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He Said, She Said: Being The Third Wheel

At some point or another, we’ve all experienced being a third wheel. You may have heard the expression before and while it’s not the most pleasant experience, it is something we most often can’t avoid when hanging out with friends and their new significant others. Being one is usually considered a negative thing in any aspect, and with it comes feelings of exclusion, insecurity and discomfort.

Image Credit: Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Image Credit: Jamie Grill/Getty Images

This term usually appears when your good friends start a new relationship and either they prefer to be one-on-one, or invite you out of obligation. It makes situations awkward for both parties, and sometimes more often for the single person in the group. It becomes tricky and as you go through the motions of your friendship, you will notice change, growth and evolution between both you and your friend.

If you want to spend time with your best friend but don’t want to get in the way of their relationship, how do go about avoiding being a third wheel? It might be difficult to bring up but most times, communication is key in conveying your thoughts and feelings to a friend. If your best friend is really your best friend, they will always be there for you the same way you’ve been there for them.

This week we hear from Laura of Dayton, Ohio who is experiencing trouble as a self proclaimed third wheel. Our team of writers share their advice in hopes to help her clear the air with her best friend.

He Said She Said - Laura April 17

Stephen says…

This is a difficult situation I think, Laura.

I think it is really nice that your friend has found someone that she is serious about. That being said, it seems unfair that your time with her should suffer just because she is involved. I know when my wife and I first got together we were terrible for this sort of thing, because we always wanted to be around each other, which is not the right way to handle it. You are quite right in thinking that you should be able to hang out with your friend without having to hang out with here boyfriend too. Being a third wheel certainly gets to become uncomfortable, and your friend should understand this by now.

The fact that your friend shares your personal secrets with her boyfriend is unfortunately unavoidable. However, he  shouldn’t be discussing the fact that he knows. I know that it sucks to know that you can’t really say anything in confidence anymore, but again this is a thing that happens with couples. My wife and I are guilty of this too; however, we don’t let on about the info we have shared.

The standard answer I could give you is to talk to your friend, and make sure that your concerns are heard, but it seems you have already taken that leap and it hasn’t quite turned out as planned. At this stage it might be best to – and I hate to use this term, but – give her an ultimatum. Make sure that she understands that you like her boyfriend, and that you certainly don’t mind hanging out with them as a couple on occasion, but when you are looking to spend time with just her, she should be able to deal with that without complaining. You are friends, and she should respect that.

 I really hope this helps, Laura. Good luck.

Karen says…

Laura, I know EXACTLY how you feel. When my best friend and her boyfriend started dating some years ago, I was in the same situation for a while and it drove me crazy. I didn’t do much about it back then when I should have, but I think the passing of time solved everything. With a couple who has been together so long and has been through as much as they have, let’s just say the dynamic has changed (Although it is different for every couple). My best friend and I can be girls together a lot more now than before and when I hang out with both her and her boyfriend, I don’t really think of myself as being a third wheel anymore but rather hanging out with two of my best friends. However, I definitely understand your frustration and I don’t think you should have to wait to ease that.

It seems like you’ve already taken some steps to resolve the issue and I’m sorry to hear that your friend is being very defensive about it. However, when you told her “I don’t always want your boyfriend around,” how did you say it, exactly? Did you notice that frustration and anger in your voice? We all want and need to be firm and honest when we find ourselves in these tricky conflicts, but when we react badly, the other person can react badly too. Stephen has a good point though, and I also hate to use the term “ultimatum,” yet I think that’s what you might have to give your best friend. Stand your ground and find a way to say “Hey, I don’t mind you spending time with your boyfriend, but I think we need an ACTUAL girls’ night out, kind of like when couples go on dates without their friends around.” Ask her if she could just give you one day/afternoon/evening, free from boyfriends and irrational complaints, where both of you can go and hang out as best friends, just the two of you or with your other girlfriends. You might want to remind her of the things you two used to do together before her relationship took off and revisit them. That might put some sense back into her. You can even take it further and both of you can try to establish one day out of the week, a couple of days a month, or whenever as strictly-girls-only hangout days. Try new things together, or make it routine to bake cupcakes, get facials, go shopping in the city, go out to lunch, or whatever tickles your fancy. Somewhere in between, hopefully there will be an opportunity that opens up for the both of you to further address your concerns in a civil manner.

As far as her telling all your secrets to her boyfriend, like Stephen said, I feel like that’s unfortunately unavoidable. But you can always tell your friend “Let’s just keep this between you and me” or “Don’t tell anyone” because maybe she just needs those explicit verbal cues to know that it’s not just about her blabbing to her BF, but generally maintaining trust as your best friend.

It’s just not right that your best friend and her boyfriend can have all the time in the world together when all you want are those strictly-girls-only nights, and we all definitely need those! If she truly is your best friend, she’ll understand and be a lot more considerate of your feelings. Good luck!

Tatum says…

I agree with Karen, give it time. Eventually, they’re going to get sick of each other and she’s going to realize she really misses her best friend. Right now, she and her boyfriend are in that “honeymoon” phase where they want to do everything together and be together 24/7. After a while, they will realize they need some space from each other, and that’s when she’ll learn that as much as she loves her boyfriend, nothing can compare to her best friend — you! She will realize she misses girl time. I’m sure her boyfriend will come to this realization, too, that he needs his space and time doing guy things with his buddies. In fact, they’ll probably end up having a conversation about it, and in time, she will come back to being there for you. This kind of thing will all happen naturally. I would not give her an ultimatum, that might ruin the friendship or create a sensitive issue that you will always remember. Give her time and space, and she’ll come to her senses. I would simply let her know that you understand she and her boyfriend are tight and getting serious, and then follow-up with how you’ll always be there for her. Maybe she’s not a true friend and she’ll fall along the wayside, time will tell. Take advantage of this lull in your relationship and get to know other girls. Don’t just sulk at home alone waiting for her to hang out with you. Who knows, maybe a new (and better) best friend is around the corner.

Andrew says…

I definitely sympathize with you, Laura. My best friend coming out of high school had two boyfriends in a row where I could not spend time with her alone and that got frustrating, but I think Karen gave you some good advice when she said that time will solve this. If your friend and her boyfriend stay together for an extended period of time, eventually they will become less interested in spending every waking moment with each other. I also agree with Tatum, though. I’m not sure an ultimatum is the way to go. I would say something less, like reminding your friend about the enjoyable times you had when it was just the two of you. Eventually she will likely notice the change in your relationship since she got her boyfriend. Often it takes another important life event for them to realize that, though. My friend and I became closer when her parents separated and she needed someone to confide in. In that sense, Tatum is right. Eventually your friend will need what only you can provide.

As for your secrets, I think Stephen is right that it is unavoidable that they will talk to each other, but your friend’s boyfriend should not have brought them up in front of you. It may be best, as Karen said, to stress the secrecy of the situation and then, if your friend’s boyfriend does bring them up again in front of you, you can tell your friend that you don’t mind if she tells him, so long as he doesn’t confront you with them later because it makes you uncomfortable. Hopefully that helps, Laura. Just be patient and don’t let their relationship make you forget the value of your friendship with her.

If you seek advice from our writers, email us at thehudsuckerblog@gmail.com! Perhaps your question will be featured in our next installment.

While our team of writers have given their advice with the best of intentions, they nor anyone of this site assume responsibility for your actions or the results of them.

 

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