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In Love with Love

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"Love was to her the one cordial which could drive away the eating loneliness of her days. And she seemed to long for the abstraction called passionate love more than for any particular lover."

A Stock Phrase used to describe someone who pines for/stays with someone they don't love (or who treats them poorly) because they don't want to be alone. The implication is that the character cares more about being in a romantic relationship with someone than the person they're having the relationship with. Since this attitude is exactly as unhealthy as it sounds, such a character invariably ends up Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places. They may be Allergic to Routine and have a hard time sticking around because they believe True Love Is Boring.


This can result in Loving a Shadow or be used as a Retcon when a hyped relationship becomes an Aborted Arc. See also Serial Romeo, where a character seeks out several relationships in quick succession but genuinely loves each person they pursue.

Not to be confused with a Love Freak who is literally in love with the concept of love.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon:
    • Brock is this type; he falls for just about every female he meets. Except, for no reason other than she's one of the bad guys, Jessie from Team Rocket. Granted, this is Played for Laughs as a Running Gag more than anything else. It's never explained why (though given him being a Parental Substitute for his siblings is implied to contribute to it.)
      • In "The Heartbreak of Brock," he meets a girl who's like this, and it completely throws him off his game. By the time he recovers, she's moved on to someone else.
    • Ash's Oshawott is much the same, falling for every female Pokemon he comes across.
    • Bonnie from the XY saga is an odd example, being in love with the idea of a woman being in love with her brother, Clemont. He is not amused.
  • Word of God in regard to Akane's crush on Madoka in Kimagure Orange Road: She is in love with the idea of being in love with Madoka.
  • Kanojo ni Naritai Kimi to Boku: Akira, a trans girl that just started transitioning, falls in love with an older boy named Hasegawa after he accidentally spills a sports drink on her and gives her a bottle as an apology gift, even joining the soccer team as a manager just to be closer to him. She later confesses to him, by which point she was under no illusion she actually was in love with him, but rather, she loved the idea of falling in love and pinning for a charming upperclassman after meeting him in a quirky, unexpected way, just like a shoujo manga heroine, because that would make her feel more like a girl.
  • Sanji of One Piece as part of his Chivalrous Pervert personality. Nami and Robin get it the most, but only because of proximity, but that also means they put up with it because they all know each other so well (and Nami, in particular, isn't above using it to her benefit.)
    • Becomes a bit Harsher in Hindsight when we learn of his Dark and Troubled Past with his lost mom and his monstrous brothers, the result of experiments by his father. At the same time, when in an Arranged Marriage, he actually turns her down for his True Companions (bringing them to happy tears) though is forced to remain out of threat. The woman in question has her own issues, but his act of kindness also began helping her.
  • In the North American dub, Arielle of El-Hazard: The Magnificent World actually (unknowingly) quotes Stephen Stills' "Love The One You're With", although in her case it's arguably as much a case of gleeful acceptance of her lustful urges as it is an emotional condition.
  • The motivation of the main character in Millennium Actress, who believes it's better than actually being in love.
  • Explicitly the point behind Chihiro's arc in The World God Only Knows. Chihiro picks out boys to confess to because it's exciting to be in a love drama. Then she starts to have a real love drama, and it scares her into running away.
  • Martina of Slayers Next falls in Love at First Sight with virtually every named male character she meets over the course of the series. The fixation on Zangulus lasts long enough for her to get married off and removed from the cast.
  • Tsugumi Halberd of Soul Eater Not! introduces herself with "Hello, I'm 14 years old, in love with love, Tsugumi Halberd."
  • Yuno's obsession with Yukiteru in Future Diary is an extremely warped version of this. She had just murdered her Abusive Parents and saw no hope for her future, until a day when she and Yuki were the only ones who couldn't finish their 'write your dreams for the future' exercise. She decided then that her dream would be to marry Yukiteru since it gave her some hope for the future. She eventually admits that anyone would have done just as well for her as long as she could depend on them.
  • In Brave10, the author notes in one of her doujinshi that Isanami, being a naive 16-year-old, is squarely in this stage, which is why she fixates on Saizo even though he's not interested.
  • Deconstructed with Toneri Otsutsuki of The Last: Naruto the Movie. As the last member of his clan, and having lived for years all alone in the moon, he wants to marry Hinata Hyuga to repopulate Earth once he has killed everyone else, especially her Love Interest Naruto. It's patently clear that his isolation has given him a serious case of Lack of Empathy, as made evident by his actions throughout the movie, including kidnapping her sister Hanabi, removing Hanabi's eyes, and brainwashing Hinata to become his puppet when he discovers that her accepting his marriage proposal was actually a ruse. He doesn't care at all for Hinata's feelings and treats her more like a personal trophy than a person.
  • In Bloom Into You, Sayaka's First Love was Chie Yuzuki, an older girl at their middle school, who had broken off the relationship shortly after advancing to the high school division, saying that they were outgrowing the Gay Romantic Pase. The spinoff novel Regarding Sayaka Saeki expands on this part of Sayaka's life and has her come to the conclusion that Chie had been "in love with love," and hadn't actually had feelings for Sayaka as a person.
  • Asahi Saiba of Food Wars! concocts a very complicated plan to try and marry Erina Nakiri, which includes infiltrating her school as a substitute teacher, kidnapping and blackmailing her into competing against him in the BLUE, thinking that he could sweep her off her feet and she would fall for him. Turns out that he took the words of his mentor Joichiro of "finding a special woman to cook for" the wrong way, and deep down all he wanted was to experience familial bonds. Furthermore, he's horrified to learn that he's the son of Erina's father from a one-night stand.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: Ichika Nakano, the eldest of the titular quintuplets, seems to have a case of this for male lead Fuutarou Uesugi. Despite being the most openly flirtatious and teasing out of the five sisters, she suddenly finds herself attracted to him and unsure why. On two different occasions, she's questioned about her feelings for him and is unable to answer, which implies she's more enticed to the idea of being in love with him rather than being attracted to him as a person (by contrast, her sister Miku, despite being shy and withdrawn, lists the qualities she likes of him without hesitation when asked).

  • In "You And I Will Fall In Love", a Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic, this is the only reason that Russia wants to fall in love with America at first.
  • This is actually the cause of much tension between Lyra and Bonbon in the Reading Rainbowverse. Specifically, Lyra feels that Bonbon wants their relationship to be a certain way, to the point where she is willing to drug herself with love poison... ironically indicating she might care about Bonbon more than Bonbon cares about her.

    Films — Animated 
  • Frozen (2013): Princess Anna, to the point where she accepts a marriage proposal from Prince Hans within hours of meeting him. This nearly spells disaster for her when Hans' true motives in courting her emerge; he only wants her to gain access to the throne of Arendelle.
  • Dawn from Strange Magic is constantly trying to find a boyfriend. So naturally, she's hit by a love potion as part of the plot.
  • Encanto: This is implied to be the case with Isabela's fiancé Mariano. When she breaks it off, he sadly says he just has so much love in his heart and he wants to share it, and she introduces him to her cousin Dolores. Upon hearing that she always secretly had a crush on him, he proposes to her on the spot, despite having literally been dumped five minutes ago, which implies he's eager to find love and settle down with somebody but hasn't given much thought as to who. Dolores gently tells him to pump the brakes and the movie ends with the implication that, while they'll probably end up married (since Bruno's prophecy did call Mariano "the man of [Dolores'] dreams"), they'll date for a while first.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Sleepless in Seattle when comparing the idea of love in the real world to love as it's portrayed in Hollywood, Rosie O'Donnell says to Meg Ryan, "Your problem is that you don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie."
  • In Velvet Goldmine, the David Bowie Expy Brian Slade falls in love not with Curt Wilde but the "idea of Curt Wilde."
  • The title character in Don Juan DeMarco exemplifies this trope as he calls himself 'the world's greatest lover'. The movie's tagline follows with 'the friends who try to cure him of it'. (This is the same case for his literary role model.)
  • Bruce Wayne/Batman has a very unhealthy case of this towards Rachel Dawes in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy. While he does value her as a person, he also sees her as his one chance for a normal life should Batman no longer be needed. She outright tells him not to pin all his hopes on her, and ultimately chooses Harvey Dent over him. After Rachel and Harvey both die, Bruce spends years as a social recluse, only stepping back into the world when he meets Selina Kyle.
  • Moulin Rouge! focuses on Christian, who comes to Paris to explore the idea of love. So naturally, he plans to fall in love with the hottest-looking prostitute in town. Therefore, he totally breaks down once his idealistic view is shattered.
  • In Cinderella (1997), the mother appears to be warning her daughters about how bad this can be ("falling in love with love/is falling for make-believe"). However, watching it closely, it looks more like the mother was in fact very deeply in love with her late husband, and dislikes the eponymous Cinderella because she reminds her of him. The cynicism is clear a little later in the song: "learning to trust is just for children in school..." Note, unlike most of the numbers, this song was not written by Rodgers and Hammerstein but Rodgers and Hart, and was originally written for their 1938 musical The Boys From Syracuse.
  • In Star Wars, Padme seems to be this way. It's not so much Anakin she falls in love with as the combination of the forbidden fruit of their secret relationship, the attention he showers her with, and the bad boy allure he possesses. This gets deconstructed by the time of Revenge of the Sith as it's revealed that forbidden fruit aspect has put serious strain on their relationship as they keep their marriage hidden, the attention Anakin showers her with turns possessive as he starts to see her less as an equal and more as an idealized goddess, and that bad boy allure isn't nearly so appealing when he falls to the Dark Side and starts murdering children in a misguided to keep her safe.

  • X-Wing Series: Tyria said this to Kell, also telling him that he was Loving a Shadow.
  • In the Nero Wolfe novel A Family Affair, a slightly hysterical female client tells Archie, "I want your arms around me!" Archie rebuffs her with, "You want arms around you. Not necessarily mine."
  • The evil Walking Man Dude from The Stand never even pretends to love his mate, merely reciting how he "loves to love Nadine". Subverted in that he's more interested in siring a child upon her than having a relationship.
  • Lord Byron's Don Juan is a standard-setter for Loving To Fall In Love. (The heartless-bastard lecher from Mozart's opera, not so much.)
  • A Song of Ice and Fire, being a Deconstruction of many of the tropes of medieval fantasy literature, including chivalrous courtly love, has a few characters who fit this trope.
    • Robert Baratheon has turned Lyanna Stark into his version of The Lost Lenore, mourning her for years, unfavourably comparing his living wife to her, and speaking as if she would have been the woman of his dreams if she had lived. However, it is implied (especially by Ned Stark) that Robert didn't actually know her that well; in contrast to the angelic paragon of feminine virtue Robert seems to imagine, other people describe her as more of a hot-tempered, tomboyish Tsundere. In The TV adaptation a scene is added where Robert admits that as much as he puts Lyanna on a pedestal, he can't even remember what she looked like.
    • Sansa Stark is another example of this, though she at least has the excuse of being very young. She constantly thinks of her betrothed Joffrey in terms of songs and stories, and in the first book, she repeatedly and passionately declares that she loves him, despite only having a few (not particularly intimate) interactions with him. She gets a rather rude awakening from this mindset when Joffrey chops her father's head off after promising to be merciful.
  • In the Protector of the Small quartet, Neal gets crushes on women (that are usually already taken) and goes about sighing and writing bad poetry about unrequited love and the like. When he falls in love with and gets engaged to Kel's Childhood Friend Yuki, he behaves completely differently. His best friend Keladry notes that he doesn't go about sighing and lamenting not being with her when they are separated, and is instead morose and quiet, which is proof to her that he genuinely loves Yuki.
  • Eustacia in Return Of The Native:
    To be loved to madness—such was her great desire. Love was to her the one cordial which could drive away the eating loneliness of her days. And she seemed to long for the abstraction called passionate love more than for any particular lover.
  • In By the Sword, Kerowyn's first real boyfriend, Prince Daren, assumes she'll give up her planned career and marry him. Her wise grandmother says the trope name word-for-word, explaining that Daren's not emotionally mature yet. They break it off but remain friends.
  • The Charm Offensive: Dev is a romantic man who loves his work on the show because he gets to make those fairy-tale romances real. Deconstructed in that this is shown to make it really hard to make a real romantic connection to people in his personal life. Ryan calls out that although Dev complains about him only liking "Fun Dev", Dev himself would close himself off to letting Ryan meet any other Dev. Ryan never could help Dev during his depressive episodes because Dev would totally close himself off to him, ignore his calls and attempts to enter in contact with him. Ryan admits he loved Dev, but the kind of love Dev wants doesn't really exist.
    Ryan: Of course I loved you. We were together for six years. I know I couldn't love you the way you wanted to be loved, but in my defense, the kind of love you want doesn't exist without a team of producers, a ton of editing, and a really good soundtrack. [...] You love orchestrating big romantic gestured, Dev, but you're scared shitless of anything that's real.

    Live Action TV 
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:
    • Rebecca is an overtly romantic woman who genuinely believes that all her problems will be solved once her crush on ex-boyfriend Josh is reciprocated. This is completely deconstructed as the entire show dedicates itself to showcasing how damaging this is for her already fragile mental state. An episode late in season one even expands on the fact that this chase has made her blind to other kinds of love that aren't romantic, including the fact that she is dearly loved by the friends she has made in West Covina.
    • Josh's character arc concludes in him realizing that he didn't want Rebecca in particular, just a loving romantic relationship. Since Rebecca doesn't feel ready for a romance, she lets him go, and he ends the series having found love with another woman.
  • In the third season of Downton Abbey, Mrs. Patmore's boyfriend subverts this. He claims, "Anytime, anyplace, I love to be in love!" but he's really a misogynistic hound who hits on every woman he sees.
  • The Frasier two-parter, "Don Juan in Hell," examines this trope as part of Frasier's self-analysis. The Diane in his head even quotes the song that provides the page quote.
  • Full House used that exact phrase. Jesse and Joey were fighting over a girl who showed interest in both of them. Danny stepped in and started asking them basic questions like what is her last name, what is her eye color, and what are her hobbies? Both of them were treating her like she was "the one" when in reality both just liked the idea of being in love.
  • Charmed
    • Piper says "I love love".
    • Phoebe marries a Cupid, basically a physical embodiment of love.
  • Gossip Girl
    • Nate Archibald has fallen head over heels for every single girl in the show, only to completely forget her two weeks later, not to mention all the Satellite Love Interests the boy has had. At one point, Gossip Girl herself labels him the Class Whore.
    • From season two and onward Serena fits this trope too. Especially in season three, where she has three "great loves" in the first twelve episodes.
  • Ted from How I Met Your Mother has his love for love is his entire reason for living. His quest for the eponymous mother was the original driving force behind the show, though at this point nobody cares. In any case, he is rarely happy when out of a relationship and constantly complains/hopes to find "The One".
  • Supernatural: Cupids "love love".
  • In Being Human, after Mitchell realizes that Herrick is still alive, he has a breakdown and starts berating Annie (who he's recently begun dating). When she asks him if he loves her, he tells her "I was in love with the idea of being in love!" The way he acts after (holding her and crying) shows that he didn't believe that, though.
  • Ross from Friends has shades of this. He married the woman he lost his virginity to, and they stayed married for over a decade until she came out as a lesbian and left him. Since then, he's basically been trying to recapture the happiness he felt while he was married, mostly by pursuing his high school crush well into his thirties and rushing into two further marriages, one of them while drunk. When he tried to annul the third (a month after his wife thought he already had), his divorce lawyer recommended therapy, which Ross says he will consider.
  • Community gave us a lot of Jeff/Annie Ship Tease in seasons 2 and 3, but Annie eventually admits to this in "Virtual Systems Analysis" when Abed imitates her in the Dreamatorium.
    Abed as Annie: We love Jeff.
    Annie: No, we don't. We're just in love with the idea of being loved. And if we can teach a guy like Jeff to do it, we'll never be unloved.
    • Despite this confession, this seems to be avoided in other episodes, where Annie's feelings seem to be more genuine.

  • The Richard Rodgers song "Falling In Love With Love."
  • In The Format song "Inches And Falling":
    I love love
    I love being in love
    I don't care what it does to me
    If fingertips are relationships
    Then I could barely carry your weight
    If fingers are mistakes
    Don't use this one to point the blame
  • The Reba McEntire song "The Fear of Being Alone."
    So don't say that word
    Not the one we both heard too much
    You may think you do but you don't
    It's just the fear of being alone
  • Pink Floyd, "One Slip", from A Momentary Lapse of Reason.
    Was it love, or was it the idea of being in love
    Or was it the hand of fate that seemed to fit just like a glove?
    The moments slipped by and soon the seeds were sown
    The year grew late, and neither one wanted to remain alone
  • Deborah Harry actually has a song called "In Love with Love".
  • Mentioned in David Bowie's "Soul Love" from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars:
    Inspirations have I none
    Just to touch the flaming dove,
    All I have is my love of love
    And love is not loving.
  • The Mowgli's song "San Francisco":
    I've been in love with love and the idea of something binding us together.
    You know that love is strong enough.
  • "Face to Face" by Dead Sara:
    "It's nice to know you love me, I'm in love with someone else,
    That's who I am, in love with love..."
  • Nightwish muses on this trope in "Slow, Love, Slow"
    "I wonder do I love you? Or the thought of you?"
  • "Love of Mine" by Nickel Creek describes this trope as a cycle of the feeling's life and death:
    For all these pretty words it wasn't her but love that I adored
    It's my love I adore
    Love of Mine, when you're born I tell myself
    That you'll never die

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Christopher Titus goes into this quite a bit, especially after he got divorced from an abusive ex. In his stand-up special Love is Evol, Titus talks about how people will put up with a terrible relationship for years simply because it's better than being alone. However, Titus argues against the mindset, saying that you don't get "martyr points" for staying in a relationship that's awful.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A complicated example from the Dungeons & Dragons supplement Races of the Dragon is the spellscales, a race of dragon-descended humanoids named for the fine, iridescent scales on their flesh. A vivacious people, spellscales throw themselves wholeheartedly into romantic relationships of any kind - falling helplessly in love with a total stranger, enjoying an illicit tryst, pining for someone unattainable, or suffering through a Mayfly–December Romance or an unfaithful spouse - before growing bored and finding love again. Other races describe spellscales as eternal adolescents, but it should be noted that they do care for their partners and their relationships, though melodramatic and often short-lived, are genuine.

  • Romeo and Juliet: Romeo is often described this way (before he meets Juliet, he's infatuated with another woman entirely). Sometimes Juliet is, too. The Austrian version of Roméo et Juliette, de la Haine à l'Amour has Benvolio even say "He is in love with the idea of being in love" about Romeo.
  • Orsino from Twelfth Night. He's attracted to Countess Olivia because she has sworn off love and marriage proposals for seven years due to mourning her father and brother. This act of devotion gives Orsino the idea that she is very worthy of his love, so he sends his new best friend Cesario to her place day after day, and practically rolls around in the tortured agonies of his unrequited love each time Cesario reports that Olivia still isn't interested.
  • Finian's Rainbow has the song "When I'm Not Near The Girl I Love (I Love The Girl I'm Near)."
  • Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With", although it could be more favourably interpreted as advice to find happiness with the relationship you've got instead of pining for someone unattainable.
  • The lovers in the Commedia dell'Arte genre are often like this. As Stock Characters, this is usually their defining characteristic besides being the Alpha Couple.
  • Cherubino from The Marriage of Figaro describes himself as one of these.
  • Linda accuses Robbie of this in the Broadway production of The Wedding Singer in the song "A Note From Linda".
  • Marian in The Music Man has overtones of this, as shown by "Being in Love."
    Being in love used to be my fav'rite dream.
    Oh, yes.
    I've been in love more than anybody else has.
    I guess.
  • In Eurydice, stage directions state that Eurydice and Orpheus should be played like they're too in love, and they're in love with the feeling of being in love as much as they are with each other and their personal interests.
  • In Love's Labour's Lost, Ferdinand and his gentlemen make such a big production of how they are "forsworn" for falling in love against their oath of celibacy, writing bad love poems, and dressing up in silly disguises to woo and serenade that the French princess and her ladies take their behavior for a game and respond to the advances with lighthearted mischief. They are stunned when Ferdinand says that he was absolutely not in jest in offering the Princess his hand.

    Video Games 
  • According to the Rumor Guy, Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds seems to have this. According to his story, she would wake up every night to stare longingly at a portrait of a princess and hero (presumably those of a previous incarnation) cuddling up, indicating she wants to find love in her own life.
  • In Undertale, you can talk to a Tsundereplane during the Playable Epilogue of the Golden Ending who claims that she wasn't in love with you, but with the concept of love. At least, that's what she tells you.
  • In Yandere Simulator, Yandere-chan says that she's addicted to the way Senpai makes her feel. She never says that she actually loves his personality or truly cares about him.
  • Persona 4 has Ai Ebihara. A big point in her Social Link as it is revealed that she just wanted to be in a relationship. In fact, if you accept her when she first asks, the Link will just be a meaningless love relationship that will break up at Rank 9. However, keep yourself a friend and if you gain the right flags, she will fall in genuine love with you and can be a Love Interest. Trips up many a Casanova Wannabe player.

  • xkcd has dealt with this a few times. This strip has the girl leaving the boy after accusing him of this.
  • In 1/0, Ghanny claims to be in love with Terra, but Petitus tells him that he's only projecting his vision of the ideal woman on her: "You latched onto the first female you saw, and applied all your ideas about love to her. She wasn't the one, though."
  • Piscine Mermaid from Wonderlab is an Abnormality that falls in love with just about anyone that enters her Containment Unit, even if the person of her affection doesn't actually care for her.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Braco from "The Suitor" claims he was literally born to date Princess Bubblegum, having inherited his place from his late father. But Bubblegum isn't interested in the slightest, and straight-up tells Braco what he feels is infatuation. Braco still stubbornly tries to court Bubblegum, despite suffering all sorts of injuries in his attempts to impress her. Braco goes so far as "paying the price for love" and being turned into an inexplicably attractive mutant by dark magic, but instead ends up hooking up with a robot duplicate of Bubblegum she made for him.
  • Deconstructed with Vlad Plasmius, the Big Bad of Danny Phantom. He is more obsessed with having Maddie as a normal wife rather than Maddie herself, to the point that he doesn't care that she rather loves her husband Jack or that actively killing him would only make her despise him more.
  • In the Daria episode "One J at a Time," Daria starts a relationship with Tom. Her sister Quinn, who has dated half the boys in school just for the popularity and gifts they can give her, becomes convinced that she needs a real boyfriend too, and becomes distressed when her attempts all fail (in part because Daria purposefully gave her unrealistic expectations of how it would work). Their mom eventually convinces Quinn that she doesn't need a serious relationship if she's not really ready for one.
  • On Gravity Falls, Mabel decides to have an "epic summer romance" in the pilot and spends some time flirting with every unrelated male of approximately compatible age she can find. She also fancies herself a matchmaker. However, she has a pretty childish view of how love works and often tries to force it when it's not there.
  • Looney Tunes: Pepe Le Pew falls instantly in true love with anything he thinks is a female skunk.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Pepe's female student, Fifi Le Fume. Two of her ideal boyfriends are boys who accidentally looked like skunks at the time.