that to not be the case in the film's continuity.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alone in the Dark (2005). The Love Interest never added anything of value to begin with, and the romance itself comes completely out of the blue. Sadly, by the end, the Romantic Plot Tumor is the only thing keeping the plot moving forward.
  • In Ant-Man, Hope spends the entire movie resenting Scott because her father Hank chose him as his successor and not her. Towards the end of the movie, Hope has just barely begun to respect Scott, but it's still not clear if she actually likes him as a person. When Hank accidentally walks in on them making out, he's just as shocked as the audience since it came out of nowhere. This is subverted in the sequels, some of the few MCU properties where the Official Couple actually work together as a couple instead of an endless game of breaking up and getting back together.
  • Avatar. The romance between Jake Sully and Neytiri is given almost no real buildup and no reason beyond, "Hey, they've been spending a lot of time together and Jake needs a way to get into that culture. Let's hook them up because that is What Those Types of Characters Do."
  • Johnnie Goodboy Tyler and Chrissy in Battlefield Earth. They have only a few scenes together and don't even talk to each other in some of them. Johnnie has much more chemistry with one of the guys he's planning the rebellion with. It feels like she's only there because everyone knows The Hero has to have a love interest. The book is a little better, though the relationship is still pretty flat and underdeveloped there, too.
  • The Breakfast Club: The end of the movie hooks up Andy and Allison and Bender and Claire. While the characters have clear moments of bonding and all of them growing closer to each other is the whole point of the movie, it's still made a little tough to believe, especially due to how much of the film they all spend being horrible to each other.
  • In the 2010 Clash of the Titans, Io is the Love Interest... just because. Amusingly, the original script had Andromeda as the official love interest (as per the myth), yet the women are so interchangeable that they switched to Io with virtually no changes made to the storyline in any way. And to make this even more amusing, by the time the sequel rolls around, Io is dead and Andromeda steps up to fulfill the role that was originally going to be hers anyway. She fits the trope just as well, being more or less ignored by the hero until the very end when he kisses her out of nowhere.
  • Enchanted lampshades the prevalence of this trope; Giselle and Edward start out madly in love with each other without any actual reason for why. It's just how things work in the fairytale land of Andalasia. When you think about it, this helps explain why Nancy managed to pair herself up with Edward in the end, by eloping back to Andalasia. Even at the end of the story, this applies to the official couple.
  • The romance between Reed and Sue in Fantastic Four (2015). It seems to only be there because Reed and Sue are married in the comics.
  • Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter. Harry and Ginny barely interact, sharing the screen for about seven minutes combined in the last three movies. Whenever they are on screen together, they barely talk, instead just sharing a kiss and an awkward look before Harry rushes off to do something and Ginny sits down to be irrelevant to the plot. This is probably a result of Adaptation Decay since they did have significantly more build-up in the books.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, when Abe first runs into Nuala, she presumes him to be an enemy. Abe uses his Touch Telepathy to prove that he's not. During the split second they have a mindlink, which is not shown to the audience, they instantly fall in love. They have practically no interactions that aren't about the plot before the Big Bad kidnaps her and demands the final key to the doomsday device with which he wants to wipe out the human race for her return. Despite the Big Bad being Nuala's twin brother who magically shares all injuries with her, meaning he is neither willing nor able to harm her without harming himself, Abe goes behind his friend's backs to hand over the MacGuffin, with no plan to prevent the extermination of the human race afterwards. All for a romance that the audience has seen exactly nothing from.
  • Averted in Hot Fuzz. Early drafts of the script had a love interest for Nick called Victoria. Because she was boring, slowed down the plot, and had nothing much to do by the finale they instead cut her out and gave a fair bit of her dialogue, often unedited, to Nick's burgeoning Heterosexual Life Partner Danny.
  • Rose Tico to Finn in The Last Jedi. Their romance comes off as one-sided; Rose obviously has a crush on Finn, but his interactions towards her are mostly platonic and he's more focused on reuniting with Rey (whom some viewers thought he actually had romantic feelings for). Rose only knows Finn for a few days, tops, before she tells him she loves him and kisses him...and Finn's response to this appears to be confusion more than anything. The creators apparently realized this because the romance is completely dropped in The Rise of Skywalker (the Expanded Universe novel Star Wars: Resistance Reborn also mentions Finn and Rose decided they were Better as Friends).
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action lampshades this trope in a Deleted Scene, where DJ introduces Kate to his father and admits they haven't kissed yet, they don't really get along, and they have virtually nothing in common; to which she smilingly replies that this could be The One.
  • RedLetterMedia refers to this as "a case of the not-gays", when a character has an incredibly offhand romance or romantic partner for no other reason than to reassure the audience that they're heterosexual. Specifically cited is the example of Star Trek (2009), where all the protagonists and the main villain all show or mention an interest in a woman, of which maaaybe one is developed or significant to any degree. He also jokingly pointed out that it even happens in dog movies, where the dog will usually get together with a female dog (usually with pink bows tied to them) for no reason and with no development — though to be fair, it's hard to give a non-sapient dog romantic development.
  • Romeo Must Die. The movie is supposed to be loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, but it's a pretty standard Jet Li action movie. His supposed love interest Trish, played by Aaliyah, contributed nothing to the overall plot and she comes across more as his friend than his star-crossed lover. Jet Li also appears in Aaliyah's tie-in music video "Try Again", and it's telling that the two had more romantic chemistry there than an entire feature-length film.
  • A criticism of the Spider-Man Trilogy movies was the perception that Peter and MJ had no real romantic chemistry (your mileage may vary). The third film certainly spends more time showing them fighting to keep their relationship afloat than actually doing things together and being a couple.
  • The main male and female characters in Stealth are supposed to be military personnel, and seem to be interacting as such throughout the entire movie. There is banter between them, but nothing that particularly points towards sexual chemistry. In spite of the film tradition of Designated Love Interests, it can come as a shock when they suddenly kiss after the action is over, even without considering the army 'fraternization' laws which are never mentioned by any character.
  • The Truman Show has an intentional, in-universe example with Meryl. She was introduced into the show-within-a-show to be Truman's significant other and immediately flings herself at him. However, it's so over-the-top it's obviously forced and she has no real interest in Truman as a person, which is understandable because she's Only in It for the Money. Truman did eventually marry Meryl, but it's revealed he still thinks about Sylvia, a minor character from his college years whom he had a genuine connection with. He eventually asks Meryl point-blank why she wants them to have children, because it's obvious "[she] can't stand [him]". Even the audience doesn't find Truman and Meryl's relationship convincing; they express disappointment he didn't get with Sylvia and "can't believe he married Meryl on the rebound". Truman himself seems baffled at the fact that she claims to love him, when she doesn't share his interests, doesn't seem to like having him around, and isn't very friendly to him outside of doing her duties as a wife. Eventually, their relationship comes crashing down when the stress of being in a more-than-dead marriage (well, on top of a full-blown metaphysical / existential crisis on Truman's part and Meryl having to cope with the identity crisis and increased ad-libbing Truman's increasing off-the-wall behaviour demands) becomes too much to bear for both Truman and Meryl.
  • The romance in Underworld (2003). There is never any indication that Selene feels any real emotion toward her intended hookup; they have yet to actually have any sort of conversation with each other about anything apart from vampires and werewolves and they have known each other for a total of about two days. Word of God says this was the way it was supposed to be- special features on the Underworld DVD reveal that the two characters were not supposed to actually be "in love," but rather attracted to each other based on lust, confused feelings, and being forced together.
  • In-story of Watchmen, this was practically Laurie's job, being Dr Manhattan's lover. And he likely only loved her because he could see himself doing that in the future. Also, during production of the movie, someone tried to write in a non-canonical love interest for Rorschach. It was changed when people realized how utterly out of character that would be.
  • In the X-Men Film Series, Jean Grey is essentially this to Wolverine. Across the first three movies, Logan and Jean have maybe ten minutes of screen time together and one real conversation, yet the films clearly consider them the One True Pairing, far beyond Jean's actual Love Interest Cyclops.

  • Fifty Shades of Grey (and the companion book Grey) has Ana and Christian repeatedly profess to be madly in love and a true couple. The problem is that the entire series takes place over just barely three months and the characters spend a huge chunk of that time arguing and/or broken up. Even when actually dating, there's much more slap than kiss, and for many readers, the characters don't even appear to like each other, let alone love each other eternally. Christian in particular can come off as this to Ana. He's definitely sexually attracted to her, but when it comes to her personality he seems to find her annoying more than anything, constantly finding things to criticize about her, from her clothes to her car to her eating habits. Despite his claims that he likes Ana challenging him, her defying him or doing anything he doesn't approve of generally makes him angry and condescending. He's supposed to start out as uninterested in having a deeper relationship with Ana only to find himself falling in love with her, but he seems more interested in molding Ana into whatever he wants from a partner rather than loving her for who she is.
  • Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings. Justified somewhat as the story is primarily told from the Hobbits' point of view, and they weren't around when the two met and fell in love years earlier; the story is only concisely dealt with in one of the appendices. This has led to quite a number of readers favouring Éowyn's hopeless love for Aragorn. Word of God is Eowyn was originally intended to be Aragorn's queen but Tolkien had second thoughts, deciding he was too old and too grim for her.
  • The relationship between Ivy and Mr. Quent in The Magicians And Mrs Quent. The first half of the book is entirely filler and sets up a relationship between Ivy and Mr. Rafferdy, and shows they have chemistry; however, they break up because Mr. Rafferdy is a noble and Ivy isn't. A few pages after meeting Mr. Quent and with negligible interaction between them, Ivy marries Mr. Quent. Ivy is constantly thinking afterwards whenever she sees Mr. Rafferdy that she likes him, but he's not as right for her as Mr. Quent is; but, because she and Mr. Quent hardly ever interact and she and Mr. Rafferdy interacted quite a bit, there's absolutely zero evidence for this.
  • In the little-known book Shackleton's Stowaway, the main character, Perce, fantasizes (no, not like THAT...well, okay, maybe), about a young woman back home named Anna, who he believes he's in love with. However, we only hear about Anna twice, and then she's totally forgotten by the end as if she didn't exist at all, and seemed to serve just so that he could have a love interest. She may also double as a Relationship Sue, due to her overly perfect beauty as constantly described by the author.
  • In De skandalösa by Simona Ahrnstedt, Ossian and Beata suddenly become a couple in the end. As far as we know, they had never interacted with each other before only a few chapters remained of the story. Maybe we can assume that something has happened off-screen, but still, it just feels like it comes out of the blue. As if they just had to end up together because they both were single up until that point.
  • The Turner Diaries: Earl and Catherine full stop. Earl doesn't really talk much about Catherine until he walks in on her in the shower and they immediately wind up [[sexStartsStoryStops having sex for no real reason]]. Their relationship doesn't really evolve much from that despite the author constantly saying they "love" each other.
  • Victor Hugo:
    • Les Misérables gives us Marius and Cosette. Seen each other from afar and are madly in love with each other (at least after Marius noticed Cosette being grown up. Make of that what you will). They do get time to groom their relationship... with Cosette listening to Marius' political views. Well, we have to count in the Values Dissonance here too. But still...
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame also shows how awfully this can end in so many, many ways.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Riley to Buffy in Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While in Season 4 they were genuinely affectionate, in Season 5 their romantic interactions are increasingly few and far between. Even in-universe Riley says he doesn't think Buffy truly loves him, though he doesn't come off as particularly loving towards her either, despite all the other characters going on about what a great boyfriend he is. He seems to think Buffy is going to dump him for the next romantic vampire boy that comes along, is insecure about her being stronger than him, doesn't talk to her about his concerns, and ends up going off with vampire hookers to feel 'wanted'; when Buffy confronts him he quickly ditches her to rejoin the army. While Buffy is being emotionally neglectful, this is because she's having to care for her kid sister while her mother has a brain tumor on top of her usual 'saving the world' duties. You'd think if Riley loved Buffy as much as he and everyone else claims he'd stand by her during this difficult time, but he only ever seems to think about what he wants.
  • Frasier: Season 10 has what was meant to be a love triangle between Frasier, Roz, and newcomer Julia, ending with Roz deciding to leave KACL because of her feelings for Frasier mixed with jealousy toward Julia... but at no point since the two characters slept together in season 9 does Roz actually express any romantic or sexual interest in Frasier, making her actions come off more like a friend concerned for another friend and just acting on it in the stupidest fashion possible. Then the first episode of season 11 has Roz state she has no romantic or sexual interest in Fras, end of story. Frasier and Julia itself narrowly skirts this, but it does get a tremendous Lampshade Hanging by the new writers in season 11 when Niles outright tells Frasier he's just claiming he and Julia are made for each other because he's overcompensating after so many other failed relationships.
  • Tyrion is a one-sided example to Daenerys in Game of Thrones. While one could argue he was intentionally keeping his feelings subtle due to previous bad experiences, some viewers felt it was so subtle they appeared non-existent. Tyrion doesn't spend much one-on-one time with Dany and they mostly talk about war, politics, or her feelings for Jon Snow; Tyrion comes off as admiring Dany as his queen but not necessarily having romantic feelings for her (especially in comparison to Jorah, who has to be reminded about being too familiar with Dany, gives her longing looks, has his love for her remarked upon by other characters, etc). The only scene that really suggests romantic attraction is Tyrion overhearing Dany and Jon make love with a troubled expression, but his reaction is so vague it was interpreted in many different ways by viewers. As a result, Tyrion's confession in the final episode that he's in love with Dany seems to come out-of-left-field, or at the least feels underwritten; you have to rely on the scripts and an interview with Peter Dinklage to get the full picture.
  • Glee: Tina dumps Artie for Mike between the first and second seasons after she spends the summer working with Mike at "Asian camp," despite the fact that goth Tina and jock/preppy Mike had little in common beyond Glee club. This overlaps with Token Minority Couple since their both being Asian was milked for all it was worth and then some.
  • H₂O: Just Add Water and Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure: One gets the impression that all the lead female characters were required by law to have a love interest, as only Weilan ended the series without Ship Tease with a boy (not that Karl didn't try, mind you). Some romances were limited to just one season, and as a result, not all were convincing.
    • Emma had two love interests, Byron and Ash, both of whom only lasted one season and neither one of which was ever seen without her presence.
      • Emma pines after Byron for most of the first season and the animated reboot, but when they actually spend time together, they end up arguing. Byron complains that Emma is too pushy, and Emma is frustrated with Bryon's lack of direction in life.
      • Ash is introduced in the second season as Emma's new love interest, which seems to be news to Emma herself, who butts heads with him often and when she complains about him, she gets told by the rest of the cast that she obviously must have feelings for him.
    • Bella has a crush on Will, but he admits his interest in her is based on the fact that she's a mermaid, which naturally upsets her. This causes them to break up, and they make up in a later episode because Will helped save a kidnapped Rikki, after withholding her location from the others to get confirmation that Rikki and Cleo are mermaids as well. The former never gets resolved, and the latter goes unaddressed.
  • Heroes: Almost every relationship, especially in the second season. Notably Peter/Simone, Maya/Sylar, Peter/Caitlin, Hiro/Yaeko, and Claire/West. Luckily, they seem to have given up. Played extremely straight with Matt/Daphne, in which a psychic vision convinces one character he's "supposed" to be with another. Unsurprisingly his "love" is skeptical and although she plays along she frequently points out how this is not any sort of basis for a real relationship.
  • Played for humor in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where the bar attempts to do the things more popular bars do (read: more commercially successful shows), and that includes trying to create a Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic similar to Sam and Diane in Cheers between Mac and Dee. It becomes obvious very quickly that the two have no discernible chemistry, due to the fact that Mac and Dee hate each other in reality; their attempts to do friendly teasing quickly devolve into shouting matches and threats of violence.
    Dennis: This isn't 'Will They or Won't They?' This is 'I know they won't and I know I don't want them to!'
  • Merlin: Lancelot and Guinevere. It's an inevitable pairing, but it moves like a runaway train. She fits him for a suit of armour and he kisses her hand. That's the last time they interact for a year, and then their paths cross again whilst Guinevere is held captive in a warlord's castle. Lancelot helps her escape, during which he tells her (and others): "I would die for you ten thousand times over," "She means more to me than you will ever understand" and "tell her that she's changed me forever." All this on the basis of two short conversations. Still, some say that the chemistry of the actors makes up for it...
  • In Moonlight (2007), Mick and Beth can sometimes come off as having a father-daughter relationship, which is not what was intended (especially considering they first met when Mick saved Beth as a child and he's since appointed himself as her protector).
  • Once Upon a Time: Regina and Robin Hood slide into this from Season 4 onwards. Despite being destined soulmates, in Season 3 they share great chemistry, have countless moments of Unresolved Sexual Tension even before finding out about destiny, and are shown actually building a loving and trusting relationship with one another; come Season 4, though, the writers start piling up issue after issue onto them: first Robin's long-lost wife Marian is brought Back from the Dead via time-travel, forcing him to go back to her out of duty; then it's revealed she almost died because she was sentenced to death by Regina herself; then she gets cursed and the only way to save her is taking her out of town, where there's no magic, and Robin has to follow; finally, she becomes pregnant by Robin. The show then goes out of its way to try and uncomplicate things all via plot twist: it's been Zelena all along, who pulled a Kill and Replace on Marian and got pregnant by Robin to get back at Regina, thus technically morally absolving Regina of Marian's death, and plunging that ship into No Yay territory due to the rape, but at that point the damage was done. With all the increasingly convoluted stuff happening all around them, Regina and Robin never get a chance to even talk about their issues, let alone work through them, and barely have any more meaningful scenes together. This, coupled with the quick and cheap resolution they were given, makes the whole romance deflate and just drag along in name only until Robin's untimely death.
  • Revolution:
    • "Nate" saved Charlie's life once, and yet is seen as a heavily implied Star-Crossed Lovers situation in progress. Aside from that one instance in the pilot of saving her (which only really made sense if taken from a certain angle), he didn't show any real compassion for her for the most part aside from what even Tom Neville realizes is a crush...which sort of makes Charlie qualify as well.
    • Ditto in both directions. Though Nate/Jason ends up turning this into a Subverted Trope, especially when in "Soul Train", he is revealed to be Tom Neville's son.
  • Robin Hood: Kate was introduced into the show as a Replacement Scrappy for Marian, a Replacement Goldfish for Robin, and the Designated Victim to the outlaws. She has little in the way of personality, does virtually nothing but pursue Robin, and is utterly superfluous to the plot. At the end of the series, Robin is killed off to be reunited with Marian and the writers immediately start pushing Kate toward Robin's Replacement Scrappy, his half-brother Archer. Oy.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • Rodney McKay, repeatedly, in the last two seasons. The first major girlfriend, Katie Brown, was a drippy botanist with whom he had nothing in common whatsoever, and the second was Jennifer Keller, who had previously seemed to have a nice thing going on with Ronon. This may have had something to do with the fact that the most popular ship in the entire fandom was McKay/Sheppard. In the episode "The Shrine", after all of one episode of any serious interaction, he's declaring his love for Keller in a video recording.
    • Keller and Ronon also had shades of this, though. One of the few times they spent any time together ("First Contact"/"The Lost Tribe"), they spend the whole time demonstrating that they have absolutely nothing in common and don't really understand each other. Ronon still asks her out at the end of the episode, though, but she turns him down for Rodney.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax in the eyes of many fans. They get pushed together rather hastily at the end of the series after most of the season focused on Ezri's relationship with Worf. Bashir and Ezri haven't interacted that much one-on-one and their actors don't have much chemistry. Ezri's "reasoning" for being interested in Bashir seems to be based mostly on finding him pretty and seeing him in a dream, but she mocks his hobbies with Worf. And yet they don't just sleep together, but confess that they're passionately in love with each other out of nowhere. Even many who don't hate the relationship think it would've made more sense to have them just hook up (as is common at the end of a long, brutal war) without over-the-top feelings declarations. The fact that Bashir had feelings for Ezri's symbiote's previous host, Jadzia - the thing that doomed her relationship with Worf, Jadzia's husband - also adds the ugly subtext of Ezri being a Replacement Goldfish for Jadzia, which pissed off fans of both characters.
  • White Collar: Kate in season one. It would have been nice to see the one woman who made Neal Caffrey want to commit; unfortunately, Kate is not given a personality, motivation, or even charm. With no material to work with, the role was also tragically miscast with an actress who seems too sweet. In short, she's far too bland to pull off the unforgettable One True Love that Neal keeps saying she is. We finally get to see them together in the season two Flashback Episode "Forging Bonds"; whether this made the relationship more convincing is up to the individual viewer.

  • In The Magic Flute, Tamino falls in love with Pamina from seeing a photo and embarks on a supposedly dangerous adventure to rescue her. Pamina falls in love with Tamino basically because she heard that he loved her and was coming to rescue her. She's even heartbroken when he doesn't talk to her.
  • In Carmen, it's implied that she seduces Don José mostly to make him release her from custody, which leads to him being taken to jail for a while. The day he's out of jail, when Carmen's friends ask her why she won't go to the smuggling business with them, she replies that she's madly in love with Don José and wants to stay to wait for him. Earlier in that scene, she rejected the superstar bullfighter Escamillo claiming that her heart was taken, implying that she had been staying "faithful" to him. Nothing in the libretto indicates what made Carmen fall in love with Don José in such a way.
  • At the end of Measure for Measure, the Duke announced that he was going to marry Isabella. Not only did they never show any interest in each other before that point, but Isabella's dearest wish was to become a nun. Also, for most of the play, she thought he was a Friar and thus sworn to celibacy.
  • Averted in Pygmalion and called out by George Bernard Shaw in his Ship Sinking epilogue:
    The rest of the story need not be shown in action, and indeed, would hardly need telling if our imaginations were not so enfeebled by their lazy dependence on the ready-mades and reach-me-downs of the ragshop in which Romance keeps its stock of "happy endings" to misfit all stories. Now, the history of Eliza Doolittle, though called a romance because of the transfiguration it records seems exceedingly improbable, is common enough. Such transfigurations have been achieved by hundreds of resolutely ambitious young women since Nell Gwynne set them the example by playing queens and fascinating kings in the theatre in which she began by selling oranges. Nevertheless, people in all directions have assumed, for no other reason than that she became the heroine of a romance, that she must have married the hero of it. This is unbearable, not only because her little drama, if acted on such a thoughtless assumption, must be spoiled, but because the true sequel is patent to anyone with a sense of human nature in general, and of feminine instinct in particular.
  • Lampshaded by Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet as Romeo falling for Juliet to the point of wanting to marry her so soon after breaking up with Rosaline. "Young men's love lies not in their hearts but in their eyes."
  • Common legend has it that during Puccini's writing of Turandot, he supposedly abandoned it before the end because he was unable to justify Calaf being in love with the psychotic, man-hating ice queen Turandot when the pure-hearted slave girl, Liu, had remained loyal to him for so long. He had apparently wanted Calaf to fall in love with and marry Liu, whereas the libretto (as well as the story the libretto was based on) had Liu tortured to suicide, after which Calaf then marries Turandot. After his death, the opera was eventually completed by composer Franco Alfano. However, this is demonstrably false, as the real reason it was never finished was that Puccini had laryngeal cancer and died before he could finish. That this legend lives on shows how most people think of the story's couple, and it has been famously criticized by scholars for the rushed attempt to pair Calaf and Turandot.

    Video Games 
  • The Talia-Batman romance of Batman: Arkham City suffers from this. Their past together is not elaborated upon, the only mention being that they spent one night together years ago. They are constantly at odds with each other, neither can stand the way the other deals with criminals, and they don't even interact with each other that much... yet her death is shown to be a major Despair Event Horizon for Batman, and Joker's ghost and/or Batman's subconscious brings it up several times in the sequel. It can be argued that Batman has a better romance arc with Joker than with Talia who is meant to be his one true love. It is weirdly zig-zagged. At one point, Mission Control has to cut off Batman's access to Talia's tracker to make him stop chasing her and instead deal with the villains destroying the City. On the other hand, after Talia is murdered by the Joker, who then dies of his disease, Batman leaves the building cradling the Joker's body.
  • Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse: This game introduced the ability to recruit and switch between Trevor Belmont and three other characters: Sypha Belnades, Grant Danasty, and Alucard. None of the characters share any dialogue except normal greetings when being recruited, and said recruitment is optional. When recruited, Sypha is misgendered as "him" (in the English version), which led to a lot of head-scratching confusion when Sypha is revealed as a woman at the end and Trevor places a romantic arm around her. There is absolutely nothing in the game that suggested they were a couple.
  • Serge and Kid of Chrono Cross. The player can have Serge treat Kid like crap, ignore her at every turn, leave her to die a slow death by poison, stab her in the chest, apparently use and manipulate her and then kill her again, and finally leave her in a coma reliving the single most traumatic day of her life, and she'll still be in love with a man she barely knows who already has a girlfriend. Her only mandatory interactions with Serge come from the manipulations of another character. Yet even after the ending of the game apparently presses the Reset Button on the entire series of events, she's apparently so in love with Serge that she will promise to find him and the game completely ignores the fact that, again, he already has a girlfriend. The game treats this as a cherished romance and there's even concept art depicting a married Serge and Kid. Bet there's going to be some really awkward stories to tell the children...
  • Dead Rising 3: Nick and Annie's entire relationship appears to consist of Nick rescuing Annie and then asking her if she's alright. They don't share any scenes together or have any shared interests, it's just Nick being awkward around her and then rescuing the damsel. During the boss fight against Red, the game suddenly introduces a love triangle when the pair argue over Annie, with Red saying "I knew you were eyeing my girl!" and Nick saying "Annie is way too good for you, you bastard!".
  • Detroit: Become Human: The relationship between Markus and North can easily fall into this. North is a very gung-ho android, set on forcing the humans to take androids seriously and will complain if the player chooses for Markus' android revolution to be done peacefully. Her relationship with Markus can fluctuate a lot for most of the game until one scene that gives the player the option to leave or stay and ask about North's past. Choosing the latter will always result in North and Markus becoming lovers. Even if the player has been nothing but antagonistic towards North's way of doing things and getting her relationship status with Markus decreased to dislike or even hostile, it will instantly jump up to lovers for knowing about her past.
  • Justified in Digital Devil Saga. Mysterious Waif Sera latches on to Heroic Mime Serph, and Hot-Blooded Heat has an obsession with Sera, who does not reciprocate. It seems shallow, since Serph shows no personality, and Sera barely talks to Heat... until the Wham Episode. Serph and Heat are A.I.s that Sera designed for her ideal world. Serph was based on someone she had a crush on, and Heat was based on someone she thought had a crush on her.
  • Dragon Quest V gives you the choice of two heroines, three on the DS remake, but the game greatly favors Bianca. That said, the other girls aren't that much more developed either, but at least the game doesn't shove them on your face.
  • Polka and Allegretto of Eternal Sonata have very little chemistry together. Over the course of the game, Polka spends more time (and has more chemistry) with Chopin. But since he's a) old enough to be her father, and b) dying, they shove her together with Allegretto at the end.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII: Cid's treatment of Shera is supposed to be unpleasant, and Cloud as well as whichever party members you bring to the scene are all shown to side with Shera over him. But since Cid was supposed to be a sympathetic character, it was intended as his colleague Shera enduring his attitude and him being a rude grump but caring about her really. Many players feel it crossed the line into Domestic Abuse; Shera appears to live with him, doesn't leave his house, makes him tea and is always apologising to him, and feels she is repenting for ruining his life; Cid is incredulous at the suggestion that Shera is romantically involved with him and casually dismissive of her feelings. They make up in the game, but a lot of fans were very upset when they were revealed to have got married in Dirge of Cerberus, citing Romanticized Abuse.
  • In Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, a major part of Palla's character in all her appearances is meant to be her tragically doomed love for Abel, despite the fact that he only has eyes for her sister. The thing is, scour the entire series across Palla's appearances in six different games, and you'll quickly realize that she and Abel have never canonically spoken to each other. In the early games, this was excusable, since many characters had very little dialogue or characterization, but even in the remakes, which added a lot of additional dialogue in the main campaign, along with support conversations that allowed characters to speak with each other between battles, they still don't have any way to talk to each other. It's not like Palla doesn't get conversations in those games; in both, she can talk to her sisters and Minerva, but not Abel. Even when Palla brings up her feelings with other characters, she focuses mostly on her angst rather than why she likes him; as far as the player can tell, Palla loves Abel because... she just does.
  • The Gears of War games have Marcus and Anya, who have so little chemistry it hurts. They barely interact, and when they do, there's nothing particularly romantic about it. It doesn't help that the games tend to be light on the characterisation side, making these two's romance just awkward every time it appears. In the games, Anya has very little personality beyond being a caring person, while Marcus is the typical aggressive screaming soldier (he may even be the new poster boy). While this can be justified by the fact that there is a world-ending conflict going on, it doesn't change that we're supposed to swallow that these two apparently love each other.
  • Matilda's husband, Valentin, in Last Scenario doesn't do or say a whole lot, and not much effort is given to develop his personality or build any chemistry between him and Matilda. He seems to exist mainly to prematurely sink any ships involving Matilda (like Thorve or Drakovic).
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 has this with Casavir, who, if you're female, will always try to confess his love to you in the final act, regardless of influence, race, alignment, or Charisma score, without much prior setup. Cut content might be to blame for this one, but it's still rather baffling if he (a paladin) has seen you (a blackguard) murder other party members and bargain with devils.
  • Ninja Gaiden:
    • In the NES version, the page quote comes from the very last scene. The only onscreen interaction between Ryu and Irene goes like this: she shoots him with a tranquilizer in the first mission, frees him and gives him the MacGuffin in the second level, and gets kidnapped offscreen at some point before the fifth level, forcing Ryu to choose to save her life during a Sadistic Choice. And... that's it. The quote above is the first time any romantic affection or the prospect of a relationship is ever brought up.
    • The Ancient Ship of Doom and The Dark Sword of Chaos are a little bit better about fleshing out their relationship, but then Irene disappears for a long time, with only a small mention in Ryu's Dead or Alive profile (as "Aileen") confirming that they're Happily Married.
    • Dead or Alive: Dimensions and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge retroactively reveal that Sonia from Ninja Gaiden II of the Team Ninja series is another alias for Irene and even then, the nature of their relationship is kept deliberately vague despite Hayate and Ayane believing something to be going on between them.
  • While most couples in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations are clearly shown to care for each other, Mia and Diego is an exception. Diego being Mia's boyfriend is literally the first thing we learn about him and it provides Mia with motivation to hunt Dahlia and for Diego (as Godot) to hate Phoenix for being unable to save her two games earlier, but when we see them actually interacting with each other they don't seem any closer than co-workers, aside from Diego using an Affectionate Nickname. This may be more due to the Japanese view on romance, where public affection is frowned upon, than an actual lack of romance, however.
  • The Rune Factory series, despite every game having multiple potential marriage candidates, seems to invoke this as something (usually the intro video) shows the protagonist with the first female character you could meet in the game more often than any other. Rune Factory 4 is the only real exception.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei I, the Heroine is shoved into the Love Interest slot essentially by default, due to a Heroic Mime and a general lack of dialogue in the game. Tellingly, the character most focused on the apparent relationship between the Hero and Heroine is actually Yuriko, the Hero's Stalker with a Crush, who attempts to Murder the Hypotenuse before your relationship is even really implied.
  • Tales Series:
    • Asbel and Cheria in Tales of Graces. The game very obviously treats them as the intended pairing, multiple characters comment about "how cute they would be together" (sometimes teasing, sometimes not), and a major part of Cheria's character is her feelings for Asbel. The problem is that both characters come across as only being a pairing because the plot says so, because they don't really interact beyond a pointless kidnapping mini-arc that seemingly "resolves it", and the rest of the game is focused more so on everyone's relationship with Sophie and Richard. Furthermore, Asbel is Oblivious to Love, so he doesn't notice Cheria's feelings, and Cheria is a bit of a Tsundere about it, and initially won't tell Asbel because her frustrations towards his lack of awareness that she has feelings for him. If not for the ending of the game making it clear they do eventually get together (given the child that is just Asbel with Cheria's eye color), it can seem like the two are only a "love interest" because the game says they are. It took a Updated Re-release to lay some actual foundations for their relationship, but then people were annoyed because the re-release part added so much obvious supertext between Asbel and Cheria that it failed to remove the feeling of them being shoved together at the last minute, when the two still don't outright admit their feelings, which didn't really resolve the issues.
    • Tales of Xillia: The official couple of Jude and Milla lack chemistry, often coming off as indifferent towards each other. The English dub made this worse due to the voice actors also lacking chemistry and the loss of romantic dialogue through the dubbing process. Adding the many other sources of Ship Tease in the game meant that many fans were not persuaded the couple was meant to be more than friends. The sequel is more blatant about teasing the pair, but that led to complaints about this teasing leading to a Romantic Plot Tumor.

    Web Animation 
  • Hazbin Hotel: The friendship between Charlie and Vaggie was written so tenderly that many storyboard artists working on the show took them to be a couple; Vivienne decided to roll with that and they are canonically a couple now. But in the pilot, their relationship is so subtle that many first-time viewers take Vaggie to simply be Charlie's friend.

    Web Comics 
  • Beth and Fisk from Better Days fall into this. Never do we see the characters discussing their hopes, dreams, or fears together. They become sex friends about a day after they meet with little provocation. Then while Fisk is serving his time in the military, Beth somehow falls deeper in love with him during his absence. Even though she is actively dating two other men who are more financially secure, physically and emotionally available to her than Fisk is. If they aren't having sex then they are talking to each other in bed right after sex but it's never about anything important. Sans one time when Beth desperately wants Fisk to live with her, these two characters never express how much they supposedly mean to each other and the reader is supposed to assume that their relationship is deeper than just their sex drive. She does eventually give up on him and settled down with her boyfriend Aron instead, so this could arguably be a deconstruction of the whole concept.
    • Less when there's a few lines about how Beth and Fisk broke up because she 'wouldn't accept his job'. Except....that wasn't what happened at all. Beth asked Fisk to make their relationship more than sex, a huge risk for her, and he decided to accept his much-hated assassination job. Beth never said she didn't accept the job or indicated she knew what the job actually was at all, only that the guy who said he'd live with her suddenly said he wouldn't go do a job he had no desire to do a week before.
  • Kevin & Kell featured longtime character Rhonda getting Put on a Bus by marrying her online boyfriend, who was first mentioned and introduced in the strip merely days before this event took place. Up until that point, Rhonda had been dating Edgar since high school and the previous year had even featured a story arc where Edgar humiliated himself trying to learn how to hunt to show that he cared more about Rhonda's acceptance than his own species'. The previous plotline had taken several weeks to resolve, while Rhonda's marriage and subsequent disappearance from the strip happened over only one week. On top of that, this led to another plotline with Edgar learning how to hunt to get Rhonda back.
  • Name a pairing from Sonichu. Virtually everyone in the series paired off with very little reasoning. Sonichu fell in love with Rosechu after meeting for a few seconds. Bubbles fell for Blake for some unknown reason. Everyone else? Paired off in mandatory dating classes!
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things parodies Jules from Pacific Rim: Uprising, who's an Implied Love Interest to Jake and Nate despite lacking any characterization or relationship with them.
    Jake: Do you have any idea who that person is?
  • The Legend of Spyro: Zonoya's Revenge:
    • Ember settles for Flame when Cynder beats her for Spyro's love and the two are rarely seen alone together, only to do things like calling each other fat and Flame implying that Cynder is better looking than Ember.
    • Zonoya and Rapture. She treats him like a rebound at best and like crap at worst, continuing to mourn Malefor after apparently realizing Rapture loved her. We also don't know why exactly Rapture loves Zonoya to begin with.
    • Sparx and Layla, as most of their interactions revolve around Sparx's temptation to eat her.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10:
    • Ben 10: Alien Force: Gwen and Kevin — the ship was dropped on the viewer with absolutely no set-up, no basis, no rationality in the very first episode. Kevin almost wrecking his precious car to tell Ben not to be rude to Gwen could be attributed to Badass Decay, but "I'll follow you anywhere"? Were the writers afraid that if they took the time for some actual development, the show might be canceled before their new favorite couple actually got together? Made worse when put in context with Kevin's previous characterization. When last we'd seen him back in the original series, he considered the fact that his plans would have a massive body count a fringe benefit. So him suddenly returning as a protagonist willingly working with the heroes seemed wildly out of character. And even if you accept that a person can change a lot after years in the Phantom Zone, the idea of Gwen, who last saw Kevin working with Vilgax to try and kill her and Ben, having the same immediate affection for him is pretty far-fetched. As time and Character Development passed, their relationship is made more believable, but their Love at First Sight upon being reunited was jarring.
    • Ben 10: Omniverse: The relationship between Ben and his official love interest, Kai, isn't handled much better. Kai only appeared once in the original series, and that appearance ended with her essentially breaking Ben's heart. When they meet up again in Omniverse, despite having not seen each other for six years, they immediately start up a Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic that is way more Slap than Kiss. Pretty much the only reason we're given to believe that they're destined to be together is that they need to get married and reproduce so that Spanner can exist, and even that excuse seems flimsy since the show also gave us the concept of The Multiverse, so Spanner could be from the future of one of many alternate realities instead. It's apparent that the Ominiverse showrunners were reliant on the questionably-canon idea that Kai was the mother of Ben's future son Ken in the original series episode "Ken 10"...even though that amounted to the writers having suggested her as a possible mother simply because she was the only girl yet introduced who was Ben's age and not his cousin.
  • Family Guy: Brian and Lois. Before the series amplified their character traits, Brian only seemed to be interested in Lois because she's nice and caring, which isn't really going above and beyond a stereotypical housewife and matriarch. Outside their relationship as dog and owner, the two don't really have enough depth to show how they could work as a couple and the primary argument that Brian has when it comes to being in a relationship with Lois is that Peter doesn't appreciate her enough and she can do better with Brian. The series rarely shows her and Brian bonding over any shared interests or showing how Lois is still attracted to Peter despite Brian's efforts. In later seasons, the crush has devolved into just sexual attraction as Brian openly lusts for Lois and admits that he just wants to have sex with her, not date her.
  • From Gargoyles:
    • Elisa and Goliath could be considered this in season three. The build-up went well for two seasons, culminating in a kiss in the second season finale and a date in the third season premiere (well, a planned date that got aborted by attempted murder, anyway). After that, any overt romance disappears, save for an All Just a Dream episode where they're married. In this case, the problem was Executive Meddling — the creator, Greg Weisman, had been booted from the show, and as a result, every episode after the premiere is Canon Discontinuity; the comic book Post-Script Season that replaces it does, in fact, deal with the implications of their hook-up.
    • Also, Angela and Broadway. They have a single moment of sexual tension near the end of season two, a result of their bodies having been possessed by the spirits of Official Couple Coldfire and Coldstone. In the season three premiere, later reenacted in the comic book, they share a kiss out of nowhere, a hugely significant event as gargoyles mate for life. In neither continuity do they share a single additional romantic moment, the only contribution their relationship makes to the comics' plot is the two of them often standing near each other so that the perpetually single Brooklyn can glare at them jealously.
  • In Batman Beyond, Dana was Terry's girlfriend from before the series started and is continuously Terry's girlfriend for the entire run of the series. However, the audience doesn't really get to see much on-screen romance between the two due to the series's focus on superhero action and Dana's lack of screentime. Most of the time their romance is shown either by being arm-in-arm when together, or when Terry has to break a date. During those brief interactions, there are a number of times that Dana suggests skipping work to spend time with her because she thinks Terry is working too hard. While it seems that the intent is to show she's worried about him overworking, it also comes across as having Skewed Priorities and her being high-maintenance. In the later episodes, Dana gets Demoted to Extra as Max fills her role as a normal person that Terry talks to.
  • Some of the Young Justice (2010) romances fell into this trope.
    • Tim Drake and Cassie Sandsmark barely interact with each other and are given almost nothing to do in the second season, but by the end of that season, they're a couple. It seems to have only happened because they were together in the comics at the time. What's odd is that they're still dating in season three, but still barely interact. They're implied to be having off-screen relationship issues due to winding up on different sides of the superheroes' split, but all that we see is them interacting with their respective set of allies.
    • Also, Lagoon Boy and Miss Martian. They get together in the time skip, but we never really see anything beyond her kissing him a few times. The relationship mostly exists to cause tension between the two and Superboy.
  • One episode of Dinosaucers had Teryx admit her feelings to Ichy. However, she'd never shown any interest in him previously, Ichy didn't seem at all interested in her, when she was kidnapped by Genghis Rex to force her to marry him, Ichy was not the one who rescued her, and the relationship was barely even touched upon afterwards. Although, a lot of that may be blamed on Status Quo Is God.
  • Over time Stan and Wendy from South Park devolved into this; initially Stan had a crush on Wendy and the reason they couldn't get together was because he threw up in her face every time they got in a romantic moment. However Stan would get over this and they did get together, but very little of their relationship was shown on-screen until they broke up, which Stan was really upset about for an episode. Later they did get back together, which didn't really change much for them, since it still would mostly happen offscreen and the rare time it was brought up it wasn't important to the ongoings of the episode. Wendy's declining screentime on the show really didn't help in that regard, as well as the fact that most Stan and Wendy's stories usually don't involve the other in some way. When the girls did a Lysistrata Gambit in season 20 they broke up again; seemingly for good. It really comes off as the two only are together because one of them is the main male lead and the other is the female lead and little else.
  • Samurai Jack: Quite a few viewers felt that Jack and Ashi's relationship, especially at the beginning, came off as closer to father/daughter than anything romantic. Even those who didn't felt that it wasn't a very satisfying romance story.