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Third Wheel: 32 Perks, Annoyances & the Guide to Survive Third Wheeling

Being the third wheel on a night out is not exactly fun. Fights, smooching, you name it, you’re privy to it. Extract yourself from the situation now! 

third wheel

Is there anything more relatable than being the third wheel? Whether the couple you’re with is being cuddly or fighting, awkward isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.

Being the third wheel throws your singleness in your face and squishes it into your hair. Being around a couple can really drain you.

Whether friends with one of the couple or both, it is a lot to take. You may love them to death. They could be your best friends. And you could have a great time with them.

Inevitably, they will share couples moments that you feel weird about. Maybe they want you to take cute couples photos of them. Or maybe they want some privacy, but you’re just there.

They may feel fine because they like having you there to buffer them. However, they probably don’t think about how you feel when they go in for a mini makeout session. Being the third wheel gets old quick. We know this doesn’t help, but you’re not the only one in this position. [Read: How to deal with being the only single friend of the group]

What is a third wheel?

A third wheel is basically when there are three people in a situation, i.e. a party or an afternoon in the coffee shop. Usually, two of them are in a relationship and the other person is single, just hanging around.

There are many reasons why a third wheel situation crops up. It might be that two of the people are friends and one doesn’t want to leave out their friend when they couple up. So, they ask them to tag along too.

The other person doesn’t want to upset their well-meaning friend, so everyone ends up in a non-sexual menage-a-trois. 

You’ve no doubt been in this situation at some point in your life. It’s awkward, you want to cringe, and when the couple starts to argue or, even worse, kiss, your life just gets worse. [Read: The thirst is real – The realities of being single for way too long!]

Hardships of being the third wheel

It’s true that being the third wheel doesn’t always suck, but when it does, this is why.

1. Having to sit through a fight

Couples inevitably fight. And usually, the couples that insist you come out with them want you there as a buffer. They hope your presence will prevent them from fighting.

But, it usually doesn’t work out that way. Having to sit through their bickering can be exhausting. You’ve never been more annoyed or happier that you’re single. [Read: How to have a difficult conversation without losing your nerve]

2. When they ask your opinion on a fight

What’s worse than witnessing a couple fight in front of you? When they involve you in a fight. Maybe they ask your opinion or they put you right in the middle. They want you to pick a side when that will only end in even more drama for you.

3. They complain about each other to you

Those odd moments when one of them goes to the restroom and the other complains about them to you. You aren’t just dealing with them together, but you’re dealing with their issues as well.

It isn’t enough that you are constantly with them, but even when you get a break, they fill it with their relationship. [Read: How to know if you’re being taken advantage of by the people around you]

4. You’re always a bit left out

Even if the three of you are best friends, you always feel a bit left out. Whether they have cute nicknames or inside jokes, sitting through that can feel uncomfortable. Why invite you if they aren’t going to include you in their conversations?

5. You never see your friend alone

If you are friends with one person more than the other, odds are you rarely see them alone. You used to have a friend to rant about dating and other personal stuff but maybe don’t feel comfortable sharing that in front of their bae.

You’ve now lost a friend to their relationship and gained their relationship as a friend.

6. They try to set you up

When you’re friends with a couple, they insist on setting you up with anyone and everyone. They want couple friends but have you.

Not only is it annoying to be set up with the only single person from your friend’s office, especially when you don’t care to meet them, but it is sort of an insult. Are you not good enough to hang out with on your own? [Read: How to set someone up with their right match in the right way]

7. When their partner isn’t there, they still talk about them

When you finally get a night with your BFF to rant and catch up without their partner, they insist on talking about them the whole time.

Whether they are missing them or complaining about them, it can feel like their relationship has become the prime focus of your friendship.

8. They promise you won’t feel like the third wheel

When a couple invites you to join them for dinner you probably hesitate, especially if you’ve experienced being the third wheel before. But, after they insist that you won’t feel like the third wheel, you do.

They say they won’t fight or make out or do anything to make you feel weird, but they are in fact a couple. Those moments are sort of inevitable.

9. They assume you want to be like them

Couples have this confidence that every single person wants a relationship like theirs. But, they are seeing their relationship from the inside, and you’re seeing it from the outside.

They may think you just ooh and ahh over them when in fact you’re holding back gagging and rolling your eyes. I mean, there is nothing wrong with couples, but when you’re the third wheel, you tend to see the worst of relationships. [Confession: I’m in a relationship but I can’t wait to be single again!]

10. You can’t avoid the couple stuff

When you go to the movies and are stuck sitting next to a stranger. You go on a ride and sit in a different row. If you drive somewhere, you’re in the back seat. And it gets worse from there.

Even if they are trying to make you feel included, they can’t just stop being a couple. They’ll push the hair out of each other’s faces, use pet names, and hold hands. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it can sting when you’re being the third wheel.

11. They feel bad for you

Even if you’re fine being single, your coupled friends will feel bad for you. They invite you out so you aren’t home alone. They want you to feel included but then make you feel super excluded by being the third wheel.

While they pity you for not being like them, you can feel it. Even if you love being single normally, being the third wheel makes it suck. [Read: How to stay single until you’re seriously ready to mingle]

12. You’re extra alone

Somehow, being home alone feels less lonely than being a single person with a couple. At least when you’re alone, you have yourself to focus on. When you’re the third wheel, you’re focusing on the couple in front of you.

Whether you envy them or not, being the third wheel shines a light on your loneliness. There is nothing wrong with being single, but when you’re with a couple, no matter their intent, it always feels like there is something wrong with it.

Even if you went out feeling good, you come home from being the third wheel feeling like you need what they have, even if you don’t want it. [Read: Do you want a partner or are you just feeling more lonely?]

But, consider the perks of being the third wheel

Feeling bummed out about being the third wheel? You may not have considered the benefits of tagging along with couples! There is a silver lining on everything if you look hard enough.

Read on to find out why you should revel in your *temporary* third-wheel bliss.

1. You get a lot of free stuff

Whenever your friends invite you to tag along to their Sunday brunches and movie dates, you don’t have to spend a thing!

Haven’t watched that latest comic book-adapted movie? Maybe your BFF and her man are going to watch it and will invite you to join them. Want to try out that hip new restaurant down the block? Say yes when your roommate and her boyfriend ask you to go with them.

And the thing is, they’ll probably throw your ticket in with theirs. It’s really a steal to be the third wheel! [Read: What makes a good friend? 15 traits we desperately seek in a friend]

2. You don’t have to share your food

Since couples seem to always go out to eat, you can get in on every dish—and you don’t have to share. When your BFF confides that she hates it when her boyfriend sneaks bites of her sundae, you’ll smile because you get to eat ALL of yours.

So if love’s escaping you right now, at least you don’t have to begrudgingly answer to, “Can I have a bite of that?” [Read: 20 annoying things it’s okay to hate about your partner]

3. You get in on their vacations

Not only do you get free food and movie tickets, but you also get free trips! When your BFF goes on a long weekend getaway to her boyfriend’s lake house, you’ll likely be invited along to get your mind off your single-life problems.

And when they head off to Mexico for a week, tag along and get yourself some free margaritas and a tan. [Read: Why it’s so great to be single in your 20s]

4. You constantly have access to the male point of view

Your BFF’s BF instantly becomes your new male BFF! You get the inside scoop on the male psyche because you have him to go to for advice about guys and how to approach potential dates.

5. You get twice the friends

Not only do you have your own clique, but you also get to hang with your BFF, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s friends. Your social circle gets bigger and bigger.

Want to throw a huge party? You don’t have to text everyone. Plan a bash with your best friend, have her boyfriend text his friends, and you’re all ready to go. [Read: Are guy best friends nothing but trouble for girls?]

6. You have two people to look out for you

When you’re tagging along on a date, you don’t have to worry about yourself, because you know you’re in good hands.

They both make sure you’re comfortable, and since they feel bad that you’re single *which you don’t mind at all*, they will try to set you up with their other single friends.

Furthermore, if you find yourself in boy trouble or car trouble or any kind of trouble, you know they’ll both be there for you.

7. You are the go-to peace maker

You’ve been the arbiter between them for so long, you should win the Nobel Peace Prize! If they’re giving each other the cold treatment, you’re the first person they’ll approach when they are ready to give in and make amends.

Of course, you may also find yourself standing in the middle and listening to their issues so much that were you to charge them for every fight, you would be rich. [Read: How to better a relationship and improve your love life]

8. You become a sex-pert

Not because you’ve been romping in the bedroom a lot, but because you’ve spent plenty of time over cocktails listening to all of your best friend’s TMI sex stories.

You get to find out what sex positions are the hottest, what sexts get the best response, and just the right Marvin Gaye song to quickly kick things up a notch in the bedroom.

9. You get the 411 on what makes a great relationship

Aside from sex tips, you also get to see what makes your friend’s relationship work, and you find yourself growing and learning with them. By observing the many loving gestures between your BFF and her beau, you’ll also see what makes relationships real.

If you’ve seen your BFF pop her boyfriend’s zits, or him buying her tampons, you have a pretty good idea that relationships aren’t all about sunsets and butterflies.

You get the VIP seats to their daily quirks and can see how good things could be when it’s your turn to be in a relationship. [Read: How to have a long term relationship that lasts]

10. You see the upside of being single

Despite the snooze-fest brought on by seeing them constantly kissing and holding hands, you also get the chance to see that couples really aren’t perfect.

Being a third wheel, you will likely see them argue on occasion and do things they wouldn’t have done if they were single.

On these occasions, be thankful that you’re single, independent, in the prime of your youth, and that you don’t have to worry about someone else dictating your every move.

11. If you embrace it, you’ll feel less alone

Instead of staying at home on a Saturday night eating leftover pizza, you can choose to go out with your BFF and her bae, having fun and feeling less lonely.

The couple can become really effective wing guys, and who knows, you may hit the bar solo with them and end up coming home with a guy in tow.

12. You are reminded that love really does exist

Anytime you hang out with your couple friends, you can’t help but see that love really does exist. You see how great they look together and, even better, you are a witness to how love is able to conquer all.

No matter how much you want to puke at their PDAs, seeing them gives you hope that someday, love will also come to you. [Read: The 10 types of love you’ll experience in your life]

You can be a third wheel in friendships too

When we think of being a third wheel, we often think about a friend and her partner. But, you can be a third wheel in a friendship too. You know the saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd”? Well, in many cases it can be. 

Two friends may gravitate toward one another and become closer and that means you’re left out. You’re all still friends, but they’re closer and that means you aren’t privy to the ‘in’ jokes and the almost psychic connection they seem to develop. 

It’s easy to become resentful in this type of situation. In truth, it often turns friends against each other. But, you can avoid that fate by being open with your friends from the start and talking about how you feel.

It’s important to have that conversation carefully and to avoid blame talk. Make sure that you stick to “I” references, such as “I feel like …”, rather than “you two always leave me out.” [Read: Codependent friendship – The bad signs and why it’s unhealthy for you]

It’s also tempting to stop hanging out with them, but that’s a mistake. You can all be friends, you just need to realign what’s going on.

Perhaps they don’t realize that they’re leaving you out or causing you to feel like a third wheel. They’re not mind-readers, so that means you need to be brave enough to talk about it calmly and rationally. 

Third wheel survival tips

If you find yourself third-wheeling and you’re desperate to get through the occasion without feeling terrible, you can learn a few survival tips. Or you could just play the wallflower all night. Your choice. [Read: 15 reasons why being single can be more fun than being in a relationship]

1. Use your gadgets *smart phone, handheld console, etc* 

Because you can’t thank modern technology for being modern enough to save you in these kinds of situations, you can now keep yourself busy by playing games on your phone or handheld console while your supposed “friends” get their thing going.

In normal social situations, using your phone would be frowned upon, but it isn’t really good manners to stare blankly and watch them suck their faces off either.

2. Text or call someone else

It could be your crush, a witty friend, or a long-forgotten acquaintance. If you find that it’s hopeless to get the couple’s due attention, find someone else’s.

A witty friend would keep you entertained with their usual antics, allowing you to buy yourself some time until your friends realize their cruelty.

In the same way, texting and flirting with your crush or a sexy friend might increase your chances of getting a date of your own, so that you’ll never find yourself a third wheel in the future. [Read: The step-by-step guide to making a successful booty call]

3. Observe and flirt with someone in a similar situation 

The universe might not be too cruel that it only has you as the in-between in your friends’ make-out session. So brush up on your scouting skills, and survey the area for people of the opposite sex who seem to be in a similar situation.

Tell your friends *if they could even acknowledge you while lip locking* that you’ll just go and get a drink while you approach a cutie at the bar.

You could even use your third wheel similarity as a conversation starter. If it turns out well, you would have found yourself a partner of your own while escaping the third wheel pit. [Read: 15 perfect conversation starters you can use as a third wheel]

4. Keep the conversation going

Another useful trick to keep them from getting sweet while you lapse into a diabetic coma is to get them preoccupied with conversations. Since you’re really desperate to survive the night, you have a no-holds-barred, anything-under-sun range of topics at your disposal.

From friends of friends’ gossip to the latest episode of your favorite show, you could even discuss particle physics or the history of curling if you want to. Talk away, and unless they’re really mean, they’ve got no choice but to listen! [Read: How to keep a conversation interesting and fun the whole way]

5. Blow them away with your humor and story-telling skills 

The idea is to steal their attention from each other and direct it towards you. This is tricky, however, and requires a deal of oratorical skills and showmanship.

The awkwardness of being a third wheel starts once the silence kicks in. So you need to be careful by preventing this and keeping them entertained by animatedly narrating your old college shenanigans or that movie you watched last night.

If you’ve run out of ammo, make fun of yourself for being the third wheel, and get a few laughs. Just don’t hang yourself in your closet afterward when you get home. [Read: How to be funny and make people love your company]

6. Cock block them 

Now is the time for revenge. If you think you’re up for it, you can ruin the mood and rain over their sweet time.

Start conversations about deep and depressing topics like the global recession, existential ennui, the sorrows of the human condition, or that puppy you ran over three years back.

Your buddy could hate you for your sabotage afterward, but it’s every man for his own this time. [Read: What’s a cock block and 11 perfect reasons to use it]

7. Space out, malinger around 

If you think it’s a worthless effort to keep the kissies at bay with talking or with any of your tradecraft, just distance yourself from them once it starts. Go on, take a walk, and admire the evening sky or the bar posters.

8. Find an excuse to bail out 

If you’ve exhausted all your options and your friends are close to getting a cab to conclude their canoodling in bed, launch a preemptive strike in the form of a text ruse that something is urgent or you have stuff to do.

Never ever allow them to leave before you do. This will be easy because they’ll be too busy to accommodate you anyway. [Read: How to focus on yourself – 27 ways to create your own sunshine]

Know that being a third wheel is usually temporary

Thankfully, being a third wheel is normally just a temporary deal. At some point, you’ll either meet someone and it’ll become a double dating situation, your friends will break up, or you’ll simply drift away and find a new group of friends.

For sure, you can still remain friends with your third-wheeling buddies, but always put your own needs first. If being a third wheel is driving you crazing or making you feel bad, keep your distance for a while and find your feet elsewhere. 

But, also remember to look at the positives too. Sometimes we’re so focused on the negatives that we fail to see the silver lining. 

[Read: How to meet new people and network at a party like a social butterfly]

Being a third wheel is often awkward and a little unpleasant. But, it can be a positive thing if you don’t let their mushy behavior get in the way of your own fun time. If all else fails, you can learn to pass the time with these tips.

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...