Dating An Only Child: What You Should Know

There are some scary things in this world, but there’s nothing quite like being the first person to tell an only child that the world doesn’t revolve around them. You barely escape with your life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to proceed in the relationship, look no further. Don’t take on the responsibilities of the world, but put your best foot forward. Dating an only child is a challenging experience in many ways, as well as a rewarding one in others. Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Some of them need constant attention. It might be that this manifests itself in texting you all the time or being generally entitled when demanding your time. The thing with only children is that they were born into the world beholden to the notion that they’re inherently worthy of the attention they received from their parents. This is because they never had to work for it. It means that they’re never willing to work extra for attention. That has always seemed to them to be their birthright. Long story short, they can be very emotionally lazy in relationships, often verging on the cusp of narcissism. You heard it here first.
  2. Others can be independent almost to a fault. Because only children don’t grow up with siblings to entertain them, they have to learn how to entertain themselves. This means they develop fierce independence from an early age that extends well into adulthood, making them difficult to get close to or help because they’re used to (and like) doing everything themselves.
  3. Your experiences are fundamentally different. There’s no point pretending that a child with five siblings and an unconventional family dynamic has the same experiences as someone who grew up as an only child. They never had to learn and relearn and be gently bullied by their siblings. It means that they’re either entirely conflict-averse or totally pugnacious. They never had a reason to challenge their worldview. When it has been it is taken as a direct insult, a personal attack. They aren’t great in arguments and they will strike hard and fast. Siblings teach you boundaries and more importantly, which to broach. Some things you just don’t say and there are consequences for that. Only children never got that. You’re their first sounding board and they won’t love it.
  4. Their parents are their friends. Or, in totally the opposite direction, their parents are extremely strict because they only ever had one person to keep in check. Your partner might be an obedient only child with a praise kink. They might be off the rails. Either way, to return to the first point, they crave attention because it was the only form of socialization they got as a kid.
  5. Don’t project onto their relationship. Much as I decry how different only children are to people who grew up with siblings, there’s much that we can learn from them. Maybe you grew up resenting that you never had space or things of your own. Step into someone else’s shoes and see what they missed out on in childhood. You will be more grateful for what you did have. It made you who you are. Leave the past in the past and don’t project your sense of regret into their situation.
  6. Don’t expect them to be good at sharing. Or compromise, at least at first. While middle children are infinitely needy and know it, only children are different because it’s their only frame of reference. They aren’t great at finding the middle ground in life. They only know the absolute.
  7. Superiority complex much? This is one of those things that they won’t grow out of. You can always tell who was praised as a child for simply surviving the night, and who couldn’t buy a compliment for a gold block. They will look to you at the end of each joke they tell, each dinner they pay for, and each PB they make to prove that their accomplishments were registered. It sustains their sense of self but comes from a place of great insecurity. But we knew that.
  8. They are not very well-rounded. Because they lack that frame of reference of siblings with different interests and personalities, only children lack that fundamental ability to adapt and evolve. They might gain it with time, but it doesn’t come naturally to them because they were often alone without siblings. Dating an only child means learning the true meaning of patience in this regard.
  9. They bottle up their emotions. We all do, but they never had an older sibling or kid sister to vent to. Talking about feelings became impossible and that’s why, even though second-born kids are monsters, they’re more socialized than only children.

Here are a few insights into the life and times of only children who are just starting to enter the dating pool. Be warned and brace for impact, and be patient.

Hannah has a Masters degree in Romantic and Victorian literature in Scotland and spends her spare time writing anything from essays to short fiction about the life and times of the frogs in her local pond! She loves musical theatre, football, anything with potatoes, and remains a firm believer that most of the problems in this world can be solved by dancing around the kitchen to ABBA. You can find her on Instagram at @_hannahvic.