How To Not Be A Third Wheel (15 Vital Ways)

They say a relationship changes people. You may not fully realize it when it’s your turn, ‘til you find yourself in a third wheel situation with a boo’d up friend. Whether it’s virtual friendship in question or those you get to hang out with in person, it sucks to feel the least relevant in the group.

It’s bad enough to have to share your friend with their person, you shouldn’t let yourself be condemned to second place at every hang if you can help it. And with these tips, you just might be able to. Here are 15 easy ways to turn your next third wheel situation around.

15 Ways To Avoid Being The Third Wheel

1. Say you don’t want to come out

If this seems a little on the nose, that’s because it’s sometimes okay to be. Most of us are so easily bothered about what others (including friends) think that we automatically defer to lies and excuses when we simply don’t want to do something.

While that tendency has its moments, it’s not always as effective as we’d expect, as such excuses are either overused or so bogus a good friend might see through them. And that would more likely hurt their feelings more than the truth. 

For instance, a response along the lines of wanting to chill alone or something is more authentic than, say, you suddenly falling sick every time your friend’s partner is involved.

2. Ascertain who will be there before agreeing to plans

Verifying who is coming and who isn’t before finalizing plans can also be a pretty effective way to preempt feeling like a third wheel. Usually, friends get the message when you directly or indirectly state that you’re coming out specifically to hang with them and not as a trio. 

Of course, they can always still “betray” you and let their partner come along, but the law of averages says they get the message more often than not. It goes without saying that it’s preferable to be as unpointed/non-aggressive as you can manage when verifying the invitee list.

Try to make it more about spending time with your friend than implying hanging out with their boyfriend or girlfriend is a bad thing. Saying something like specifically being in the mood for a girls’ night out or relationship drama-free outing might do the trick.

3. Spend time with others when your boo’d up friend can’t make it out alone

Do you know it’s possible to feel quite the third wheel even without going out with a couple? How? You may ask. Let’s say you’re usually pretty entwined in your friend’s life, but now they are in a new relationship, you barely get to spend less than half the time together anymore.

That feeling of not knowing when to so much as call anymore without first having to first navigate bae waters is just as bad as being the forgotten third-wheeler at a bar hang. A good way to avoid it can be to find equally rewarding alternative ways to spend the time you originally did alone with your friend. 

That might be anything from extending your friendship to more single folks or picking up a new hobby.

4. Give the couple some allowance

If you agree to hang out knowing the boyfriend/girlfriend will be there, remember that lovebirds usually need a little room to themselves. As much as you shouldn’t isolate yourself on purpose, you might want to factor that into your expectations.

New couples are especially notorious for being unable to keep their hands off of each other, so if your friend’s relationship is relatively novel, that might be worth preparing against. Just giving that bit of leeway in how much attention you expect from the duo can save you plenty of disappointment both virtually as well as in real-life situations.

5. Invite another friend along

You know what they say: three’s a crowd, but four is a party, so make it one by inviting another friend out to join you guys, preferably a single one. That way, you can both take some pressure off the pair or even take the mushy out the hang entirely and make it four regular people just chilling.

You should probably apply some discretion, though, regarding when and who to open such invites up to. For instance, your friend’s partner might not appreciate you asking their rival (read: friend’s problematic ex) to join in on a relatively intimate occasion.

6. Bring a plus one

bring a plus one

Or in other words, a date and make it a double. Like your friend is probably doing by setting you up to spend time with their person, you could also take someone you’re dating along to meet them. Handy in cases where having a platonic friend around just wouldn’t cut it.

You should probably catch your date up on the basics, at least though, to make the double date fun for them and you. And you don’t have to expect or try to match up with your friend and their significant other’s gusto if you’re not quite there yet. Like, someone you’re only still getting to know being made to act like married couples can feel quite awkward for all parties present.

7. Open it up to more people

Then again, whether platonic or romantic, there are limitations to hanging as a foursome, such as being forced to talk to the other person like a consolation prize. In cases where your date is the only stranger in the group, you might essentially be passing the third wheel baton to them even though there are four of you.

To avoid these potential drawbacks of double dating, you can open the guest list up to even more people if your friend and their partner are okay with that, of course.

8. Try not to limit interaction with your friend alone

Like I said, your good friend wants you to spend time with them and their significant other probably has more than just having fun in mind. Very likely, it’s to do with getting two important persons in their life together with them there to buffer. 

And in that case, they may not be able to tell you, especially if you’re relatively new friends but singling them out to interact with has to sting a little, at least. Not to mention how said partner might feel bad for being left out. To save not just yourself but all parties around the uncomfortable taste of third-wheeling, try to engage with your friend’s partner as naturally as you can.

9. Playfully ask them to slow their roll when the couple gets carried away

Another way to avoid feeling like a third wheel is to speak up when the wee bit of room turns into them outrightly making you feel left out or uncomfortable. I should reiterate that being friends with at least one of your two companions allows for some light-hearted teasing, just as your buddies might tease you for being single.

And as you probably know, nothing like humor to defuse a potentially awkward situation. So when your couple of friends start to do too much than you can handle, simply asking them to get a room or something might help get them to recalibrate.

10. Don’t be the sad single friend

Try to temper your insecurity (if you have some) about being single or alone at that moment. Reassure yourself, if need be, that you are among friends and have no need to feel odd. You don’t want your lonely life to be all you talk about to the extent the duo is forced to stay apart awkwardly to accommodate your… sensitivity.

As much as you are not exactly obligated to make everyone have fun, you should also endeavor not to be a buzzkill. Entertain the questions about your love life (or lack thereof) as much as you’re comfortable doing because chances are they will come if the other two of your trio are romantically entangled.

But don’t go so deep into it that it defeats the entire point of spending time with people instead of just talking to yourself.

11. View the glass as half full

Maybe third-wheeling isn’t the worst that could happen. We’ve covered how including you when your friend could be logging some bae time implies they probably want you to bond with said bae. Which, by extension, suggests they care a great deal about your presence/opinion. That’s worth feeling good about, wouldn’t you say?

You can also look at third-wheeling as doing your couple friends a favor because, let’s be frank, even the most loved-up twosome needs a change of pace sometimes. Also, if you are lucky, you get to have not just one but two good companies that don't expect much more from you than just to be yourself.

12. Lean into the experience

lean into the experience

If you play your cards right, you can probably gain one or two takeaways from being a third wheel. For starters, observing your friend’s partner’s relationship with them might help you gain some perspective on what you had/have/or are possibly missing out on, nuances you didn’t initially pay much mind to.

For instance, the first time it occurred to me that relationship fulfillment requires more than just quality time with each other was on a third wheel date. Spending time with other people is hella refreshing for couples, just like the rest of us need our social variety. 

To think you can make that happen while simultaneously racking up experience for your own dating life/future relationships. I feel like understanding that should help you appreciate your role enough in this to look past the negative undertone of the term.

13. Talk to your friend

Conversely, if you feel awkward being a third wheel no matter how you try to spin it, it might be a good time to have a conversation with your friend. They probably wouldn’t appreciate being the third or fifth wheel among a group of single friends and so should be able to relate if you are uncomfortable.

I’d tell them exactly how you feel it, whether you think your friendship might benefit more from spending time together solo or just for them to be more inclusive. You’ll probably feel freer discussing this with the person you’ve known the longest than it in front of your friend’s partner, who might not know you enough not to take offense.

14. Understand you are under no obligation to stay if you’re not enjoying yourself

There’s also a certain peace of mind that comes with knowing you can leave whenever a third wheel date stops being fun for you. Most people have their limit on just how much awkwardness they can sit through. Whether you draw the line at relationship fights or one too many sucky-face plays, it’s okay to excuse yourself when you’ve had enough.

Better, in fact, than say interfering in a couple’s shenanigans or saying something you don’t mean. And the best part is you don’t even have to be rude to pull this off. If you can’t say why you’re leaving without ruining the flow, present your reason as personal, thank them for a good time, and be on your merry way.

15. Couple up yourself and get your own back

If you have a bit of a petty bone in you, you can deter your friends from inviting you on more third wheel dates by getting into a relationship yourself. Starting one for the sole purpose of getting back at your crew is obviously extreme, but if you are already well on your way to it happening anyway, I say take advantage.

Sometimes people need a taste of their own medicine to fully understand what’s up. So take it as they dish it for now till your own significant other is available, and you can start inviting your boo’d up friends individually to spend time with you guys.

FAQs

Is it bad to be a third wheel?

Not necessarily. In addition to being guaranteed a double deal if you’re lucky enough to like both companies, you can also learn a whole lot by simply observing their relationship dynamics. You can walk away when it stops feeling like a good time or get a chance to offer some sage advice if asked. 

How do you fix third-wheeling?

You can avoid feeling like or being the third wheel by simply deciding to go out less with couples/close friends and making more solo separate plans. You could also invite another friend over or bring a date of your own and make it a foursome.

How do you tell someone you don’t want to be a third wheel?

You could just come out and say it as is or try to cushion the blow a bit by putting it in a way that prioritizes one-on-one quality time over group gatherings. Or you could take the easy way out and make up an excuse as most people do.

How do you know if you’re a third wheel?

Like in vehicles, you are a third wheel if you are the unpaired one in a group of three or you have the least recognition/relevance to the gathering. It’ll probably feel super lonely to be you, especially if you want what the others have.

How can you tell a fake friend?

Fakes friends are all about the buzz, drama, or whatever they are gaining by being with you. They are often warm and at their best when they need something from you and can’t maintain the energy otherwise. They will probably speak ill of their other friends to you as they would about you to others.

Conclusion

Relationships bring people with shared interests together, but not everyone appreciates having someone else all up in their traditions just because a friend is dating them. Whether you’re trying to feel less like a third wheel or avoid being one altogether, I hope this helps. As usual, please leave a comment and share this article if you liked it.

Leave a Comment