Boundary Issues: The Struggle of Adult Twins

    Cementing the separation experiences and unique identities that have been establishing in baby steps and giant leaps in childhood, the teenage years, and early adulthood is the stressful difficult developmental chore of adulthood. In order to truly separate from one another, adult twins consciously and unconsciously seek out twin replacements. The emotionally driven need for identity is stronger than any intellectual understanding of separation at this time of life. The intensity of motivation for different life experiences and significant others is very different from what siblings experience when they go their own ways. The primary attachment that twins share is being rebuilt and restored to a more up to date bond. The “remodeling” of the twin bond is necessary but a long range problem.

    The quality of the attachment that is shared shapes how much independence is actually achieved. Interdependent identity twins well be less intent on replacing their twin, although they will try to make new personal experiences for themselves. Talking about new friendships with your enmeshed twin is difficult. Often, over-identified twins avoid these conversations for fear of displeasing their sister or brother. Over the years, the anger and resentment they share is expressed and processed. Split identity twins will seek out twin replacements feverishly without being aware that they are driven to find a new compliment to themselves. Discussion about the new partner that is coming into or between the twin relationship will be analyzed with a great deal of certitude by both twins. Usually, split identity twins come to accept but not embrace their twin’s partner. Individual identity twins seek out new relationships that are intimate and intense naturally. While competition is a cornerstone of their relationship, they check in with each other about the quality of the relationship they are beginning to seek out and to make a commitment to.

    Adult twins are eager to find new partners to build their lives with. Unfortunately, they do not have as much emotional experience with nontwins—singletons—as they need to separate without traumatic consequences. Lack of lived experiences leaves twins at a disadvantage because they have too many expectations for deep understandings that are verbal and nonverbal. Still to this day I often imagine that the other person can read my mind or finish my sentence. To further complicate new relationships there is a juxtaposition of high hopes and a need to take care of the new significant other. In general, when twins leave the gate that physically separates them from their twin they are at a serious disadvantage. Desperation can grow out of their eagerness for love and companionship. Even adult twins who have had some experiences with other partners are blindsided by the lack of input from their twin and the hard to take reality that nontwins are very different kinds of partners. New partners might love them but not understand them as quickly or deeply as their twin. Sad but too true, in new relationships twins can be lost and wild at the same time. Confusion on the part of the new love object is bound to appear and be extremely disruptive to the future of a relationship. In other words, new boyfriends or girlfriends can feel totally overwhelmed by the expectations of a new twin partner.

    In adulthood when new relationships don’t work out for whatever reason, twins turn to each other for advice, comfort, and solace. Finding the next nontwin relationship can be hard because of the serious disappointment in the previous nontwin relationship. Interdependent identity twins often just give up looking for new partners and rely on one another with a great deal of devotion. Whether these twins live next door to one another or a city away, the physical presence of the other is critical. Commonly, when children and husbands do make it into the circle of trust that twins share, they have to take the backseat to the twinship. Maintaining a primary closeness between interdependent identity twins is not unusual in adulthood.

    Split identity twins are better seekers of new relationships because of the underlying or unspoken shame, anger, and resentment that they have for one another. Still, opposite twins turn to each other when adult nontwin relationships fail to develop into strong commitments. Using their twin as a restorative agent to overcome disappointment, they seek out other friendships that turn into partnerships. Usually, conflicted twins find deep relationships after several unsuccessful relationships. In addition and as important, opposite identity twins find twin replacements in their children and other close friends. Often they become driven about the quality of their relationships and their careers. Perfectionistic because of deep narcissistic injuries they received, there is a great deal of difficulty accepting what life brings to them. Accepting their accomplishments is confusing as they are programmed to only be half of a whole. Fears of expansiveness are interlaced with a quest to be the “best” they can be.

    Individual identity twins are often very disappointed by new partners or marriages. They naturally turn to each other for support, insight and deep understanding. Because they love each other deeply they have a more understandable amount of difficulty depending on their twin as they search for a new partner. In other words, they will listen to their twin’s opinion and not just take it or react against their advice. Twin replacements are usually found with partners, children, and work responsibility. An over-investment with work or finding the perfect partner can also become a life obsession. Raging anger and estrangement are not common with twins who have developed enough individuality.

    For all twins, twin replacement takes on different struggles and conflicts. The side effect of a search for intimacy is deep loneliness. Fitting into a new world of closeness with others and sharing your twin is totally tricky. Often one twin will feel left out or lag behind. Compassion for your twin’s struggles is important. Learning how to “not go down with the ship” that your twin may be drowning in is a horrendous and complicated journey that requires insight into how you function in relationship to your twin. Being yourself when you think you should be taking care of your twin is hard to do and can only be accomplished with baby steps.

    Real differences in lifestyle will spark competition. One twin is richer, more successful at work, or healthier in comparison to their brother or sister. Resolutions of differences are hard to predict but they are always based on understanding how twins are different from one another. Changing the childhood twin identity into an adult twin identity that is mature and pragmatic takes a lot of devotion and work. In most instances one of the twins is more outgoing and stable than the less stable and more negative twin. The stronger twin usually initiates the maturing of the relationship and the use of psychotherapy.