9 Things You Do In Relationships If You’re An Only Child

When I tell acquaintances I’m an only child, they’re usually surprised. (I guess they just expect me to have a melty candy bar sticking out of my mouth at all times like I’m one of the despicable Willy Wonka kids or something.) I don’t explicitly act like a spoiled piece of trash, so people are therefore confused when they realize that I grew up without siblings.

However, everyone I’ve dated knows that I actually exhibit behavior that is pretty classic for only kids — particularly when I’m in relationships. I may not be spoiled rotten or act like a total brat, but there are certain behaviors that I exhibit in romantic relationships that can definitely be attributed to my only child status.

So, what, exactly does an only child do when they’re in a relationship? Happy you asked. In a classic Only Child Move, I have prepared a list in order to prove my point:

9. You feel shocked when they aren’t always willing to shower you with attention.

It’s a popular misconception the only children are always spoiled and get everything they want. However, there is something to be said for always having a steady supply of attention from your parents during your formative years. As an only child, I wasn’t spoiled with material things so much as I was spoiled with the unwavering belief that everything I did was deeply and profoundly important.

This need for attention is certainly put to the test in romantic relationships. Only children are accustomed to a certain level of face-time and affection, and we often become disgruntled when it feels like someone is (*gasp*) taking us for granted. (When, in reality, they’re probably just acting like normal humans and not texting us back immediately.)

8. However, you also demand a certain amount of alone time.

Yes, we need a lot of attention. But you know what else we need? Some g*ddamn SPACE.

As an only child, I became conditioned to enjoy alone time and use it as an opportunity to recharge from socializing. (Because when you’re used to being alone, time spent around other people can be draining.) This can be difficult in long-term relationships, especially when you’re living with someone and they’re, you know, always around. At a certain point, you have to learn to explicitly ask your partner for your necessary alone time — otherwise, you’re going to build up resentment.

7. You laugh when they suggest you share your food.

Only kids are better at sharing than people realize … except when it comes to food.

Like, if you purchase a bag of chips for YOURSELF and your significant other decides to eat half the bag, you guys are definitely going to have an unpleasant confrontation. It’s not that you’re greedy and want all the food for yourself — you just want the sh*t that’s yours to be off-limits, dammit! Buy your own bag of chips!

6. You get fussy if your partner encroaches on your personal space …

Growing up as an only child instills in you an appreciation for “personal space.” Which means that, as an adult, you prefer to have a certain amount of control over your living space. (Which is why only children frequently prefer to live alone, if they can afford it.)

When you start dating someone and they begin spending more and more time at your place, it can put a strain on your ability to keep things in their preferred “order.” Socks on the bedroom floor, a backpack in the hallway, some shirts draped over the back of your desk chair … these things are enough to make an only child’s eye start twitching. Keep your crap at your place! How hard can it possibly be??

(Of course, the tradeoff is so good that most only children often learn to ignore these frustrating relationship side-effects.)

5. … But you flip out if they ever call you “selfish.”

With no siblings to tease you during your formative years, you’re more likely to have a thin skin where criticism is concerned.


5. You feel smug as hell when your S.O. complains about their siblings.

When you’re at the dinner table and your partner gets into an awkward holiday argument with their brother, you can’t help but sigh and feel thankful that you don’t have to deal with that level of bullsh*t.

Of course, that also means that you have zero useful advice to offer them when they’re arguing with their siblings, so this reality can also be somewhat frustrating.

3. You get annoyed if your S.O. is bad at giving gifts.

Again: unless your parents happened to be wealthy, it’s unlikely that you were absolutely spoiled with material possessions during your adolescence. However, it does mean that your parents fully understood your personality and knew exactly what kind of gifts you liked (up to a certain age, anyway). So, if your significant other isn’t a great gift-giver, you tend to take it personally and assume that they somehow know nothing about you. You don’t even really care if they spend money, you just want something … thoughtful. Which, unfortunately, is not every partner’s forté. (Example: one of my long-term boyfriends once gave me a bottle-opener for Christmas and I honestly thought it was his way of breaking up with me.)

Everyone’s love language is different, so it’s important to keep this critical impulse in check.

2. Compromising is … hard.

Compromise is an important part of any relationship. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come naturally to only children, who are constantly confident that OUR idea is the superior one, and who resent having to concede to someone else’s BAD idea. (This is also why trying to make plans in a group is probably an only child’s worst nightmare.)

However, that’s one of the humbling benefits that come from being in a relationship: sometimes, you’re forced to admit that you’re not always right. Which, for an only child, is a valuable lesson.

1. You’re awesome when it comes to meeting their parents.

Thanks to the years spent tagging along with your parents at work functions and dinner parties, you’re actually super comfortable when it comes to interacting with older people. You’re perfectly at ease making charming chit-chat with strangers, thanks to your precociousness.

Just one of the many benefits of being an only child, baby!

(Although, speaking of babies: you might be chill around adults, but you are super uncomfortable around infants. Like, babysitting? Forget about it.)