The Third Wheel Syndrome

25 Jan

Note: This is the second part in a series of articles on the subject of friendship. Please stay tuned for next week’s post and be sure comment if you like my work.

You know when you have a close friendship with someone, of either sex, who you are inseparable from? Or any friend for that matter with whom you hang out with on a regular basis? The two of you do everything together; shopping, eating out, go dancing, trade books, share clothes, spend holidays with each other’s families—everything but showering it seems. Then you begin dating a new guy and before you know you’re in a full-fledged relationship.

Dividing your time between your beloved and your best friend doesn’t seem like such a big deal at first because you figure that your bestie is totally happy for you but then a few weeks go by and your girl-time has rapidly depleted.

You need to buy a dress for an upcoming event, where she is very clearly invited, but she makes up some excuse as to why she can’t go shopping with you and why she won’t be able to attend the event. In your mind you just figure that she really is busy because you want to believe that she isn’t bitter or jealous about your newly found happiness.

Every time you invite her to join you and your beau she declines and when she does accept the invitation she’s usually in a less than mediocre mood. Her emotions are clearly being worn on her sleeve, her bitter mood sets the tone for what could have a fantastic night out, and she just isn’t the same person who you once could count on for a good laugh.

What the motherfuck is happening?! You wonder to yourself.

Let’s not limit this situation to just your closest girlfriend, but expand outward to the portion of your social network that you could rely on who are now giving you bullshit excuses and some who flat out say they don’t want to join the two of you because they don’t like being a third wheel. Your internal monologue is ready to blow a gasket: what the fuck kind of shit is this?!

I like to call this the Third Wheel Syndrome. There is no reason to further explain all the possible situations because you know exactly what I’m talking about and this type of crap probably pisses you off just as much as it does me.

I feel very fortunate to be able to say that I have a handful of girlfriends who I can rely on. These are the girls who aren’t bitter because I have a boyfriend and they don’t but will still hang out with us, the three of us, and have a great time. Even the girls who are in relationships are just as happy as those few single girlfriends I have who are genuinely happy for me. These are the girls who will be in my bridal party when Ben & I get married. These are the ones who will get to share in the excitement of planning a wedding, going out on double dates, and not projecting their unhappiness of being single (if they happen to be) towards me because they are genuine friends.

Then I have those friends who I used to consider amongst my closest who will bear the pain of coming out with Ben & I, but will end up ruining the entire evening with their bitter mood. Isn’t the whole point of hanging out to have fun? It’s like they are have some kind of fucked up magical power with which they force outwardly that puts us into this bubble like environment.

Within the bubble lies a warzone made up of bitterness, misery, and jealousy. More misplaced jealousy. I’m sitting there, on edge, wondering why the night can’t just have that carefree vibe, Ben is uncomfortable because he doesn’t know what the hell is going on, and my so-called friend is making snide comments left and right because she can’t handle the fact that she is there, that she is a the third wheel.

What makes no sense to me is why my friend can’t just be happy for me? Why is it that she can’t manage her own insecurities and emotions and put them away for the time being, so the night won’t go to shit? Does it not click into her head that maybe I want these two very important people in my life to get along? Does it occur to my friend that this is not just about her? That I’m trying to fuse together my love for the two of them?

I furthered examined this situation by breaking it down into three areas: emotional management, the bond of friendship, and accepting change.

Emotional Management

The concept of emotional management is quite deep. This friend may feel insecure with themselves and the being an independent woman is something they can only dream of. Even if they firmly believe that they are independent they really are not because otherwise they would be able to gracefully handle hanging out with a couple without the company of a man or another friend.

For some girls, being with a guy is the way that they define themselves: “I’m [insert guy’s name here]’s girlfriend.” While others may claim to be okay with flying solo their actions speak otherwise. For example, the friend who is all for going out with you and your boyfriend, but once the three of you are out, she changes into this completely different person.

She makes faces when your boyfriend picks a flower off of a nearby bush and surprises you with it or she makes snippy comments when he pulls out the chair for you. What excites her is going out, not being there with you and your boyfriend. Maybe her other single friends were busy that night and the idea of sitting at home, watching movies is not very appealing.

It’s easy for her accept the invite for a night on the town but she didn’t calculate the number of people going or the fact that she is secretly, yet not so secretly, miserable because she will be the feared third wheel. She then takes her insecurity of being single out on you by making the negative unnecessary comments or she’ll try to embarrass you in some way, because making you look bad makes her feel better about herself. The outcome of this is that she actually makes herself look fucking ridiculous.

I’ve had friends who, unknowingly, appear to be so desperately pathetic that it makes me wonder why or how I became friends with them in the first place. Did you really just insult the way I wore my rhinestone scorpion broach because you hate the fact that my boyfriend loves it? “That broach looks ridiculous with that outfit Lauren!” She knew he loved it because he made a low key comment earlier in the evening about how nifty it was.

This is when I question what it says about the person who acts like this. And it’s also when I come to the conclusion that maybe this girl needs to learn some emotional management. My advice to this type of girl is to check your emotions at the door. No one wants to hang out with a bitter friend. No one wants to throw you an unnecessary pity party. Acting like this only proves to me that you’re immature, unaware, and not ready for mature adult relationships, including friendships. It also pushes me away because it becomes difficult to juggle an emotional unbalanced friend and everything else that is well balanced in my life.

While I care that you’re unhappy, I’d also like for you to care about the fact that I am happy, and that it’s important to me to be able (and want) to share it with you. Maybe we can rearrange our schedules so that there is more girl time and during that time we can work on what’s really bothering you and come up with some kind of solution to the issue(s) at hand? I can only do so much because I’m merely human. I can also suggest that you, emotionally unbalanced friend, should put yourself in my shoes and see how you’d like it.

The Bond of Friendship

I really hate those corny sayings like “bros before hoes” and “chicks before dicks” but the fact is that a lot of people swear by these mantras and nothing can be done to change that. The bond of friendship is supposed to be an unbreakable bond. “We’ve been friends for 7 years before you started dating this guy,” your best friend reminds you, “so I should automatically come before him on your priorities list, because I will always be there for you when he dips out!”

This scenario happens all over the planet. People will always feel some kind of entitlement when a length of time is involved, especially when it comes to friendship. I’ve had some of the same friends for years on end but it’s something I pride myself in having and maintaining, especially living 2,500 miles away. Friendship, to me, is very important and I consider my friends my family.

Two of my girlfriends are in long-term serious relationships, one is recently engaged while the other is eagerly anticipating the day her boyfriend proposes (he has the ring already). Even before Ben ever existed I was so stoked for them because I knew the nitty grity of their past, what they’ve been through, and how deserving they are of such happiness. I’ve never once considered myself one of those third-wheel-kinds of friends because it never made sense to me: who am I to reign on their well-deserved happiness parade?

In order to keep the bond of friendship alive the people sharing this sacred pledge must both participate in keeping it well balanced and healthy by being aware and knowledge of change, which brings me to my next point.

Accepting Change

Change is inevitable. This is such an easy concept to understand yet so many people forget that it’s an essential non-stop part of life. Everything is in constant flow with change. We change clothes, significant others, cars, jobs, residence, friends, preferences, height, weight—you get my drift. We can’t avoid change because it’s never going to stop; it’s never going to take a momentary coffee break.

The people who share this bond of friendship need to be aware of the fact that change is bound to happen which means that aspects of the friendship will also change. As I wrote in last week’s article, a friendship will experience ups & downs and go to through changes which require flexibility and the resilience of the effects caused by change.


One Response to “The Third Wheel Syndrome”


  1. While flying… « Dear Ben, Dear Lauren… - January 31, 2010

    […] were within your apartment. Change is often better for people than they care to admit, as you aptly noted in your blog… and sometimes involuntary change is the only way people snap out of their accepted lives. […]

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