The No-Share Zone Is Critical in Twin Relationships

Fighting is a serious issue for young twins, parents of twins, and adult twins. Twin fighting is a style of interaction and a part of identity development that grows out of the twin bond and lives on and on as small children develop into adults. Competition is one acceptable and understandable form of fighting. Twins always measure themselves against one another. Who is the best? Who deserves more brownies? Who has the trendiest lego? Who has the coolest boyfriend? Who has the best car? Disarming competition can be extremely difficult and troubling for everyone close to a twin pair. Brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, and psychotherapists can become overwhelmed and confused by predictable and sometimes understandable twin fighting.

Let’s look at the complexity of the twin attachment or bond, which some psychologists might label as overdependent or a form of enmeshment. Competition is rooted in the twin bond. Twins are born “married.” Twin closeness is based on a primary attachment that is irreplaceable, much like the parent- child attachment that is the footprint of identity. Nurturing and interdependence between twins is deep and all-encompassing in infancy and childhood. Personality development and the need to be competitive is established and based on twin attachment. Separating out and finding individual differences between twins is a serious and important struggle for parents and their twins. Emotional health and an ability to see the serious side effects of fighting are based on each twin’s individual development.

It is critical to keep in mind that codependence, interdependence, and overidentification are not sharing but forms of psychological merger. Sharing and harmony, often idealized by twin onlookers, grow out of an acceptance by each twin of differences. Telling twins to respect one another is a meaningless task when twins share too much of their identity. Practical ways to foster sharing and eliminate competition are based on developing individuality and unique interests and gifts in each of the twins. Yes, twins are individuals even if they are very similar. Twin sharing is a way to limit individual development and intensify competition. Parents who want their twins to really get along will seriously limit sharing, both overt and covert, that goes on between twins. Adult twins will establish firm boundaries about what objects and thoughts are shareable and what are off limits.

Teaching twins to share or learning to share with your twin should be orchestrated. In other words, parents and twins themselves need to see their individuality and respect their uniqueness. In order to teach twins to share you must let them experience “real” sharing. One way to encourage sharing is to teach them the difference between mine and yours. For example, designate some important objects in the non-share zone. Parents can see which toys, clothing, and friends are special and keep them as separate. Other toys, friends, etc. can be shared and labeled as such. Adult twins know not to share but they can tumble into sharing everything, including opinions and advice and “too much information.” Adult twins need to learn to respect their twin by not being critical. From first-hand experience I know that keeping your unsolicited thoughts to yourself can be very difficult because twins see themselves in one another. Unfortunately, sharing critical thoughts is destructive to the health of the twin attachment as the aging process takes hold.

Young twins, teenage twins, and adult twins need to have exclusive no-sharing zones. The following strategies will make psychological room for the no-share space between twins.

1.  As a parent, know and talk about differences between twins.
2.  Be aware of sharing behavior and try to understand why it is necessary. Do your twins need more individual attention?
3.  As a twin, understand the times when you are codependent and why.
4.  Talk about what you would like to share and what is private and respect these boundaries.
5.  Remember, you are not your twin.

Sharing that is based on the wrong reasons, which involve convenience or identity confusion, will lead to serious fighting and entanglements.