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How to take the awkward out of third wheel

Elise Stephens blogs about relationships, life, and inspiration at www.elisestephens.com. She received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007. Her novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-final...

Love manners matter

Everyone's been single. Many of us are, and many of us will be again. We can all remember that annoying couple who acted super in love, right in front of us…yeah, it was disgusting. Most of us have been there, but once we found our special someone, did we forget what that pain was like? Are we now just as guilty as that smooch-crazy pair from our single days?

Third wheel

If you love your single friends and don't want to drive them away with your romantic bliss, there are a couple of things to keep in mind as you mind your manners.

Turn down the PDA

You can certainly kiss your man. Hold his hand if you want. But be aware that your single friend has no one to hold, and your touching can make him/her painfully self-conscious. Try holding hands under the table instead. Be discreet so that your friend doesn’t have reason to feel left out. Offer equal ground as much as possible. Remind yourself that there isn't anything innately "better" about being with someone than being single. Also, a great way to keep your friend feeling included is to be generous and as equal as possible with both your hugs and attention.

Single and happy?

Don't assume that because you're in a happy relationship that the best gift you can give to the world is to set other people up. Let your friend know through casual, genuine conversation just how delightful and complete he/she is as a person. If you, your man and your friend are having dinner, don't let matchmaking become the part of every discussion. Ask about your friend’s life, passions, dreams and struggles. Enjoy each other as friends.

Did I miss something?

The time for pet names is meant only for when it's just you and your guy. Your friend doesn't want to have to listen to explanations for embarrassing nicknames or sit in the dark while you have your inside joke. Think about the appropriateness of your conversation topics and how you treat each other in the presence of others. This could take some time readjusting, but these are healthy skills to learn. Otherwise, you risk always making others uncomfortable around you and your man. Keep the playing field even for everyone with your choice and style of conversation topics. Imagine that you’re about to create a whole new set of jokes and memories that include your friend. This will help!

The sad truth is that many people in love are inconsiderate to those who don't have significant others. The "high" of being adored can blind us to the painful effect we have on singletons. Not all of your single friends will want to come along as the third side of the triangle, even if you promise to make them feel comfortable. But many won't mind and would love to hang out as a trio -- if you do your part and let them feel loved, included and completely accepted for just who they are in that exact moment.

Watch: Girlfriends

Kate Walsh discusses those relationships that withstand the test of time and the type of friends that will always be there for you.

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