Kevin Leman Marrying in your own birth order can lead to problems, so the question is, What is the best combination for a happy marriage? From my own counseling experience, I draw this general guideline: For a happy marriage, find someone as opposite from your birth order as possible.
Opposites not only attract, they are usually good for one another in a marriage setting. Psychologists have done studies that prove this theory. According to their research, only children and last borns supposedly make the best match, followed by first borns and last borns.
Next come the middle children and last borns. Following is a quick rundown on six birth-order combinations and why they tend to go wrong or right in a marriage, plus some practical tips for each combination.
Keep in mind there are no guarantees that a certain birth order combination will lead automatically to a successful or miserable marriage.
But the point is that there are indicators in birth-order information that can help a couple deal with any tensions they may have. The issues usually focus on perfectionism and who has control. If you are a first-born or only child married to another first-born or only child, here are some tips for reducing tension and increasing harmony in your marriage.
Stop "improving" on things your spouse does or says. To a perfectionist, this may be a real trick, but bite your tongue and do it anyway. The New Testament compares the tongue to the bit in a horse's mouth or the rudder of a huge ship see James 3: This vivid metaphor says it all. The bit and the rudder control everything, and the tongue can literally determine the direction of your marriage. Stop "shouldering" your mate. For first-born perfectionists, criticism is second nature.
Once you quit trying to jump high, you can stop asking your mate to do so as well. Define roles carefully to avoid arguments over control. In other words, decide who does what. One spouse can do the shopping while the other pays the bills and balances the checking account. Help each other with assigned tasks and try to be considerate and aware of the other's responsibilities.
If one spouse does the shopping, the other should not complain about the high grocery bill. I counseled one couple where the perfectionist, critical husband complained incessantly until his wife told him, "Okay, you shop this week. Get rid of the we've got-to-do-it-my-way attitude. The old cliche applies: There is more than one way to skin a cat and your way is not necessarily best.
One of the best sentences any first-born perfectionist can learn to say to his or her first-born spouse is: Let's try it your way. At the same time, the middle child can be a vexing paradox. Middle children grow up having to learn to negotiate, mediate, and compromise, but they can also be secretive and play it close to the vest with their emotions.
I have found that middle children typically will throw their first-born spouses a bone once in a while without letting them know how they really feel.
Some practical suggestions for first borns married to middles include: Make it a point to have regular recaps and discuss feelings and what is happening. Do not let your spouse toss you a bone by saying, "Everything's fine. I know of one couple who did their recapping while discussing the sermon they had heard at church. Discussing their spiritual beliefs and values was a way to open up about feelings that were bothering one or both of them.
Make your spouse feel special. Remember that the middle-child husband or wife very likely did not grow up feeling special, so anything you do--small gifts, love notes, saying sincere little things he or she likes to hear--will touch the heart and strengthen your marriage. While the following applies to every birth order, it's especially good for the first-born husband of the middle-child wife to remember: Every day women ask in one way or another, "Do you really love me?
Work on drawing out your middle-child spouse. Keep in mind that as a first born your natural inclination is to give the answer, solve the problem. Instead, back off and ask, "What do you think? Middle borns are not only more perceptive, but they like the problem-solving role and smoothing a way for everyone. First Born Plus Last Born Equals Bliss Usually According to one study of three thousand families, the odds for a happy marriage increase a great deal when the first born hooks up with the last born.
What is at work here is the opposites-attract-and-are-good-for-each-other factor. The first born teaches the last born little things that may be lacking, such as being organized and having goals, while the last born helps the first born lighten up and not take an overly serious approach to life.
According to the researchers, the best possible match you can find is the first-born female and the last-born male. I took no part in this research so I can't be accused of making this claim because that happens to be the match Sande, my first-born wife, and I have.
I'm just very thankful it happened. First-born females are often mothering types and last-born males often need mothering. I started out being fortunate to be the last-born brother of my first-born sister, Sally. Eight years older than I, she mothered me quite a bit and taught me a lot about women. For example, she taught me that girls don't like being approached by a bunch of boys who are show-offs--pushing each other, talking loudly, and doing stupid things that guys often do. Sally also told me girls want a guy who is tender, understanding, and a listener, who realizes manners have not gone out of style.
Most marriage counselors agree that men do not understand women very well. So any extra learning a boy can get while growing up is going to help him later when he has a wife and family of his own.
Of course in my case, I certainly didn't come into our marriage a finished product. I still needed some work, and Mama Bear was happy to oblige. How Mama Bear Reformed Cubby Bear It may be a good rule of thumb to say any combination of first born and last born has a better chance for marital success than do other combinations, but success doesn't follow automatically. Good marriages are made, not born. Two people must work together on being considerate, caring, and mutually supportive.
Naturally the Cub took advantage of his new caregiver. Sande had to put up with my fussy eating habits and picking up my clothes after me wherever I dropped them. This went on through the early years of our marriage.
One day, while I was working on my doctorate, Sande heard me expostulating on how to discipline children and hold them accountable for their actions. If holding children accountable for their actions is good, holding a husband accountable might be even better, Sande thought. She went into action. Soon I found my little piles of clothing where I had left them. In no time the apartment became covered with my piles.
Then came the day when I could not open the door because Sande had shoved a giant stack of my clothes against it to make room for whatever she was doing. That got my attention. Sande and I had a long overdue talk and shared our feelings. You learn to pick up your own clothes and put them where they belong. Also, I'm going to fix different things for dinner. I expect you to at least try some new dishes. You owe that much to yourself and to our children--if you want to be the good role model you keep talking about.
Don't let the last-born spouse take advantage of you. Sande was gentle-spirited but firm. She started expecting me to be a leader in our home and take an active role in meeting responsibilities. At times, she reminded me of my high school English teacher--the one in whose class I never goofed off because I knew better. I even learned that changing diapers is not off-limits for a psychologist with a doctor's degree, and when our children started to arrive, I did my share of diapers, giving baths, and other baby care.
In short, Mama Bear taught Papa Bear that parenthood isn't woman's work. First borns prone to faultfinding must back off. If you want to find your last-born spouse's flaws, you certainly can because they are all over the place.
Accept all the flaws you can or make gentle suggestions on how to correct them. And if you're the last born, remember not to flaunt your flaws in your first-born spouse's face. If you're a baby, remember others need the spotlight too. Last borns are notorious carrot-seekers as in, "Look at me, I'm performing--toss me a carrot.
Last borns must remember they are not a one-man team. Because they have that first-born spouse who is probably keeping things organized and running smoothly, last borns may go off on their impetuous own now and then--to buy something, schedule something, or just do something without letting their spouse know.
One of the best bits of wisdom I ever received concerning marriage came from Dr. An only child, Dr. Dobson is scholarly, organized, conscientious, and reliable. So one day while Sande and I were having lunch with him, I asked, "Jim, if there was one bit of advice you could give me, what would it be? Dobson's advice applies to any birth-order marriage match, but it especially applied to the last-born Cub and Mama Bear!