You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Or what order you are born in for that matter. There is plenty written about how the order in which you were born affects your personality and the way you deal with the world around you, but some believe that it can also affect your marriage, to the point that a mismatch can lead to divorce. “There is strong connection between birth order and divorce rates,” explained John Curtis, Ph. D. and former family counselor turned management consultant and author
. “This has been studied very well from a psychological stand point. The most successful marriages are those where the oldest sister of brothers marries the youngest brother of sisters.”
“Think about it. The older sister of brothers all her life has been taking care of little boys growing up. The youngest brother of sisters all his life he has been taken care of by older sisters. It’s a natural fit. And there is a direct positive correlation between their place in their birth families and the stability of their marriage.”
Dr. Kevin Leman
concurs. Leman is a former family counselor turned author and public speaker. “When you get two first borns together, they tend to be bossy. They are typically the movers and the shakers, the perfectionists of the world. First borns are leaders,” said the 64-year old author of 32 books, including “The Birth Order Book.” “When you talk marriages of first borns, that is two sheep butting heads for territorial rights. It’s a bad match.”
It’s all in the math, apparently. “A first born is much better with a baby. Notice there are extremes here. Babies of families, they are the little schnookies. They are the playful ones who always got away with murder. They often are laid back and manipulative,” said Leman.
“There is an interesting phenomenon that happens with the baby of the family. He is the last to leave, and parents will create more of a dependency in order to keep what looms large at bay — which is namely, going back to their adult life without kids. It’s scary. So they will often that last child around longer, keep him more dependent, and those traits will spill over into his marriage which, if he marries a first born daughter, can work out quite nicely as both all their needs are met.” said Curtis, author of “The Business of Love
,” which applies successful management principles to marital unions.
But what if you are an only child? Who should you marry? Don’t make the mistake of marrying someone just like you, says Curtis. “The highest divorce rates are when an only child marries an only child,” said Curtis. “It makes sense when you think about it. An only child is used to being the center of attention. And when the only child marries another only child, usually it’s hard for them to share the spotlight.”
Leman agrees, pointing to studies that show that only children are usually exceptional workers and perfectionists about what they do, but have little tolerance for each other in a marital union. “If you want the job done right, hire the only child. These are very capable people. They do extremely well in life because they are pretty much little adults by the time they are five, six and seven years of age,” said Leman. “But you don’t want them marrying each other. That can be very hard, especially when they turn the spotlight of their perfection on each other and find some flaws.”
“The thing about birth order isn’t so much about who came out of the womb first, but who are the children modeling. First borns and onlies have as models their parents who are adults. To be blunt, our parents practiced on them. They were their little guinea pigs.” Which is exactly how Linda Shields felt growing up. The 50-year old divorcee was an only child raised predominately by her grandparents. “My grandparents were very indulgent of me. I had anything I wanted when I wanted it. I was very mature and spent a lot of time with adults – old adults – my grandparents' friends,” said Shields.
When she married, she was 27 and says she was looking for someone responsible, who would take care of her and provide for her financially. “I knew I could take care of myself. But I didn’t want to. I was tired of taking care of myself because I did it from a very early age. I was treated like a little adult,” she said. Finding a responsible, mature adult in the husband she chose, Shields married the oldest son of five children. “Rob was very responsible and very serious, to the point of not even being able to laugh,” she said.