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orlando's avatar

If you were an only child, how did that affect your romantic/intimate relationships?

Asked by orlando (624 points ) January 26th, 2013

If you were an only child , how did that affect your romantic/intimate relationships later in life? Or if you ever dated a person who was an only child and you were not, how did you view him or her?

Being over 30 and comfortably single for years now, I’ve come to the realization that my psychological make-up might have a lot to do with the fact that I’m an only child.

Although I can love and care for others deeply, growing up without siblings I find I just don’t feel the need to share my life 24/7 with someone. I also severely dislike arguing/fighting, which seems to be a part of all intimate relationships and which it seems people who grew up with siblings seem to be perfectly content with.

Thanks.

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12 Answers

augustlan's avatar

I’m an only child. Well, I have a half-brother, but we weren’t raised together. Didn’t even meet him til I was an adult. I’ve never felt that my ‘only-ness’ had any significant impact on my relationships. I could be happily single, but have mostly been happily coupled.

I am very content to be by myself, and actually need a lot of alone time. My current husband is one of 3 kids, but is very much like me in this way. We’re both introverts, and that’s probably where our similarities in this area come from…not so much how many siblings we had (or didn’t have).

I’m not opposed to arguing, and can hold my own in a big fight. The only difference I’ve ever noted was that my ex-husband was much more tolerant of our own 3 children bickering and being mean to each other than I was. I think it’s likely because he has a brother and they fought viciously when they were growing up. To me, it was kind of heartbreaking (not to mention just loud and obnoxious), whereas to him it was just normal kid stuff.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Yes. It’s different when you choose from watching out for number 1, to having to watch out for someone else as well. I dislike arguments tremendously – I’d much rather negotiate than aggravate. It’s difficult being in a relationship with someone who has emotionally unstable personality disorder though, because probably at the worst way of putting it, the script has to be changed to accommodate for certain things but can remain the same for other things. It’s kinda weird :/

Coloma's avatar

I was an only child too and am very independent even though I am an extrovert by nature I am well balanced and cherish my solitude. My ex husband had 2 sisters, one younger and one older and I was under some sort of illusion that because if this he would be more sensitive to women. haha
Wrong.
I have dated another only child and we got along great.

He was exceptionally bright and we were great mind mates.
Geography and distance were the culprits in our friendly break up.
I think onlies rock for the most part and we get a bad rap for being potentially spoiled and self centered. I disagree, most onlies are exceptionally bright and independent yet play well with others.
I know I am a very warm and generous person in my relationships.

I don’t think being an only child has effected my relationships in the least.
What has effected them, mostly in my marriage, was the disparity of shared values and incompatibility of temperament.
I am not afraid of healthy confrontation and do not do well with conflict avoident types.
Us Alpha females do not do the silent treatment and refusal to address problems well at all.

Nobody likes to have confrontations but they are a necessary evil from time to time and avoiding problems never makes them go away.
I need another take charge, proactive type of person in my relationships, not an Ostrich with their head in the sand.

bookish1's avatar

It’s an interesting question, but I feel that having been an only child more directly affects my friendships than my romantic relationships. I vastly prefer interacting with friends one-on-one or in groups of no more than three. You can get a large group of some of my favorite people together, and I will have trouble participating. One of my friends in college who was a psych major said that only children often tend to act more mature earlier on, because they have been socialized at home by adults rather than by other children. And indeed, since I was a preteen I have gotten along better with people older than me.

As for romantic relationships, I actually do want to share my life with someone. I miss that a lot, although I know it is good for me to learn to be on my own as well, and I am working on that. I’m an introvert and so being around people drains me, but I become lonely and tired of my own company pretty quickly as well (and introversion is a personality trait or cognitive style rather than the result of being an only child). In addition, I am averse to confrontation and fighting, but I feel that has far more to do with growing up in an abusive household than not having had siblings.

However, the guy I am completely weak for right now was an only child as well, and that might be part of the reason that intimacy and complicity with him feels so good.

Coloma's avatar

I should clarify that what I mean by “confrontation” does not mean dysfunctional screaming matches, it simply means not avoiding problems and stewing away until you explode.
There is a saying that ” It is not the absence of conflict that makes a good relationship, it is how it is HANDLED.” Learning conflict resolution skills is very important in a relationship dynamic.
My ex and I clashed big time in this area with him being very avoidant and passive aggressive and me being the assertive, take the bull by the horns type.

Assertive and passive aggressive is a fucking time bomb! lol

laureth's avatar

I’m an only child. I was raised largely by adults, and didn’t even have a social life with people my age until roughly college. I don’t have a lot of patience for shenanigans. And a lot of the people I dated early on were the “never grew up” type, with plenty of shenanigans. I wonder if they had older siblings and less responsibility.

Eventually I married an “oldest” in his family. He grew up because his sibling was such a whack job. His maturity and responsibility was a good match for my having always been adult-like.

HolographicUniverse's avatar

The benefit of being an only child is your individuality, the parent child relationship is more centered and less disbursed therefore making for a more substantive individual growth. Whereas when you have siblings things become more Co dependent, social, while the parent child relationship can be competitive.
What this does is probe the children for different development in terms of psychological profile and social behavior (though this isnt always the case)

In the most neutral sense it has no overall impact, ive met “onlies” who crave that sibling relationship making them more attuned to interpersonal relationships and people who come from large households who enjoy the peace and individuality they never possessed.
I come from a rather large family and empathize perfectly with your principles… It’s a matter of personal preference, intimate relationships do not necessarily correlate with being an only child or having siblings

Gabby101's avatar

I am not an only child, but I was 7 when my brother was born – I have a lot of the same traits I would think only children have – ok with spending time alone/able to self entertain, prefer one-on-one interactions vs large groups, long attention spans from spending more time with adults, prefer to avoid confrontation and prefer low levels of direct/overt competition. I never played sports, so the competition thing is big for me. I had a coworker who has a sister that’s like a year older than her and I never knew how to deal with her need to one-up me all the time.

bossob's avatar

I’m an only, and didn’t have a great relationship until I met a woman who was the oldest of her siblings. Supposedly, onlies and oldest are the guinea pigs for their parents’ OJT as new parents. We’re independent, comfortable in our skins, and enjoy lots of alone time. My biggest adjustment was my wife is/was accustomed to continual background noise in the house; I preferred a quiet house. Hey, there’s one advantage to my deteriorating hearing!

I recently blurted out to a friend, without forethought, that I’m self-centered, but not selfish. I’m still pondering that one. I have asked my wife to understand that as an only, I didn’t have/need/forced/raised to think about other people first. I wasn’t spoiled by an excess of possessions or attention from my parents, and I’ve never had trouble sharing. But I am amazed sometimes while watching my wife, how it is second nature to her to be thinking of her siblings and friends while I am thinking about myself first.

I would say that the success of our marriage is based on mutual trust, respect, and acceptance of weaknesses. I don’t have a clue how being an only has influenced that.

Coloma's avatar

Well…personality type and temperament is a huge factor, birth order aside.
A thinking type is naturally going to be more self centered than a feeling type.
The majority of women are feelers and us thinking/rational type females are much more rare, as are feeling males.
The ISFJ personality type is known as the “helper/caretaker” and they are very common amongst females.

I am an ENTP female and we are very rare birds, comprising only ¼ of 1% of the general population. We are logical/rational thinking types and not prone to emotional “reasoning” and not needy of love and relationship. We are very independent and creative types and knowledge and learning is more important to us than romance a lot of the time.

I am a huge fan of personality theory and felt like I found my “tribe” upon discovering my ENTP-ness in a personality forum. Lends great insight into oneself and is a wonderful tool for self discovery, career choice, relationship styles and compatibility factors with other types.

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Tamtam85's avatar

Well, I am 27, I am an only child also… I hate arguing/fighting but I’m married at 24. It’s hard for me to express my feelings and its hard for my husband also sometimes. Now don’t get me wrong… I’ll argue if I get mad or irritated enough. Lol but sharing is really hard for me also. I’m kinda selfish and I know this. Although at times, I catch this and try to fix it.

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