They say three's a crowd, and anyone who's ever begrudgingly allowed themselves to be a third wheel would probably agree.
Meeting your best friend's significant other for the first, second, or even third time is one thing. But, when your friend is constantly inviting their partner whenever the two of you hang out, you have the right to be a little annoyed — even if your friend insists that their partner is totally the one who's the third wheel here, not you.
"It's understandable to feel upset once it becomes excessive as opposed to occasionally," says says Jane Greer, PhD, New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. "You're looking to have time together with your friend, and when he or she brings a S.O., it can change the quality of your hangout."
Dr. Greer adds that it's normal to be jealous or even feel "replaced" by this new person in your friend's life. After all, when someone gets serious with a significant other, it does change the dynamics of their friendships a little — or, at least, it changes the amount of time that they have to spend with everyone else in their life. And it's also okay to feel jealous that your friend has someone new in their life (as long as you don't take it out on your friend or their partner).
Even if you really like the person your friend is dating, it's understandable to feel like you're getting a package deal that you didn't exactly sign up for. If that's the case, you might try to ask your friend for a little one-on-one time in addition to any third wheel-esque dates you might have.
"The best way to cope is to find a balance of seeing them together and seeing your friend alone," Dr. Greer says. "You want to share in the new relationship, but also spend time apart from that person. By doing this, you'll start feeling equally important to your friend."
It's understandable to feel upset once it becomes excessive.
Jane Greer, PhD
You can bring this up by saying something like, "I love your boyfriend/girlfriend, but I also really love our together time, just us. Can we sometimes make separate plans?"
It's also helpful to remember that being a third wheel doesn't always have to be a drag. For one thing, if you're constantly saddled with your friend's significant other whenever you want to see them, realize that this might be your friend's way of bringing together two people who are important to them. It doesn't necessarily mean that they don't want to spend time with you — or else they wouldn't ask to hang out with you in the first place.
"This new relationship is very important to your friend, and so are you — that's why he or she wants to share the new S.O. with you," Dr. Greer says. "Get to know their partner. See what makes him or her so special."
If you dislike your friend's partner and have a strong reason for doing so (for example, your friend is always complaining about this person), or if you've asked your friend for one-on-one time and find that you're still feeling sidelined, it might be time for a longer conversation.
Otherwise, Dr. Greer says, seeing your friend in a relationship, new or not, can help you learn even more about them by seeing how they interact with a partner. Plus, it's nice to see someone you care about be in a (hopefully) great relationship where they're being treated the way they deserve to be treated.
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