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techno-trashcan

Managing being third-wheeled by your friends?

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I feel like it can't be an uncommon "aro horror story" to be uncomfortably third-wheeled by your friends seeing as we're kind of the designated third-wheels of society... One of my best friends has/had a tendency to invite me places, also invite her boyfriend, and then not tell me she invited him... Don't get me wrong, I like the guy, we're not exactly good friends but we get along, he's genuinely a really great person and I know they make each other really happy. But I just get really uncomfortable and lonely when I'm alone with the two of them.

 

Whenever we went on a bus ride with our school's jazz band, she'd sit next to me but talk to her boyfriend across the aisle and ignore me 90% of the time. I told her it didn't bother me. I don't know why I lied; maybe I just felt guilty because I felt like being aro was a nuisance to her.

 

Last winter we went to a sort of open-mic type event at school. She invited me to go with her, and then when we were already there told me he was coming too. I would have asked somebody else to go if I had known it'd be the three of us! Most of the night I stood in the corner feeling lonely and ignored (and mildly romance repulsed).

 

For her last birthday she invited me, her boyfriend, and another one of our friends out to dinner and then invited us over her house. I'd learned by then, so I made it a point not to say whether or not I could go until my friend said she was going, that way I knew I wouldn't be stuck with just the two of them. And then I also made it a point to leave promptly after she did.

 

I know I'm not purposefully being ignored, and she has really tried to include me in things, but there is no happy in-between. If just I'm there, she excludes him. If just he's there, she excludes me. If we're both there and no one else, then I get third-wheeled. If other people come and I choose to talk to them over her to avoid being uncomfortable, she gets upset.

 

It hasn't been much of an issue these days because he graduated and she's started to treat hanging out with him as more of a special occasion since he's not always home, but if anything I feel like we're even further apart, and I know very soon it won't just be her.

 

Do any of you have similar stories you want to share, or ways you handle situations where you're third-wheeled?

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I spent an entire month over the summer being third-wheeled by my roommates--our apartment had originally started out with me, them, and two other people, but the two other people left before me because they had different work schedules. So then it was just me and the two roommates who were not only dating each other, but extremely egregious about it--as in, would randomly go up and kiss each other in the middle of sentences, would abruptly break off a conversation in the middle by going to their shared room to watch TV together, etc. etc. Needless to say, I spent most of that month hiding in my room reading webcomics and trying not to exist in the same room as the two of them. -_-

 

There was also the time in high school where I was seventh-wheeled. I was at the band dance my senior year, and I was sitting at a table with three friends and their respective boyfriends (one of whom I'm also friends with). I would attempt to start a conversation with one friend, and their SO would be monopolizing their face. I would turn to the other side and try to talk to someone else, and the same thing would happen. It eventually got to the point where all three couples at this table were busy making out at the same time, at which point I just kind of stared at the ceiling and went "Welp, this isn't awkward in the slightest."

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I've done a lot of third, fifth and seventh wheeling with my main group of friends - three couples, until very recently. It might be a bit different for me, since we're all individually friends, I'm not just friends with one half of the couple, but for the first few years I felt pretty constantly out of place. 

 

I remember it being very different hanging out with couples in high school, compared to as adults - I think as we got older, everyone got more comfortable in not always having to make sure they weren't 'excluding' their partners by hanging out individually with others. I think it's that we all now understand the value of one-to-one time with friends - people really show different parts of their personality when they are and are not with their partners, and that's okay because we all have individual relationships with each other and devoting time to those is important. In my experience it does get a bit better as you get older! 

 

In the beginning, though, I did have to directly ask to get independent time with people. It might be worth sitting down with your friend and explaining that you sometimes feel lonely and like you're intruding when it's just the three of you, and that you would appreciate getting to spend some one-on-one with her. Maybe suggest doing something that isn't of interest to her boyfriend? Something special for the two of you. 

 

On 24/11/2016 at 3:19 PM, techno-trashcan said:

I know I'm not purposefully being ignored, and she has really tried to include me in things, but there is no happy in-between. If just I'm there, she excludes him. If just he's there, she excludes me. If we're both there and no one else, then I get third-wheeled. If other people come and I choose to talk to them over her to avoid being uncomfortable, she gets upset.

 

If it's something you would be okay with, maybe suggest that it's okay if she wants to organise some activities with just her boyfriend - to help to ease her worry about excluding you when she spends time with only him? At the very least you might be able to ask that she give you a heads up if he's going to be there, so you can make an informed choice. Friendships are complicated sometimes, and trying to find compromises where everyone is happy most (not always all) of the time can sometimes be the best solution. 

 

I just wanted to also make sure you knew that it's not very fair of her to be upset with you for not paying attention to her when she's paying attention to her partner anyway. You're absolutely allowed to interact with other people so you can be comfortable, you're not required to sit there and watch her make heart eyes at him or whatever. 

 

I'm definitely not an expert, and I don't know much about your friendship, but I hope this advice helps at least a little (and I hope it made sense)! If anyone else thinks I've suggested something that might not be a good idea, please jump in. 

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@techno-trashcan I think the best way would be for you to tell your friend it's sometimes uncomfortable for you to hang out with just her and her boyfriend because you feel like a third wheel. Ssk her to tell you when she's bringing him so you can choose if you want to bring some other friend along too. Also I don't think it would be unreasonable for you to ask for some alone time with just your friend. She has alone time with her boyfriend after all right? There's no need for them to do everything together. Maybe you can ask her to do something with you that you know he doesn't like so he wont join?

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I had two friends in college that had an on-off close friendship. It was on-off because one was a really popular guy who a lot of girls at school liked, and the other was this low empathy girl that the girls would say nasty things about because of her relationship to this guy and her perceived "slutty nature" (I was shocked when I first heard this, and later about how regular an occurrence this was; I thought our school and our classmates were better than that).

 

In their "on" phase, they were really close and touchy and I felt like I was imposing on them being there, so I would leave the room to do other things. They got enough flack from the rest of the school; I wasn't about to take away a time and space that they could enjoy their time together just because I didn't know what to do with myself. I tried joining in once...and I regret it because I think I made it awkward joining in without building that rapport.

 

RN they're in an off phase because he has a girlfriend that contacts my friend to make it clear that my friend is not welcome in their relationship, asking if they've had sex before and other uncomfortable things. It's bizarre because my girl friend's in a relationship herself and not poly, plus the guy isn't her type, so why is his girlfriend bringing my other friend into the relationship? So there's another type of third-wheeling, where another person is dragged in to a relationship that doesn't concern them.

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You are in a jazz band? 

That's real cool. I'm in a band myself. I am in love with jazz. Really, why do so many people hate this kind of music?? It's AMAZING I CRAVE IT

 

But yeah I'm constantly thrid wheeled so I understand what you're feeling 157%:D

People should stop making us the third wheels like really dude:facepalm: if I'm only here for this then I'm gunna go watch Lilo and Stitch for the millionth time

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I guess, when I was third wheeled I kinda went off to do my own thing. Sometimes my friend would drag along their partner, sometimes they wouldn't even notice I had gone. I find it easier to do things as a big group because generally it is harder to be the *odd-number* wheel person. A few times I have refused an invite to do something when there was a high chance of being third wheeled, especially if there was a high chance of continuous PDA between them. It might get harder to bounce between friends as they all start getting married.  

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I guess I'm kinda lucky cause my two friends in my main core friend group who are engaged to each other are also my friends individually.  I find time to hang out with both of them separately if I can, but when we're hanging out with all three of us, they aren't overly-PDA.  They know I'm ace/aro though so maybe they avoid it consciously with me?   

 

We have also done threesome "date" nights where the three of us will go out to a nice restaurant and my guy friend will treat both of us, ha ha.  Our group text chat between the three of us is named "Awkward Third Wheel".   We manage to have a good sense of humor about it and I don't feel excluded very often.  Also, I do generally try to be the first one to leave on hang-out nights so that they have some time to themselves to say goodbye since they aren't living together yet.

 

Of course, the three of us are also all nearing 30 now (and have known each other since we were kids) so maybe it's just that we've moved past the "gotta be with my romantic partner constantly" phase of life?  I think clear communication and being comfortable and trusting of each other are all important aspects in balancing romantic partners and platonic relationships.

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My friend and her girlfriend are always really couple-y at school. They're really good about not being the stereotypical making out in the hallway kind of couple but it can still get pretty awkward for me. This past week, I was invited to join her, her girlfriend, and another couple to hang out and eat before HoCo. I was going to suck it up and go but then another group approached me with their plans: just the 4 of us as friends having a good time before the dance. I didn't realize how much I wasn't looking forward to being 5th-wheeled until I was given a way to get out of it. I kinda feel bad for not going with her since she asked me first but I think the positives way outway the negatives: I would have been a ball of anxiety all night.

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I got rid of all mine that third-wheeled me....

 

The problem is I now have none left to get rid of.

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On 11/23/2016 at 10:19 PM, techno-trashcan said:

Do any of you have similar stories you want to share, or ways you handle situations where you're third-wheeled?

 

Yeah I definitely know how you feel here. One of my most painful experiences in school involved the third-wheel scenario. Let's just get to the story because it's a long one. So, it all started in 4th grade. My classmates and I were sitting by the lockers and I noticed a new student talking to the teachers. When I saw her, I could just tell that she'd be my friend (haha. nope. no romo. just friends). We really hit off as we both loved to draw and shortly after, we became best friends. We hung out all the time and everyone knew how close we were. It was great, but it didn't last because...well...High school happened. 

 

7th grade was the beginning of many things, and our friendship began to suffer...at least from my perspective it did. My best friend got a boyfriend. At first, I didn't care but I knew the boy she was dating and I knew he wasn't for her. He swore all the time, while my friend...didn't. He was the typical bad boy and my friend was head over heels. Though this relationship didn't last long and he dumped her around Valentine's day. When it was over, I was relieved and I hoped that things would go back to normal...But of course they didn't. Throughout 7th and 8th grade, I became slowly irritated. My irritation spread to other areas and I often got angry when we were texting. Little things I found annoying became 10 times worse to me. Like how she often responded with 1 word text messages while I was actually trying to have a conversation. 

 

It's currently 12th grade, and already she's dated too many boys for me to keep count of. I remember in 9th around homecoming, one of the boys on the cross country team approached me and asked if he could ask my friend to homecoming. I was like "Sure!" and he did. I was also asked to homecoming by a boy but I didn't think anything of it. I was like "Oh a boy asked me to homecoming. Nothing big. We're just friends...Right?" hahahahahahahaha. no. After 9th grade homecoming, it's like all my friends who went with boys started dating them. The boy I went with even asked me out...I said yes but a few hours later, I had to break it off because I was so stressed thinking about the whole dating thing. I couldn't take it because I knew I felt nothing for him. 

 

My best friend dated the guy for a few months and I felt so isolated. I felt like she only hanged out with me when it was convenient. We didn't walk in the hallways to class anymore and I missed it. She instead decided to spend that time walking with "him". They hung out every chance they could, but she never made attempts to hang out with me. This relationship lasted until winter when it was broken off. Again, I felt relieved and I hoped it would get better. But during winter break, I learned she had hooked up with someone else. I literally felt like screaming inside. 

 

Not long after, I confronted her with the issue through text. I worded it in the nicest way possible and described how I felt. She said she would do something to fix it. The only thing she did that week was say hi to me in class one day. nothing else out of the ordinary. A week or so later, I confronted her again a little more agitated. She said she was planning something for the next day or something. The next day I waited. During my online class/study hall I assumed she'd do something but nothing happened. Nothing. When I asked her about it, she said she was going to do something but didn't. My anger just kept rising. I felt like she didn't actually care about our friendship! The next time, I lost my cool. Over text, I said "goodbye" and she said "Stop". I never responded and it was over. It really hurt at first. She moved out of my locker after just having moved in a few weeks or months earlier. I really hurt. I even cried over it, and I don't cry that often. But after awhile, I began to heal and now, I feel much more free. It still hurts to think about, but I know that if I stayed her friend that I would have continued to suffer.There was no way around it. My friend was a hopeless romantic and I was an aromantic that couldn't understand.

 

I would comment some advice but this thread was created in 2016 and it's well...2018 right now. But to anyone else who might be reading through this, talk to them about it. If you don't say something, they're gonna be too blinded by love to notice and so nothing will ever change. However If, after that, nothing changes then they're not worth keeping as your friend. Surround yourself with friends that will value you instead of treating you as the backup friend or third wheel. Don't cling onto a friendship that won't last because it will only hurt more when it ends.

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