3 Problems You Face When You're The Third Wheel in Your Friend's Relationship, and 7 (Sometimes Ruthless) Solutions

Great news. Your best friend just got a boyfriend! Good for her, really. It’s so hard to meet people these days. I mean, good people. They met on OkCupid — love in the modern age, am I right? This is all playing out like an updated version of You’ve Got Mail. And look how happy your friend is now, she’s positively glowing from all that missionary sex she’s been having. So what if he has a bun on the top of his head and he’s the “let it mellow” type? What’s an extra flush now and then, in exchange for your dear friend’s happiness? You're even willing to be a third wheel, every now and then. 

It might happen, though, that you start to see more of this fellow than you yourself anticipated. Your friend’s boyfriend shows up one night for Gilmore Girls, then tags along for the remaining four seasons. You ask your girl out to drinks, she says “We’d love to come!” And at about 11 p.m. there’s a great commotion of stretching and coat-fetching: “We are just so tired, gotta split!” And this was the same girl that used to pound shots on a Tuesday night, instigate flip-cup tournaments, and flirt brazenly with bartenders for freebies. Now, though, she quits early for cuddling like a No-Fun Nancy.

You're officially a third wheel. Congratulations — the first step towards liberation is naming the disease! Luckily, treatment is available. From one consummate third wheel to another, here are a few suggestions for dealing with three common third wheel situations.

Third Wheel Problem #1: you’re sharing a room and they start making out when they think you’re asleep. 

So you’re on some kind of vacation with your friends. Maybe a camping trip. And because you’re all friends (right?), you’re sharing a room, tent, or pitched tarp. You’ve all brushed your teeth and settled in for the night. “Haha! Ok, let’s really, actually get to sleep now,” your friend says. 

Just as you close your eyes, feel the exhaustion of the day enclose you with the anticipation of tomorrow’s adventure, you hear a rustling. “It’s nothing,” you think. Then you hear it again, and the sound becomes clearer as the movement of bodies. “They just wouldn’t,” you think again, “They wouldn’t do this to me.” And then, the small puckered smacking of lips and tongues. “I’ll just try to ignore it,” but you can’t, it’s the only thing to listen to in this goddamn room, and the harder you try the more magnified all the saliva and teeth-knocking becomes. Then the mind starts to wander, “Will there be a hand job? Will I have to listen to a simultaneously fake and hushed orgasm?”

Here are your three options.

solution #1: Play dead

Pretend you’re asleep until it’s over. 

Benefit: Non-confrontational. 

Risk: Listening to other people have sex for a long time makes you feel insecure about whether your own sex sounds are that lame.

solution #2: Feign Illness 

Stage illness, like a hacking cough or vomiting. 

Benefit: You could get your own room out of it. 

Risk: You might have to sleep outside of the tent. 

solution #3: Try to get in on it 

Masturbate, with audible breath and moaning. Conversely, roll over and start caressing your friend’s shoulders. Who knows, maybe their making out is an invitation? Get some of that sweet action! 

Benefit: Potential explorative sexual experience with friends. 

Risk: (see Benefit).   

Third Wheel Problem #2: they're fighting about something stupid, like how they’re fundamentally incompatible, and you’re stuck in the middle 

You come home, and your roommate is there with her boyfriend. You can tell they’ve been drinking — there’s a six-pack-and-a-half of pumpkin beer in the recycling. And you know that once this episode of New Girl is over, the bickering will start: “I just said that your life could maybe use a bit more direction and … effort.” “What about you? Are you going to put more 'effort’ into that dot game you’re playing right now? You’re a man! Why is the dot winning?” 

On the other side of your bedroom door, it’s as if you’re listening to your parents yelling from downstairs about the medical bills of your daschund’s intestinal surgery after ingesting some pantyhose. You pull the covers over your head. This isn’t the first time this has happened (Veteran’s Day 2014? That Back-to-School Sale at Target?). Your options:

solution #1: stage a Sit-in

In this situation, you’re kind of like the child your parents will stop fighting around if you’re in the room. Play a game of chicken in the common space until they take their bickering elsewhere or give up for the evening. Pro-tip: Suggest a lengthy film. “Who wants to watch Boyhood? I’ve been putting it off for ages.” 

Benefit: 85 percent effective. 

Risk: Three uncomfortable hours of a Richard Linklater film that has an incredible premise arguably executed. If you haven’t seen it — I won’t say anything more.

solution #2: suggest a Sing Along: 

Guitar, key board, recorder, tabla, sitar, erhu, viola — whatever your instrument, this might be an ideal time to practice. Who can argue over the mellow tones of marimba? 

Benefit: Not only will your music drown out the noise of an argumentative couple, you might even cause them to stop while improving a skill. 

Risk: If you're just beginning an instrument, you’ll experience even more frustration.

solution #3: be the Instigator 

The above solutions offer only temporary Band-Aids for eliminating uncomfortable arguments, and what you truly desire is an end to the fighting. For better or for worse, this couple needs to air out all their issues. Start with an off-hand comment (“Isn’t it weird that you said you’d never date anyone religious, and now you’re dating Ian?”), and build to more sensitive issues (“Wait, can you say ‘slippers’ again? Alice was right, you do sound like a male Joan Rivers”). 

Benefit: This will get all of your friends’ issues on the table to determine whether or not they can continue a relationship in peace, or if they must split ways forever. 

Risk: This might not have the desired effect of breaking them up. 

Third Wheel Problem #3: It is now taken for granted that hanging out with your friend includes her boyfriend

It is now impossible to encounter your friend alone. You try to catch her on trips to the bathroom, start reaching wildly for stereotypically gendered activities like manicures or shopping dates. None of these work — her boyfriend has a soft spot for a clean cuticle, plus she likes to chat with him while she poops. It’s come down to one solution:

Solution: use them as The Launch Pad

Ever notice how a rocket works? When it’s launching, with the flames underneath, it all goes up into the air — then the rocket part separates from the thingies at the bottom and shoots into space. Now, in this scenario, you are the shaft of the rocket, and your friends are the testicles. Say the three of you are at a bar: You know the couple is going home together — but what about you? You’ve been given a two-headed wingman to launch you seamlessly into the great sexual expanse. Use them.

Benefit: Sex! '

Risk: Only the normal risks associated with sex.  

The phrase “third wheel” generally implies that there’s one wheel too many, but what if we’ve got it wrong? What if instead there are two extra wheels? Now that your friend has found a special someone, it could be time to let her explore her new relationship — and for you to find a kick-ass new groove. Remember, Harry Potter was a third wheel. How did he defeat Voldemort? With the help of his dating friends? No, as the prophesy decreed, he defeated him alone.

Images: Fotolia; Giphy

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