Sinead Moriarty: Are you a first-born, or an only child? Your marriage might just depend on it...
A happy marriage or partnership is what we humans crave. Everyone knows that choosing the right partner is essential for a strong, long-lasting relationship. But how can you tell who the right partner is?
Research is now telling us that to have a happy marriage, you simply need to marry someone as opposite from your birth order as possible. According to findings, an only child and a last-born child will make the best match of all. First-borns and last-borns are a good match too. But any other combination is on shaky ground.
Should we really care about birth order? Well yes, birth order can give us some important clues about our personality and the personality of our partner. Birth order is the science of understanding your place in the family line and how that affects your life.
Psychologist Kevin Leman says in 'The New Birth Order Book: Why You Are The Way You Are' that birth order really does influence the health of a relationship.
He refers to a study published in the 'Journal of Marriage and Family' that evaluated the relationship of 236 business executives and their partners based on birth order combinations.
First-born plus first-born is going to cause problems. The issues are usually based on perfectionism and who has control. First-borns tend to be conscientious, organised, hard-working, leaders and perfectionists. When you combine that with a similar personality, you're bound to clash. To make this relationship work, you will have to bite your tongue (a lot) and stop criticising or trying to improve your other half. Your roles will have to be clearly defined to avoid arguments over control. You'll both have to accept that your way of doing things is not necessarily the right way.
A middle child should ideally marry a last-born. They should avoid, when possible, marrying a fellow middle-born. Mr Leman says that middle children tend not to be good communicators. So, if you put two together it doesn't bode well.
Middle-borns should, however, be proud of the fact that they have the best track record in building lasting marriages. Middle children, Mr Leman says, grow up to be negotiators, mediators and people who know how to compromise. But communication is their downfall.
Middle children in a marriage need to take time to communicate their feelings and if they say "I'm fine", their partner needs to dig deeper. Middle children need reassurance. As the middle child, they often felt marginalised growing up, so it's important for their other half to make them feel special.
When a first-born marries a last-born, it's married bliss …apparently. It's the opposites-attracts phenomenon. According to a study by Walter Toman, a professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, on 3,000 families, you have pretty good odds of a successful marriage if you're a first-born who marries a last-born.
Last-borns are charming, attention-seeking, tenacious and disorganised. These traits apparently go best with the A-type personality of the first-born. The first-born teaches the last-born to be more organised whereas the last-born brings fun into the marriage and reminds the first-born not to take life so seriously.
According to the study, the best possible match is a first-born female with a last-born male, because their needs are in harmony with each other. The first-born female likes to mother and the last-born male likes to be mothered.
But if you put two last-borns together it will be bedlam. Last-borns are disorganised and not good with money. They can get into financial trouble in a marriage and find it difficult to figure out who's going to pay the bills and sort out the finances. Last-borns also have a tendency to blame others - so if they are blaming each other for everything that goes wrong, chances are the marriage will struggle.
Mr Leman says that a sense of humour is particularly important if two last-borns marry each other.
But the best match of all is an only child marrying a last-born. Only children tend to be responsible as well as mature. In fact, many 'grow up' more quickly than kids with siblings, because of how much time they spend with adults. Most people assume an only child will resemble a first-born in relationships, since they are, after all, first.
Before you file for divorce because you are a last-born who married another last-born, remember this is only a general guide and obviously not all marriages will follow this pattern. However, marriage counsellors agree that men do not understand women very well and vice versa, so any extra bit of insight when choosing a partner can certainly do no harm.