Odd (Wo)Man Out: How to Survive Cuffing Season When You’re Always the Third Wheel

published Nov 1, 2016
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Winter is almost upon us, and that means that cuffing season is in full swing. (Cuffing season, if you’re not familiar, is when the weather gets colder and it feels like everyone you know is getting into a relationship.) Love is in the air, but if you’re not in a relationship, that can leave you in a tough spot—you know, as the third…or fifth, or seventh…wheel in a group of couples.

When all your friends are suddenly in relationships, it changes the dynamic of your friendships and how you spend time with them, and it can be rough. To make sure your friendships stay healthy and happy no matter what happens in your love lives, try to keep these tips in mind.

Keep communication open

The most important thing when it comes to any friendship is having an open line of communication, and that’s especially important when you’re dealing with a couple, because it can very easily become two people against one if you don’t talk about things openly and honestly. You should be able to have conversations and feel comfortable expressing yourself, and they should too.

Try to befriend their significant other

If you don’t know your friend’s partner, make it a point to try to form a friendship with them as well. Connecting with both of them—even if that bond is stronger with one over the other—can make a huge difference in how you feel when you’re hanging out. If you don’t try, all of you will probably feel awkward, but of course, that goes both ways as well—they have to try, too, and if they don’t, that’s something you should be able to talk about.

Know when to make other plans

This goes for all social situations, not just when it comes to being a third wheel, but you should never feel like you always have to say “yes” to making plans. Sometimes the best thing you can do is skip out on going out with your couple friends altogether—it’s all about being smart about the plans you make. If your couple friends invite you to go see a movie, for example, that’s a much more intimate setting and might feel awkward. On the other hand, if they invite you out to a bar or to a party, where more people are around and you could potentially meet new people as well, you’ll be less likely to feel weird being a third wheel.

Participate in conversations

When you’re the third wheel, nothing is more awkward than sitting across the table from a couple and listening to them talk about each other all night. Do your best to be active in the conversation, and steer it in a direction that allows you all to participate, otherwise a night out with your friends will be painfully boring for you. Plus, if you sit there quietly, it might make your friends feel awkward too—it’s better if everyone gets equal talking time, and on topics that everyone finds interesting.

Don’t get in the middle of disagreements

This is a tough one, especially if you’re really close with one half of the couple, and not so close with their partner, but do your best to stay out of any arguments that pop up. (The exception being, of course, if you’re legitimately worried about the way your friend is being treated.) Getting in the middle of a fight is only going to put you in an uncomfortable position, and it could jeopardize your friendship. It’s okay to be there for your friend privately, but if they argue in front of you or you can tell there’s tension, try to either change the subject, or just leave if need be.

Find a friend to be your lifeline

Texting while you’re out with friends is rude, sure, but sometimes having someone else to talk to when you’re out with a couple can help (just, you know, be mindful of how often you’re pulling out your phone in front of others). If you’ve got another single friend to turn to, they can be great for several reasons—you can vent to them when things get frustrating, they can talk you up when you’re feeling down and psych you up before you go out, and if you feel like you need to leave (say, the couple you’re with seems to want to be alone, or is in an argument) they can call and be your excuse to leave.

Remember how great you are

When you spend a lot of time being a third wheel and seeing your coupled off friends gushing over each other, it can be easy to get down on yourself—especially if you’re feeling left out in your own love life. Of course, not everyone wants to be in a relationship and that’s perfectly fine, but it’s a struggle if you do and you’re single and surrounded by couples all the time. The best thing you can do for yourself is take time to remind yourself all the things that are great about you—you can start by being proud of how independent you are.