The Struggle Adult Twins Have Finding New Partners

With the prevalence of fertility drugs and older mothers giving birth, parenting twins has become an issue that is frequently addressed in the media, online and in popular books about child development. In contrast, an understanding of the lives of adult twins is almost entirely ignored except for dramatic portrayals of deep entwinement or confusing and horrifying conflicts of good twin versus evil twin. This form of neglect is unfortunate for twins and for those of us interested in the ups and downs of close interpersonal relationships. Twin relationships can over time help curious adults understand how to value intimate emotional relationships.

Twins are born relying on one another, and they experience and learn to respect closeness. Gradual separation is encouraged by parents and also seems to take place in a somewhat mysterious way in childhood. Adolescence is a time for great drama for twins. Differences between twins come to life in full color as twins grow into their twenties. One twin is more of a risk taker with new relationships, while his brother or sister is overly careful. One twin is more interested in financial success while the other twin is interested in artistic self-expression. One twin wants a family and the other twin chooses to not have children. Interests and new friendships that serve as twin replacements are visible to close family and friends.

Cementing the countless separation experiences and unique identities that have been established in baby steps and giant leaps in childhood, the teenage years, and early adulthood is the stressful difficult ongoing developmental chore of adulthood. In order to truly separate from one another, adult twins consciously and unconsciously seek out twin replacements―people who express an inclination to be close and understanding in emotionally charged relationships. Emotionally driven twins in early adulthood have a need for identity that is stronger than any intellectual understanding of separation. The intensity of motivation for unique avenues to explore and new significant others is very different from what siblings experience when they go their own separate ways. The primary attachment that twins share is being added on to―rebuilt and restored to a more up-to-date mature attachment. The “remodeling” of the twin bond is necessary, but it is a long-range problem that adult twins have to work through alone and together. The quality of the attachment that is shared shapes how much independence is actually achieved in adulthood.

Adult twins are eager to find new partners to build their lives with. Unfortunately, they do not have as much emotional experience with non-twins―singletons―as they need in order to separate without the risk of traumatic consequences. Lack of lived experiences leave twins at a disadvantage because they have too many expectations for deep understandings that are verbal and non-verbal. Still to this day I often imagine and wish that the other person could 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” and physically separate 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 absent twin and the hard-to-take reality that non-twins 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 non-twin relationship can be hard because of the serious disappointment in the previous non-twin relationship. For almost all twins, twin replacement takes on different struggles and conflicts. The side effect of a search for emotional 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 twin attachment and the use of psychotherapy.