Let’s play word association! I’ll say “third wheel”; what just came to mind? If you were thinking “awkward”, then we’re on the same page. Many times, when we reflect on the concept of being a third wheel or recall instances when we have been in such a scenario, we are often met with feelings of discomfort and awkwardness. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Although no one wants to be a third wheel, at some point or another, it’s going to happen and you may want some tips and pointers on how to remain confident in your singleness.
In my 23 years, I have never once had a romantic relationship of any type, but all of my friends have, so I certainly have ample experience being a third and even fifth wheel. There can definitely be an initial discomfort when hanging out with your friend and their significant other aka S.O., especially if it’s the first time you are meeting him or her. Both of you will be vying for your friends affection and attention and it may be difficult for your friend to navigate the situation. There may also be unspoken feelings of jealously on your end and on your friend’s S.O.’s end, which can create tension and an uncomfortable situation. Don’t create a competition between you and your friend’s boo. Your friend loves you both in different ways and obviously has a different relationship with both of you, so try to keep that in mind if they are treating you differently than their S.O. Hopefully, if they’re a good friend, they will try to tend to both of you and make the space you’re in a positive and peaceful one.
Sometimes, especially in the beginning of a relationship, our friends may be so into their new boo that they seem to focus all of their time and attention on that person and unintentionally neglect their relationship with you. This is not usually malicious; it happens to the best of us, even with new platonic friendships. Understand that if he or she is behaving this way, your friend is probably in the “honeymoon phase” and probably has no idea that they are ignoring you or not hanging out with you as much. If this bothers you, and it’s okay if it does, gently remind your friend that you still want to spend time with them. In some cases, this may result in a third wheel situation, where you get to spend time with your friend, but also must spend time with their boy/girlfriend. If they are dating a mutual friend, you’re in luck! But if they are dating someone outside of your friend group, and this is more often the case as you age, you may initially feel awkward about the situation. Support your friend’s relationship and new boo (if appropriate), but don’t feel obligated to force friendship with them. Let it happen organically. My best friend is currently dating a great guy and although he and I aren’t close, which would probably be inappropriate anyway, we are definitely friendly, cordial, and enjoy each other’s company. And we share an amazing best friend, which is a great thing to have in common!
My last piece of advice when dealing with a third wheel situation is keep an open, positive mindset! If you go into the situation thinking, “This is going to be so awkward and weird”, then it probably will be! Instead if you go into it thinking, “There may be a few uncomfortable moments, but we’re going to have a great time” you probably will! Most friends will want to share the important aspects of their life, such as a romantic relationship, with you and will want to share YOU with their partner because you’re awesome. Keep that in mind, and again, don’t be afraid to approach your friend if something is concerning you when you three hang out. If you’re not super comfortable with your friend and their boo being overly touchy and affectionate, let him or her know. I’m sure your friend would be willing to tone it down and accommodate you so that they can spend time with their love and their bestie. Be confident and secure in your friendship and when you get into a relationship, keep this in mind for your friend.