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There's nothing quite like the presence of many happy couples to rub their single status in for the lovelorn, whatever their reason for being single.
This can be a scene with an improbable number of couples in, say, a park, or the character particularly noticing couples wherever he goes. This tends to be either a crowd of couples the same age as the character, or a vast range, from young lovers wooing, to Happily Married
couples with perhaps a baby, to still affectionate elderly couples.
The couples are Bit Characters
; contrast Beta Couple
, where one happy couple is further developed and provides the contrast to the character.
Supertrope of The World Mocks Your Loss
. Compare Alone in a Crowd
and Third Wheel
. Contrast Lonely Together
Anime & Manga
- In an episode 114 of Gintama, Gintoki, Kagura and Shinpachi are annoyed by the number of happy couples crowding the park. Which is why they are more than happy to help Hijikata get rid of a girl madly in love with him.
- Midori Days:
- In the first episode, Seiji vents his frustration on a theater full of couples, after striking out with a local girl, and seeing that he was the only one there without a date.
- The manga version of the same scene, takes place outdoors while Seiji's on his way to school. When he sees he's surrounded by happy couples everywhere, he vents his frustration on them AND the scenery!
- One recurring bit in Shonen Ashibe has a character with no luck in love. He decides to go on a singles cruise to Hawaii... and he gets to the dock after everyone else has already paired up. Later, he's on the beach in Hawaii, watching the happy couples alone, when the cute tour guide comes up, notices he's all alone... and introduces him to a stray dog she found.
- In Pokémon fanfic Olivine Romance, protagonist Jasmine is made to feel this way amongst her friends. Notably she's single by choice, but that doesn't stop her from feeling left out.
- Superhero Movie has a scene where the hero has just broken up with his girlfriend, and while walking down the street is pained to see exclusively couples. It gets progressively sillier.
- Occurs in Jetsons: The Movie after Judy loses her rockstar boyfriend. In this scene, pop singer Tiffany (who provided Judy's voice for the movie) performs a song titled "I Always Thought I'd See You Again", which she later released as a single. You can see the scene here.
- Played with in Once Bitten when the main character's love interest refuses to have sex with him, he notices all of the many, many other couples having sex and sexual imagery.
- Bridget Jones's Diary: Bridget who has just broken up with Daniel has dinner with Magda and Jeremy. They don't belong among her closest friends, and the only thing worse than a smug married couple is lots of smug married couples: Hugo and Jane, Cosmo and pregnant Woney, Alistair and Henrietta, Julia and Michael, Joanne and Paul, and Natasha Glenville dating Mark Darcy. They ask her uncomfortable questions about love life and why there are so many single women. Luckily, Bridget's able to strike back as she hints that one in three marriages ends in a divorce these days. See the clip aptly called Smug Married Couples.
- In The Cabin in the Woods, Curt and Jules are trying to set up Dana and Holden. This leaves Marty, the stoner fifth wheel, by himself. In fact, there is one point where Marty lies in bed reading a children's book while the other respective couples are getting it on. He doesn't seem to mind too much, though.
- In Gene Stratton Porter's Song of the Cardinal, the cardinal defends his nesting place and is surrounded by mating birds when he does not have a mate.
- Firesong complains about this at one point in the Mage Storms trilogy. Specifically, he's got this idea that being lifebonded is the best of all possible relationships, he doesn't have a lifemate, but to him Herald's Collegium is packed with lifebonded pairs. (He can only name a handful, though — this is one of the signs that Firesong's mind is slipping.)
- Elantris: Following a tragic series of romantic problems, Sarene is actually queasy at the sight of gooey romantic bliss. Her kindly escort has to guide her away from any couples at the party he's taking her to, though he logically points out that she's going to need to get over this eventually.
- Leo from The Heroes of Olympus is called "the seventh wheel" in-universe, as he is the only one among the Seven not paired off. In the fourth book, he's fallen in love with Calypso, so this may not last.
- Anne Elliot in Persuasion is the only one without a sweetheart during a walk from Winthrop. Her former fiancé Captain Wentworth is with Luisa, Charles Hayter gets back together with Henrietta, and Charles Musgrove is with his wife Mary.
- This happens a few times to different characters over the course of How I Met Your Mother. It happens to Ted in season eight when Marshall and Lily are with baby Marvin and Robin and Barney are getting ready for their wedding while Ted is alone in the bar.
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory Raj suggests that they go to a Disco Night at a roller rink, and Howard & Leonard decide it'd be a great place to have a double date with their respective girlfriends.
Raj: Great. It's not like I brought it up because I wanted to go.
Howard: You can come with us.
Raj: No, it's okay. I don't have to go. I'm happy just to guide you and your ladies to suitable entertainment choices. I'm a walking brown Yelp.com.
- This ends up being Raj's state for a long while once Amy and Bernadette join the cast. Has been used in a few episodes, such as insisting a guys' only sleepover/game night and ends explaining this when the girlfriends enter the picture.
- Stargate Atlantis: By the end of the series, John Sheppard is alone while Mckay/Keller, Ronon/Amelia and Teyla/Kanaan have all paired up. Extra sad as Elizabeth Weir, his classic Will They or Won't They? Ship Tease had been kidnapped two seasons before.
- In the beginning of season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this trope is discussed: Willow and Oz and Xander and Cordelia deliberately "uncouple" when they're around Buffy, in order not to emphasize her single status.
- The premise of the short-lived sitcom The Single Guy, which rode on the coattails of Friends and Seinfeld.
- This is the entire setup of the 2006 Barry Watson vehicle What About Brian?
- In Mad About You, one episode has someone die. In an elevator after the funeral, three couples pair while the widow stands alone.
- Friends: Joey by the final episode, although as The Casanova he doesn't mind much. He gets a Love Interest in his Spin-Off series.
- In the Scrubs episode "My T.C.W.", it is played for drama. After JD is criticized for agreeing to a date with a woman whose husband is in a coma, he gives his friends a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. He calls them out for complaining all the time about how crappy their relationships are and tells them they are lucky because he himself feels very alone because he is the only single one in his group.
- At the end of House of Anubis season 3, KT is the only person not paired off with anyone. She doesn't mind, though.
- Sex and the City featured this theme in several episodes. When the four of them were one of the only single women at a wedding, Carrie said they looked as if they were witches.
- In season 5 finale of Murdoch Mysteries, Detective Murdoch and his sidekick Constable Crabtree appear to be the only ones without a partner for a New Year's Eve policemen's ball. Constable Higgins gets a date and Inspector Brackenreid spends the evening with his wife. William Murdoch is alone as his star-crossed lover is married, and George Crabtree asked Doctor Grace out, but she had other plans. They consider not going at all, but they decide to mark a new century with a celebration. Subverted as both beautiful doctors Emily Grace and Julia Ogden make an appearance.
- "Happy Loving Couples" by Joe Jackson.
Happy loving couples make it look so easy
Happy loving couples always talk so fine
Till the time that I can do my dancing with a partner
Those happy couples ain't no friends of mine.
- "The Whole World's In Love When You're Lonely" by B. J. Thomas
- The entire point of Stephen Sondheim's Company. Bobby is always the third wheel to all his married friends, who try to get him to settle down, while unintentionally exemplifying the good and bad points of marriage. There is a telling moment in "Side By Side By Side," a number supposedly celebrating Bobby's single status. After the Last Chorus Slow Down, couples take turns on the tap breaks, one spouse directly following the other, and Bobby's tap break leads to a sudden bar of silence because he has no partner.
- In Rent, Mark is the only character who doesn't get paired off at all. But he knows how to pass the time alone.
- In Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience after the title character decides in favor of Archibald Grosvenor all of the aesthetic young women who were sighing after Reginald Bunthorne decide to hook up with the dragoons, leaving Bunthorne to "have to be contented with a tulip or lily."