Generic party, couple, dating pic.

Third wheel ... single people can feel marginalised when out with couples.

Going out with a group of friends is always fun, but when some of its members suddenly find partners it changes the dynamic of the clique.

It's an especially different experience for the members of the group who are still single because it can make them feel marginalised. And it only makes matters worse when you have to listen to your best friend constantly talking about her new boyfriend.

The clique's members who are still single shouldn't doubt themselves and instead should expand their circle of friends, relationship experts say.

"You have this stupid feeling as a single person as if you are left over - almost like when you are the only person sitting alone at a dance," said Beate Friese of a hotline for children and young people in Germany.

Thoughts such as, "There must be something wrong with me" or "I'm not as pretty as the other girls" are no help. "Instead, you have to understand that you don't always instantaneously find a partner who is a good match for you right away," said Friese.

Withdrawing and staying home alone to brood is also not a solution.

"One possibility would be not to meet with couples every time you go out, but to invite one or more other single person along," said psychologist Elisabeth Raffauf. "Aside from that it can help to consider where the gathering is taking place."

The support of other singles can be an advantage, family counsellor Maria El-Safti-Juette said. "If you are out with a couple alone, you can quickly feel like you are facing a unified force." The two agree on everything and talk about their common interests. "With another person on your side, you won't feel like such an outsider, especially when the couple is very involved with each other."

You can consider whether you would like to meet other people, said El-Safti-Juette. Possibly, there are other friends with whom you haven't met in a while or done little with.

"You don't have to end close friendships just because the friend now has a partner," said El-Safti-Juette. "But it can be fun now and again to go out with friends that also are single." At least this presents a better opportunity to look around for guys or girls or to do something completely different.

As far as your approach to the people in the clique, it's perfectly acceptable to let them know how you feel. "It's not an easy subject. That's why it's probably easier to tell just one person rather than the entire group," said Friese. Trying to forbid the cuddling, however, is difficult.

"You can't require them to stop," said Friese. "After all you would be doing the same thing if you could." It's more helpful to say something like "It's nothing personal against either you, but the situation isn't easy for me. You can surely understand that. That's why I would like to withdraw a little bit from the group."

At the same time you can stress how important the others are to you.

"When your best friend doesn't have time to spend with you alone and instead always shows up with his girlfriend, it's alright to say something about it," said El-Safti-Juette.

But it's better to be diplomatic using words that don't attack the girlfriend. For example, a statement such as "I'm happy for you that you have someone who means so much to you, but honestly speaking, I miss you and I would like to have you again alone just for myself."

An especially difficult situation arises within a clique when one of the members finds that not only is everyone else suddenly paired up, but he or she is the only one who has never been in a relationship.

"You shouldn't put pressure on yourself," said Raffauf. "There is no rule that says from a particular age you must have a girlfriend or boyfriend."

DPA