No third-wheel stigma here! Elizabeth King, at right, loves being a third wheel with her friends Drake, far left, and Joe. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth King)

Most people hate being the third wheel, a.k.a. the sole single person hanging out with a couple. Some think it implies that you can’t get a date or that the couple is annoyed by having any extra person around. But some of my healthiest and most satisfying relationships are ones in which I’m the trusty ol’ third wheel. Here are a few reasons why I love it so much.

1. You get to be the tie-breaker.

This reason is a bit selfish, but hey, we take our wins where we can get ’em. In a third-wheel relationship, when a social outing is being planned, it’s often the case that each person in the couple will want to do something different: One person wants to go to a movie; the other wants to hang out at home and order pizza. When you’re the third, you get to break the tie with whatever you want to do.

2. You gain a fresh perspective on relationships.

Two of my closest friends are a married couple, and we used to all live together in the same apartment. Spending so much quality time with a couple — watching them work through conflict, negotiate and share household chores — has given me tremendous perspective on how I might work through similar situations when I’m in my next romantic relationship.

3. You’re part of a friend-family.

In high school, I had a very tight group of friends. I considered my closest friends my family, and seeing each other at school every day made it easy to keep up with each other’s lives. As an adult, it can be a lot harder to build these sorts of friend groups, especially if you move away from home after high school or college. But being really close to my friends who couple up has made me feel like a member of a little pod again. When I want to spend time with my couple friends, I generally only have to text one person, and they both show up together. It’s much easier than getting three discrete friends together.

4. You get to go on no-pressure “dates.”

I don’t mind going out to dinner or the movies alone, but I love doing those date-type things as a third wheel. When I go out with my couple friends, I don’t have to worry about being clever, wearing something cute, or whether or not my breath is bad. My friends already think I’m funny; they tease me pretty much no matter what I wear; and they will throw gum at me like there’s no tomorrow. It’s perfect.

5. You have the best inside jokes.

One of the stereotypical gripes of an unhappy third wheel is that the couple they hang out with has a ton of inside jokes that the third party doesn’t understand. In my experience, spending a lot of time with my couple friends means that the three of us end up with inside jokes that would make even the closest couple jealous. Through our inside-joking, I’ve earned some wonderful and terrible nicknames, including Mrs. Wetpants. Don’t ask. It’s a long story.


Subscribe to the Solo-ish podcast

Are you a third wheel? Navigating that other kind of threesome.

I can’t get drinks. I’m already in some serious friendships.