I’ve grown up with an older brother who I’m incredibly close to. We’ve always been kind of a package deal when it comes to friends: my friends have to be okay with hanging out with him as well as me sometimes, and vice versa. Naturally, that extended itself to when my brother started dating. And then to when my friends started dating. Notice that we haven’t gotten to the point where I start dating yet (you got it, I’m still waiting on that one). Third wheeling to a best friend at the professional level is a curse. Currently, it’s my curse.
So, as the eternal single friend, I did the best with what I had and started honing the craft of third wheeling. Since I learned starting with my brother, who wasn’t afraid to tell me to go away, I had a pretty good sense of when to join the party and when to stay far, far away. I perfected it with my friends. But, no one is truly perfect; I’ve almost walked in on my best friend having sex. Twice. Looking back on it, I made some fatal mistakes. Hopefully you can learn from them.
Confirm your plans as often as possible the day of
You can never 100% guarantee that nothing will be happening when you show up. I was dealing with two teenagers who were in love and who had a house to themselves. Things happen. My best advice is to make sure they don’t forget about you. Send a quick text or Snapchat in the morning and slide in something like, “can’t wait to see you later!”
You can also be a bit more direct about it if you’re in a situation similar to mine; if I remember right, one of my texts said, “hey don’t forget sexy time can’t happen at 8:30 that’s when I’m coming over. I don’t want a repeat of last time.” Let them know when you’re on your way and when you’re there.
Make it clear that you’re there
People normally tell me I walk like an elephant and they can hear me a mile away. Apparently the one time in my life that I didn’t was the first time I almost walked in on them. Believe it or not, the only thing that saved me was his mom. She had opened the door for me and was showing me to the basement, where my friend and her boyfriend were. They both swear they didn’t hear footsteps, but they heard his mom’s voice. If they hadn’t I wouldn’t have seen my friend running around the corner and her boyfriend moping behind her, I would have seen something a bit more…intimate.
If they don’t text you back, run very fast in the other direction
This was probably my biggest mistake. Both times neither my “on my way” or my “I’m here” texts got an answer. The first time it happened, I was picking my best friend up at her boyfriend’s house, so I waited a couple minutes before going into the house; the second time I was picking up something from her house, so I didn’t wait as long.
In hindsight, in a culture where we’re always at least near our phones, not getting a response should have been a giant red flag. Don’t be like me. Don’t ignore the red flags.
When in doubt, just don’t make plans on the same day
If you’re not sure that all of the advice I’ve just given will do the trick, or if they haven’t worked in the past, your best bet is to not make any plans at all that coincide with their plans. That way there is zero chance that you’ll end up in an awkward situation. Better safe than sorry.
There is nothing wrong with being a comfortable third wheel. In my opinion, it’s a handy skill to have; there are always going to be situations where you’re alone with a couple. I’ve learned to cope with the “it’s only awkward if you make it awkward” rule. It usually does the trick.. But I’m incredibly close with my best friend, and I was pretty comfortable around her boyfriend too, so I think I let my guard down a little too far. The good news is that these are isolated incidents; nothing of the sort has happened since them. Hopefully my (endearing?) awkwardness will help someone not go through the same thing.