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Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

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"Looking for love, in all the wrong places
Looking for love, in too many faces..."
Johnny Lee, "Lookin' for Love"

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 with Making Love in All the Wrong Places or Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places). Though if the character likes to have public sex, it may overlap.


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    Anime & 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.
  • In Red River (1995), 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.
  • Boisterous 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.
  • The princess of Tengu, Kurama from Urusei Yatsura. Every potential mate is a failure. Ataru is a pervert, Mendo turned out to be too pathetic and cowardly, Ryuunosuke wasn't really a man like she thought and Rei seemed like the one until she saw he was really an idiotic tiger-cow.
  • 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.
  • Team Rocket's Meowth in Pokémon: The Series has been through several infatuations over the years, and they've ended in just about every way imaginable. He learned to walk and talk to impress a girl Meowth, who was already in love with a Persian. He's also been hot for several Skittys, and a Glameow. His desire for a romantic companion has even led to him being tricked a few times; once by a Purrloin who was pretending to be a girl, and once by a Zorua who turned into a girl Meowth to distract him and help thwart Team Rocket's latest scheme.
  • Yuka Kunimoto of Random Walk has changed boyfriends three times over three volumes (five if you count her middle school exploits), and aside from the first one (whom she's now good friends with) and the final one (whom she's still together with), they all left her for a different girl.
  • Rebuild World: Carol being The Oldest Profession was partially motivated by this. She had a deep dark secret that could destroy her life if it came out, and so she would find strong hunters, get them addicted to her, and make them struggle to pay her, before asking for information as Pro Bono Barter. Everyone she slept with gave up their information eventually, proving they’re not someone that could be The Confidant to her. But Akira ends up serving as that without sleeping with her, which makes Carol consider quitting prostitution.

    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Vision: Of all the women Sam could have fallen in love with, did he have to do it with a female alien robot?

    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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • After being dumped by his girlfriend of seven years, Peter from Forgetting Sarah Marshall has a series of meaningless one-night stands in an effort to get over his ex.

  • In Apparatus Infernum, Mikani has a long list of ex-girlfriends, none of whom lasted very long and almost all of whom are now on bad terms with him. His developing relationship with Ritsuko is a break from the pattern and is considerably more solid even though it hasn't actually gone nearly as far.
  • Aurora Cycle: Scarlett Jones has at least 48 ex-boyfriends. Each one mentioned is also mentioned with a pro and a con, the latter being indicated as the reason why she dumped that particular ex.
  • Earth's Children: For most of his youth, Jondalar is searching for a woman to be his mate and several characters remark it's strange he still hasn't settled down yet at his age; Jondalar does want to get married but despite having many short-term lovers and being desired by plenty of women everywhere he goes, he still can't fall in love with any of them, much to his frustration. He seriously considers just throwing in the towel and mating Serenio despite not being in love with her; he does care for and respect her, they have a good sex life, he's close to her son and she has many attributes he admires. However, Serenio points out that neither of them would be truly happy and encourages him to keep looking. Part of him fears that the spirits have denied him romantic love because of his past transgression with Zolena. He even briefly wonders if he should be considering men instead, despite feeling no attraction to the same sex. He finally finds true love with Ayla, though as he notes he had to travel across an entire continent and nearly die to meet her.
  • 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.
  • Jimmy of Oryx and Crake clearly thinks of himself like this. As we find out in the companion novel The Year of the Flood, his lovers see him as more The Casanova.
  • Diana Gabaldon's Outlander: Lord John. The author just won't leave this man alone.
    • Lord John gets his own series, and still he doesn't find a lasting relationship.
  • Seth Hammerstaal, the male protagonist of Överenskommelser 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.
  • Ophira Eisenberg's memoir Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy recounts her efforts to, in her words, "build her own perfect Frankenmate" from her experiences "traveling from futon to futon and gathering data" until she met a man who wanted marriage and monogamy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arguably Angela Montenegro from Bones, at least according to Sweets' interpretation.
  • Deb in Dexter has this syndrome, seasoned lightly with Fatal Attractor and the Cartwright Curse.
  • Martin Tupper of Dream On, who went through woman after woman in an effort to replace his true love, his ex-wife, Lilith.
  • 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 a 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.
  • Friends: Chandler and Monica. Chandler tries humiliating hookups that never fulfill 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.
  • Jay from Herman's Head eventually admits that his Casanova Wannabe behavior is really motivated by a need to find someone who loves him.
  • 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 judgment 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 a 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.
  • Dan Fielding from Night Court, whose The Casanova reputation was revealed to be a desperate desire not to die alone.
  • Mark Corrigan from Peep Show, whose never-ending search for "the one" drives a lot of the show's events.
  • 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, two holograms, three vampire girls, a rebellious girl from a xenophobic species, and was once the crewmate of a race saboteur.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The episode "Looking for Par'Mach in All The Wrong Places" references this. Ironically, this is the episode in which Official Couple Dax and Worf get together. It also has 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 trope name comes from the classic early '80s 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. In 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
  • Bob Seger's "The Fire Inside":
    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...
  • Mentioned by name in the Mindless Self Indulgence song "I Hate Jimmy Page" but not actually a theme of the song.
  • The Suzaku Avenue song "I Think I Know what This is About" features the line:
    Cos I'm looking for love in all the wrong places
    And leaving my love on all the wrong faces
    Hunting and fucking and coming by rote
    And I'm looking for the answers at the bottom of your throat

  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • The entire Leisure Suit Larry series is like this, with the second game even being subtitled "Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places)". In the first game, Larry is just out to lose his virginity, but once he does so he finds it hollow and realizes that what he really wants is love. As a result, each game in the series tends to have Larry pursuing every woman in sight in the hopes of finding Miss Right, only discovering her at the very end of the game...and then she dumps him at the start of the very next game. While Larry did find his perfect match in Passionate Patti, she disappeared from the series with little explanation after Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work.
  • 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.
  • Zelos Wilder of Tales of Symphonia does this, although it's also part of a general Obfuscating Stupidity persona.
  • This happens to Muffy in the Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life 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".

    Visual Novels 
  • 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...
  • Nanase was like this in the backstory of El Goonish Shive. She dated a large number of guys, never staying with any of them for more than a couple of weeks, and hoping that she would find one who was right for her. However, she never really felt anything for any of them. At the start of the comic, she's dating Elliot, the only guy she stayed with for any length of time. However, even though she likes him as a person, she isn't attracted to him. It isn't until Elliot's Opposite-Sex Clone Ellen shows up that she realizes she's gay and finally has a successful relationship.
    • Later on, The Legend Of Diane clarified that this was how the titular character's serial dating got started, before eventually going from "maybe this one will be the one" to "we're all just kids hanging out and having fun" and finally to "boys are for buying me stuff".