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

dating, dating mom, love, marriage


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Summer Lairmore

I think being the baby has influenced me. I expect things to go my way, for me to get my way, or for me to charm my way into or out of every situation. I'm responsible, reliable, and fun, unlike my older brother who is now responsible, reliable, and a poop head. But I can still figure out ways to get our Mom to say yes to me when she would say no to him, and I am 100% a Momma's girl. To top it off I was the only granddaughter for my grandparents while they were still alive so that also got me some bonus points.

.Mhac... .MhacFoirfe.

I'm an only child and I cannot stand that "spoiled" stereotype. I was far from spoiled, in fact, I was neglected, abused, and wasn't allowed to be happy my whole life before finally moving out. I doubt my birth order, or lack thereof, has any affect on my Love Life..ever.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I think there's some truth to that. I'm the oldest of two and I'm definitely the responsible one and the one most likely to do the organizing and bringing people together type stuff. As for my little sister, I think social and free spirited would be the polite way of describing her life and her attitude towards love. I'm the one who found mr right and she's more interested in mr right now. I'm the diplomat and she's all my way or the highway which is very typical of the babies in families.

nonmember avatar Anon

I think it depends on whether you're male or female, too. ... I was the oldest girl, but the 3rd of 6 kids. I was used to never being anyone's first or main consideration. In relationships, I haven't really had expectations of the other side, except for the obvious things (be honest, be monogamous, don't be a complete and total ass). Beyond the bare basics, if there's something I want or need (that I know of), I handle it myself, or at the very least ask nicely. And on the other hand, while I habitually carry most of the weight materially, I don't spend my days looking for ways to please the other person. Possibly as a result, I haven't had any great, balanced relationships.

Allison Priest Leonard

I'm an only child and probably fit the stereotype growing up pretty well. I was pretty spoiled and coddled, especially when sick. My husband was the middle child of 5, and he was the opposite! Disciplined harsher, not coddled whatsoever, and not as many posessions. It still shows! He is more laid back, and when he's sick, you usually don't know it unless he's in extreme pain. I, on the other hand, still like to have my way, like to be waited on, and turn into a big baby when I'm sick. I'm working on the above and have gotten a lot better since we've been married, but I can say that the stereotypes fit us pretty well!

Allison Priest Leonard

But to add, I think my being spoiled and coddled had more to do with the fact that my mom struggled with infertility and tried for 6 years to have me before I was born.

shays... shaysmommy5810

I'm the oldest of 3, so I'm used to being boss and setting things in motion.  My husband is the youngest of 2, and he's used to being a little more independant and setting his own way in motion.  So, if I get a wild hair up my butt and decide it's time to rearrange the furniture, and he says he's not up to it, I get ticked, throw my hissy, and eventually start to move it myself.... and he's so used to being a good guy, he falls in line and helps.  We work together perfectly.  He may be the baby of his family, but he's in no way spoiled, bratty, or "babied".  We are both very willful people, and depending on the arguement at hand, the one who starts it normally finishes it.

shays... shaysmommy5810

I should also mention that while my husband is the youngest of 2 BOYS, I'm the oldest and the only girl in my family.  So, he's not used to taking orders from girls (outside his momma), and I'm not used to boys not fearing me.  He now fears me, as well :)

ArmyW... ArmyWifeAshlie

Dh and I are both onlies. We both had Doting grandparents and single moms who worked their asses off to provide. We both were taught work ethic and I was more spoiled than him...but it definitely made for an interesting first year of marriage since we didn't live together before...

We had to learn to compromise, (or that I get my way) and we each had to have separate bathrooms for a while haha

Arabe... Arabellas_Mommy

I'm not an only child...Not the first, not the last. I am the most spoild though. lol I'm the first daughter (I have 7 brothers and a younger sister) I was born on Father's day :D And out of all of my siblings I am the most trusted, most reliable, and most likely to get away with murder! lol And even though I've grown up and gotten married I'm still super spoild... 

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