Where You Fall in the Family Tree Affects Your Love Life

Birth order

Oldest children have a reputation for being bossy, reliable, ambitious achievers. Youngest children have a reputation for being babied, social, and free-spirited. Middle children have a reputation for being more easygoing and agreeable.

And only children? We onlies have a reputation for being pampered, creative, and — OK, I’ll admit it — a little bit out there. Too much time spent by ourselves making imaginary friends and assembling the kitchen dishrag and salt and pepper shakers into little tent villages (or maybe I’m just telling on my own weird self).

Now that I'm a grown-up, I’m finding out firsthand that our place in the spread of siblings (if we have them) influences the way our relationships run their courses. I like a good sociological lesson like the next gal, but living this information out has been interesting, to say the least.


I am an only child, loud and proud. If you want to get technical, I have eight half-sisters and one half-brother — count ‘em, nine altogether, which means I make ten —  from a father I’ve never met. I gotta tell ya: I’m impressed with his virility, that’s for sure, but not much else.

Despite the diligence of my younger sister, Nichole, as the search party leader of the unofficial Help Find All of Emory Weedon’s Offspring Committee, I still consider myself an only because I didn’t even meet her until I was going into my junior year of high school. Clearly, my mama went in the opposite direction of my dad. She pulled a one-kid hit-and-quit, so despite knowing now that I had a gang of siblings from the other side out there, I was the only child in her house. Until I had my daughter, of course.

Very often when I tell someone that I came of age as a one-kid wolf pack, they immediately say something to the effect of “Oooh, I bet it was fun getting everything you wanted/getting all of the attention/getting away with murder when you were growing up.” I don’t know who gave that stereotype legs, but it so wasn’t true on the Harris homestead. My mom didn’t fluff and primp me, honey. I had expectations. Since there was no one else to deflect to, it was spotlight on me all the live long time. The Janelle Show was on 24/7, so that meant any slips on the report card or any missteps in behavior got my mom’s 200 percent undivided interest. Gulp.

But I’ve had three boyfriends in my life and interestingly enough, they’ve all been onlies, too. And although I wasn’t pampered and petted by my mom, I can see the distinctly different impact that being a solo child has on men.

I’m not pulling any punches: my boyfriend is spoiled. The assumptions that outsiders make about all only children? Yeah, he’s the one who fits that. He fully anticipates things going his way and if they don’t, gird your loins and batten down the hatches because there’s plenty of trouble a-brewin’. He sulks. He gripes. He throws himself an itty bitty pity party. He is the star of the So This Is What an Only Child Looks Like in His 30s reality show, and on a bad day, it’s full of characteristic drama and over-the-top extraness.

That’s not to say I don’t have my bratty moments, too. I know they creep out every once in a while. I guess I failed to mention that even though my mom didn’t invest in spoiling me, my grandparents sure did. So every once in a while, if The Man doesn’t fall in line like I think he should, I let that only child wrath fall fresh. The other day, for example, we had an issue to iron out and I was ready to talk about it right then and there — before one of the last games in the NBA playoffs.

You can already see where this is going.

My argument was that he DVRs games all the time, so he could just as easily do it with this one. Yeah, that didn’t go over so well. And in the end, the score was Bratty Chick, 0–Ball Fan, 1.

For the most part, I consider myself a reasonable, rational gal but from time to unfortunate time, my onliness takes control. Not as often as his does, though. Still, I guess that means there’ll be plenty more stories from our who’s-the-bigger-brat showdowns…    

How has your birth order influenced what kind of partner or spouse you are?

Image via Mai Le/Flickr

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