Thought Catalog

The Different Types Of Third Wheels There Are

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The ubiquitous third wheel can be found in the most mundane of situations—from the supermarket (normally walking in front of a shopping cart pushed by two doe-eyed love birds, brandishing a list and giving loud commands) to your local café (sipping silently on their third coffee while their loved up couple friends muse about how hard it is to just compromise, I mean, he wanted to watch 8 Legged Freaks and I wanted to watch 27 Dresses, it’s just so hard sometimes, y’know? But LOL *kiss* then we realize we’re so in love it doesn’t matter anyway!). While third wheels have common characteristics—a lone, often single humanoid in the company of a couple (and sometimes a really super cute, tiny little puppy the couple just added to the fold) with whom they are not sexually or romantically involved—they come in many shapes and sizes, and often serve quite a functional purpose for said couple. Third wheels are also known to have feelings—of varying intensity—that can be triggered by their temporary detached attachment to the couple. Please see below for more information.

The Fresh Third Wheel

New couples often have a Fresh Third Wheel. The Fresh Third Wheel normally occurs in the following circumstances:

  • At the club acting as a “wing man.” This can be a particularly uncomfortable situation for the Fresh Third Wheel if the new couple starts making out, or goes home together. This can be even more uncomfortable if the Fresh Third Wheel is actually “crashing” at one half of the new couples’ house and has no option but to sleep on the couch, forced to listen to the loud grunting coming from the adjoining bedroom.
  • On a “get to know you” date where one half of a new couple (often a complete, melodramatic moron) will bring their friend to meet a new partner (usually a dinner). This situation can often become uncomfortable in it’s planned formality, and the pressure associated with having to “get along.” The situation can increase even further in discomfort where the party who organized the meeting is using the opportunity to (what they think is subtly) gloat.

The Comfortable Third Wheel

Normally an old friend or a family member associated with a “chilled out” couple or a couple that has been unified for a long period of time, giving The Comfortable Third Wheel time to build unique bonds with both halves of the couple. The Comfortable Third Wheel is a covetable position, and requires a delicate balance of laughter, communication and general high-self esteem and personal security on behalf of all parties.

The Invisible Third Wheel

The Invisible Third Wheel can be identified by a confused facial expression, purposefully roving eye, and ocular attachment to the screen of their mobile phone, which they will use gratuitously. The Invisible Third Wheel is just that—invisible. The couple in the company of the Invisible Third Wheel is normally shameless, sexually driven and pretty disgusting. The couple, in behaving as though the Invisible Third Wheel doesn’t exist, will grope each other explicitly, make out loudly, and inappropriately lick each other’s ears. In extreme circumstances, the Invisible Third Wheel may also have to deal with straddling, grinding, and NSFW sex noises. All of this behavior will occur in public, with no limitations on location (settings can be as diverse as at a busy bar to a children’s playground in broad daylight).

The Buffer Third Wheel

Often when a couple is “going through a difficult period” they will call in the assistance of the Buffer Third Wheel who will not be informed of their responsibilities as the Buffer Third Wheel until they find themselves immovably wedged between a warring couple. The Buffer Third Wheel will often find themselves attempting to control verbal violence, counseling the couple through their issues, giving opinions (without having half a clue what they are actually talking about, but feeling that they should say something) and fielding calls from both parties to “take their side” (i.e. “don’t you agree that when Brad doesn’t call me for 24 hours it’s an irresponsible action?”). A clever Buffer Third Wheel will diffuse a situation without taking sides, gently reminding the couple of their love for each other, and for those who can cry on cue, turning attention to their own miserable love life, at which point the couple will need to unite in order to soothe the Buffer Third Wheel’s sobbing lamentations.

The Pity Third Wheel

The Pity Third Wheel is a single friend of a couple who either:

  • Feels sorry for themselves because they are single; or
  • Has no problem with being single, actually really enjoys it, but the couple, in their coupled bliss, can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to be single, so they impose a level of pity on said single friend.

The Pity Third wheel is best known for:

  • Constantly seeking to be “set up” by the couple; or
  • Constantly being tricked into “set up” situations whereby the couple will invite the Pity Third Wheel to a social event and sneakily invite their single friend who “OMG would totally be the perfect match!” for the Pity Third Wheel. The “perfect match” (another Pity Third Wheel) will almost always be comically wrong for the Pity Third Wheel, and the couple will overcompensate for their disastrous meddling by promising to set the Pity Third Wheel up with someone “better” next time (despite the protests of the Pity Third Wheel). And so the cycle continues for the Pity Third Wheel.

The Unwanted Third Wheel

This is often a consequence of a Fresh Third Wheel, a Buffer Third Wheel or an Invisible Third wheel metamorphosing in the perception of the couple. It happens suddenly, and often for indefinable reasons, but the transformative power associated with becoming an Unwanted Third Wheel is powerful. Often the Unwanted Third Wheel will have to endure a conversation held entirely in whispers exchanged only between the couple, the couples constant yawning and proclamations of exhaustion and the couple walking several steps in front or behind them at all times. Being an Unwanted Third Wheel can often be fortuitous and cause said Third Wheel to feel a warranted sense of relief, but can also be exclusionary, causing the Unwanted Third Wheel to feel emotions of rejection and loneliness. TC mark

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    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      I’m almost always the third wheel because this guy flies solo. 

      • guest

        the lone wolf rides… alone

      • Guest

        SAD MAN!

        • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

          Oh, please.  It’s not sad.  I’m actually more like the engine.  I’m the life of the vehicle.  I keep the wheels going. .. … I think that’s what engines do.  I really know nothing about cars. 

      • Guest

        SAD MAN!

    • cady

      i think another catagory should be “3rd wheel who doesn’t want to be there either”—i’m quite the expert on 3rd wheeling (my best friends get boyfriends, i haven’t had the same “luck”) and i think i’ve been the comfortable, the buffer and the invisible–but the absolute WORST has to be when the couple (who may not even be a couple–just a couple of flirting friends) genuinely wants you there and you REALLY FUCKING DON’T.  unless you like feeling isolated, insecure and lonely (i don’t). great article, and i hope this brand of 3rd wheelers shall not be forgotten.

      • cady

        category* fuck.

      • Guest

        This is the story of my life. My three best girl friends all had significant others at one point or another this year, and they all seem to think that I enjoy playing 3rd wheel for each couple (or if I’m really lucky, we’re all together and I get to be 7th wheel). Shudder-inducing.

      • http://eccentricerrant.wordpress.com/ Alexandrea

        Then don’t be there?

      • http://eccentricerrant.wordpress.com/ Alexandrea

        Then don’t be there?

    • what

      DAMMIT LIFE

    • -ade

      this is my life. damn me. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      goddamn so true

    • anonymous

      Wow. Sounds like like me. Except I leave when I’m the Invisible, Unwanted, and Buffer.

    • http://blip.tv/The-Film-Twit The Film Twit

      Luckily, I’m a comfortable third wheel for two of the best folks I know. It’s good to be friends with someone, meet their wife, and become friends with her as well.

    • Sophia

      I don’t know which of these I am, but I’m definitely one of them.
      Or maybe all of them.

    • Cherry

      What about the Michael Pitt in The Dreamers kind of third wheel? or the Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona type?

      Before you can argue that they don’t, those types relationships do, in fact, exist.

      Trust me.

    • Anonymous

      thank you for promoting third wheel awareness

    • http://eccentricerrant.wordpress.com/ Alexandrea

      “…  but the
      couple, in their coupled bliss, can’t imagine why anyone in their right
      mind would want to be single, so they impose a level of pity on said
      single friend.”

      I hate those kind of couples.

    • Sofia

      Enjoyed this. I was a Fresh Third Wheel when my two newly dating friends were discussing visiting the guy’s parents’ cabin in Wisconsin. I inadvertently invited myself, not realizing it was a Landmark In Our Relationship invitation from him to her. The guy reluctantly said “Oh, yes, sure…you can come, it will be fun, my brother will be there. He’s a chef in San Francisco,” (here I became the Pity Third Wheel). Later my friend asked me not to come.

    • Sofia

      Enjoyed this. I was a Fresh Third Wheel when my two newly dating friends were discussing visiting the guy’s parents’ cabin in Wisconsin. I inadvertently invited myself, not realizing it was a Landmark In Our Relationship invitation from him to her. The guy reluctantly said “Oh, yes, sure…you can come, it will be fun, my brother will be there. He’s a chef in San Francisco,” (here I became the Pity Third Wheel). Later my friend asked me not to come.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1198922828 Marianna Elvira

      ~comfortable third wheel~

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1198922828 Marianna Elvira

      ~comfortable third wheel~

    • http://www.facebook.com/anniehighleysmith Annie Highley-Smith

      The Third Part Wheel scenerio sounds strangely like How I Met Your Mother.

    • Tjweise91

      I have a long time friend who has been dating the same girl for a number of years and I find myself in between the Comfortable third wheel and the Invisible third wheel when I’m alone with them. It’s not like I want them to be uneasy around me, but all of the groping and making out in front of me is quite frankly inappropriate and makes me feel uncomfortable. Is it too much to ask for them to save that for the 95%  of their relationship that doesn’t involve me being in the same room? I’ve never shown that kind of emotion in front of him with my lover’s in the past.

      Also, can we add the annoying  third wheel that tries to show off in front of your partner? I mean, come on, how childish.  Thanks for the post I found it very relative.

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