Are you always hanging around with your couple friends instead of going out on your own dates? Maybe it’s healthy… but maybe it’s not.
Perhaps you’re bouncing back after a divorce, or maybe you just never “settled down” in the first place. Our social worlds are more diverse than ever, and with families living farther and father apart, friends have become “the new family.” Yet they bring with a whole host of new boundary issues!
A single person starts spending more and more time with a couple – or a few favorite couples. They are at this one couple’s place so much, their own pursuit of someone special is in danger of falling by the wayside. After all, why find a date and go to the movies if you can just rent Footlose – and watch it with your married friends?
And it’s not just single people who initiate this arrangement; spouses tend to show their best side to others, and having an audience may help some to avoid petty fights – or even big ones. By focusing on a mutual friend, the couple channels their energies in the same direction.
Of course, it’s also genuinely great to have a double dose of close friendship. Unless it isn’t, of course. Think about these three questions if you are asking yourself whether being that “third wheel” is a trip into the sunshine… or a flat tire. And then find out how to roll onward!
Are you triangulating their relationship?
If your Third Wheel role is that of a marriage counselor, you might be in trouble. It’s confusing, after all, if both people are confiding in you. And it’s not fair: both parties, though they may say they just want your advice, really want your allegiance. Neither wants to go directly to the other and really resolve the issue, so instead they fill your ears with their own versions of the truth. You may enjoy the validation of being ‘needed,’ but this is a one-way deal: you are there to keep the drama going in their relationship. Wouldn’t you prefer to have an equal relationship with your own partner, rather than refereeing someone else’s disputes?
The Fix: Suggest that your friends tell each other directly what’s bothering them. And cut back on “triad-time,” so they can figure out their own relationship.
Do you feel like you’re hanging out with your own parents?
Issues that are unresolved from our families of origin can always re-emerge in the present when we least expect them. And patterns that were established in our families can be very comfortable to seek out later on in our lives. If you didn’t get all the attention you wanted when you were growing up, you may find yourself growing closer to a couple that shares some traits with your own parents. Perhaps you want to talk about your accomplishments a little bit, and get some recognition – and you feel like it’s “real” when you share it with your coupled friends.
The fact is, love can heal all wounds, and this dynamic has its place – for a limited time. Don’t stay in your childhood forever, though – because you may never make it back out!
The Fix: Forgive your actual parents for things then couldn’t do for you when you were a kid. Look for validation in your spiritual connection first, before calling up those surrogate parents – one more time.
Is your motive friendship… to the exclusion of all else?
You’ll know it in your heart if you are substituting hanging out with a couple for being part of a couple. Dating does suck sometimes, and performing the difficult emotional tasks required to look for your own partner has its ups and downs – especially if you aren’t completely sure what you’re looking for.
Here’s one way to use your third-wheel status for your best and highest good: imagine the kind of person you would like to be on a double date with on a night with your friends. After all, you love your friends because they reflect you – and you reflect them. When it comes to love… the more, the merrier. So take hold of your heart, and look for someone who is truly as great as your friends are. They’re out there, too. And wouldn’t you want them to take a break from hanging out with their favorite couple to find you?
The Fix: Ask every couple you love to set you up with someone wonderful. “Like attracts like”! So find someone you really like – and be open to falling in love.
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