Whether you’re single, coupled-up, or walked down the aisle years ago, nearly everyone has heard persistent myths about marriage: “Happy couples never argue.” “Love is all we need.” “I can change him/her.” Then there’s one that has been disproved time and again, yet people think that saying the words to their significant others will make it true: “I married you, not your family.”
Um……no. It’s true that you didn’t marry your guy or your lady just to have extra chill time with their folks, but you did enter a relationship where your daily interactions, your values and how you connect—or not—have been pre-programmed by your significant other’s family ties. There’s how he related to his mother, whether or not she’s the baby of the family, even what levels of affection were observed between Mom and Dad. Those facts have been studied and explored by Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist, New York Times best-selling author and educator. Several of his books, such as Step-parenting 101, Have a New Family By Friday and The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are have focused on the familial relationships, even within his marriage-focused Have a New Sex Life By Friday.
By phone from his home base of Tucson AZ, Dr. Leman discussed the ways that birth order, cooperation and living within a marital framework can positively, or negatively, affect present and future relationships.
JACKSON: I remember reading in The Birth Order Book that the last-borns in a family do well with a firstborn spouse, but that two people who are both first-borns tend to have rockier relationships. What is up with that?
LEMAN: “It can be like taking a longhorn and a sooner and putting them together in the same bag, then shaking them up for good measure. They’ve both been king or queen of the hill all their lives and are great at improving other people. It creates an atmosphere where the relationship is competitive, and marriage isn’t a competitive sport. Find ways, like humor, to lessen the need to be right.”
JACKSON: You wrote in your latest book that different styles of parenting, like ‘permissive,’ ‘authoritarian’ and ‘authoritative’ will impact how your children perceive relationships. How does that work?
LEMAN: “The authoritarian style will spark rebellion, and so does permissive. The only way to bring up a child is authoritatively. What’s nice about that approach is that it doesn’t mean they walk all over you, or that you take their mouth, but the reality of the situation is what can guide the child. Then later, they’ll be much more likely to work together with a spouse in harmony.”
JACKSON: There’s been a lot of blow-back recently against the concept of ‘submission’ in a marriage, mainly because it’s seen as only being the responsibility of the woman to do so. Is there a way to change that perception?
LEMAN: “Women have gotten pretty self-sufficient over the years. It seems like almost a weakness for a woman to say, ‘I need you.’ Being needed, wanted and respected is big in a man’s life and an important way of getting him engaged with you.
The full Biblical verse in the Book of Ephesians points out that submitting to each other is what honors Him, most men do see the ‘submission’ concept as, ‘Hey woman, I’m the man here and I’ll tell you what to do.’ Well….good luck fella. And good luck with your sex life.”
JACKSON: As a husband, father and grandfather, what would you say the biggest benefits of marriage are?
LEMAN: “The safest way to ensure good health for your family is to stay married and maintain a healthy relationship. A good marriage iss great protection for the kids, protects the parents and provides everyone with better life and communication skills. There’s nothing better than the stability of the family and the best way to do that is to keep the family unit a unit.”