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6 Tips to Third Wheel Without Feeling Forever Alone

Updated on March 9, 2018
Stephanie Traylor profile image

Stephanie has been single her entire life, so she's probably an expert by now. Yay.

Single and unwilling to mingle

We've all been there: you're enjoying a lovely friendship when suddenly dating enters the picture. No, not you and your friend--your friend and somebody else, or two of your friends dating each other, or--

You get the idea.

It can really suck, especially when you're single. Hanging out with couples has the real potential to get awkward in a hurry, but these six tips can help you navigate the tricky waters of third wheeling--with style.

1. Know thyself

Self-knowledge and awareness is a good skill to have wherever you are in life. When you're third wheeling, it's even more important. Why? You need to have strong self-worth outside of your friendships.

If you're drawing all your value from the people you hang out with, when they get wrapped up in a romantic relationship, you're more likely to lose your sense of self. Don't go there! Understand yourself. Be confident in yourself. And, dare I say it, love yourself.

You might need to step away from the friendship for a few days while you introspect. That's fine, as long as you don't hurt your friends in the process. You might take some personality assessments like the MBTI or the Enneagram to learn more about how you think and what makes you tick. Or you might just take yourself on a date to a nice restaurant and read a book. You do you.

If you're drawing all your value from the people you hang out with, when they get wrapped up in a romantic relationship, you're more likely to lose your sense of self.

2. Define expectations and boundaries

Whether you're friends with one or both halves of the happy couple, it's crucial to set boundaries for your third wheeling friendship--the earlier, the better. It's going to be an awkward discussion, but it needs to happen. You might discuss topics like these:

  • How frequently does the couple want to hang out alone?
  • (If you share living arrangements with one of them) How often will they stay the night at your place? How often will your roommate go to their SO's place? How will they respect your space?
  • Do you want to have one-on-one friendship time with one or both of them?
  • What activities and outings are acceptable for you to be included in?
  • How will you develop clear communication that doesn't hurt feelings?

This is a tricky new world for you and your friend(s). You might be used to just hanging out as buddies, but now there's this other person. So, you have to have a hard talk about boundaries and expectations. Go out for dinner and talk it through. Maybe have drinks and snacks at home. Stay friendly and open-minded, and you three can work out agreements.

3. Know how to have fun by yourself

Sometimes, your dating friends just aren't gonna want to see you. That's fine. They need their time to be all disgusting and cuddly without you gagging in the background. (I'm definitely not speaking from personal experience or anything.) In a way, being the third wheel is incredibly liberating. When the lovebirds don't want to hang out, you have all the freedom in the world to do whatever you want!

  • Get comfy being alone, whatever that means for you. Be confident in going places without a squad.
  • If you have other friends, definitely make intentional efforts to hang out with them.
  • Make a list of fun things you'd like to try, such as eating at a restaurant none of your other pals ever want to go to.
  • Practice good self-care by getting exercise, staying hydrated, showering, eating well, meditating/praying, etc.
  • Clean your house/apartment/dorm. Seriously. This is especially good if you're frustrated with the couple. Just turn on your favorite music and jazzercise your way to cleanliness. (But seriously, if you actually jazzercise while cleaning, I want to see video.)
  • Talk to a trusted friend, parent, mentor, counselor, etc. if you get sad or depressed being alone. There might be something deeper at work here.
  • Above all, take care of yourself! Remember, your self-worth doesn't come from your friends!

If you're upset or feel ignored, first be honest with yourself and try to figure out why. Once you understand the source and cause of your feelings, you can address it.

4. Be honest

Honesty is the best policy, as the saying goes. What do I mean by "be honest"? I mean acknowledge your feelings. If you're upset or feel ignored, first be honest with yourself and try to figure out why. Are you creating unnecessary angst for yourself? Do you suffer from mental health issues that cause you to feel sad/angry/empty in the presence of dating couples? Or did one or both of them do something genuinely hurtful?

Once you understand the source and cause of your feelings (emotional intelligence for the win!), you can address it. You might need to talk to your friend(s) to resolve any conflicts. You may need to speak with a counselor. Or, honestly, you might just need to take a deep breath and go for a walk.

5. Don't ignore other relationships

It can be really easy to wallow in "woe is me, I am single" when your friends are dating. Don't do that! You'll just feel worse. Instead, dedicate some energy to your other relationships. Call your mom, dad, grandma, cousin in Idaho, whatever. Go out for drinks with the rest of your squad. If you have a religious leader or other spiritual mentor in your life, invite him or her out for coffee and ponder the questions of life. If you have pets, play with them for 10 extra minutes. Don't let the other wonderful relationships and bonds in your life suffer just because one of them changed.

My squad has two married couples, one dating couple, and two singles in it. That's, like, seventh-wheeling.
My squad has two married couples, one dating couple, and two singles in it. That's, like, seventh-wheeling.

6. Remember your value

Now's the time when I get mushy and sentimental. Get ready.

You are a unique creation. There has never been anyone like you, and there never will be again. You mean so much to the people in your life, and if they don't say so, then you need to be with people who do. Even if your only skill in life is hanging a spoon off your nose, you matter infinitely. Don't get bogged down in your singleness. It's really hard, I know, especially when mental illness comes knocking and makes you feel like you're worthless and like everything is crap. But that's just wonky chemicals lying to you. You are amazing, whether you're single or not. Don't let anyone tell you differently!

© 2018 Stephanie Traylor

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