I want to take up the challenge offered by ChildOfonly in June 2012:
‘Does Bernice have any suggestions about how to get an only, of whatever age, to start beginning to gain perspective on life?’
I am always very pleased when I get responses to my posts. I do try and incorporate them in updates on new topics or as a result of further ideas that are raised by people’s responses. This series of posts have come out of my thoughts concerning a previous post: ‘So how does the only child adult deal with conflict?’ The responses received from this post were primarily from women who wrote about partners who can only deal with conflict by walking out, as Asmira found:
“It was not until I had been married for a few months that I realised this grown up only child didn’t know how to deal with conflict in our relationship. He was incapable of introspection or compromise in the context of trying to resolve adult conflict. Even as a 46 year old man, he was crippled in that respect. His ’solution’ to resolving conflict was to simply walk out. To disappear for hours or days at a time. When he returned home, he could not and would not discuss anything with me. It was like trying to talk to a freezer. Thanks to your article, I have half a clue as to why he either shut down, over reacted, ran away, ignored me, actively shut me out or blamed me for everything that went wrong in our marriage.” (Asmira)
DAS writes: ‘Understanding and being in relationship with the only child mentality is exhausting. It seems someone is always out to get them, take advantage of or leave them. The concept of unconditional love seems foreign.’
Similiarly, Alisonrothkopf, married to an only child, of a long line of only children said: “My husband and his mother both have “no go areas” – especially involving negotiation, understanding other people’s emotions – and conflict. They both freeze and refuse to talk when there is a disagreement. Both are masters of changing the subject and deflecting anything analytical or personal.”
These are just a very few comments. I have received over the years, from both men and women, similar responses. Having studied all these responses, I think the things that make it difficult for non–onlies coping with only child adult partners are these:
These are challenges that almost all only child adults I have spoken to, or communicated with, via email etc. have difficulties with. I say ‘challenges’ because I do not believe any of this is inevitable, any more than I believe it is unique to only children! However I do believe that it can manifest more often with only child adults if they have not had the self-awareness to develop ways of dealing with these aspects of only child behaviour. One thing I am sure of, is that as only child adults we see the world through different eyes. We view relationships in different ways and we often have different expectations. That is not to say that their is some sort of homogenous way that all adult only children experience relationships, but there are certainly a few ways which seem to be common to them.
In the next three posts I will look at these areas individually and hopefully as time goes on other people will enter the debate.