In my room hangs a poster advertising an end of the world party. It was strewn with Mayan puns, a ping pong tournament, and there was a band no one knew about. I found it in a restaurant and pub on the uneventful 21st of December, 2012. It hangs (and usually falls) with pride in my room. It represents a very fun night of great food, lots of laughing, and my horrifying attempt at learning how to ice skate. On this night, I also happened to be a third wheel.
If you have lived in a dating culture and have friends (which I think covers all of us at Covenant), you will inevitably be put in this position. And we all know the horror of watching two other people whisper sweet nothings at each other while we inhale the love potion air, trying not to gag. Ugh, they’re looking at each other again. Would they stop holding hands?! and, of course, When will I find someone? are common thoughts to have. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Many people interpret the term “third wheel” to be derogatory, which, in one sense, it is. There is an image of two lovers gazing into those windows of the soul, while that poor third soul slouches down, bored out of his/her mind, waiting to go home and watch Netflix. This person is very inconsequential to the events happening.
But, to extend the wheel analogy, a third wheel’s usefulness is less dependent on the wheel, and more dependent on the vehicle. For example, tricycles could not maneuver without a third wheel. Our concept of a relationship is about two people, who do their own thing, without anyone bothering them. In that context, yes, a third wheel is useless; we ought to call them a spare tire. But biblically, this is not how relationships are meant to be. We are made to be in community, to give of ourselves and seek to meet others’ needs. Community is more than you and your significant other. Community is more than you and your lonely soul. Community is all of us, and no one is useless or unnecessary.
If you are single, be a third wheel when you get the chance. Life is not about you. That is hard to hear, especially when you are lonely and hurting, but it is the truth. If you live as though life is about you, you will truly be lonely and miserable. Your friends still like you, even if they have gone insane over some boy or girl. They still want to see you. You ought to be there as support, accountability, and to help their relationship grow. I know there is plenty of room for debate and nuance that I’m not going to get into. But I ask you this: is spending all your time avoiding dating couples helping you? Ironically, trying to intentionally avoid couples may only serve to further remind you of your singleness.
If you are dating, be considerate of your single friends. Know where they are, and don’t push them into the furnace to fuel your burning love. This means you ought to include them in your fun times. This will actually help you and your significant other, as you will learn to keep your relationship public. Now of course there are times that you may want to be alone. There will be times they don’t want to be a third wheel. Just be considerate of your friends’ needs as well.
I think very fondly of that apocalyptic night. We all had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. Sure, I was a third wheel, but who cares? I was included in all the fun things that happened. I got to understand my friend’s relationship, and consequently my friend, in a deeper way. And I got to serve him. I didn’t feel lonely at the end because I gave of myself and lived in community. So relax guys. Being a third wheel is not the end of the world.