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"Was it love, or was it the idea of being in love?"—Pink Floyd (arguably), "One Slip"
"Falling in love with love is falling for make-believe."—Lorenz Hart, "The Boys from Syracuse"
A Stock Phrase used to describe someone who either seeks/has multiple relationships in quick succession or pines for/stays with someone they don't love, 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.
Anime and Manga
- Brock from Pokémon 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.
- Word of God in regard to Akane's crush on Madoka in Kimagure Orange Road: She is in love with the idea of being love with Madoka.
- Sanji of One Piece practically oozes this trope 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.)
- In the North American dub, Arielle of El-Hazard: The Magnificent World actually invokes the Stephen Stills song, 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."
- In Princess Tutu, Ahiru aka Duck/Princess Tutu's love for Mytho was this, since he was kind to her when she was a cute little duck in need but she didn't actually know his person. Drosselmeyer used these feelings to try making her his pawn so she'd ultimately push the story itself towards the tragic ending he wanted so badly... but when Ahiru realized the truth and that Rue/Princess Kraehe was the one who loved Mytho unconditionally, she rebelled against him.
- In "You And I Will Fall In Love", an Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic, this is the only reason that Russia wants to fall in love with America. At first.
- 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 in love not with Curt Wilde, but the "idea of Curt Wilde."
- The title character in Don Juan Demarco exemplifies this troupe (as does his literary role model.)
- 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
ManDude 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 in a Tsundere-ish way.
- 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.
- There are a few other examples, like Jorah Mormont, Quentyn Martell, Rhaegar Targaryen, Arys Oakheart, Tristifer Botley, and even Tyrion Lannister, whose extremely unwise actions around women they "love" could be interpreted as this, since they act like Genre Blind characters in a love story rather than approaching the matter like Genre Savvy residents of a Crapsack World. Whether these characters are an example of this trope, or more basic cases of Loving a Shadow, Love Makes You Dumb, Love Makes You Crazy, Love Makes You Evil or Love Ruins the Realm is a matter of personal opinion.
Live Action TV
- 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.
- Piper of Charmed. She actually says "I love love".
- Don't forget Phoebe. She marries a Cupid, basically a physical embodiment of love.
- Good God, Nate Archibald from Gossip Girl is the living embodiment of this trope! He's fallen head over heels for every single girl in the show, only to completely forget her two weeks later, not to mention all the Shallow Love Interests the boy's 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 being pretty much his entire reason for living. His quest for the eponymous mother was the original driving force behind the show, though at this point nobody really cares anymore. In any case, he is rarely happy when out of a relationship and constantly complains/hopes to find "The One".
- The Richard Rodgers song "Falling In Love With Love."
- Deconstructed 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
- A complicated example from the Dungeons and 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 is often described this way. Sometimes Juliet is, too.
- The Austrian version of Romeo Et Juliette De La Haine a Lamour has Benvolio even say "He is in love with the idea of being in love" about Romeo.
- Freddy is often interpreted as this in My Fair Lady.
- Orsino from Twelfth Night.
- Finian's Rainbow has the song "When I'm Not Near The Girl I Love (I Love The Girl I'm Near)."
- In a similar vein, Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With".
- The lovers in Commedia Dell'Arte are often like this.
- Cherubino from The Marriage of Figaro admits that he's one of these, and he tells that to Susanna and the Countess in his songs.
- In Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, 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, 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.
- Xkcd has dealt with this a few times. This strip has the girl leaving the boy after accusing him of this.
- In One Over Zero, 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."
- Looney Tunes: Pepe Le Pew falls instantly in true love with anything he thinks is a female skunk.
- This is a stereotype within the lesbian community, where lesbians are described as being "serial monogamists", having intense, all-absorbing relationships that quickly fizzle, with each breaking up only to repeat the cycle anew with someone else. In fact a common joke goes "What does a lesbian bring to a second date? A U-haul van."
- Many people are like this on all sides of the sexual spectrum: staying with someone they're not particularly attracted to just because that other person is into them, staying with someone who doesn't respect them or is even downright abusive, or keeping a dead relationship going because neither one wants to break up, just because they don't want to be alone.
- Particularly heart-breaking on teenage relationships. At first, they begin to picture themselves (sometimes after just one month of being a couple) as being married and having a home of their own and having kids. When the relationship is over, they find a new partner, start changing little bits of their fantasy, and start the cycle all over again.