4 Dating Rules to Live By If You're an Only Child, According to a Matchmaker

Psst…big families aren’t always better

only child dating rules
Tom Werner/getty images

For better or worse, I’m a classic oldest daughter. I’m a rule- following people pleaser who would actually commit murder if someone wronged my younger siblings—and I think my birth order has affected a lot of facets of my life…including dating. It was super intriguing, then, to read Associate Editor Sydney Meister’s great story on the birth order dating theory, where I learned that I, as an oldest child, would probably not mesh very well with an only child. (Per Meister, oldest and only children are “two opinionated, self-reliant people who find it hard to reach common ground.”) It got me thinking about what it must be like to date as an only child. Sure, there aren’t siblings’ opinions to worry about (“I really like them but I *know* my sister’s going to have something to say about their weird laugh”), but there also aren’t siblings to act as sounding boards post-third date. That’s why I reached out to matchmaker Susan Trombetti to learn more about the pros and cons of dating if you’re an only child, plus four things every only child should know when entering into a new relationship.

Meet the Expert

Susan Trombetti is a matchmaker and the CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking in Washington, D.C. As a leading celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert, Trombetti has helped discerning singles across the country discover long-term relationships and partnerships that are both rewarding and fulfilling. 

First, How Is Dating Different When You’re an Only Child?

“When it comes to dating as an only child as opposed to someone who grew up with siblings, an only child is more independent and used to being on their own, so they might not tend to be a clingy dater, which is always a good thing,” Trombetti tells me, but adds that they may need more intense interactions because they’re used to undivided attention from their parents. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Dating as an Only Child?

Per Trombetti, the advantages to dating as an only child include:

  • You might be more independent because only children are often more accustomed to being alone, they’re likely skilled at keeping themselves occupied. She notes that this can sometimes have the opposite effect, for instance the time they've spent alone has made them crave constant company, but usually, independence is a good thing.  
  • You have great communication skills because you have so much experience interacting with your parents versus parents versus siblings around your same age, and you've been used to communicating at more sophisticated, grown-up frequencies.
  • You’re self-reliant because you didn't have a surplus of people to depend on in your immediate family.
  • You might be more mature because you didn’t grow up in a house with people of your approximate.

On the flip side, she says some of the disadvantages to dating as an only child include:

  • You are used to being the focus of your parents and might have a difficult time when you have a partner who has various obligations and interests. “You aren't their sole focus which doesn't mean they don't care about you any less,” she stresses. “It's just different for the only child when dealing with a partner.”
  • Your ability to compromise might not be as great compared to if you had siblings because you never really had to compromise.
  • You might not be a big sharer because sharing isn't something you had to do at home.
  • You might not have great negotiation skills or know how to resolve conflict as well as if you grew up in a larger family.
only child dating rules photo of a woman swiping on a dating app 1
AsiaVision/getty images

4 Things to Remember When Dating If You’re an Only Child

1. Larger Families Aren't Always Better

“Sometimes it's just a constant source of conflict and problems,” Trombetti admits. A lot of times, she says, only children yearn for a partner with a large family, because from their perspective, it looks great to be part of this larger family. But as anyone who has a larger family will tell you, it’s sometimes the case that the larger the family, the more they argue and disagree.

2. You Might Need to Work on Sharing (Your Time, Your Things, etc.)

Because you didn’t grow up in a household where you had to share your toys and your parents’ attention with siblings, it might be harder as an adult to get used to sharing your time and space with someone else. Trombetti explains, “You will need to share your partner with his or her family and you won't be used to so many relationships in a family. You need to share your personal space, too, so work on this skill set.”

3. Be Sure Not to Let Your Parents Scare Off Potential Partners

As an only child, you’ve probably been your parents’ sole focus. This can have lots of advantages, yes, but when it comes to you starting a new relationship, make sure they don't scare off your SO, Trombetti warns. “They might tend to be overly involved in your romantic life, so be aware and try not to let them intrude in your relationship.”

4. Understand That You Might Need Alone Time Now and Then

“It's an adjustment when suddenly you are involved with someone with a large family,” Trombetti tells me. “Someone is always around in a large family, so take a time out especially if you are left with anxiety over it.” It’s all about learning how to set boundaries with family, folks.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...