If the image above gives you agita, you’re not alone. Most of us hate being the third wheel or even worse, the fifth wheel on dates with your friends and their significant others. It tends to be depressing, because we feel like we’re the sad hanger-on friend in a group of happy couples. And sometimes, that’s true. But most of the time, third-wheeling isn’t depressing at all. It’s kind of lovely.
For years, I’ve been the third — or fifth — wheel when my two sisters and my brothers-in-law go out, and only a few times did I have a date or a boyfriend to drag along with me. I invite my best friend’s boyfriend to go out with my friends and me all the time, and I consider him my own friend as well as my best friend’s partner. I’ve grown up hanging out with my sisters’ husbands on a regular basis, and I can tell you that being the odd [wo]man out is definitely more awesome than it sounds.
You witness strong couples in love
Being constantly around my sisters and their boyfriends (now husbands) from when I was a teenager offered me a firsthand look of what a strong, healthy relationship looks like. I had excellent role models almost right from the start, which has influenced me, in my dating life, to know what I want in a partner, how I should be treated, and to recognize when something just isn’t working. If I had isolated myself from my committed sisters and friends, simply for fear of embarrassment, I would never know what real, healthy love looks like up close.
You get to witness not-so-healthy relationships
Third-wheelin’ with your friend and her jerk boyfriend/girlfriend is another way to weed out undesirables in your own life. It also gives you a closer look at what your friend is going through, and what s/he’s unfortunately willing to take, even when s/he shouldn’t. It’ll let you give them good advice, because you’ve seen it firsthand. And it’ll make more clear what you expect from a healthy relationship.
Getting to know the partners of the people you love is invaluable
If I never hung out as the “hanger-on” with my sisters and friends, I would never get to know the men in their lives. The men who will marry them, help raise their children, and build an entire life with them. It means a lot to me that I’m a sister to my brothers-in-law. We have a close connection that I find invaluable. It means I’m an integral part of their lives too, because we’ve both taken the time to be friends, look out for each other, and spend quality time together. I want them in my life.
You can get set up
My friends’ boyfriends not only offer to set me up on dates with their friends, but they get protective when I’m seeing or dating someone less than worthy. Because we’ve grown close friends, they’re there to offer me advice and make sure I’m not straying toward the dark side — you know, with the biker lads. Or something like that.
You get more time with friends and family
If I never let myself be the third wheel to my sisters and their husbands, not only would I almost never get the chance to hang out with my sisters (what with our respective crazy work schedules) but I wouldn’t get to hang out with my brothers-in-law, who are as close as true brothers to me. Without third-wheelin’ it, I wouldn’t have those chances to form memories and get close to my family.
You learn that there’s no shame in having no partner
This is a no single-shaming zone! Constantly being the third wheel makes you comfortable with it. You learn that there’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, and nothing to hide from. If you don’t have a problem with it, other people won’t find it strange either. All they’ll see is a confident, awesome person having a great time with the people they love. Where’s the bad?