If you’re single, you’re dealing with all your friends getting dates and getting married. If you’re in a relationship, you’re dealing with your single friends who are still single. Here are 8 observations from the perspective of a Third Wheel.
At the end of last year I had a friend ask me a question at a party in front of a small group of people – “Matt, all your friends are married or in relationships, how are you such a good third wheel?”. It was a running joke for us for a while (and still kind of is). But in thinking about it, it is pretty true – I do find myself in the third wheel position quite a bit.
I love weddings and relationships. Reading stuff on this site probably gives that away. I’ve been to 49 weddings so far, been a groomsman 3 times, and have MC’d two receptions (soon to be 3). Quite a large number of my friends are married or in long-term relationships. I love the beauty of two people coming together, getting to know each other in those early stages, all the way through to being happily hitched and living the dream with the white picket fence and the 2.2 kids. Awesome stuff.
But my own relationship experience has been pretty different. I’ve been excited with friends a few times when we’ve been pursuing girls at the same time (not multiple girls, just one at a time… just to clarify), but for whatever reason it hasn’t worked out for me (yet). Meanwhile, a lot of my other friends have gone on ahead in their relationships. But for me, I still value the fact I’m getting to make a new friend (or continuing an existing friendship) with the new ladylove in my friends’ lives.
And so I guess you could say I find myself in the Third Wheel position quite a bit. And given that the above question was asked and that there are many people out there who are also in that third wheel scenario quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of my observations.
The first two I’d like to share are for dating and married couples who are reading this and who have single friends around, and maybe your relationship with them is changing. The remaining six I’d like to instead focus on my observations of other third wheels. So here we go:
#1: Dating Couple, you are actually pulling back a bit from your friends
Most people when they’re single complain about the fact that their friends in relationships don’t hang out with them as much, or don’t spend any time with them any more. Then when these same people get in relationships, what happens? That’s right, they usually do spend less time with their friends while they’re building this new relationship.
There’s an element of normality in that. If you want to make someone feel special and get to know them better, you do need to spend more time with them. They have priority. Once your friendship is going strong, alone time can be super beneficial to your relationship.
But if you no longer see any of your old friends at *all*, then maybe you’re doing it wrong.
Having other friends around you and your relationship can be a great help. Plus, it is a lot of pressure to put on your new boyfriend or girlfriend to have them be the only person on earth you ever hang out with anymore. They become your only source of encouragement or the only listening ear in your life. Recognize that no matter how much you didn’t want to just pull back from everyone before, that there is always an element of pulling back in any relationship.
#2: Dating Couple, make sure that all the people you invite along feel included
Have you ever been to a party where no one wanted to hang out with you? They took the time to invite you, but they didn’t talk to you at all the whole time? You were invited just to be a number on a tally rather than a friend to spend time with?
Yeah, don’t be “that guy” to your single friends.
If you want to go on a date with your special one, go on a date. But if you do invite someone else along to whatever you’re doing, make sure it is a party for 3 (or however many people are along as well).
#3: Third Wheel, you have a good chance to make a new friend
Okay Third Wheels of the world, your turn.
Something Third Wheels regularly neglect in their complaints about being a Third Wheel is that they actually have a great chance to meet someone or get to know someone better. If you like your friend and they’ve invited their date along to hang out too, then that makes you pretty special. They’ve invited you to be part of their blossoming relationship. And in a lot of cases, you might not know your friend’s lover all that well.
But you do have the chance to build a new friendship. And hey, if you like both of the people you’re hanging out with and have a good friendship with them, then you’re not going to feel so much like you’re just a fly on the wall of their relationship.
#4: Third Wheel, your inability to relate to the opposite sex is showing
Let’s be real – a lot of men don’t know how to talk to women, and a lot of women don’t know how to talk to men. So when you’re out with your mate and he brings along his pretty lady, and she starts sharing some of the stories from her day, and you get tired of listening because it wasn’t a few short sentences… well, no wonder you’re not having any fun. Likewise if your girlfriend is hanging out with you and her beau at the shops or wherever it is, and he’s not as “emotionally sensitive” as you’re used to, and you don’t have the patience for his seemingly ambivalent tone…. well, you won’t have any fun either.
A lot of people even into their adulthood often only hang out with people of their own gender. And sometimes the only time they make to hang out with other-sex people is when they are third wheeling.
Maybe it’s just a reminder that you should learn how to talk to men or women properly. Maybe you aren’t as annoyed at this new strange person in your friend’s life as you are at your own inability to relate to them.
#5: Third Wheel, don’t let your disappointment ruin their happiness
One of the biggest reasons people hate being a Third Wheel is because it reminds them of what they don’t have. Your friends are holding each other’s hand in the cinemas, and you’re staring at the empty seat next to you. You see the way he complements her or she encourages him and you are reminded of your regret or past hurt.
That’s pretty normal.
But don’t let it become a reason for you to ruin their opportunity. If you keep whining every time they kiss each other, they aren’t going to want to hang out with you very much. Get use to PDA. Learn to be happy for someone else. You’ll get your turn one day, and you won’t want someone you’ve invited along making stupid noises or complaining about how alone they are every time you two get together.
#6: Third Wheel, please stop calling yourself the third wheel
Instead of saying “I’m the Third Wheel tonight”, why not say, “I’m hanging out with two of my friends tonight”? Cause that’s actually what’s happening when you’re playing board games with them or having a coffee with them or cooking together with them. You haven’t been written out of their lives and you’re not sitting at the Forever Alone booth, you’re hanging out with some good friends, and if you let yourself, you’re going to have a good time together.
#7: Third Wheel, your relationship with your friends change over time
My inner circle has changed quite a bit over the last few years. I’ve had friends marry and move away, or change churches, or go overseas. I still stay in touch with people, but the people I hang out with on Saturday nights or have regular close conversations with have seen a few faces come and go.
That is also pretty normal.
Life is full of comings and goings. Marriage and dating are steps that can actually dramatically change people’s priorities and focus in life. Instead of dreaming for one, they are now dreaming for two (or more if they have kids). And you can actually continue to maintain your friendships with those people too. Sure you see them less, sure you don’t get to hang out til all hours of the morning any more, and sure they may bring their counterpart out with them sometimes, but you can still be friends. And good ones at that.
#8: Third Wheel, you have an opportunity to support your friend’s relationship
Instead of being a source of annoyance or constantly complaining that people are only hanging out with you out of pity for your singledom, why not recognize the opportunity you have to be a blessing to your friends?
Dating can be rough. Relationships aren’t always easy. There can be a lot of uncertainty and confusion, emotions can be up and down, people can be so sure one minute and then ready to call it quits the next. You yourself would have your own stories in dating and marriage.
And so with that in mind, why not be a good support to your friends when you’re with them? Encourage them, speak life into them. Some days you may have to be there for him or her or both of them when something big is going on. And what a blessing you can be.
One of my favourite things about wedding receptions is hearing the speeches. And so many brides and grooms get up and wholeheartedly thank the friends who were there for them when they weren’t sure if they wanted to continue with this person. Live in such a way where your name would be one that comes to mind when those speeches come around.
So those are a few thoughts I have on the world of Third Wheeling. Being a Third Wheel isn’t a bad thing at all if you approach it right.
And single people, your time is coming. Keep putting yourself out there, keep praying and seeking guidance, keep learning who you are and moving forward. Love could be right around the corner with someone new or someone you know well. Who knows!
What are your thoughts on Third Wheeling? If you’re dating/married, what challenges do you face with single friends? If you’re single, what else do you find is helpful to keep in mind?
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