Go ahead and add "failed relationships" to the long list of things you can blame on your parents. Turns out that where you fall in your family’s sibling hierarchy can play a pretty significant role in your relationships.
According to William Cane, author of The Birth Order Book of Love, "birth order explains how sibling rank (firstborn, middleborn, lastborn, only child) affects personality” and how you interact with others, both socially and romantically.
While I’m not suggesting you break up with your significant other if the information below deems you two “incompatible,” figuring out your birth-order personality can be useful (and fun!) when it comes to navigating romantic issues. Just don’t try to interpret compatibility based on birth order and astrology ... that could make for some heavy introspection.
Here’s what you should know about birth order and how it can affect your love life.
If you’re the oldest child …
… you’re probably organized, ambitious, confident and dominant.
As your parents' only child for a stretch, it’s likely all your achievements were celebrated as there was no competition for attention. (I'm the oldest and can attest to the fact that my younger years make up 80% of my family’s photo albums, and I have two younger siblings.)
All that undiluted parental attention also means you like to be in control. (Fun fact: first born/only children make up more than half of all US Presidents.) The downside? You may have trouble with sharing, compromising and jealousy.
Because you’re likely to be organized and successful, your partner will probably come to rely on you. That said, you may need to work on spontaneity and fighting your natural aversion to risk. Embrace a more go-with-the-flow mentality in relationships so you don’t drive your partner crazy with iCal reminders.
If you’re the middle child …
… you’re probably very social, good at compromise and a bit rebellious.
Inadvertently tasked with bridging the gap between your older and younger siblings, the middle child is often referred to as the “Type O” of relationships: you go well with anyone. You dislike conflict, which means you’re apt to negotiate and compromise in a relationship. As long as everyone is happy, you’re happy.
But as much as you like appeasing everyone, trail blazing is also important to you. You’re probably way more open to new experiences than your siblings, and you wave that flag of rebellion high and proud. Older sibling became a lawyer like mom? You went to art school.
And while your creativity and spontaneity is likely appreciated by a partner, when it comes to serious matters, you’re probably a little hard to read. Remember to open up and communicate when something bothers you, despite your inclination toward peace keeping.
If you’re the youngest child …
… you’re probably outgoing, charming, uncomplicated and self-centered.
If my family is any indication, the youngest child almost always has it easiest. Your parents have lived and learned at the hands of your older siblings, so they're more likely to let you do your thing. Chances are you're up for anything — a result of not really having a say as a kid. And spending time with older people introduced you to grown-up humor and sensibility at an early age, so you're probably fun and funny.
You don't feel the need to plan or take charge because you're used to someone else doing it for you. That said, it's possible your parents' babying equals a lack of responsibility as an adult. In a relationship, be sure you're not becoming too dependent on your partner; you don't want your significant other to feel like he or she is parenting you.
If you're an only child ...
… you’re responsible, mature, dependable and sensitive.
Stereotypically thought of as spoiled as a result of being your parents' sole focus (as far as kids go), you probably act more like an oldest child than a royal. Because you lived alone with your parents and had a lot of practice being in relationships with adults, you're serious and reliable. Not to mention your communication skills are A-plus.
You're sensitive to the needs of those around you, but beware: many only children often achieve "super firstborn" status, meaning these traits are amplified. For example, if a firstborn is likely to be a perfectionist, the only child is likely to be an uber-perfectionist. When it comes to relationships, it's important to recognize you can take things to an extreme, and to stop fussing and overthinking.
Now let’s talk about compatibility. Again, keep in mind that this should by no means determine the path of a current or future relationship, but it's undoubtedly interesting to see how you’ll fare romantically with different birth orders.
Oldest with oldest: You both like to be in control, so be prepared to butt heads often. For this to work, both sides need to learn to compromise instead of insisting on getting his or her own way all the time. Recognize that as important as something is to you, it's equally important to your partner.
Oldest with middle: A middle child is good at compromising, meaning the oldest will likely steer the ship. And while this can lead to a fight-free relationship, it's possible the middle child will feel stifled after a while because he/she is always supporting the partner, but not getting that support in return.
Oldest with youngest: Opposites attract here. A firstborn (wanting to be in control) and a youngest (wanting to be taken care of) usually make a good match and force the other out of a comfort zone.
Middle with middle: You're both sensitive and compromising, so the biggest potential pitfall here is a lack of communication due to fear of confrontation. Make sure to emphasize helping each other express opinions and feelings.
Middle with youngest: Because a middle child is likely to take on the traits of those around him, it's possible you'll acquire some youngest tendencies. But your negotiating skills, coupled with a youngest's sociability, will lead to a good combination of effective communication and fun.
Youngest with youngest: You're bound to have a lot of fun with each other given your laissez faire-ness, but an issues arises when neither wants to be the one in charge. Figure out where your respective strengths lie (finances, scheduling, etc.) and share responsibilities.
Only child with anyone: Only children are pretty much compatible with anyone as long as they don't act too classically like an oldest or youngest child (the two birth positions they're most likely to resemble).
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