“Let me just ask you one thing,” he boomed over the phone as I sat, typing furiously in the cafe of Barnes and Noble. “Are you a first-born mom?”
I froze, my pumpkin spice latte (yes, I am one of those people, ok?) suspended in mid-air as I found myself rather speechless.
“Well, yes, I am,” I said, fumbling for words to say to the man who has sold over a million copies of his famous book. “But how did you know that? I’ve only been talking for a few seconds!”
“A lot of writers are first-borns,” he explained to me, patiently, and a touch smugly, as I wondered furtively how many times he has used this trick in an interview. “Writing gives them the instant feedback and approval they are seeking with a thumbs-up from an editor for their article.”
Along with his rather unsettling insights into my personal life and career, Dr. Leman expounded on the research that led him to write The Birth Order Book and the many, many ways that birth order can affect our relationships with our partners.
Before we take a closer look at exactly how birth order affects relationships, let’s examine the traits of each personality in the birth order line-up. First up? The first born, of course.
“Firstborns are reliable and conscientious,” explains Dr. Leman. ” They make lists (guilty!) and they have a strong sense of right and wrong. Occupationally, first-borns are astronauts, pilots, scientists, English teachers, math teachers, dentists, clergy, police offers—anywhere where there is a great responsibility and attention to detail.”
What first-borns need to know about marriage.
If you are a wife and a first-born, Dr. Leman cautions you to watch how you treat your husband. “A lot of firstborns are Martha-Luthers,” Dr. Leman quips. “They are the great reformers and they are always [asking things] of their husbsands; one thing we know about men — they don’t like questions asked of them! They hate the ‘why’ word and they speak 3 ½ times less words than their wife does on a given day or week.” If you’re a first born, be aware that your natural tendency is to find the flaw and honestly, that never helps anyone, advises Dr. Leman. So first-born wives, pay attention: you may just need to give your man some space.
If you’re married to a first-born.
One thing you need to know about firstborns, according to Dr. Leman? They’re bossy. “If your spouse is a first-born and he says something that you find really stupid, don’t go looking for trouble,” advises Dr. Leman. “It’s tough enough to get married, so instead say, ‘wow, you could be right.’ You don’t have to say he’s right, mind you, but you can he could be right.” Nicely played, Leman, nicely played.
“Middle children are good in relationships,” says Dr. Leman. “They were never asked ‘what do you think?’, they were never were alone; they learned to negotiate. In the business world, middle children are entrepreneurs, because they do things a bit differently. Notable middle children include both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Who middle children should marry.
According to Dr. Leman, the best matches for a middle child are middle child with a baby, middle with an only, or middle with a first-born.
If you’re married to a middle child …
If you happen to be married to a middle child, take Dr. Leman’s advice and allow your spouse plenty of time for friendships outside of marriage. “Middle children are extremely loyal and they identify outside of the family, so friendships are very important to middle children,” he explains. Because middle children often learn to avoid conflict, you should also give them opportunity to talk without being judgmental.
If you’re a middle child.
If you’re a middle child, you may need to work a little harder in a relationship to ensure that your feelings are taken seriously. “Understand that your feelings are important,” says Dr. Leman. Middle children tend to discount their own feelings because they never got asked, “what do you think?” growing up, because the firstborn and the baby ruled the roost.
And we’re on to the baby of the family. Being married to the baby of the family can be “tough” says Dr. Leman, especially if you are also a baby of the family. If a baby and a baby get married, you have two people used to getting their own way suddenly put together. “Babies tend to be more impulsive, because they are trying to get attention their whole lives,” he explains. For example, Dr. Leman cites that many comedians were babies of their family and rattles off an impressive list of famous comedians who are babies of the family, like Jim Carey, Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno, John Stewart, Ellen, and Stephen Colbert.
What the baby of the family needs to know about marriage.
The baby of the family tends to be social and outgoing. “The baby has never met a stranger,” says Dr. Leman. “He could sell ice to an eskimo!” However, what the baby needs to understand about marriage is that there are other people in life other than them. Yes, they are affixable, friendly, and fun-loving, but they need to be reminded in marriage, that you need to be responsible.” Dr. Leman explains that babies can be selfish and adept at getting other people to do their work for them. “[Babies] need to be reminded that in a family, everyone needs to do their own fair share, especially if you are parents with small children,” he finishes.
The rule of thumb about birth order and relationships.
The rule of thumb to remember, according to Dr. Leman, is that you are best matched with someone outside of your birth order. “The ideal is the only and the baby or first-born and the baby,” says Dr. Leman. “It’s the differences that make you a strong couple.”
But there are exceptions.
There are exceptions to every rule of thumb when it comes to relationships, of course. For example, I explained to Dr. Leman how my husband and I are both first-borns, even though, in a lot of ways, my husband doesn’t act like a “typical” firstborn. “Let me guess,” Dr. Leman boomed again, gearing up for another creepy prediction session. “He’s a procrastinator and his desk is full of messy piles, right?” I literally gasped, as those are two things I continually tease my husband about. Dr. Leman explained that sometimes, parenting or upbringing can greatly influence a “typical” birth order personality and lead to other traits being displayed. Dang, this guy is good.
If you’re the same birth order.
If you and your spouse are like my husband and me and are the same birth order, Dr. Leman cautions you to be very aware of boundary definitions in your relationship, especially if you are both first borns. “It’s rough because you have two people who are bossy,” Leman says. “So if you’re in that relationship, what you need is a good role definition of who’s going to do what; who’s going to pay the bills, if you’re working too closely together, it could get interesting.”