Birth order and compatibility

I wonder if anyone really uses the study on birth orders and personality traits as the definitive guide before making a decision to marry someone. I highly doubt it though, because when love comes a-knockin’, even the ugly duckling is hailed as a swan.

Mother and I got talking about birth order and compatibility some time back – I think it was when I needed an outlet to vent my anger after something the fiancé (referred to hereon as “the boyfriend”) did — something that led us to ponder upon birth order traits. It was an interesting conversation we had, so I looked the subject matter up.

Just some background information to share — I am the eldest of three children. My brother is the second sibling and my sister, the third. The boyfriend on the other hand is the youngest, also of three children. His eldest sibling is a brother and the second, a sister.

Our relationship is a firstborn-youngest relationship. What do the studies say about this combination?

Generally, our birth orders make us a good match for each other. In a rather loose summary, this is because the firstborn can keep the youngest in check, whereas the latter can teach the former how to let loose and have fun.

And if you want to go beyond birth orders for the best match, gender also plays a part. According to Dr Kevin Leman in his book  Birth Order Connection, a female firstborn and a male youngest who has elder sisters make the absolute best. This combination totally describes us, by the way.

What he says of this relationship:

The last born with older sisters is going to be the sort of person who brings out the maternal instinct in women, and the oldest sister is likely to have great maternal urges. The young man has grown up with girls who have doted on him, cared for him, and generally treated him like one of their cuddly toys. This is the same sort of treatment he seeks in a wife, and the best place he’ll find it is with an oldest sister. The match works both ways. The first-born needs someone to show her pleasures of sunsets, rainbows, and to remind her that it can be fun to let her mind wander and do something crazy or different. The last-born needs someone to show him that while having fun is a wonderful thing, it takes hard work and perseverance to turn those daydreams into reality.

Let’s see what holds true for us, and what doesn’t.

True, I am the serious, authoritative half and he’s the humorous, good-natured half. I like to set the direction most of the time, and he usually lets me, except when he doesn’t agree with me. One might be led to think that I’m the type who always knows what I want, but that’s not entirely true. While he can be indecisive (even more than I can be at times), he’s always been clear about certain things for instance, his career path. I fail miserably in this aspect, drawing grand ideas in my head that I’m still struggling to materialise. I’m a dreamer. He’s a realist. This is where he keeps me in check.

Other firstborn traits he embodies (some of which are shamefully absent from my existence as a firstborn myself): neat, organised, responsible.

I’m not too sure about being the maternal type, though. Being the eldest, I naturally am protective of my siblings — just not in a doting way. I prefer that they learn to fend for themselves, than having to depend on me all the time. In this area I follow in the footsteps of my father, who doesn’t tend to show much affection.

This is the way I think I show care in my relationship as well. I am protective (read: not possessive) of my other half, but don’t expect me to show love in a way that requires me to do his laundry and iron his clothes. In fact, having come from a place back in time where my parents expected me to do things for my siblings, I now yearn to be pampered because I never was back then.

I don’t know how this will fit in with the supposed characteristic of the youngest male who seeks from his wife the same doting treatment he’s received from his older sister. Being the youngest, naturally he’s depended a lot on his other family members to do certain chores. But he also adapts well, so I believe he has the capability to be independent when the need arises. I dread to think otherwise!

So far though, I’m mighty pleased to report that he does in fact pamper me. A lot. I think I can even consider myself spoilt (not in the bratty way, I hope!). And I do hope this wonderful treatment will continue throughout marriage.

While all this birth order stuff is interesting, I think it’s important not to take this definitively and go, “Oh firstborns are dominating. That’s just how we are.” or “We lastborns are naturally lighthearted. We just can’t be serious.”. My take on marriage is that it takes mutual understanding and a lot of compromise to make it work. Getting out of your comfort zone can also pay off. I may not like cooking but if my husband likes it, sure, I’ll whip up something nice once in a while. If my wife doesn’t like cooking, sure, I’ll eat out once in a while. Everyone’s happy.

No matter what your birth order is or what your personality traits are like, everyone has a shot at successful relationships if they educate themselves. My mother is a huge advocate of this. She just cannot keep stressing the importance of education enough. She’s always asking us to read books or go for classes. An excellent yardstick to know if you’re doing things right is to ask yourself — is this what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would do? But firstly, in order to know him and the way he lived his life, one has to educate himself.

I couldn’t agree more.

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