The Special Closeness Twins Share

Troubles that twins experience getting along: a roller coaster ride.

Posted Dec 06, 2020

Used with permission from Johanna Keogh
Source: Used with permission from Johanna Keogh

From my experiences as a twin and working endlessly with twins of all ages, I can safely conclude that the majority of individuals idealize twinship as comforting and special, which supposedly includes a world of super-special harmonious companionship. Fighting, which is a definite issue for twins, is made light of even when intense rage is obvious. Parents, friends, significant others, and even psychotherapists will say, “Just try to get along. Send your twin a Hallmark card.” But getting along is hard for twins. Anger at your twin is painful and confusing but also a sign of the deep search for a unique identity.

Real-life twins, as compared to the idealized images of twins, definitely face challenges to becoming individuals with separate and distinct identities. From infancy onward, twins measure themselves against each other, which creates jealousy and disappointments in one’s self and in their twin. Getting along with one another by limiting competition and tempering unrealistic expectations is truly a lifelong journey. Taking the first step toward learning that you are different from your twin is an enormous struggle. The struggle to define differences involves developing a singular sense of yourself that is based on real-life individual experiences, and understanding ego boundaries—what belongs to one twin and what belongs to the other twin. Understanding ego boundaries requires a serious amount of introspection and determination in the journey to becoming an individual. Ongoing fighting over ego boundaries, sharing, and responsibility fuel the “troubles that twins face” in getting along with each other.

New Understandings of Twin Relationships: From Harmony to Estrangement and Loneliness (Barbara Klein, Stephen A. Hart, and Jacqueline M. Martinez, 2020) suggests why it is hard for twins to get along, employing twin theory and the actual life stories of twins striving to be themselves and respecting their twin. Our work, a collaboration with other twins, also suggests strategies to improve twin relationships.

For example, when fighting is making problems worse, then try to stop the type of communication that triggers fights.

When should you stop taking care of your twin? The right answer is, only when necessary.

In addition, special problems of being a twin in a non-twin world are discussed. Insight on how to get along with partners, peers, and bosses are illustrated through stories and the real words of twins.

In conclusion, the emotional intensity of the twin relationship is documented in the words of twins. The metaphor that the twin relationship can be like a roller coaster ride that is changeable/malleable from happiness and sharing to anger and disappointments is explained.

The relief that twins experience when reading or hearing other twins sharing their pain with their unpredictable twin relationship is both healing and profound. The deep message of “New Understandings of Twin Relationships” is that being a twin is a challenge that can be worked through with effort and intentionality. Taking for granted that being a twin is easy leads to unresolved resentments that cannot be overcome. Only with authentic determination to be close individuals can twins reap the benefits of twinship.

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