Extended Definition Essay

Third Wheel




Have you ever been in a situation where you awkwardly tag along with a couple and left there ignored? If yes, then that means you are what people call a “Third Wheel”. Fear not, many people in the world are in the same case. A third wheel or, in other cultures, a light bulb (Vania, 2016) is a person of single status who joins two people that share a romantic interest with each other for certain activities. However, being a third wheel does not restrict to friends in a relationship; it also happens with two best friends (Mazarura, 2015). But in most cases, a third wheel happens with couples. Third wheels are often dragged by the couple to serve a functional purpose depending on what kind of third wheel they are (George, 2011). Social awkwardness is likely to happen to people besides the couple. This is the most consequential significance that a third wheel has. They suffer through the continual show of affection between the couple, and are constantly reminded of their singleness. Anybody can become a victim. A third wheel is usually an awkward person who spends time with a couple, and one can avoid it and endure it if one knows their characteristics, types, and causes and effects of their being third wheels.

A boy and a girl link their arms right in front of a person as they share inside jokes while laughter fills the air. The pleasant sound of laughter is inviting, but as this oblivious person tries to inquire what the joke was, this person simply nods his/her head in agreement, even though the person does not know what it is about. This person is undeniably called a “Third Wheel”. This kind of individual has distinct characteristics that are quite obvious to other people like being awkward, insecure, and lonely. The most notable of these characteristics is being awkward. This person is awkwardly tagging along behind them because apparently his/her friend needs someone to ease the tension on the friend’s date. Consequently, the one who ends up getting in an awkward position is this person who seems invisible to the couple. As a matter of fact, when a person starts learning how to ride a bicycle, one starts with using training wheels to learn how to balance the two-wheeled contraption. After a few tries, the person will discard the training wheels as they can now independently balance a bicycle without any help. Likewise, a third wheel is a necessity to a couple’s date (Meiss, 2015). The second characteristic that a third wheel is known for is being insecure. Once the couple is comfortable with each other, the third wheel will be deemed unnecessary. He/she will feel insecure and will question the friendship he/she has with the couple. A third wheel, innocent and gullible, is also famous for being lonely. This person sometimes does not realize at first that he/she is being left out by the couple. The ignored and forgotten one is reminded of his/her singleness, and experience loneliness as he/she witness the sweet couple he/she is accompanying. Once the pitiable third wheel discovers the sad truth, this person will show signs of social awkwardness. The third wheel will often have varying feelings that can be caused by his/her temporary disinterested attachment to the couple (George, 2011).

A third wheel often serves practical uses for a couple as he/she joins in some of their activities. As mentioned by George (2011), there are six kinds of third wheels that a couple can take advantage of: one, the fresh third wheel; two, the comfortable third wheel; three, the invisible third wheel; four, the buffer third wheel; five, the pity third wheel; and finally six, the unwanted third wheel. All of these kinds have different relationships and roles to the couple. The fresh third wheel is the kind that occurs with couples who have just started their relationship. The third wheel is usually a friend of one of the couple; most of the time the male, to act as a “wing man” for their friend. As the third wheel carries out his/her duty, sometimes the stress of having to socialize with a planned formality will become unbearable.

The comfortable third wheel is a special case because this is normally a family member or an old friend of the couple that is familiar with the couple’s behavior towards each other. Since the couple has been together for a long period of time, this gives the third wheel ample opportunity to build a friendly relationship with the love interest of their family member or friend.

The third type is quite common, the invisible third wheel. This one normally has something in their hands to fiddle with as the couple he/she is accompanying will shamelessly show their public displays of affection. The invisible third wheel does not have any role in the couple’s relationship because the third wheel is treated as non-existent. Even though the third wheel will try and say something, he/she will not be acknowledged, for the couple is busy showing their affection for each other.

The fourth type is the buffer third wheel. This kind usually does not know he/she is obligated to some form of responsibility until when he/she is needed. The buffer third wheel will often attempt to control conflicts and diffuse a problematic situation wherein there is verbal violence between the couple. Although the third wheel is not sure, he/she will give advice and opinions to help the couple’s problematic situation. At times, the couple will pressure the buffer third wheel to choose sides between them.

The pity third wheel is the fifth type. This type can be branched out in two forms, for the pity can come from either the couple or the third wheel himself/herself. The first kind is when the third wheel pities himself/herself because he/she is single. This is the type that constantly requests to be introduced to someone by the couple. The second kind of pity third wheel is where the couple pities the third wheel for being single. Most pity third wheels in this category are happy being single, but the couple feels the need to help their single friend find love just like they did. This is when the couple plays matchmaker for the third wheel and another single friend of theirs.

Lastly, the unwanted third wheel can develop usually by chance. This happens suddenly to a third wheel when he/she sees the couple having conversations with whispers, feigning exhaustion to cut activities short, or walking with a distance away from him/her. This type can be an outcome of a fresh third wheel, a buffer third wheel, or an invisible third wheel. With this type, the third wheel can now be officially called an outsider because the couple does not want anything to do with him/her anymore. Becoming this kind of third wheel can often be incidental, and can cause a sense of relief to said third wheel. However, as the third wheel’s company is no longer needed, he/she can also feel emotions of rejection and loneliness.

There is one major factor of as to why there are third wheels in the world. A third wheel occurs because he/she is dragged to a date of one of their friends. This is due to the fact that the third wheel is needed to mediate a couple’s situation to relieve awkwardness, especially for a newly established couple. Just like what is often seen in the media, another cause of a third wheel is because he/she is forced to be with a couple due to an uncontrollable reason (“Third Wheel”, 2016). The third wheel has no choice but to join the couple, but this does not mean anybody has any ill will towards each other. The third cause of a third wheel is due to loneliness. A third wheel’s close friend may have gotten into a new relationship, and the third wheel may still be clinging onto that friend. This third wheel does not know what to do without his/her friend.

Being a third wheel can have a long list of effects ranging from being awkward to learning something valuable. If one looks at the negative side, the most obvious effect of third wheeling is being socially awkward. Although the role of a third wheel is to alleviate awkwardness between the couple, the third wheel himself/herself will be the one to endure the awkwardness caused by said couple. A third wheel can suffer through the public displays of affection and arguments of a couple, and feel that he/she should not have come to their intimate get-together. It is unconventional being the third wheel, but emphasizing that fact to the couple will only worsen things, and make the couple uncomfortable. Another negative effect of being a third wheel is getting excluded in a situation. The couple might forget about the third wheel as they are too preoccupied with each other in their blissful atmosphere, which will result to a third wheel feeling lonely and remembering his/her single status. However, in a positive note, a third wheel can learn something beneficial because of his/her situation. Lai (2015) stated that a third wheel can learn the dos and don’ts of being in a relationship without having been in one. This can help prepare the third wheel with his/her future relationship, and learn the potential problems by observing the couple he/she is accompanying. A third wheel can learn how to be satisfied with his/her own life because he/she has the opportunity to witness and understand the advantages and disadvantages of being in a relationship. Another positive effect is that the couple can introduce a third wheel to another single friend of theirs if the third wheel is currently willing to look for a love interest. Moreover, the third wheel will know who to look for when seeking relationship advice. Another effect added by Vania (2016) is that a third wheel can learn to become more sensitive and more aware of other people’s needs. This teaches a third wheel how to discern what is best to say or do in any given situation.

Becoming a third wheel can happen to anyone. It is inevitable for some people, so the best thing people can do is to make the most out of being a third wheel. As Christina (2013) stated, a third wheel can have many ways in maximizing his/her time as a third wheel. As much as possible, a third wheel should not join any intimate events, and should spend time with a couple under the right circumstances. A third wheel must know when to discretely step away from a situation to give some space for the couple. Befriending the significant other of his/her friend will make a third wheel’s situation much better. Otherwise, there will be a competition on who gets the attention of their mutual friend. Most importantly, a third wheel should not feel sorry for himself/herself, and just have fun with his/her situation. There is always a bright side to everything, and being single means there are plenty of opportunities to find oneself. Being a third wheel surely has some advantages and disadvantages that can make or break a third wheel. He/she is always taken for granted, but without a third wheel some couples could not become who they are today. Above all, a third wheel, in all its form and glory, is a friend who will patiently and loyally support their friend in need.



I. Introduction

A. Attention Grabber: Have you ever been in a situation where you awkwardly tag along with a couple and left there ignored? If yes, then that means you are what people call a “Third Wheel”.

B. Background Information: A third wheel, or in other cultures, a light bulb (Vania, 2016) is a person of single status who joins two people that share a romantic interest with each other for certain activities. Social awkwardness is likely to happen to people besides the couple.

C. Thesis Statement: A third wheel is usually an awkward person who spends time with a couple, and one can avoid it and endure it if one knows their characteristics, types, and causes and effects of their being third wheels.

II. Body

A. Characteristics of a Third Wheel


B. Differences between Types of Third Wheel

1.Fresh Third Wheel

a. Relationship
b. Role

2.Comfortable Third Wheel

a. Relationship
b. Role

3.Invisible Third Wheel

a. Relationship
b. Role

4.Buffer Third Wheel

a. Relationship
b. Role

5.Pity Third Wheel

a. Relationship
b. Role

6.Unwanted Third Wheel

a. Relationship
b. Role

C. Causes and Effects


a. Dragged by the couple
b. Uncontrollable situation
c. Loneliness


a. An awkward situation
b. Excluded in situations
c. Learn the dos and don’ts of a relationship
d. Introduced to someone by the couple
e. Awareness of other people

III. Conclusion

A. Advice

B. Evaluation

C. Final Statement




Christina, K. (2013, November 20). The 5 ways to make the most of being a third wheel [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://elitedaily.com/dating/sex/the-5-ways-to-make-the-most-of-being-a-third-wheel/

George, B. (2011, July 13). The different types of third wheels there are [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://thoughtcatalog.com/kat-george/2011/07/the-different-types-of-third-wheel-there-are/

Lai, S. (2015, January 2). Being the third wheel is underrated. RELEVANT. Retrieved from http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/being-third-wheel-underrated

Mazarura, R. (2015, August 20). The third wheel’s guide to friendship [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://femsplain.com/the-third-wheels-guide-to-friendship/

Meiss, R. (2015). Here’s what it’s like being the perpetual third wheel. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit/articles/heres-what-its-being-perpetual-third-wheel

Vania, T. (2016, February 25). 3 unexpected benefits of being the third wheel [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://ymi.today/2016/02/3-unexpected-benefits-of-being-the-third-wheel/

Third Wheel (2016). Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki.php/Main/ThirdWheel


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