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Loneliness

Healing Strategies for Twins Who Miss One Another and Can't Get Along

Finding help for struggles with loneliness and estrangement.

Key points

  • Twin relationships are nuanced, complicated, and often very entangled.
  • Identity confusion is a common problem that twins may need to address together and alone.
  • To counteract feelings of loneliness, twins may consider therapy, finding twin friends, and seeking family support.

After reading my books and posts on twin development, twins have reached out to me asking for help understanding their anger, fear, or just plain unhappiness with their twin. Certainly, it is not uncommon for me to hear that finding a mental health professional to help a twin get along with their sister or brother has been difficult. Sometimes a therapist suggests that sending their twin a beautiful Hallmark card might be the answer to their issues. My twin readers are more realistic and more “in pain.” They are thirsty to heal their confusion, loneliness, anger, and despair related to being a twin in a non-twin world. The idea that twin issues can be understood easily is ridiculous. Twin relationships are nuanced and complicated and, frequently, very entangled.

Identity Confusion Is “Normal” for Twins

I ask myself why finding support with twin disappointment is so hard to come by in our psychologically-minded world that is overflowing with self-help advice. And I think that the underlying reason is that mental health professionals don’t understand the depth of the twin attachment, which can create a highly conflicted twin relationship and identity confusion. Naturally and inevitably, so much physical and emotional closeness causes “over-identification”—enmeshment or entanglement between the twin pair. “Who is who” identity confusion is a common problem that twins need to disentangle and deal with together and alone.

Problems With Over-Identification for Twins

In general, problems that twins have with each other based on their over-identification seem to fall into the following categories:

  1. A love/hate roller-coaster relationship that is based on longings and expectations for closeness. In most of these situations, disappointment, fighting, and then making up has become a commonplace but dysfunctional way of interacting. For example, one moment a toy is lost that belongs to your twin and the world comes to an end. Just as quickly, Mom finds the toy, and joy and happiness are seen in the resultant twin play.
  2. A seriously unbalanced relationship where one member of the pair is super-special and the other feels like she or he is invisible or “should be” invisible. Parental favoritism fuels this unfortunate aspect of the twin relationship.
  3. Continual fighting over “who knows best” and “who needs to be the follower.” (This is much more serious than a dominance/non-dominant issue and a seemingly impossible problem to solve.)
  4. Twins who cannot get along and make it impossible for their parents, children, or cousins to see one another at family events. Family strife over these types of problems is extremely painful and hard to resolve, especially around holidays and family celebrations.
  5. Anger and resentment that one twin is more successful than the other. Even with good-enough parenting, this type of competitive behavior is very difficult to diffuse for both of the twins. The successful twin may feel guilty and the “less than” twin can become angry or self-loathing.
  6. Separation fears and anxiety when new partners are introduced into the lives of the twins. For example, the anticipation of sharing your twin’s joy in marriage is always very difficult and confusing for the twin who is the bridesmaid, not the bride.
  7. When twins want the same thing, from dresses to grades and houses and even romantic partners, deep anger and resentment can arise and lead to fighting and estrangement.
  8. The world does not understand twin disappointments and dismisses them as an overreaction. Twins get trapped in the middle, longing for support, but they get no compassion for their twin problems. Being a twin is a “perfect and ideal” relationship for uninformed non-twins. Really, being a twin is a very difficult challenge.

Twins Inevitably Feel Misunderstood

Loneliness and feeling misunderstood is extremely common in twins, whether or not they are estranged or have a workable relationship. Here are some ways to counteract or diminish your loneliness.

  1. Psychotherapy that takes into account your twin problems as serious and worthy of attention in the therapy session. Therapists who dismiss the twin problem as “secondary” cannot be helpful.
  2. Reading and understanding what it means to be a twin in a non-twin world.
  3. Finding twin friends who want to explore your twin reactions with you.
  4. Sharing what you know about twinship with your family and asking them to help you overcome the roadblocks that you and your twin share.

In conclusion, when you find solace in your own life, problems with your twin relationship become less intense and much easier to put into perspective. Loneliness and searching for twin replacements is a predictable way to develop self-confidence for twins. However, when too much closeness is expected of twin replacements, then unhappiness, disappointment, and loneliness can reappear.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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