Why I've Learned More About Love As A Third Wheel Than In Any Relationship

by Carly Breitbart

By some twist of fate, I have secured the coveted position of seventh wheel. My friend group is composed of three couples and myself. My group chat is a continuous stream of the pronoun “we” and inside jokes shared between boyfriend and girlfriend (or boyfriend and boyfriend).

My #SquadGoals Instagram pictures usually feature me ironically holding some type of alcoholic beverage, while my friends magnetize to their significant others. Despite this series of potentially unfavorable events, I have never felt like an outsider.

Just because virtually all of my best friends are cuffed to each other doesn't mean they aren't some of the best friends I've ever had. I couldn't do life without them, and I don't plan on trying anytime soon.

I have come to find my status of a welcomed tag-along not only humorous, but also seriously eye-opening. My status of seventh wheel has given me the unique perspective of watching each relationship unfold from the outside.

I observe. I listen. I hear all sides of the story. I offer advice when it is (often) solicited.

Maybe I have learned more about love from seventh wheeling than I have in relationships of my own. Here are five lessons I've learned from observing my happily cuffed friends:

1. I learned to listen.

Bartender syndrome comes with the territory of being the token single friend. I'm the one my friends come running to when there's trouble in paradise. They often come to find I know what I'm talking about, despite my lack of experience and self-proclaimed relationship status of “just me and all my millions.”

I listen actively. I don't wait for them to stop talking so I can talk about my own relationship problems, and I don't judge how they are handling the situation. Sometimes a listener is all they need.

2. I learned to be a good friend.

My friendships with both people in the relationship can put me in some sticky situations, but when my friends come to me for a couples therapy session, it's my responsibility to remain unbiased. They know I will call it as I see it because their happiness is more important to me than picking any side.

3. I learned what works (and what doesn't) in every stage of a relationship.

While I'm listening, I'm learning. From the strenuous decision of whether or not to double text, through the honeymoon phase and into the possibility of spending the rest of their lives together, I'm there every step of the way.

I hear both sides of the story, and I gain insight I never could have if I were in the relationship myself. I learned playing games doesn't set the foundation of a strong relationship, but taking chances and being vulnerable does.

I learned compromise is vital, but too much give and not enough take can be a recipe for disaster. I learned there are fears, doubts and insecurities, even in the most picture-perfect partnerships. I learned love requires work, but if you're lucky, it's worth it.

4. I learned there is so much more to a relationship than sex.

I am subject to witness a healthy amount of PDA as a seventh wheel. I guess that's my cross to bear. However, there are obviously certain aspects of a relationship that occur behind closed doors.

Although I am not 100 percent immersed in their relationships, I have never felt like anything is missing from them. I see the little glances, the blushing and the smirks. I notice the hand holding, door opening and random compliment giving. I watch them put each other first.

The aspects of their relationships I am present for are some of the aspects that make them so strong.

5. I learned to be “alone” and like it.

My status of seventh wheel has turned my six best friends into my grandma at Thanksgiving. Their sometimes daily ritual includes asking me about new guys in my life, what their majors are and if I think it will go anywhere.

Like my grandma, I know they are asking with the best intentions. They are only encouraging me to find the happiness they've all found.

The pressure to finally add the eighth wheel and balance out this imperfect vehicle of our friend group used to get under my skin. I used to sensationalize my experiences with potential suitors to fuel their hopes that it was finally my turn.

I did that until I realized I already am happy. I stopped searching for the gap they all assumed I had in my life when I couldn't find it. I realized that — at least for the time being — I am perfectly content with being on my own. (Metaphorically, of course.)

I know I'll always have my six other wheels right beside me.