Being the Third Wheel in a Friendship: 15 Ways to Deal With It!

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

friends having burger at restaurant

Two’s company, and three’s a crowd. That saying holds a lot of weight for anyone who has been a third wheel before. Being a third wheel will probably happen to us at least once in our lives, but how do you handle being a third wheel consistently in a friendship? Are there tried and tested ways to deal with it? The good news is that yes, there are!

Being a third wheel isn’t all bad. It can actually be a great way to meet new people, take the pressure off you to be the entertainment, and give you a great reason to head home early to the comfort of your warm bed and favorite series. The below coping mechanisms can be applied if you are a third wheel when your friend gets a significant other, and also when a friend suddenly strikes up another friendship with someone else. Let’s delve into each of them below.

15 ways to deal with being the third wheel in friendship:

1. Strike a good balance with your friend.

If you aren’t too keen on being a third wheel – perhaps it has happened too often – try to strike a balance with your friend. You can do this by inviting your friend to a few “just us” events; and sometimes, when an invite is extended, and you know you are going to be a third wheel, decline the invitation. By creating a balance like this, the pressure of being the third wheel won’t be quite so intense.

2. Be supportive.

If you are the type of third wheel that tries to discredit the new friendship or relationship, you are going to come across as jealous and unpleasant. Of course, that’s not the type of impression you want to make on your friend and their partner/new friend. Be supportive of the friendship. Leave your jealousies and insecurities at the door. 

3. Talk about it – suggest a 1 on 1 outing/meetup.

If the third-wheeling is happening a lot and you are getting upset, don’t allow yourself to lash out or explode. Rather ask your friend if you can talk alone some time and then mention that you notice you are a third wheel often. Suggest that you do an occasional 1 on 1 outing. Be careful with your wording on this one. Say something like, “I really like your new friend/partner, but I was wondering if we could spend a bit of time 1 on 1, like the old times?”

4. Actively work on forming a friendship with the “other party”.

Perhaps your friend is inviting you as a third wheel so that you can get to know the other person in his/her life. Often people do this in hopes that two of their favorite or most important people will get along and simplify socializing in the future. Give it a try – become friends with the other person! You might just enjoy it. 

5. Be a positive force. 

The worst kind of third wheel is the kind that appears glum, moody, upset, or negative. If you arrive and find you are suddenly a third wheel, take it in your stride. Show how great you really are by adding a touch of positivity to the gathering. Make conversation, laugh, smile, and just make the most of it. It will be remembered. 

6. Don’t make things awkward.

If you make things awkward, neither party will want to invite you along again. You can make things awkward by making consistent “third wheel” comments or by taking on a woe-is-me attitude because you don’t have someone else significant with you for the event. Try to relax. Be easy-going and if you feel awkward, try not to show it. It’s just a few hours out of your life – you will survive. 

7. Invite someone else along.

If you know you are going to be a third wheel for a social, invite someone else to join you. Now you aren’t the third wheel anymore! You can hang out with your friend and his/her friend/partner without having to feel completely alone or left out. Make sure that you include your invited friend as much as possible and promote group interaction as much as you can. 

friends having a great time in restaurant

8. Make sure you’re up for it before you go.

Are you always up for being the third wheel? Perhaps, some nights, you shouldn’t be one if you don’t want to be. If you really don’t feel like tagging along as a third wheel, don’t go just for the sake of it. Being a third wheel takes a good mood, a positive outlook, and the ability not to get jealous or upset. If you aren’t up for the task, make a polite excuse and just don’t go. 

9. Say “no” to potentially intimate events/outings.

Learning when to say no is a good part of the “being a good third wheel” process. If you are a third wheel with a friend and new love interest, rather avoid evenings that will turn out to be intimate. Picnic in the park, drive-in movies, dinner at a fancy restaurant – all of these outings are too intimate for a third wheel. Rather just say “no thanks” and do your own thing.

10. Have your own transport arrangements.

How do you normally get around when you socialize? If you usually rely on one of your friends, perhaps it is time to change that. There is nothing worse than being the third wheel, reaching the point of wanting to go home, and then having to wait for the rest of the group to be ready to go. You never know how the evening is going to go, so make sure that you can arrange your own transport. Drive your own car or use public transport. Don’t set yourself up for “getting stuck” on a night out as a third wheel. 

11. Have fun.

There’s no point in overthinking it and letting it bring you down. So what if you are a third wheel! There’s no reason to ruin the night and not have fun. Focus on having fun. Make sure that you make the most out of it. How many people are in the group really shouldn’t ruin the overall experience for you. 

12. Play it cool – give them some space.

If you notice that the friends you are with need a moment to talk, hash something out, or share a special moment – give them space. Fall back while strolling, or head to the bar for a bit of a chat with the bartender. Don’t be a cling-on…show that you have a bit of independence too and give space when it is needed. If you are able to balance the amount of time spent with them and away from them, the pressure will be less for you as well as for them. 

13. Invite them somewhere. 

If you are always the third wheel being invited out somewhere, change your role in the group for a bit. You can’t be a tag-along if you are the one inviting others to the event. Arrange a barbecue at your house or pick your favorite restaurant. Gain a bit of control. 

14. Recommend going somewhere festive/busy.

Where do you normally hang out when it is the three of you? Perhaps this needs a look at. If you are worried that you might be left out of the conversation, try to encourage them to go to a venue that is festive and where you have the opportunity to either meet new people or bump into people you already know. 

summer music festival

15. Take advantage of the situation.

Being a third wheel can come with some perks. You could use the situation to meet new people. Both parties will be able to introduce you to new and interesting people, so take advantage of that. In fact, ask them to introduce you to people. It could put your third wheel woes to rest sooner than you think!

All in all

If you are worried that being a third wheel will be boring and stressful, think again. You can handle the situation in such a way that you derive value from it. Perhaps the whole mindset of thinking of yourself as a third wheel is wrong. You’re all friends with each other…no need for wheels!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.