Birth Order and Relationships

Your birth order and gender affect primarily your social behavior — how you relate to other people in your life. They affect the kind of spouse you are, the kind of parent you are, the kind of employer or employee you are, and the kind of friend you are. Some people, because of their gender and birth order, will have more trouble than others at work, some will have more difficulty being a parent, and some will have more conflict in their relationships with the opposite sex. This is good to be aware of, especially when deciding on a career, choosing a mate, having a child, or working on difficulties you may be having in these areas.

Birth Order and Your Relationship with Your Spouse

Living with someone in an intimate relationship is the situation that most nearly duplicates the experience of growing up in a family. It is hardly surprising, then, that birth order characteristics usually become most evident and even accentuated in relating to a spouse.

Of course, many things affect the nature of your love relationships. The way your parents related to each other is your basic model for such relationships. The quality and tone is usually similar, though not necessarily the content. For example, you may argue about different things with your spouse, but your preferred style of arguing may be similar to the way your parents argued and your spouse’s style similar to his or her parents’ way. The differences or similarities between your cultural backgrounds, ages, educational levels, and values will also affect how well you can live with one another over the long term.

However, your relationship will also reflect the way people in your birth order positions usually get along. The combination of your birth order and your spouse’s birth order will have some effect on your relationship. Other things being equal, some matches work better than others simply because the birth orders are well matched. Being well matched in this case usually means most nearly duplicating the age and sex arrangement that you each were used to as children. You already know how to act and what to expect if your spouse has the same sibling position as your opposite-sex sibling. For example, the youngest sister of a brother is usually well matched with an oldest brother of a sister. Both are used to that particular relationship of sex and relative age, and “know how to act” with each other. In effect, the spouse takes the place of the sibling. Their positions are complementary. The better their family experience has been, the better the current relationship will feel and function.

Marriage Later In LifeFor most people, of course, it is too late to look for a spouse of complementary birth order. The choice has been made. If it is one of the theoretically “poorer” matches, it doesn’t mean there is no hope; it simply means you have to work harder to overcome that particular handicap. Being aware of this potential source of friction in a non-complementary relationship can make the problems more manageable.

It is useful to know that something as simple as birth order can account for major conflicts in a relationship and that neither person is to “blame.” It is just that the differences between you are more challenging than most to live with. Once you understand, for example, that an oldest brother of brothers and an oldest sister of sisters married to each other are bound to have conflicts over who is in charge, you can stop blaming each other and accept the fact that it is a difficult combination. You may, perhaps, even learn to laugh at your conflicts as you catch yourselves acting like a typical oldest sister of sisters or oldest brother of brothers.

To learn more about how the birth order affects your relationships with other people, read Birth Order and You by Dr. Ronald W. Richardson and Lois A. Richardson, available on our website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and in better bookstores.

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