Thirty. I am almost 30 and it has taken me this long to realise why I never have fun hanging out with two friends as opposed to a larger group or just one friend. It’s the third wheel syndrome. It’s all the racing thoughts and insecurities that come along with being the third wheel. It’s that sorrowing, nostalgic feeling of being a small child and trying to fight for an adult’s attention or interject on a conversation to give your own input—only to be shot down or ignored. Sometimes it’s just simply uncomfortable.
It starts out with a friendly, mutual invitation from one or both friends. You know, the “we’re going to go do this activity—you should totally come with us” invitation. It sounds like such an amazing idea that you agree before your brain can even process any potential outcomes. So you go. That’s when it happens. It hits you—hard.
Your hopes of having a good time are completely shattered. The only thing you feel now is complete paranoia. Are they even my real friends? Do they even like me? Why did they invite me? Why did I come out? I should have stayed home with my cat. Do they talk bad about me or make fun of me when I’m not around? Are they doing it while I’m not looking? Why am I here? When are they going to include me in their conversation? Are they talking in some sort of secret code that I don’t know about?
By this time, you’re a mess on the inside but you’re trying to play it cool. Never mind the frustration that the sidewalk is not wide enough for you to all walk side by side so you’re stuck trailing behind them like a weirdo stalker. If that wasn’t bad enough, chances are you can’t even hear most of the conversation to be able to follow along or join in because the music is too loud or they are talking too quietly (or they’re too far away).
I used to have these two friends that I swore were in love with each other. They’d invite me to hang out, and I’d get so excited because I really didn’t have many people inviting me out. We’d go out to a bar, and it’d be fun for the first half, but then by the end, they’d be off somewhere else doing their own thing and I’d be sitting at a table wishing my cell phone wasn’t dead so I could at least look at something. I struggled with this paranoia for quite some time. I never openly stated how they made me feel. Heck, I even left my own birthday outing early to go home and get away from it. Granted, it took me a long time to realise that they weren’t really ever my true friends—but that’s a longer story.
So, how do you deal with this? What is the solution? How do you get that security back? You’re not sure if you’re just being paranoid or if you’re onto something. For one, take a step back, put on your big girl panties and simply address the feelings at hand with both friends. Be honest, but not whiney. Tell them that you like doing things with both of them but you feel somewhat secluded. They probably don’t even realize that you feel that way. If you tell them and it continues to happen—they’re probably not your real friends. You could also try being the one that plans the get-together. Take charge! Insert yourself (but not literally). Be assertive. Try playing a game during your outing that gets everyone talking (am I the only one who LOVES to play Wal-Mart Bingo?!). Honestly, working on building a better relationship with each friend separately will help you to avoid these situations to begin with. However, don’t be upset if they just click a little better with each other than they do with you. That’s perfectly fine and it doesn’t mean you aren’t their friends too. Most of all you need to be honest with yourself. It’s ok to trust that feeling deep down in your gut, and know that you will find your perfect trio someday.