10 Ways Growing Up In A Big Family Affects My Love Life As An Adult

For the first (and likely quietest) four years of my life, I was an only child. Then came a sister, another sister, a brother, two more sisters, two more brothers, and another sister. Growing up as the oldest of nine is a major part of my identity and very much shaped the person I am today. It also, more often than not, affects my adult relationships in a pretty major way. Here’s how.

  1. My personal boundaries are absolutely ironclad. Growing up in a house full of people crammed into your personal space teaches a girl real fast which privacy infractions she can and absolutely cannot abide. For example, boys who date my sister risk losing a hand if they dare attempt to grab a bite of food from her plate. For me, all I can say is, if you accidentally barge in on me in the bathroom, may God have mercy on your soul. I’ve learned to be hyper-aware of my boundaries and comfort levels, and if you cross them, you’re gonna know about it.
  2. I need attention. Like, lots of it. But not too much, and only when I want it. Got it? Did you know that growing up in a giant household basically turns you into a cat? When there are a ton of people in the home who all need attention from Mom, it’s only natural that somebody may not get it. As the oldest, that person was usually me. I’m now a thirty-year-old woman caught in a weird dance; trying to scratch the itch for attention that developed as a kid, but also totally uncomfortable when someone does pay attention to me. I want my SO to dote on me sometimes, but don’t be surprised when it quickly becomes too much for me to handle.
  3. Chaos? What chaos? Noise-canceling earbuds would have been a game-changer for me back in the nineties. With so many kiddos running around the house, life was constantly loud and hectic. Plus, I was homeschooled for several years, so I had to learn how to block out the noise and get shit done. Needless to say, I can handle some freaking chaos. My partners can be confident that I’m not going to shut down and get overwhelmed when life gets inescapably crazy. I can multitask like a boss, no matter what’s going on around me.
  4. I have a ton of love to give. I grew up in a household atmosphere comprised equally of mayhem and love. We play hard, fight hard, and love hard, and it carries over into our outside relationships. I come into a partnership carrying a lot of baggage and flaws, but you can bet I’m gonna love my SO with everything I’ve got.
  5. The drama is real. I love my family, but if you date me, you’re likely going to end up listening to more than your fair share of drama. We are a large group of emotionally invested people, with strong opinions and a multitude of differing viewpoints. My own involvement in the family drama can vary anywhere from “peripherally aware” to “they all effing hate me and I’m moving to Canada.” Be prepared.
  6. I’m hella freaking stubborn. Studies have shown that firstborn children in the birth order “can have a hard time admitting when they’re wrong.” That’s a nice way of saying what my partners have known for years; that we oldest kids are often willing to go down with our ships, regardless of whether we should. Let’s just say that this has been a relationship hurdle in the past. (Sorry, guys.)
  7. I’m a boss bitch. A perk of being numero uno in a massive birth order: bossy children often become born leaders. Many of us grow up as the alpha by default, and the leadership skills we learn as kids often carry over to the adult world of business and society. I don’t need a partner to be fulfilled, and that independence can be intimidating to men who are less than secure.
  8. You might meet the family earlier than most. Big families tend to be close families, and mine is no exception. When you meet my family, you aren’t “meeting the parents” like in most relationships. You’re meeting my friends, my anchors, and some of my very favorite people. Getting to know my family is an important part of getting to know me. If that scares you, we might not be a good fit.
  9. So. Many. Family. Gatherings. It’s a dealbreaker if a guy isn’t down to hang with my family, if for no other reason than, well, I’m around them a whole lot. Between birthdays, holidays, and the occasional Sunday family dinner, I’m usually chilling with the fam at least once or twice per month. I’d rather not have to explain every time why my BF declined to join me.
  10. When you date me, you don’t just get a girlfriend. I come with a whole crew! When you get me, you get the whole lot of us. My guy isn’t just my boyfriend—he’s also an adopted brother, son, uncle, and so much more. Yes, that means you might be on the business end of some drama from time to time, but the laughter, hugs, and happy memories are totally worth it.
Whitney is a freelance writer from New England. She's a professional content creator, lifestyle blogger, and news junkie. Follow her on Twitter if you're not turned off by snark and political takes.