How to Detoxify Your Twin Relationship

Onlookers to twin relationships can idealize the closeness and companionship that twins share. For instance, twins sometimes are envied by people who suffer from loneliness and depression. Indeed, for those seeking the perfect mate, twins are supposedly excellent role models, to be admired and copied for their capacity for understanding and empathy.

In actuality, twins can suffer and be stifled by one another. While the twin attachment is strong, enduring, and very close, the twin bond can also be fraught with competition, obligation, anger, and resentment. Twins learn to take care of one another from birth. Hands down, they are deeply attached. Sharing parents, life experiences, and memories promotes a deep and indestructible early twin identity. Separating from your twin can be traumatic, liberating, and tricky. As each twin develops a unique identity, both twins may feel excited and frightened.

The quality of parenting that twins receive determines their happiness living separate lives. Enmeshment and resentment can poison twin attachment. Twinship can easily become toxic when clear boundaries between twins are seriously confused and the unique individuality of each member of the pair is not respected. Twins can feel betrayed by one another, ignored (even invisible), or deeply disappointed in their sister or brother. How to have a healthy relationship with your twin can be totally mysterious to twins in the throes of fighting with each other or having difficulty living separate lives. The following ideas will hopefully help the reader unravel and face the stress of drawing clear boundaries with their brother or sister. Not over-reacting to your twin’s problems with school, friends, food, clothes, children, and partners/spouses is very difficult. NOT taking on your twin’s problems can be almost impossible at first. These strategies will help you detoxify your relationship.

1.  Establish a non-discussion zone.
Twins like to evaluate one another’s decisions, which can limit the development of individuality. When certain topics, such as friendships outside of the twin relationship, are not up for discussion, the possibility of critical and anxious input from your twin will be avoided. For example, your twin gets a job that you think is not right for him. Instead of sharing your concern, you could say, “I respect your decision.”

2.  Establish a non-comparison zone.
Because twins are natural competitors, comparisons between twins can be endless—whether the comparison originates from your twin or an onlooker asking inappropriate questions about who is smarter, richer, prettier, etc. I suggest trying to eliminate areas of comparison because this will limit enmeshment and issues of identity. To onlookers or your twin you could say: “Measuring ourselves against one another is something that I think should be avoided.”

3.  Make some people, objects, and ideas non-sharable.
Fighting over what belongs to whom begins with young twins and can move into adulthood. I advise parents of young twins to give each twin some toys and clothes that are not sharable as well as some personal possessions that can be shared. Drawing the line or setting a boundary about what belongs to each twin exclusively is critical to eliminating fighting and general confusion over ownership. The worst thing to share, in my experience, is friendships. This is a no-win situation for everyone. The twin alliance needs to be treasured in spite of an important new tie.

4.  Fighting and rampant anger are destructive to the twin attachment.
Try to calmly talk to your twin about what is bothering you. I have heard crazy stories of twins pulling one another’s hair or actually being physically aggressive. Yelling, mean conversations, and attacking each other accomplish nothing of positive value. It is better to get distance from your anger if you can not control it. Anger can burn the bridges of attachment that twins share in adulthood and can be very difficult to rebuild.

5.  Don’t go down with your twin/hold up your twin.
Drowning in your twin’s problems is a sure mistake. Try to help your brother or sister keep their head above water when their problems are very serious and complicated. Hold out your hand and help them swim to shore. If you totally ignore your sister or brother you are at risk of alienating your right hand “go to” person.
6.  Focus on empathic interactions.  
Understanding and kindness can begin to heal the most tormented relationships. Taking the high road is always better for twins because of the depth of their attachment to one another. Just reflecting on your twin’s pain is a start to reconnection.

7.  Do fun activities.  
Being together in companionship is something that twins do well. Hiking, going to museums, concerts, traveling, and non-competitive shopping are all activities that twins can really enjoy together. Loving family time can build the attachment between adult twins.
Adult twins have different relationships than young twins. Getting along with your twin is not as easy as it may look to an uneducated onlooker. Twins always have highs and lows. They love being apart and then they miss the other. Try these seven strategies I have suggested. These ways of thinking about getting along with your twin have helped me and helped the many twins that I consult with.