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Alone Among the Couples

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"The only thing worse than a 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 they go. 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 a contrast to the character.

Supertrope of The World Mocks Your Loss. Compare Alone in a Crowd, Alone Among Families, Jealous Romantic Witness, and Third Wheel. Contrast Lonely Together.


    open/close all folders 

  • An SUV commercial touted its 5-person capacity by showing two couples and one single guy on a camping trip, with the guy pretty much isolated from every activity the entire time. It came off as slightly depressing, rather than being cute or funny.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In 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.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: During the wrap-up of the culture festival arc, Maki finds herself alone among multiple dancing couples. Her best friend Kashiwagi then shows up, opting to dance with her rather than her own boyfriend Tsubasa.
  • 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!
  • In the final episode of Naruto, Sakura is saddened at the sight of all the happy couples at Naruto and Hinata's wedding while she is alone. Her sadness is alleviated somewhat when moments later, a messenger hawk arrives with a message of congratulations from Sasuke.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 

  • Lucky Luke: In Bride of Lucky Luke, upon arriving in Purgatory City, and while all the other women meet their fiancés and marry them almost immediately, Jenny O'Sullivan finds out her Irish fiancé has been put in jail for overreacting to being called a Scot (the saloon got destroyed as a result) and cries on Luke's shoulder. Then Luke accepts to serve as chaperone to her for the time being. This is also in the animated series.
  • Robin (1993): For a significant portion, Tim Drake's social group at school consists of himself and his girlfriend Ariana, Ives and Callie who are dating, and Hudson who isn't dating anyone.
  • Supergirl: In Action Comics #325 "Ugly Duckling Teacher of Stanhope College", Teacher Elizabeth Sparrow feels sorry during a college chaperone dance because all female teachers have gotten a dance partner...except for her, who is considered an old maid.
  • Ultimate X-Men (2001): Nightcrawler was the only member of the group who did not have a significant love interest in some way or form, which was outright confirmed to be the reason for his kidnapping of Dazzler.

    Fan Works 
  • In Best of My Love, Nie Mingjue specifically notes when the main cast all goes bowling together that he's this, being the only one who is both single and doesn't have some sort of flirtation going on (as is the case for his brother and Jiang Cheng). For what it's worth, he doesn't seem to mind.
  • 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.
  • The Flash Sentry Chronicles:
    • Flash Sentry and Twilight Sparkle become a couple in The Knight of Friendship, Rainbow Dash and Soarin were in a Secret Relationship since season 3 and came out in season 4, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie hooked up with Iron Core and Wild Smile respectively in season 4, and Rarity has gone on a date with Lightning Blitz in season 5, before officially becoming a couple in season 6. Applejack was the only member of the Mane Six who didn't formed a relationship with anypony in that time, or even have a Love Interest. This gets subverted in "The Quest for the Golden Apple Tree", when Applejack gets some Ship Tease with Rogue, and they eventually become a couple in Season 8 after a mutual Love Confession, with Applejack even lampshading she expected to be the only member of her group of friends to spend her whole life alone.
    • Among the Rainbooms, Sunset Shimmer is the only one who hasn't gotten Ship Tease or gotten in a relationship with someone yet.
    • At the start of Jakhowls Rising, Springer now feels depressed due to having watched as each of his friends found someone special to love over the years and each one became even happier because of it, and as he walks through town he sees the various other happy couples being affectionate with each other, and feels hallow being unable to have that himself due to being The Last of His Kind, discounting his two young charges who are too young for him anyway. This is then subverted later in the story when he arrives in Aurarora and has some Ship Tease moments with the female jakhowl Mirage, and the two officially get together in season 9.
  • In Flowers Drenched in Vodka, Kotori is the only former member of μ's who isn't in a relationship, and has Unrequited Love for Hanayo. By the end of the fic, Hanayo has broken up with Eli over the latter's alcoholism and domestic abuse, and gotten together with Kotori, leaving Eli as the odd girl 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.
  • Naru-Hina Chronicles: In Chapter 47, Choji is surrounded by so many of his friends dancing with their respective lovers, while he himself has no one to dance with. That is until Ino arrives...
  • 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.
  • A sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has Yancy, while waiting for a meeting to get her Xtransceiver back, to feel self-conscious about her single status, due to seeing so many happy couples in the Nimbasa amusement park during Valentine's Day.
  • 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 in her rushing into a relationship with Mokuba.

    Film — Animation 
  • In the "Pomp and Circumstance" sequence of Fantasia 2000, Donald and Daisy spend their voyage on Noah's Ark believing the other has drowned in the flood, leading them to stare mournfully at all the other animal couples around them.
  • At the end of Foam Bath, the man-hungry Anna's loneliness is demonstrated by a very, very long scene of her walking and coming across couples at every step. After a couple off-screen romances, she concludes she's not cut out for relationships and would rather live for her career.
  • 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.
  • 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".

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Breakfast Club - Brian is the only one who is not romantically paired with anyone by the end of the film.
  • Bridget Jones' 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 her 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 divorce these days.
  • 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.
  • Dragons Forever, one of the last films starring the Golden Trio of Hong Kong cinema - Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, the latter who plays a manchild without any interest in women. By the film's conclusion, Biao's character is the only one who doesn't have a romantic partner.
  • 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 the third wheel.
  • 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.
  • Romeos: There's a very sad scene of Lukas like this among the gay and lesbian couples around him.
  • 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.

  • A Certain Magical Index: Parodied in "New Testament Vol 12" when Touma Kamijou visits a building called the Dianoid and gets upset and jealous because it is full of couples. Except he is with Othinus, Index, Mikoto, and Misaki, who are all in love with him, not that he noticed.
  • In the Dolphin Trilogy, John is a human raised by dolphins. As an adolescent, he starts to feel lonely because all the other members of his pod are finding mates, while he's never met anyone of his own species since his infancy.
  • 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.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: 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 life-bonded pairs. (He can only name a handful, though — this is one of the signs that Firesong's mind is slipping.)
  • 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.
  • Inverted in The Hike, where Liz is the only member of her friend group who is in a stable long-term relationship. The others are currently single: Joni is in a relationship with her manager Kai at the start but they don't seem that into each other and break up early on over the phone, Helena is going through a string of casual hook-ups and hasn't had a serious relationship in years, and Maggie's brief marriage ended in divorce about a year ago. Initially unbeknownst to the others, Liz's marriage isn't doing so well of late either, though she's reluctant to reveal this.
  • 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.
  • A Piece in the Game of Gods: From Part 44:
    Teri was sitting in the other recliner, a little annoyed at being the only one there who didn’t have a significant other.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 on a guys' only sleepover/game night and 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
  • A plot point in Bones Valentine's Day episode is that Brennan is the only one in the lab like this. Cam is pushing to get the case solved so she can go on a date, Hodgins and Angela are a couple and the week's intern Clark is meeting his girlfriend. Booth is alone too, having just broke up with Hannah, and naturally he and Brennan end up on their own unique date shooting Tommy guns at the range.
  • At 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.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • "Heartbreak City" opens with Phoebe getting stood up by her date, leaving her as the "fifth wheel" to Piper & Dan and Prue & Jack. She eventually decides to go home early because she's so uncomfortable being the odd one out.
    • "The Fifth Halliwheel" sees Paige feeling awkward hanging out with Piper and Leo (who are celebrating their first anniversary) and Phoebe and Cole (who are newly married).
  • 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.
  • Gilmore Girls:
    • Rory doesn't have a boyfriend during her freshman year at Yale. When she's saying goodbye to her roommates, her single status is rubbed in her face. Both Tana (who is dating a guy named Chester, despite being young and clueless) and Paris point out that Rory is the only one without a boyfriend on her photo collage. Paris is secretly dating a professor and when they are alone, she tries to set Rory up with said professor's son. Rory gets increasingly uncomfortable. Later even her grandma comments on it and arranges a dinner date for her. The date is not actually a date and it ends disastrously, and Rory calls her married ex-boyfriend for help.
    • In "Afterboom", Lane gets super lonely after a gig of her band Hep Alien, and she's alone among happy couples, happy friends and happy families. After they finish, Lane is excited and wants to celebrate, but Gil makes out with his wife, Zach is surrounded by hot female fans and goes to a bar with two girls, and Brian is with his family who came to see them play. Lane invited her best friend Rory, but she couldn't come. To make it sourer, Lane can't even talk to her family because she moved out of her home against her mother's wishes and without her approval.
  • At the end of House of Anubis season 3, KT is the only person not paired off with anyone. She doesn't mind, though.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Barney is the only one single in Season 2 after Ted and Robin start dating and Lily and Marshall have gotten back together. It's played with and Played for Laughs, as Barney very much likes being single, but gets annoyed because the couples won't go out partying with him. He invites his gay brother James to hang out with them and do something exciting. It's revealed that James is in a serious monogamous relationship as well.
    • 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 Mad About You, one episode has someone die. In an elevator after the funeral, three couples pair while the widow stands alone.
  • Episode "Copper Bullet" of The Mentalist ends with the team enjoying themselves at a concert of some band, Dance Party Ending style. Everybody's dancing — Patrick Jane with Teresa Lisbon, Abbot with his wife Lena, Wylie with his crush Vega — except for Cho who decides to get one more taco, though he doesn't seem to mind that he's not with anyone. He's excited because he has just found out he's going to be promoted to a unit leader at the FBI.
  • 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.
  • Parks and Recreation: At the end of the series, Jennifer Barkley is by far one of the few characters who isn't married and has no children. Subverted as she makes it very clear she prefers it that way when visiting Ben and Leslie and their triplets at their home.
  • On Schitt's Creek: From the end of Season 3 onward, Stevie Budd is often the only member of the main cast who is single and is often the third wheel to David and Patrick, which makes it even more heartbreaking when what she thought was a serious relationship crumbles. She laments this in the Season 5 Finale but picks herself up with a magnificent performance in a community theatre production.
  • 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.
  • Sex and the City featured this theme in several episodes. When the four of them are some of the only single women at a wedding, Carrie says they look as if they're witches.
  • The premise of the short-lived sitcom The Single Guy, which rode on the coattails of Friends and Seinfeld.
  • 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.
  • This is the entire setup of the 2006 Barry Watson vehicle What About Brian

  • A platonic example is discussed in The Beatles Anthology; at one point, when discussing his decision to briefly quit the band when things were starting to get a bit fractured, Ringo Starr describes feeling lonely and untalented, made worse by a creeping suspicion that his bandmates were getting along really well together and excluding him. He then describes seeing John Lennon and Paul McCartney separately and explaining his reasoning in those terms... only for both to remark in astonishment that they'd been feeling the exact same way about their relationship with the others ("I thought it was you three!").
  • "The Whole World's In Love When You're Lonely" by B. J. Thomas.
  • Koyuki in the Love Series portion of Confession Executive Committee. His crush got with her crush, his best friends paired up with other girls, and the one girl who did have a crush on him never told him before he graduated (and eventually found someone of her own later that year). This is elaborated on in "Tokyo Summer Session" and "Tokyo Winter Session", where he's awkwardly on the wayside while the couples have fun, and "Understand This Youth", where he resents his loneliness.
  • "Everybody's got somebody but me" by Hunter Hayes. The title says it all, really. Surprisingly cheerful melody, though.
  • "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 MAD Magazine flexidisc song "Makin' Out" has in the chorus: "All I'm making out from all this making out is that everybody's making out... but me."
  • "Some Guys Have All The Luck" by Rod Stewart.
  • This is exaggerated in the first part of V's "FRI(END)S" video, with everyone around V being paired up and showing affection. This becomes inverted in the second part of the video: after V gets hit by a car, he wakes up in a "Groundhog Day" Loop with a girlfriend who is happy with him while everyone around them is fighting.


    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • 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 (or Bobbie) 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 dance 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 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."
  • In RENT, Mark is the only character who doesn't get paired off at all. But he knows how to pass the time alone.
    "Mucho masturbation!"
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Even if you pair up all the females in Fire Emblem: Awakening, you will always have a few single males left over.
  • 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...

  • 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.
  • Played for Laughs in Gunnerkrigg Court when Annie finds herself in such a predicament when trying to celebrate a recent victory.
  • Til Debt Do Us Part: While on "honeymoon" in Hawaii, Subin complains that she's the only single person there. Her new husband, whom she had married out of convenience, eventually accompanies her.
  • This comic does it to one poor bastard for whom being on the Titanic wasn't bad enough.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • In episode 5 of Dances Moving!, Brian teaches partner dancing, but ends up being the only one without a partner. He dances alone and sings a melancholy tune, as the situation reflects his loneliness after breaking up with his girlfriend.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender/The Legend of Korra:
    • In the original series, Toph Beifong was the only of the main characters not paired off; also Ty Lee, among the major recurring good guys. Neither seems to mind.
    • Mako is the only member of the core group to be single at the end of Korra's Grand Finale, which ended with a wedding of two side characters and his two ex-girlfriends getting together. When he learns about the latter in the comics, he spends a story arc unsure how to feel about the situation before settling on being happy for them.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • An episode of The Loud House had Lynn feeling jealous that her friends have significant others and tries to find one of her own. Odd, considering that she had a crush on someone as established in a previous episode.
  • Pinkie Pie inverts this in the Grand Finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic "The Last Problem", as she is the only one of the Mane 6 who ever married (her husband is her male counterpart Cheese Sandwich) and had a child. The closest Twilight came to romance was with Flash Sentry from Equestria Girls. Rarity has had many crushes, but Rainbow Dash and Applejack are implied to be an LGBTQ couple and it is rumored that Fluttershy is now Discord's wife.
  • 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:
  • This trope becomes a Running Gag in Young Justice: Outsiders for Vergil, who became immediately aware of his relationship status when pretty much everyone else on the Team (save for Forager) had a partner in "Illusion of Control".

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


Despairing in the ark (Fantasia 2000)

Thinking that their partner was drown, Both Donald and Daisy despair over their loss of their love while they look at the amounts of couples in the ark

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / AloneAmongTheCouples

Media sources: