in: Dating & Relationships

How to Avoid Feeling Like the Third Wheel

Krystal Baugher

Sometimes spending time with a friend means rubbing elbows with their partner. But being the third wheel doesn’t have to be the weird hang we’ve come to expect. 


I remember once right after my boyfriend and I broke up my friend insisted that I go out with her and the guy she had just started dating. I was hesitant and so waited until late in the night and found them slightly buzzed at a bar. Even though I’ve only seen “The Big Bang Theory” a couple of times, the guy she was seeing reminded me of Sheldon. Maybe it was because he was basically a stranger, but my friend went to use the bathroom and for some reason I spilled my woes to him. He kept referencing The Wizard of Oz (because I’m from Kansas) and how the break-up was symbolic for me to “go home,” or in other words, it was a good move. My friend returned and so obviously wanted the conversation to change and yet I was that girl, ruining my friend’s date. I felt awkward so I insisted they go take pictures without me in the photo booth and I instead started talking to the cute bartender. 

I was out of a relationship and didn’t really want in one, she was newly in one and didn’t really want out. We had to figure out a new time-spending compromise for friendship. 

When a friend gets into a new relationship it also changes the dynamic of the relationships with other people. Sure, it’s nice that they’re totally into someone, but how can one hang out with a couple without feeling like the third wheel?  

Here are Seven Tips to Avoid Feeling Like the Third Wheel 

1. Back That Thing Up

Or in other words, give that couple more space to breath and grow. Sure, it will be hard not texting or calling or seeing the friend as much, but adjustments need to be made. Of course, it’s not necessary to cut them off entirely just trust their tone and your own comfort level when going out with them as a couple. 

2. Explore Alternatives

This is a great time to start a new hobby, maybe even make some new friends. Try out activities that have always seemed tempting but have never been attempted. Start a band, learn how to make flan, volunteer walking shelter dogs, find a new favorite yoga studio; it’s all about channeling that time no longer spent with said friend into something productive, challenging and fun. 

3. Focus on Positive

It’s really awkward when a couple invites a friend out and that friend continually discusses said singleness. Or says something like, “I’ll never find love like the two of you have,” that’s just setting up that couple to invite that friend out less and less. Instead enjoy spending time with two people instead of just one. If your friend is into the other person there is probably something pretty interesting about her or him. Focus on the fun all of you are having and not the absence of another who doesn’t even exist in reality yet. 

4. Learn From Them

Examine how other couple’s act, this can be beneficial for your own future relationships. Maybe they are great at fighting fair or maybe they creepily whisper in each other’s ears and it weirds you out. In any case, they’re helping to reveal likes and dislikes of coupledom and will actually improve interactions in your own love life. 

5. Get Brave

So, perhaps there’s still some uncomfortableness when you’re all out together. It’s never been a better time to ask out that crush. Create a double-date that way time is still spent with the friend but there is also someone to talk to when that couple starts kissy-facing each other.

6. Schedule Solo Time

It’s just as important to hang out with the new couple together as it is to spend time with one’s friend solo. Yeah, there might have to be more proactive scheduling, but by making sure solo time happens it will help keep the friendship strong.  

7. Enjoy Time Alone 

There is totally nothing wrong with going out (or staying in) with yourself also known in the mindful community as masturdating. Take time to become a person you’d want to date and it will all unfold in your favor over time. 

When I’m single and people ask me if I’m seeing anyone I usually reply with a “yes” and I insert my favorite author at the time (usually Tom Robbins). Because sometimes we need that alone time to really reflect on who we are and what we want. Sometime we just need book time, or hike time, or meditation time and that’s totally great. If we can’t spend time alone and enjoy it how are we going to spend time with other people and have that good of a time? 

The third wheel issue can be entirely avoided if one understands the couple’s relationship dynamic and one’s own comfort level within it. Spending time with a couple can be fun and rewarding, it doesn’t have to be weird. When a friend starts seeing someone new, it’s also a good time for inner reflection and new outward expressions. Roll on my friend, roll that wheel on. 

[image: via Michał Huniewicz on flickr]

About the Author:

Krystal Baugher Krystal Baugher

Krystal Baugherlives in Denver, Colorado. She is the founder of Go Eat a Carrot, a website dedicated to exploring the worlds of pleasure and politics. Find her on Instagram to stay up to date with all of her shenanigans.

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