"The only thing worse than smug married couple? Lots of smug married couples."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 may be Bit Characters, but often they are people from the lonely person's social circle. 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.
ExamplesAnime and 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.
- A Crown of Stars: Kensuke feels alone during his unit's deployment because his best friends - Shinji and Touji - have hooked up with their Love Interests - Asuka and Hikari respectively - and even the commanders that hang around with them are in a relationship... and he remains single. Often he complains and whines he needs to get himself a girlfriend and when finally several girls interested in him come along, he does not know how to handle the situation.
Kensuke looked between them with a confused look before he worked it out. His mouth dropped open when he did, and he shot a look at Shinji like he was about to say something. Shinji just gave him a ‘don’t ask’ look and shook his head. He closed his mouth with a snap, and looked back and forth between Shinji, Touji, and Sergeant Bir. “Man, I have got to find me a girlfriend,” he eventually muttered.
- In the 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.
- In Hotspring Souls!, Solaire is the only one in the gang who is single and without a love interest, but is perfectly fine with it since he's more interested in hooking up The Chosen Undead and Rhea of Thorolund, anyway. This does change in the sequel, though, where Solaire ends up with Lady Maria.
- In Say Something, Tea reunites with her friends ahead of Yugi's wedding and finds they have all paired up. The story frequently highlights her feeling lonely or awkward when they start acting particularly couple-y, and this plays a big factor into her rushing into a relationship with Mokuba.
- 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.
- The Breakfast Club - Brian is the only one who is not romantically paired with anyone by the end of the film.
- 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.
- Happens to Mary and Jim, the two lonely New Yorkers who are the protagonists of Lonesome. Both of them have a circle of friends who are all in relationships; both of them decline an invitation to go out from a couple for fear of being a third wheel.
- In Gene Stratton-Porter's The 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.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Ted is alone in season eight when Marshall and Lily are with baby Marvin and Robin and Barney are getting ready for their wedding while Ted sits 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. (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.)
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.
- 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. Monica and Chandler are happily married and going strong, Phoebe is married to Mike, and Ross and Rachel decide to be together. As The Casanova of the gang, Joey 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.
- "Everybody's got somebody but me". Title says it all, really. Surprisingly cheerful melody, though.
- "Happy Loving Couples" by Joe Jackson.
Happy loving couples make it look so easyHappy loving couples always talk so fineTill the time that I can do my dancing with a partnerThose happy couples ain't no friends of mine.
- "The Whole World's In Love When You're Lonely" by B. J. Thomas
- "Some Guys Have All The Luck" by Rod Stewart
- Dane Cook has a routine on the subject, comparing it to walking through the rain past a house party that you weren't invited to.
- 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."
- Shakespeare's comedies frequently have characters who end up this way when the characters pair off at the end, sometimes because they're failed suitors to one of the paired-off characters, and other times it's hard to escape the conclusion that they're in love with a character of their own gender. Examples include Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, Sir Andrew, another Antonio, and Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Jaques in As You Like It, and Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing. Both Beatrice and Benedick in the same play sarcastically lampshade this trope repeatedly, but this is a fine example of Dramatic Irony: they're both vocally opposed to marriage but end up falling in love by the end of the play.
- Tia in Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals bemoans this after the wedding of Prince Leon and Princess Thea, when Maxim/Selan and Guy/Jessy go off (nevermind that Tia's boyfriend recently made a Heroic Sacrifice to save her). Iris cheers her up by asking if she would like to share a meal with her, not that there wasn't enough Les Yay between them...
- In Sinfest, Monique is walking along happily when she sees a park full of couples.
- The motion comic The First Word has a caveman alone among the pre-human couples. Worse, one of them is his ex-girlfriend, and she's having sex right in front of him.
- Invoked in this Funny Or Die parody of The Bachelor, which logically and hilariously explains why a gay season of the show might not work so well. Since all of the contestants are potentially attracted to each other, poor Bryden (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is the odd man out because he doesn't live with them in the Reality TV Show Mansion, so they spend most of their time hooking up with each other rather than pursuing him.
Bryden (being ignored at a pool party): You guys are supposed to be competing over me! I'm The Bachelor!Contestant: We're all bachelors, dude.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra:
- In the original series, Toph was the only of the main characters not paired off; also Ty Lee, among the major recurring good guys. Neither seems to mind.
- While he doesn't express any dissatisfaction, it's rather noticeable that Mako is the only member of the core group to be single at the end of the Grand Finale, especially since it ends with a wedding of two side characters and his two ex-girlfriends get together.
- This is the focus for much of The Critic through its first season for protagonist Jay Sherman. Several episodes deal with his loneliness and one in particular focuses entirely upon this trope.
- The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: As Kiara searches unsuccessfully for Kovu, she notices some animal couples spending time together, namely two birds, gazelles, butterflies and two monkeys, shortly before the song "Love will Find a Way".
- In Futurama, Fry and Leela lament being Alone Among the Couples when on a cruise, but are at least able to take solace that they're Lonely Together.
- In the Phineas and Ferb special "Summer Belongs to You," Isabella is walking around Paris with Phineas, who proves to be amazingly Oblivious to Love. Naturally, her sad montage song has them pass by every happy couple in France.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "Just Friends", during Love Sentence's concert Star suddenly ends up in this situation, when numerous couples in the audience start kissing, including Marco and Jackie. She's uncomfortable and has to leave.
- After the US team won the 2016 Ryder Cup, a photo was taken of all the players kissing their wives/fiancees/girlfriends. Except for Rickie Fowler.