If you're looking for a compatible partner, there are so many criteria that may be considered — from how they show their affection to whether or not they share common interests. But what about the role they play in their family? Some people believe there's a connection between birth order and relationships, and that where someones falls (as in first born, middle, baby of the family, and only child) can actually predict how likely the two of you are to get along as a couple.
Considering the popularity of personality tests such as love languages or even attachment styles in determining romantic compatibility, it's not much of a surprise that some people would examine how familiar roles factor into the equation. Everyone's heard the old adages about birth order and how yours can explain certain engrained behaviors (ie: care-taking versus more attention-seeking), but does it really matter in your relationships? And if so, how much?
According to Rachel Thomasian, relationship expert, author, and therapist at Playa Vista Counseling, there are actually some things you can learn about a person from their birth order — but maybe not what you'd expect. "I think the stereotypical assumptions are that the oldest child tends to be a caretaker and responsible but also bossy, the youngest tend to be more easy going or get along with people more easily or can be known to be a bit more rebellious or spoiled, the middle is trying to find their role or can be known for being the glue in their families, and only children can be very independent but have the stereotype for being spoiled or selfish," she explains. "These are absolutely not steadfast rules. I know oldest children who are very needy and only children who are very compassionate, so I think that everyone is a unique story but I do believe that birth order affects how parents relate to each child and helps shape their child's personality."
What Thomasian means is that birth order may be able to predict what roles you'd each play in the context of a romantic relationship — as based on what you grew up with. "I think the combination of people who are more likely to get along are those who are used to the roles they've gotten into," she explains. "For example, a youngest child paired with an oldest child could work really well because their roles in this romantic relationship mirror the roles they're used to in their family of origin."
On the flip side, the therapist suspects trouble could arise when a partner (whether consciously or subconsciously) is pushing their significant other into a role or responsibility they're not familiar with. "For example, it might be hard for a youngest child who is used to having logistics figured out by their oldest siblings to be paired with an only child who is also not used to taking care of others in that way," Thomasian says. Additionally, if you both grew up in the same birth order, there could be a sense of competition in seeking power or attention. "Two oldest children could find it difficult if they're each used to being in charge to give up some of that power and take someone else's lead in the same way two youngest children can find conflict in being taken care of versus taking care of others," she adds.
However, Thomasian is quick to add that connecting with someone who has the same birth order could also have its upside. "There are definitely positives to matching up with someone who has the same birth order in that they can really validate your experience in a way someone else might not and it could be a relief to have someone take on the role you're so used to assuming and might actually be exhausted from," she explains.
Because so many other variables can affect a relationship and someone's personality and habits, Thomasian believes that birth order shouldn't be a deal breaker in itself when considering someone's potential as a partner — but it could open up important dialogues (including ones you have with yourself) about how each of you views or deals with conflict, resolution, and other important relationship factors. "I think examining birth order in one's family of origin is really great introspective work and can get us examining how we show up in other relationships in a unique way," she says. "It's also a great place for good growth to happen as well. We often find ourselves repeating patterns we engaged in with our families or origin, or going back to behavior that came naturally as children simply because we find comfort in those roles without ever questioning how conductive that is to a romantic, friend or even work relationship."