Making the Numbers Work
Are you ready WordWashedWife reader for a riddle this Wednesday morning? In just nine days, I will have four 28-year-old children – three of them are first born, and there are no multiple births. How is this possible? Head scratcher, huh?
My son, JP, and my daughter, Maddy, are eleven and ½ months apart. For two weeks in April, both will be 28; then, JP will turn 29. Both JP and Maddy are married to people who, for three days, will also be 28! So, four of my children will be 28 years of age! I may have cheated a bit with the misleading riddle, but it is true nonetheless. Sounds exhausting, huh? And just think, in 2020 I will have four 30-year-olds. Ugh! These kids are pushing me right over the hill! 😊 Having six young adult millennials in my family has its challenges, but it definitely has its rewards too!
Now, further complicating things with my children is this – four of my six are first-borns! Let me explain. Since Maddy and JP were born in the same year, and since they are of the opposite sex, both can lay claim to a first-born status (Kevin Leman, The Birth Order Book, 2004). Then there is James, Maddy’s husband. He is true first born. So is Becky, my youngest son’s wife. Jody, my husband, is also a true first born. Sarah, JP’s wife, and I are both middle-born. THANK HEAVENS! All this says that in my family, there are a whole lot of chiefs, and not many Indians. I hope I haven’t lost you. This is crazy, I know, but keep reading. I am going somewhere with all this, I promise. And please believe me, this will be helpful!
The role that birth order plays in your family and marriage may not be evident … yet … but I promise it will be as it is in mine! I can almost always spot the signs of first born, middle and baby of the family. Things get muddled with twins, half siblings and only children, but for the most part, birth order does play a role. The role that birth order plays affects how we are nurtured as children, and then how we behave as adults. And for today’s post, birth order affects how each of us react to the stresses of marriage and living with a person who almost always sees the world through a different set of eyes.
I have already referenced an excellent book by Dr. Kevin Leman. This book has much more detail about birth order and its effects on every part of our life. It is a great book – I have read it twice. This book is one more lens that I use when looking at marriages. I would like to offer you now my summary of this fascinating book. I will touch on its high spots and in so doing hope to wet your appetite for more knowledge. Here we go!
Basic rules for determining your birth order:
First-Born: You are a first born if you were born first, 😊 or if you were born within two years of an older opposite sex sibling, or if there is more than 5 years between you and your next closest sibling. You may also be a first born if you are the first born in a particular sex, regardless of how many older siblings you may have. For example, a young man born 5th in a family of four older sisters can still have first born characteristics. These characteristics are, in general: responsible, motivated, conscientious, cautious, achiever, leader, and BOSSY. 😊 According to Leman’s research, first borns tend to migrate towards the sciences and leadership roles. In most presidential elections, most candidates are first borns. Dr. Leman also states that the most astronauts are first borns. If they are not natural first-borns, they are only children. Temperaments of both are very similar.
Middle-born: You are a middle born if you have a sibling or siblings older than you and younger than you. They are “sandwiched” in the middle. There may be multiple middle born children in a family with four or more children. The middle-born child is characterized by Leman as: peacemakers, social, adaptable, people-pleasers, independent, and lean toward rebelliousness. These children are often attracted to jobs where they get plenty of human contact. And, they are often very resilient to stress.
Last-born: You are a last born if you are the last child born, or if you there is a five-year gap between you and your next younger sibling. For example, in a family of three children born in four years, with a six-year break and then two additional children, there can be two last borns in the family – child #3 and child #5. Sounds like a lot of fun at holiday gatherings! Characteristics of last-borns: uncomplicated, attention seeking, self-centered, fun, social, charming, and outgoing. Many comedians and actors are last-borns. The list in Leman’s book is impressive and supports these characteristics.
Lonely Only: We all know who are the only children. But, a family can have multiple only children if there is an eight or more-year separation between children. In this case, each can grow up with characteristics of: approval seeking, leader, confident, center of attention, perfectionist, and mature for their age.
How Does Birth Order Effect Marriage?
Dr. Leman suggests that birth order plays a big role in the, “Why we do what we do.” Of course, there is an implication to marriage – the place where we do “do” the most. I’m being silly, but after reading his book a few years ago, I can tell you that I have truly seen evidence of the role birth order plays in marriage issues. Also, I have helped couples understand that though their birth order tendencies may be natural, in marriage, they are still things that must be addressed. With some new awareness, a common vocabulary and an extra big serving of patience and forgiveness, the information presented here may help smooth out some of the bumpy places of your marriage.
Most Problematic Combinations of Birth Order Within Marriage:
When both husband and wife are of the same birth order, there may be additional adjustment issues. In the case of two first-borns, they almost always assume that they are right. Both may be so busy leading that they never learn how to properly submit to the other. First born couples need to delegate and take turns at being in charge. They must recognize the privilege to submit, and in so doing, encourage the other in the process. This is the case of my daughter and her husband – two first-borns, engineers, and bossy people! 😊 They have managed to work out a great system of daily delegating responsibility and praising the other for their victories. I’m sure it is not always a bed of roses, but when two people keep the love for Christ paramount, all other differences can be worked out.
In the case of a couple of middle borns, they may find themselves so desirous of peace that they sacrifice truth to maintain a “charade” of peace. It cannot be long, however, before life thrusts TRUTH upon them. Middle-born couples must find honest and truthful ways to handle conflict. They must learn how to have discord without angst or feelings of failure.
The most volatile combination in marriage is that of two last borns. This combination has the power to bankrupt the couple if there is no plan for who will do the “adulting” in the marriage. With proper steps put into place, and with checks and balances, this marriage can be a very happy one. But, there must be some dying to natural tendencies, and a keeping to the plan. All this may cause you to look again at all those Hollywood couple break-ups. Maybe they are not all seeking publicity. Maybe they are the result of marriage of last borns.
If you find yourself in a same birth order status marriage, do not despair. God created you, and He knows what your marriage needs to be happy and to reflect Christ to the world. Sit down and talk about the challenges from the lenses discussed above. And together, read Leman’s book – you may need more than just a quick synopsis. I believe you would benefit from Leman’s whole theory. Pray about these issues, forgive and start again!
Least Problematic Birth Order Combination Within Marriage:
Marriages with a first born married to a middle born are the least stressful – they have the least challenges. This happens to be my experience. My husband, Jody, is the epitome of the first born. I, Miss Middle Born, have a nice mix and balance of all Leman’s characteristics. Nevertheless, our marriage falls into the stereo type presented by Dr. Leman. Jody is a natural leader, quiet and good-natured. He is very confident that his way is correct; he seldom second-guesses himself. He is more reserved and would prefer to be alone to recharge. I, on the other hand, am quite the opposite. I love people. Actually, I love ALL of God’s people! I have been told that is my spiritual gift – seeing the good in everyone. We are a nice combination. It works best when the first born periodically asks the middle born their opinion; and on occasion, takes it. If not, the rebellious side will reveal itself. Leman also suggests that first borns and last borns make a good combination in marriage, as long as the last born defers many decisions to their first-born mate. The last born will provide much-needed fun in the relationship if allowed this role. This is my last-born son, Michael’s situation. He married a very conscientious, achieving first-born. They have done a great job working out the bumps and having a ton of fun in the process. It probably helped that Michael, while in the Army was deployed often during the first years of their marriage, allowing his young wife to handle some of the “adulting” and then when he returned home a good pattern was already established.
If you don’t see yourself in this post, please check out The Birth Order Book. It is a good read! If you are panicked because you married someone in your own birth order status, relax. You got this! Draw some comfort in knowing that you are not alone! And from my middle-born and peace-making nature, I say, “Love each other!”
Next week I will look at the raising of children through the lens of birth order theory. Interesting stuff! Hopefully you will find it practical and helpful! Until next week!
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.