Full disclosure: I am not technically an only child, but I basically qualify. My siblings are all over a decade older than I am and only reappeared on the holidays for the presents and free food, so I basically grew up in a home on my own, and I exhibit all the textbook only child attributes — good and, ahem, not-so-good. All that time spent on our own means we tend to be creative, independent types, with a strong sense of self, which is great. But there are also some red flags when dating an only child to keep an eye out for that might spell trouble for the relationship down the road.
To gain more insight into the subtle, and not-so-subtle, red flags to watch out for in your relationship with an only child, Elite Daily reached out to bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter, who just so happens to be an only child, too. Don't get me wrong, though: Dating an only child definitely has its perks. All that focused attention from our parents means we have a ton of confidence and swag. But there are a few things that can get in the way of a healthy relationship, if they aren't addressed early on. That's why seeing them coming is so important. Here's what Winter says to look out for.
1. They May Insist On Private Time — A Lot
If you’re accustomed to spending all or most of your time with your partner, you may be surprised by how guarded about “me time” an only child can be. As Winter explains, alone time is their norm. “It's the reality of their upbringing," she says. "Even though their parents have gone to great lengths to integrate them with other children in the form of hobbies and sports, they're prone to retreat. This factor can be greatly misunderstood.” You can try to negotiate for a balance of personal and shared time, but just be aware that they will need a fair amount of alone time.
2. They May Not Be So Great At Sharing And May Be Possessive About “Their Stuff”
The most common stereotype about only children is that they are selfish, and while that’s not true of all only children, Winter explains how the stereotype came about: “Theoretically, they've never had to share. Depending upon the disposition of your mate, this factor may be minimal or excessive,” she says.
Never having been forced to share with siblings, some only children may be possessive of what they believe belongs to them, both literal possessions or simply not including you in decisions that affect their wellbeing. “Only children tend to look at what's theirs, as being theirs,” explains Winter. “This isn't a mental calculation to keep things from you. It's just the way life is for them.” Winter also says that, in some cases, it’s less about entitlement than it is about being conditioned to consider other peoples needs. In that case, she advises that you “express your feelings so that they can see reality from your perspective.”
3. They May Be Used To Getting Their Way
Winter explains that the selfish stereotype surrounding only children can also be attributed to parents’ tendency to spoil an only child. This is likely not intentional, but without siblings to spread the attention around to, all eyes and resources go to the only child. “If your partner seems unable to fully merge with you, this could part of the reason,” Winter says. Only children may also be accustomed to having things their own way because they didn’t have to compromise with brothers and sisters.
4. They May Require A Lot Of Attention
Yes, only children value alone time, but they are also used to having all the attention focused on them. On one hand, this is really a positive, because all that focused attention typically means they are confident and well adjusted. But on the other hand, they may crave a lot of acknowledgment from a partner. Certainly not a deal breaker, but if left unchecked and unacknowledged, this need for attention can be exhausting.
5. They May Not Be Interested In Having Kids
While most of these problems can be worked through with good communication, there is one red flag that may be a deal breaker: the possibility that you have very different ideas of what your future family will look like. Maybe growing up on their own has made an only child crave a big family, but typically, people model their family off what they know. “Your partner may want a small family — because that's normal to them," Winter says. "Perhaps you want a large family. These are conversations that need to be worked out in detail before you proceed further into your relationship.”
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