Woe Is Me! “All My Friends Are Coupled! How Do I Not Feel Like a Third Wheel?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I got my best friends together! I am very happy about this and I really hope they have a wonderful future ahead. However, here lies the problem: no matter how hard they try to make me feel included (they can only do that to a certain extent, of course, and I get it), I end up feeling like an outsider. I know I should understand that they are a “couple” now, but it gets difficult since it has always been the three of us together, even during the initial days of the relationship. I have been trying to make new friends or find new hobbies to pursue, but it is difficult. I have been single for quite some time now, and I enjoy being single, but seeing my best friends together makes me feel lonely. I do not want this negative energy to be near my best friends in any way, and I understand that I should probably talk it out with them, but I don’t know how to. I really love the two of them and I really wish I could have a switch to turn this negative feeling off.“
— Three to tango
RN: If you can see from their end that they try to make you feel included, then ask yourself what’s really bothering you — is it you projecting feelings of outsider-ness on them, or do they really act in a way that keeps you outside the loop in some instances? Could it be that you’re more uncomfortable with the change in the status quo? It can be gratifying to play matchmaker and see it work out beautifully but perhaps you hadn’t thought through how it would change the dynamics of the friend group and haven’t processed it yet. Maybe you’re not an outsider, it’s just a different equation now and different doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. You perhaps need to take time to come to terms with the change yourself before bringing it up with them, since they’re clearly conscious of it and are trying their best, according to you. I think you do need to give their relationship its own space to bloom without trying to fit it into the rigid “good old days” mould you’ve created and are missing so much. Think about the converse — if you do end up trying to take things back to how they were, your friends may start resenting you and you may actually become an outsider then. That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one! Be gentle with yourself and with them, and with life itself.
PR: I guess in some way you have answered your woe, you kind of have to step away from hanging out with the two of them as much as you used to, considering the situation. I understand that it is difficult, but the onus also lies on them to spend more individual time with you. If you want, you can suggest hanging out with them separately more. So, obviously, there is no way to turn off a feeling like that, and you aren’t wrong to feel this way, we as people end up seeing the lack of things when we compare, and that is a habit that is difficult to get rid off, especially when the comparison lies in front of you.
It would help to distance for a while also. And I am sure, when you feel calm about it, you’d be able to have the conversation with them and gain back the time you had with them separately, maybe not in the same way, but better than how it is now. Good luck, and have some chai.
SK: It’s truly an adventure sport to hang out with a couple. Invitations tend to intrinsically come with the mention of a plus one, and sometimes it’s hard to find something to affix our gaze on when they indulge in PDA. It’s awkward sometimes, but I would argue that hanging out with couples can be quite fun too. You can play the mediator, or take sides and help advocate for one, or even just enjoy things as a group, without a glaring acknowledgment of the relationship status quo.
I sense this feeling of being an outsider comes with relatively how new all of this seems? You’ve been friends with them alone and you’re friends with them together, so it may take some time to get used to this new dynamic where they meet and bond without you. If you’re figuring out how to frame your relationship with them, maybe try striking a balance between hanging out with them together, and hanging out with them separately. Your equation with both as individuals, and them as a couple, matters. Slowly, then, your expectations may adapt to this new reality, and you may be less tempted to harken back to the past. New can be good, new can be refreshing.
I’m glad you don’t feel the need to couple up just because you’re always around one. Hold on to that singleness; find joy in new people, places, and things. There’s no answer off the shelf about how to do this, but I’ve heard acceptance is a good start.
DR: It sounds to me like you’re mourning your dynamic, or perhaps, the part of you that it brought out. I think that’s a natural reaction to change — especially when it’s in your immediate circle and concern your best friends; think time would be the best medicine to treat your present condition. I think it might still be wise to introspect, though — to determine if there’s buried reason that’s triggering your reaction to the change in dynamic.
About your plan to tell them what’s going on with you, I think you should make sure you’re not suggesting to them, in any matter whatsoever, that they’re somehow responsible for your feelings. That would make them more conscious thay they already seem to be.