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love out loud: the third wheel gets the grease

Becoming one half of a couple opens up whole new avenues for judgment from your friends. The most obvious one is that they will judge your partner, the most common (and possibly most important) dichotomy being as to whether they are a d-bag or are not a d-bag. Less obvious is that you will not just be judged as individuals anymore; oh no, you are now inextricably intertwined and everyone will judge you as such. They will judge you as a pair.

Part of this is talking behind your back about how much of a catch each of you are in comparison to the other (think “she’s wayyyy too smart for him”), part of it is how good you are together (think “it’s so cute how nice they are to each other”), and part of it is how tolerable you are to a third wheel. This last part might have nothing to do with either of your individual qualities, but rather whether people enjoy spending time with you as a pair, or whether they will make up excuses when faced with the prospect of being alone with the two of you.

Because we all like lists, and because I have a limited amount of time before my housemate cuts off my access to the internet (he’s not being a dick, we’re just moving house), I am going to give you all some handy hints about how to be a couple that other people enjoy being around, and not one that is forcibly relegated to nights at home with only each other for company because all of your friends have suddenly gotten real busy.

  1. If you must exchange kisses, do it when the other person has gone to the bathroom.
  2. There is no way to discreetly play footsies under the table. Don’t do it, it’s disgusting and everyone else knows that you are not paying attention.
  3. Remember you have a personality, don’t just refer questions to your partner. If they likewise have a personality, they will answer when they have a contribution to make.
  4. Pet names. Oh my god. I don’t care how innocuous you think it is, use the names your parents gave you.
  5. Keep talk of how happy you are to a minimum. “Yeah, things are great” is all anyone really needs to hear. It’s kind of cute to gush about your partner when you’re drunk and telling someone else about it, but when they’re right there, it calls into question whether the two of you ever talk about anything except how much you love loving each other.
  6. Do. Not. Argue. A lot of people love to gossip about couples’ arguments but it’s actually really awkward being around them. It’s pretty much the most horrific social situation you can put another person in.
  7. If you’re at a gig, don’t touch each other beyond maybe the occasional hand-hold. Anything else reeks of co-dependence.
  8. No one else needs to know what you look like making out. Not even you guys know (unless you have some strategically placed mirrors) so spare the rest of us, eh?
  9. In-jokes are always annoying when you’re not in on them. I know it’s hard because you spend so much time together so obviously you have them, but at least do your audience the courtesy of explaining the joke if it comes up.
  10. Make an effort with the third wheel. You might think that it’s going to come across as you’re trying too hard or overcompensating to talk to them instead of your partner, and you know what? It probably will. But the third wheel is absolutely going to be grateful to you for making that effort, because it’s far preferable to the alternative. Make twice the effort if one of you is a bit down or moody, because the third wheel will likely interpret the bad mood as you not wanting them there.


I know that I’m probably going to be hit with a bunch of messages from my friends exclaiming what a hypocrite I am, because I have been known to third-wheel third wheels on occasion. But there is a convenient-for-me clause in all this too; friends will understand that you are in the throes of new romance and excited about it when you start dating someone new. This does have an expiry date though, and hopefully it will coincide with you not being on such a constant high anymore (not to say that you start liking the person less or aren’t as happy to be with them anymore, but that your body can’t sustain this kind of excitement – the ‘WOWOWOWOWOWOW’ feeling turns into more of a ‘mmhappy’ settled feeling).

It’s also good to remember that you don’t have to bring your partner to every social engagement and event. Although I’m a big advocate of dating people that your friends like, if they’re just not quite on the same wavelength, it’s not always constructive to force them to be around one another. And no matter how much your friends like your partner, they probably like spending time with you on your own too (presumably that’s why they became friends with you in the first place).

So if you really want to a stellar report on all aspects of your relationship, exercise a bit of consideration for the third wheel. Unless you’re actually trying to alienate your friends, in which case ignoring the above advice is probably the most efficient way to go about it.

(Image credit: 1.)

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