The character indulges in an endless series of one-night stands and impulsive sexual encounters. Consciously or unconsciously they use such promiscuous behavior as a substitute for a lack of parental love and affection (either actual or perceived).
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places differs from The Casanova in that the Casanova is a predator indulging his desires and sating himself with his conquests, while Looking For Love is desperately searching for someone who respects and cares for them. This does not mean that Looking For Love is necessarily clingy or "wimpy"; they can appear to be as aggressive and self-centered as The Casanova, and the two can easily overlap.
A variation on this trope is the unlucky variation of Single Woman Seeks Good Man; the character (nearly always a woman) who is permanently on the lookout for Mr. (or, more rarely, Ms.) Right. Whilst she might settle for Mr. Right Now if things are particularly bleak on that front, she'll go into every relationship convinced that "this is The One!" — however, unfortunately for her every relationship she engages in will result in hilarity ensuing as every single man she dates either turns out to be a Romantic False Lead, has some small imperfection or otherwise turns out to be a complete jerk, thus leaving her right back where she started. It's often a complete waste of time anyway, since a bit of close self-examination would probably reveal — much to her shock — that she's in love with The Hero anyway.
See also Casanova Wannabe — the two character types complement each other. Compare Ladykiller in Love.
Not to be confused withMaking Love in All the Wrong Places or the second Leisure Suit Larry game. Though if the character likes to have public sex, it may overlap.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Nana "Hachiko" Komatsu from Nana epitomizes this trope: she has the worst possible taste in men, falls in love at the drop of a hat, and throws away the one good relationship she gets into (with Nobu) to stay with Smug Snake Takumi, who is also the father of her baby.
Genius Bruiser Hanamichi Sakuragi from Slam Dunk has fallen for 50 girls in his three years of junior high, and all of them have rejected him. Similarly, his friend and the team's Fragile Speedster Ryouta Miyagi has been hopelessly in love with his best friend, the Tsundere Ayako, but she's not receptive to his open affections. Curiously, the time they met Miyagi attempted to beat the shit out of Sakuragi after mistaking him for Ayako's date.
David Kruegel (a.k.a. Tekkaman Sommer) of Tekkaman Blade II is hopelessly in love with his boss, Aki Kisaragi, who has been devoted to Tekkaman Blade since day one of the original series. He disguises/denies this by surrounding himself with the Space Knights' Wrench Wenches and Bridge Bunnies, then taking all his evenings to the nearby bar and having frequent one night stands. Then he meets Dead End, who is really, really feminine.
In Anatolia Story, Prince Kail has had many relationships with women, however none have been long-lasting. He has vowed to only take one legal wife, and since he's all but assured to be the next king, he wants to make sure that wife has the goodness, intelligence, and inner strength to handle holding the second-most powerful position in the kingdom. At one point, Princess Guzel tells Yuri that Kail never actually fell asleep with any of the women he slept with, herself included, implicitly because he wasn't able to let down his guard enough; therefore, the fact that Kail is willing to sleep with Yuri in both senses (as in, have sex with her and stay the night) is a HUGE sign that she has the qualities he's been looking for.
The Wallflower: Main character Sunako's aunt. Most every time one of her relationships is the main plot, it won't end up working out. She managed to find and marry a good man, her 'darling', in her backstory, but unfortunately he passed away. It's noted she was lucky to find him, given she has no judgment when it comes to men.
Films — Animation
Howl's Moving Castle: While the Miyazaki adaptation doesn't play up Howl's The Casanova tendencies quite as much as in the book, it's more heavily implied that his inability to take things like romance seriously is because he removed his heart as a child, and it was thus never able to grow and mature.
Lord John gets his own series, and still he doesn't find a lasting relationship.
Johnny Truant in House of Leaves. He idolizes one woman—a stripper, to boot—but never works up the nerve to talk to her.
Howl of Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle, who thinks he's in love but loses interest as soon as the girl begins to reciprocate. It's implied that he cannot genuinely love anyone due to having given up his heart in a Deal with the Devil. Despite this, he remains a sympathetic character. And gets better.
Seth Hammerstaal, the male protagonist of Íverenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt, is a reconstructed example. He's believed to be a casanova, but really, he's looking for "the right one". And after he meets Beatrice, the story's female protagonist, he starts losing his interest in any other woman.
Arguably Angela Montenegro from Bones, at least according to Sweets' interpretation.
Mark Corrigan from Peep Show, whose never-ending search for "the one" drives a lot of the show's events.
Martin Tupper of Dream On, who went through woman after woman in a effort to replace his true love, his ex-wife, Lilith. (It should be noted that many fans of the show found Martin and Lilith's final season reconciliation to be the show's Shark Jump moment.)
Friends: Chandler and Monica. Chandler tries humiliating hook ups that never fufill him, or committing to women who cheat on him. Monica dates her parents best friend, a millionaire and several jerks. They finally realize the love of their life is living across the hall and end up Happily Married. Jeez, it wasn't like they had to look far.
Ted from How I Met Your Mother. Especially for the viewer, who already knows where he'll find his true love.
Robin herself points this out to Ted. He chased her when he knew she was the wrong woman for Ted (didn't want kids, apprehensive of marriage, etc) and continued to harbor feelings for her even after their amicable breakup. He pursued Stella who was still in love with the father of her child. He went after Zoey who was married at the time and actively trying to destroy his career. His poor judgement gets called on several times by other characters.
Used in an episode of Law & Order: SVU with a woman who quite literally had a sex addiction. However, this was not due to lack of affection but due to indirect sexual abuse by her father. It is presented as tragic rather than sexy or humorous.
With The L Word's Shane, it seems to be a toss-up between this and a benign lesbian The Casanova, considering her 1000+ sexual conquests, propensity for one night stands, almost supernatural talent at seduction (e.g. while working at a wedding, managing to have sex with the mother and both sisters of the bride), compulsive cheating, and trail of broken hearts. The thing is, though, she's portrayed as an extremely caring person who gets laid so easily in part because of her empathy, and has genuinely fallen in love a few times, only to inevitably sabotage those relationships with her impulsiveness and pathological commitment issues. Her long-lost deadbeat dad gives her behavior a Freudian Excuse as well as a hint of In the Blood when she finally meets him and learns that he's a huge womanizer too.
Charlotte in Sex and the City is all about this. While not really desperate, she has a string of bad boyfriends (and one husband), all because she's obsessed with settling down with a rich, handsome, tall man. She also has a weak spot for artists (she's an art dealer). She settles for her bald and plump, but more or less nice and really good in bed divorce lawyer.
Star Trek: Voyager: Harry Kim has so far fallen for a Borg, a dead crewmember, a hologram, and was once the crewmate of a race saboteur.
And that one had a very strange Love Dodecahedron in it, with Worf lusting after the Klingon chick but eventually helping Quark woo her and Dax helping Worf help Quark and calling him out on not looking for someone more attainable (her).
Not to mention Kira and O'Brian feeling intimate whilst he was caring for her (Don't ask).
The early seasons of The West Wing portray Donna as something like this.
In The Following, series Big Bad Joe Carrol falls under this in the first season when he honestly thinks he can convince his perfectly sane and normal wife Claire Matthews to reconcile their marriage after he is exposed as a Serial Killer, starts a murderous cult, plants cultist Emma Hill (herself an example as she also is attracted to Joe) as babysitter for their son Joey, has Emma kidnap Joey, and goes so far as to have another cultist murder women with Claire's name to get to her. Needless to say, he's delusional, and by the end they are trying to kill each other.
Season 2 has a particularly twisted example. According to her adopted son Luke, Lily Gray - a wealthy psychopath who fostered a large number of children she raised to be killers- spent years looking for a soul mate amongst the homicidal maniacs of the world, one being a Serial Killer who abducted prostitutes and hunted them for sport, the most recent being Joe Carroll himself, whom she saw as an "artist" and lured out of hiding (via orchestrating a killing spree in his honour) in order to be his lover and patron. Since Joe is a Control Freak, he did not take this well, and the two end up despising each other.
The trope comes from the classic early 80's country hit "Lookin' for Love" by Johnny Lee.
I was lookin' for love
In all the wrong places
Lookin' for love in too many faces
Searchin' their eyes, lookin' for traces
Of what I'm dreamin' of
Hopin' to find a friend and a lover
I'll bless the day I discover
Another heart lookin' for love
The Survivor song "The Search Is Over" is about this trope. At the end, the guy realizes that the perfect girl for him has been there all along
"Save the Best for Last", performed by Vanessa Williams, tells a similar story from the viewpoint of the one who's always been there for the searcher.
How could you give your love to someone else And share your dreams with me? Sometimes the very thing we're looking for Is the one thing we can't see.
P.O.D.'s "Youth of the Nation" mentions a twelve-year-old girl named Suzie who falls into the wrong crowd:
She finds love in all the wrong places The same situations, just different faces
Now the hour is late and he thinks you're asleep You listen to him dress and you listen to him leave Like you knew he would You hear his car pull away in the street Then you move to the door and you lock it when He's gone for good
Then you walk to the window and stare at the moon Riding high and lonesome through a starlit sky And it comes to you how it all slips away Youth and beauty are gone one day No matter what you dream or feel or say It ends in dust and disarray...
The second installment in the Leisure Suit Larry series is subtitled "Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places)" and involves Larry searching for a fulfilling relationship. This also applies to the first game: At the start he's just looking to lose his virginity, but later on he starts looking for actual commitment and, in his desperate search, even gets married. Though, of course, he only stays married for about ten minutes.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer: Gannayev is revealed to be pretty much this, once you get to know him. To start with, he's a hagspawn (even if an abnormally handsome one at that), a race that basically consists of the offspring of evil hags seducing human men and later eating them, so no good rep there. He also grew up with the impression that his hag mother deliberately abandoned him in the wilds as a baby. Facing hatred and prejudice from human communities, Gann has a go strolling through the land seducing young farmgirl virgins (sometimes in their dreams, no less). It takes meeting the player character, who acts in an understanding way, and meeting his mother and learning that she had in fact loved both him and his father and had been forced to abandon him to make Gann finally open himself to genuine love.
This happens to Muffy in the Wonderful Life Harvest Moon games. All of her boyfriends break her heart. For example, one of them was married and cheating on his wife with her (Muffy didn't know). She's always saying how men won't date her because she is "too old".
Betty Meyer in Last Window can be a bit of a flirt and asserts she can wrap men around her finger. She eventually starts going out with Rex, leading Kyle to confront her and her to eventually admit she knows she's being used but is so lonely she doesn't care.
Tybalt of Boy Meets Boy has elements of this: He sleeps around even though he's waiting for The One, but as he explains, it's so he won't get lonely while he waits.
In Homestuck, Marquise Spinneret Mindfang would often take hostages from the ships she plundered. At night, she would solicit the hostages when it was too dark to tell their blood color, hoping to find a matesprit among them.
She eventually resorted to looking into the future to find her destined matesprit. She soon regretted it (and stopped looking into the future) since her destined partner was also the troll who was destined to kill her.
Then there's Eridan. After being rejected by Feferi, he turns to another potential love interest. And then another. And then, with increasing desperation, another...and then another...and then another...
Survival of the Fittest: Rosa Fiametta. She managed to wise up a bit, but that just made future searches for Mr/Miss Right even worse.