SparkNotes Blog

How to Be a Third Wheel Without Literally Dying of Awkwardness

I’ve been a third wheel so often that at this point it is just a perpetual state of being. I’m always a third wheel. In fact, I’m probably third wheeling right now, even though I’m by myself and I’m elbows-deep in chili fries. Now, there’s no shame in this (except there is, a little), but there’s certainly a right and a wrong way to go about it.

And it all starts with looking deep into your heart of hearts to figure out what kind of third wheel you are, and what kind of third wheel you were always meant to be. Are you…

The Reluctant Third Wheel

No one ever wants to be a third wheel. It’s like being a dunk tank volunteer or a hobo. But occasionally—when you’ve already seen every single episode of Bob’s Burgers that mankind has produced, when you’re out of books, when your refrigerator is foodless—hanging out with your best friend and her boyfriend doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world. Until about thirty seconds after you arrive, of course. Then you’re sitting on the lonely side of the TGI Friday’s booth, fake-texting while they mash faces. You’re walking behind them as they stroll hand-in-hand down narrow sidewalks. You’re riding single on the roller coaster of life.

But at least you chose this. You took control of your destiny. The refrigerator was foodless, remember?


  • Give them their space.
  • Look away when they’re kissing.
  • Eventually excuse yourself, saying you “really have to get going.”
  • Only bemoan your singleness internally.

The Unexpected Third Wheel

This is what happens when the universe saw a third wheel in you that you didn’t see in yourself. Maybe you were hanging out with two people, and they unexpectedly hit it off all romantic-like. Maybe there was a fourth wheel, a kindred spirit with whom you could share the occasional eye roll, but they bailed at the last minute and now they’re dead to you. Maybe (and this is the worst) you’re crushing on a studly man-dude who, as it turns out, has the heart eyes for the friend you brought along for support, forcing you to sign away your first wheel rights. It’s fine. It’s whatever.


  • Sigh a lot.
  • That’s it. Never underestimate the power of a really good sigh.

The Overly Invested Third Wheel

You know what’s the best? When your friend secretly has a crush on somebody, and the three of you are together, and it becomes your duty to make this thing happen.


  • Force them to sit together.
  • Make your friend shine by comparison. Do this by singing, burping, or taste-testing everyone else’s drinks.
  • Point out your friend’s many winning attributes, like her personality and the fact that her hair smells really nice.
  • Wiggle your eyebrows in a suggestive manner. Everyone involved will love this.

The Vengeful Third Wheel

At the end of the day, third wheeling isn’t all taste-testing drinks and quietly dying of singleness. Sometimes it is the eighth circle of hell from which there is no escape, and you don’t want to be mature about it. You want to be angry. You want to take back your identity. You want to bring about the rise of the third wheel revolution.


  • Throw rocks at them whenever they kiss.
  • Throw rocks at other couples in the vicinity, just for good measure.
  • Shriek a lot. I don’t know what this will accomplish (probably nothing), but it seems like the logical next step.
  • Become a rock-throwing vigilante hell-bent on the destruction of couples near and far.
  • Flee from the authorities.
  • Fade from the public eye.

Have you ever been the third wheel? How much sighing did you do? TOO MUCH, or NOT ENOUGH??