How To Be The Best Third Wheel Ever

Third wheeling? More like FREE WHEELING. Sorry.


by Clare Finney |
Published on

'There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room,' says joy-mongerer Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar. 'It's like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction--every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it's really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier…'

Sound familiar? Then for your own sake and that of every couple you know, read on. Beautiful, intelligent literature though she undoubtedly penned, Sylvia Plath was a pretty poor role model for having a laugh, and if life in general is better lived by looking on the bright side, the act of third wheeling demands a telescope trained pretty much directly at the sun.

There are, I suspect, few things that boast such capacity for both joy and despair than tagging solo along with a couple. Yet as an old saying doesn’t quite go, when life gives you lemons, sit eating lemon curd straight from the jar with a spoon.

Remember the tricar? Well, you’re the front wheel - NOT the spare tyre. With you their sweet bicycle for two is transformed, Cinderella like, into a really cool new car. Keep that firmly in mind that when they ask you to join them, and consider that this change in dynamic is as much for their benefit as it is yours. No, really.

Choose your fellow wheels wisely

Couples who bicker are out of the question. Equally, if they’re master and mistress of the PDA then avoid it at all costs. You'll only end up picking the label off your too-rapidly-emptied beer and staring at it in feigned fasciation while they pet heavily. Stick to those couples who are comfortable being together without being all over each other and you'll save yourself a world of wet-lip-smacking-filled silences and pain.

Your singleness is not the room's metaphorical elephant

As in, don't act like you’ve got a partner and he’ll be back shortly, just be yourself. Your lovely, single self. Even the happiest of couples appreciate tales from the front line of dating which they can live vicariously through. It cements their feelings – or, if they’re not happy, reassures them there’s plenty of fish out there if they do jump (relation)ship. Both ways, you’re an asset – and for your part, their joint perspective can prove a valuable source of insight and advice when it comes to your office crush and that guy from the tube.

READ MORE: What To Do When Your Best Mate Gets Engaged

Know when to make your excuses - slash exit silently - as the occasion demands

In general, there are two cordon sanitaires with regards the third wheel. The first is the aforementioned PDAs - which, once you're in their living room after a few drinks are no longer public demonstrations of affection, but private and, let's face it, acceptable romantic gestures. Party's over for you. The second is arguments: largely best avoided unless you are all particularly good friends. If you are, then three's a valuable mediator; if not, three's a crowd. Time to duck and roll. Each will devise her own escape route but my favourite is yawning and mumbling something about Bedfordshire and sleep.

Treat them like individuals

'They' aren't hybrid human, moving and speaking as one indistinct body. These are your friends: two folk whom you love and who also happen to love each other. If, when they weren't going out, you treated them as individuals, why stop now? "I’m still a whole person. I still have my own life, work, and opinions" my friend huffs, when someone asks what she and Simon thought to the Homeland. Yes, it's difficult, when confronted with the proprietorial ‘we’, to look beyond that to its constituent parts - but put the shoe on your foot. Would you rather be treated as someone with little identity beyond being a 'young, free' singleton – or a personality in your own right?

Feel the love

Your love for them, their love for you and for each other also. Sure it's easy to feel bitter about their lovers' paradise, but it won't make you happy. Enjoy their joy in each other, embrace the relationship, and console yourself by thinking of this part of life practice for your own future relationship. Some of my best date ideas have been those I’ve suggested for other couples: living vicariously enough to enter into the spirit of their relationship (James loves Afghanistan! Sophie loves food! This Afghan Supper Club will be perfect for their anniversary…) but not so vicariously it’s obsessive (can I come?). Watch, learn, love and in time you'll need the sequel to this series: how to have the best double date doing - to be completed when I too have found someone.

Don't third-wheel on a swan boat that goes into a love tunnel

I mean, obviously. But more seriously, there are certain times when you should turn down a third wheel opportunity (because that's what you must see it as: an opportunity! Bright side!) and they include: when things are on the rocks and you're concerned you've only been invited so they'll have something to talk about and if you've literally just broken up with your boyfriend of nine years. Be kind to yourself. And eat lots of ice cream with friends who are either single or really hated your ex.

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Picture: Lukasz Wierzbowski

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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