My husband is one “of those,” as I sometimes think of him—an only child.
For someone who has always been extremely close to her siblings, my husband is an anomaly, a unicorn draped in a rainbow. So he’s a cool unicorn, but he’s wearing a rainbow. Therefore, it must have rained on him at some point in his life. This is how I see it anyway.
Unfair, I know. But for me, marrying an only child has proven to be complicated. I know I know, it should be the opposite! I hit the lottery when I married him and he came with two great parents and no leaches; no pesky sister-in-law to deal with, no deadbeat brother-in-law to support. This is what people tell me all of the time.
Yet, every day I find myself wishing that my husband had siblings; wishing that he had what I have (though I know this can never be) and this is why:
The love I have for my husband is not unconditional. However, it is for my two brothers. In fact, the love between my husband and I is quite conditional.
Conditional upon the rules we decided together. Unlike my brothers, my husband can easily and swiftly be removed from my life should he break the rules of our marriage. Now, my husband truly believes he loves me unconditionally. He may believe this, but I do not. Clearly our experiences and definitions of unconditional love are different. Having no siblings, my husband does not have unconditional love for anyone other than his parents. My experience of unconditional love, however, includes two siblings and this love is what I call actual unconditional love. I say “actual” unconditional love because I know my husband doesn’t actually love me unconditionally: I can’t cheat or abuse my husband and still have him love me completely; unconditionally. I could, however, do all of these things and continue to be loved unconditionally by my two brothers.
Now, my fascination of comparing only children with my life does not end with unconditional love.
Getting to know my husband over our five years of marriage has led me to contemplate my childhood and how drastically it was affected by having siblings. On the other hand, I often contemplate the effect(s) of my husbands’ only childhood on his being. With siblings by my side, I have been able to take risks; chancing failing or floundering since my siblings are there to not only pick up the slack, but also act as distractions. The mere presence of my siblings automatically divvies up the load of my parents’ hopes, fears, dreams, and expectations.
Conversely, my husband has expressed numerous times that he has felt an unspoken pressure to succeed. That he has avoided taking certain risks as he is his parents’ “only shot.” He does argue however, that he has known many friends since as long as he can remember and that that’s almost the same thing as siblings. Wow, hold up! This coming from a guy who says that he would not give his friends every last penny in his bank account, let them move in open-endedly or take in their children as his own. He of course claims he wouldn’t do these things because he’s married (ya right…)
I’m married, yet I would do all of these and more for my brothers. I argue that the difference between life-long friends and siblings is that friends aren’t there at all times to see you at your most raw and unfiltered. However close, you aren’t living under the same roof as your friends for ≥18 years, you do not have the same parents, nor share DNA. Furthermore, siblings know you in your most embryonic and incipient form—they are likely the only people with whom you have been your completely worst self and still been completely accepted. Siblings are buffers with parents—they can negotiate and go to bat on your behalf, unlike friends.
More importantly than the debate over having sidekicks to plot against your parents with, I note that unlike my husband’s friends, my siblings are not “tailored fits.”
I did not pick and choose my brothers based on my personal interests and needs at a particular time. Therefore, my brothers are not people I would have ever actively made an effort to get to know and cultivate a continued relationship with.
In all honestly, my siblings and I don’t have many interests in common at all (except hockey of course, such as all Canadians). As such, I have been intimately exposed to a wide variety of personalities and interests over my 29 years with my siblings. This exposure has greatly shaped my person and contributed not only to my personal success, but professional success as well, helping me understand others better.
My husband on the other hand, has mostly friends who are very much like him, such as my friends are to me. We both attract and surround ourselves with like-minded people. In fact, my brothers aren’t just the biggest “untailored fits” in my life, but in my husband’s life as well!
Such as my husband, more and more people are not getting to experience the gifts that come with having siblings. With declines in fertility rates in Canada and around the world, it makes me wonder what the impact of more and more only child families will be on society, both economically/professionally and socially. Fewer and fewer Canadians will know the luxury, security, and sanctuary of a same-generation genealogical fraternity. Barring any untimely deaths, siblings are truly the only people who will ever know me over the greater part of my life.
Our parents leave us too soon and our children and spouses come to us too late.
Often, individuals spend the first and last 30 years of their lives without parents, spouses, and/or children. What’s more, we are not of the same generation as our parents and children, nor do we turn to them for the same reasons as we do our siblings.
So, the main point behind my ramblings is that I cannot fathom my life without my siblings. This topic is on my mind almost 24/7 (because I fear child birth but theoretically want to have many children).
Therefore, I want to say a big thank you to my parents. Thank you for sidekicks, unconditional sibling love and a same-generation genealogical fraternity of untailored fitting best friends; amongst other things!
Thank you for gracing me with an unspoken contract that as siblings, we all seemed to automatically sign at birth.
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Assistant Editor: Gabriela Magana/Editor: Ed: Sara Crolick