The Joys of Being a Third Wheel

As more of us stay single longer, it’s time to change the social script

Harry Guinness
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readSep 10, 2019


Photo: AzmanL/Getty Images

TThe 31st of May, 2019, was one of the happiest days of my life. I stood at the altar in Dublin’s City Hall with the man I love most in this world. The day had been a long time coming, but the guests were gathered and the celebrant was ready. As the string quartet started playing, I gazed at Conor and smiled.

And together, we awaited his bride.

Conor has been my best friend for half my life. How do you summarize 15 years of friendship? I could write about when we climbed the mountain where my grandfather died, trudging through the early-October mist to stand in silence on the summit where he fell. Or all the times Conor called me in tears (generally at 4 a.m.) because a writer we both love had died. Or when he showed me the antique ring he’d bought and told me he was planning to propose to Louise on the beach near her childhood home. We have our in-jokes and our long-running arguments. We’ve been inseparable for days and apart for months. We’ve cuddled and bickered. It’s a friendship stripped of all pretense and distilled down, like moonshine, to its most potent form.

In the summer of 2013, Conor left Dublin (and me!) and moved to Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city, to work as a physiotherapist for a disability charity and care organization. My first proper romantic relationship had ended badly earlier that year. The breakup was extended, messy, and embarrassing for everyone, in the way only romances that stem from a tight-knit group of friends can be. Conor and I had planned to spend that short interlude between wet, cold, Irish winters being single together for the first time in years. With his impending move to Cork, we’d still be able to hit the town (and hit on every likely looking group of tourists) at least a few times, but it wouldn’t be the weekly event I’d hoped.

Like most single young men free of baggage and reputation, we were pretty keen on online dating. Tinder had recently launched in Ireland, and it was no longer only for weirdos and widows — it was for everyone. Before he’d even left for Cork, Conor had set up his (mildly embellished) profiles and begun looking for a summer fling. Louise, I’m sure, seemed the perfect candidate. She…