People with no siblings get a pretty bad rap in the world at large, especially when it comes to the idea of dating an only child. Though currently one in five American families have only one child, from the way we're discussed in popular culture, you'd think that only children are rare and terrifying creatures, golems made of our parents' broken dreams and all the toys that we refused to share. We only children are supposedly lonely and selfish, hard to deal with, and bad at resolving conflicts — which is why articles that ask "Would you date an only child?" frame it as a risk and a sacrifice, in the same way you might frame an article titled "Would you date a car that was currently on fire?"
Onlies are considered loners, but not in the cool "I'm a loner, Dottie, a rebel" way — more in the "everyone steer clear of this weirdo" way. Never mind that decades of studies show that only children are as well-adjusted as anyone who grew up having to fight a sibling for bathroom time. The stereotype still abounds that only children have boatloads of personality problems that make them unsuitable suitors —and thus, that the only way we can correct these problems is by dating a firstborn or lastborn (that is, if someone so thoroughly well-adjusted would have us).
And only children dating only children? That's the most taboo of all. We're so unused to compromise, we'd probably accidentally murder each other while trying to decide on pizza toppings, right? The idea is so pervasive that even a lot of onlies are themselves reluctant to date other only children.
I'm an only (clearly), as is my perma-boo. In fact, he's the only other only child I've ever dated. Is it just a coincidence that the most successful romantic relationship of my life is with another only? Maybe. But I do think that, contrary to popular opinion, onlies have a lot of give each other. Here are eight awesome things that happen when we date each other.
They Aren't Afraid of You
Given the severe public image problem that only children have, revealing your sibling-free status on a first date can lead to all sorts of weirdness — from being peppered with bad jokes about whether your parents "gave up" after you, to a raised eyebrow that communicates a world of preconceptions running through your date's head. Another only child not only knows what its like to grow up without any siblings — they also know what it's like to go through life with the world giving you the side-eye.
They Know That Your Character Flaws Can't All Be Blamed on Being an Only Child
Quick temper? Ooh, typical only child! Bad at compromise? Typical only child! Bad at parallel parking? TYPICAL ONLY CHILD! Your only child partner won't think you're perfect; but they will know that your character flaws are your own, and not just the result of your mom switching to a more reliable form of birth control after you were born.
You Finally Get Enough Space
I don't like to make vast generalizations about onlies, but most of us did have a lot of space growing up. We usually had our own rooms, and no one ever touched our stuff unless our mom was searching our underwear drawer for cigarettes. So, jumping into the dating world — where hanging with someone 24/7 is often thought of as the only way to express love and devotion — can be a shock. Another only child knows that needing to have a few hours (or days) by yourself doesn't mean that you're not crazy in love with them — it just means that you recharge your batteries by going into a room by yourself and reading Harry Potter until you feel at peace with the universe again.
They Understand Why You're So Intense
A lot of people think that onlies are attention hogs, obsessed with affection and being the center of our lover's world. But really, we're just kind of intense. We don't mean to be — but the vast majority of our childhoods were comprised of focused interaction with our parents, and that's kind of the only way that most of us know how to roll. Another only gets that — and also understands that your desire for intense interaction one moment, and alone time the next, doesn't make you totally nuts.
You Get To Learn to Share — Together
Okay, fine, maybe the bad press about only children and sharing is true (i.e. I may have selected my college specifically because I didn't want to have to share a dorm room). But we want to learn how to share and be good partners, I swear! It might just take us a few tries to figure it out. And with a fellow only child, you're figuring it out together, which can become a wonderful journey that really solidifies your relationship — as opposed to trying to learn to share with someone who's already spent a lifetime sharing, which can sometimes just make you look and feel like an asshole.
You Understand Each Other's Unusual Family Dynamics
Being an only child is an overwhelming experience at times — there's no one to share the love or blame with, and so you absorb the full brunt of your parents' emotions. This tends to lead to intense parental relationships, either positive or negative, that can look downright freaky to the rest of the world. But whether you still go on vacation with your parents twice a year, or haven't talked to them in years, other onlies get it.
You Both Understand the Weight of Knowing You're the Only One Your Parents Have
It can be super-scary, knowing that when your parents get old, you're the only game in town. Other onlies understand this — they've had the same panicked thoughts and late-night musings about how they'll take care of their parents by themselves when they get old — even if that day is really far in the future.
They Understand Why You Spent A Lot of Time Watching TV
Hey, maybe it wasn't TV for you. Maybe it was an imaginary friend named Phineas Q. Barcalounger, Mayor of Buttsville. But whatever you were into, you spent a lot of time doing it alone, lost in your own head. To a lot of people with large families, this seems like a nightmare; but we onlies recognize it as the gift and curse that it is. Being alone that often at a young age does change your perspective — not in a good way or a bad way, necessarily, but in a unique way, and one that others sometimes find it a challenge to relate to.
And finding someone who gets that? It really puts all those years spent playing Clue alone and feeling sorry for yourself into perspective.
Images: Ernesto De Quesada/Flickr,