When you start to date someone, your friendships with others can get weird. Especially if you both belong to the same friend group.
It can create an awkwardness that wasn’t there before. I know. I’ve been the third wheel with a couple before. It can be uncomfortable.
I also know how awkward it can feel when you’re the friend that starts dating. You see, Mike and I were good friends and shared the same friend group before we started dating.
In those first weeks and even months of dating, we had to learn how to interact as a couple, while still belonging to our same friend group. Here are a few things I learned — tips that will help you avoid friend group awkwardness, while also not being afraid to show affection toward your partner.
Don’t forget to hang out with your friends
When you first start dating, it’s easy to spend every second together. But hanging out in a group is a great way to get to know the way your significant other interacts in a group (and it’ll help you avoid temptation). How a person interacts with others can tell you a lot about that person’s character and how he or she responds to situations.
Plus, your friends most likely will want to support you and be there for you while you’re dating. Dating isn’t easy — having a stable, honest community is a necessity.
But when you do hang out, it’s important to …
Be mindful who’s around
I remember when I was single and hanging out with a couple. I felt like such a third wheel.
The three of us would watch a movie together, but I might as well have been watching a movie alone. The couple was giggling on the couch together, cuddling and acting like they were the only two in the room, while I sat there trying to follow the film’s storyline in between spurts of giggles.
It was so irritating.
If you’re with one other person, or even in a larger group, remember you’re spending time with the whole group — not just your significant other. It sounds easy to do, but when you first start dating and are still really crushing on your girlfriend or boyfriend, it’s easy to focus only on that person at all times — even when you’re at someone else’s house or out to dinner with friends.
Take time to ask your friends questions and focus on them. Make sure you’re not only talking to your significant other and exchanging inside jokes with him or her. It’s super important to get to know your significant other, but it’s also important to build and maintain a strong community. The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
It’s OK to sit beside each other
When Mike and I started dating, I was concerned about making other people feel awkward, so much that we hardly even sat beside each other.
When we started dating, our friends started treating us differently. We’d be in the dining hall at college, and one of our friends would go to sit next to Mike, but seeing me walking toward the table, he’d awkwardly step back and find a seat on the other side of the table so I could sit next to Mike.
I hated that. I didn’t want special treatment. And I didn’t want to inconvenience people just so I could sit next to Mike. So I just decided not to sit next to Mike.
In hindsight, that was pretty ridiculous. Our friends were happy to let me sit next to Mike. They weren’t inconvenienced by my love for him as long I remained kind and considerate.
During the next few years of dating, we sat next to each other when we could, but didn’t feel like we absolutely had to. We sometimes held hands in public, but not all the time. Now that we’re married, we tell each other we love each other in public and even exchange a kiss in public occasionally.
And guess what — our friends don’t seem to care. In fact, they love that Mike and I love each other!
When dating in a friend group, the important part is balance — don’t put pressure on each other to sit together all the time or make a rule that you always have to sit as far from each other as possible.
But what if you break up?
At first, Mike and I were a little worried about what would happen to our friend group if we broke up. For a few years we were the only two in our group who were dating, and we feared the awkwardness for everyone else if our relationship ended.
I was afraid I’d have to make new friends if we broke up, or that our friend group would be split in half.
Though valid, that fear didn’t stop Mike and me from dating.
We talked and decided that if we did stop dating, we wouldn’t make it awkward for the friend group. We decided that no matter what happened, we would stay civil with each other and continue to hang out in a group setting.
Not only that, but because Mike and I individually stayed close with each member of our friend group, we knew that if we did break up, our friends wouldn’t want to stop being friends with one of us.
Over the years, several of our friends in our friend group did date and break up. We’re all still friends to this day. Because we were so close, and because we knew each other so well, we continued being friends with everyone.
Sometimes it was messy. Sometimes we’d have to think about inviting certain people to certain events or not inviting others. We’d try to let them know beforehand, though. We might say, “I didn’t invite you to this weekend because she’s going to be there, and we didn’t want to create an awkward scenario. But we love you and want to do something else with you instead.” Most of the time, our friends understood.
Whether or not you make it as a couple, having a strong community will benefit you in the long run. While your significant other might take priority in certain areas of your life, don’t neglect your other friends in the group. Those friendships are something to be cherished.
Copyright 2018 Dani Fitzgerald Brown. All rights reserved.