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Column: 'Third wheel' syndrome – why are we made to feel embarrassed about being single?

Settling down and looking towards the future with someone is on my to-do list, but is it so bad that I’m in no great hurry? asks Aoife O’Connor.

Image: Preto Perola via Shutterstock

BEYONCÉ MIGHT HAVE written a song for all the single ladies, but what good is that coming from someone who has been paired up for years? And I’m pretty sure our girl Beyoncé has never been considered a third wheel at any party.

Yes, I’m referring to the dreaded third wheel syndrome – the affliction that doesn’t discriminate. Singletons all over Ireland will know exactly what I’m talking about.

As a person who is relatively secure in their own skin, I have never seen myself as a tag along when it comes to spending time with my coupled-up friends, because why should I?

I wasn’t aware that being single is something I should be embarrassed about, something I shouldn’t draw attention to and something that I could get mocked for.

But recently I was referred to as a ‘spare sponge’ and a ‘gooseberry’ for having the audacity to go for a walk with a couple. Let me emphasize that these comments weren’t made to be nasty, but rather to poke fun at my lack of a significant other, but nonetheless it got me thinking…

Do we have to conform about everything?

Isn’t there enough societal pressure on young people already to become what is considered a well-rounded individual in terms of education and career, without the overbearing need to conform further and be in a relationship at any given time?

Furthermore, the whole notion of finding your other half can be quite demoralising when you think about it – is a person incomplete or not whole if they don’t have a partner? Whatever happened to being independent?

There is a common misconception that single = alone, which isn’t fair. A person should not be made feel guilty or paranoid about their relationship status and to hone in on it only serves to reinforce the notion that it’s a big deal.

But then there is the drop of post through the letterbox and you spot that glossy, ivory-coloured envelope that can only mean one thing: wedding bells.

It’s funny really how a piece of nondescript stationary can pack such an emotional punch when you’re single. Will you get a plus one or won’t you? Either way is just as stressful.

Wouldn’t it be worse if you settled?

If you do get a plus one, there’s the whole rigmarole of mentally running through the potential guest list to see if you have enough friends going to get away with flying solo – safety in numbers and all that jazz.

Of course, rocking up sans guest runs the risk of the inevitable ‘who are you here with’ conversation and the awkward pause and sympathetic eyes that follow when you inform other guests you are not with anyone.

If you don’t get a plus one, there will probably be a momentary sinking feeling and possibly a flash of anger, before you take a mental time-out and tell yourself to cop on.

Think of this way, wouldn’t it be worse if you settled for the sake of it?

Settling down and looking towards the future with someone is on my to-do list, but is it so bad that I’m in no great hurry? There hasn’t been anyone so far that has left a lasting impression, so it’s not like I’m shaking my fist at the universe thinking I’ve let “the one” get away.

Call me old-fashioned or maybe idealistic, but I’m all about the butterfly effect – finding someone who can make your heart lurch and stomach flip in an instant. And for all the skeptics out there, say what you want but you know deep down that you want the same thing.

My name is Aoife O’ Connor and I am currently romantically unattached, but what of it?

Let’s not push the panic button just yet.

Aoife O’Connor is a journalist from Kerry. You can view here LinkedIn page here or follow her on Twitter here. For more articles by Aoife for click here.


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