Why Do Twins Fight?

Why am I fighting with my twin? Why can’t we get along? These are the most heartfelt questions that I have encountered on my long and intriguing journey to understand what makes twinship so special, and yet so difficult.

While it may be easy for almost everyone to understand why you would miss your life and team companion, who is familiar with your childhood, parents, and all of your unique talents and issues, truly more perplexing for twins and their close friends and relatives to deal with are the conflicts that go on between twins. For twins, overcoming disappointments in your twin can be difficult and even brutal.

Just as all twins love each other, all twins fight. These fights begin by six months of age and continue on and on. Some disagreements are healthy, normal, and expectable. Good-enough parents try to manage, redirect and actually understand why their twins are not getting along. When parents try to understand the conflicts between their children and to arbitrate for fairness, competition and anger will be reduced. Parental management of disharmony between twins is crucial. When parents are not involved, twins will make their own rules up for fairness, which more often than not backfires into more serious warfare. I write about how parenting directs the twin relationship in my new book, ALONE IN THE MIRROR: TWINS IN THERAPY.

Fighting can be a slippery slope for twins. Too much intensity over who is the best or who is right or who is more important over a long period of time will eventually erode the twin attachment. But disagreements and separate interests and personality have a psychological function in the development of individuality. Seriously, twins can fight about anything from who is first to whose fault is it anyway. Hopefully, wanting what you want or what your twin wants is based on individual likes and dislikes. Unfortunately, sometimes fighting is just based on senseless competition, which is destructive.

Healthy disagreement is the beginning of an individual identity for twins. Different needs and separation between twins allows for individual experiences and new input into their early exclusive attachment. Too much time together will surely lead to more and more arguments and more and more entanglements. In childhood, fighting between twins on the deepest level is about the development of individuality. Contentiousness or power struggles provide the mini-steps that eventually create a unique sense of self for each member of the twin pair. Sometimes twins want the same exact “things” and they compete to win. At other times, whatever your twin likes is often different than what you may look forward to choosing for yourself. For example, one twin wants to go to baseball camp and the other twin wants to go to Shakespeare camp. Long and tense conversations may ensue over disagreements about the right choice. In these situations, expressing different opinions is not only good but necessary and inevitable. Disagreements will occur based on real life choices such as clothes, favorite flavor of ice cream, friends, and sexual decisions. Unraveling the mystery of often untold and un-talked about choices seems really impossible and may not be necessary. Respect for differences is crucial.

Fighting in teenagers and the need for separate friends and interests is normal and developmentally appropriate. This is a time when twins should be making their own decisions and forming their separate sense of self outside of the twinship. Usually, twins who are developing their individual identity adequately have started to take different paths with friends and academics. When twins have a need to remain attached to their twinship and are not concerned with separating from one another this is a red flag for future problems with separation.
Long and difficult arguments in adult twins are often based on a lack of respect between twins for the choices they make that do not meet one twin’s standard of acceptability. Who is right and who is wrong underlies most fights. This ongoing intensity can be very destructive to the attachment that twins share. Twins need to learn to respect one another’s differences, which I know is hard to do.

In adulthood, twins are usually more reasonable with one another, which is a sign of maturity. Naturally, there will be differences of opinion, but the ability to accept that your twin has chosen a different life path then your own is inevitable. When adult twins cannot accept that they are truly different people, then psychotherapy to understand their enmeshment with one another is critical.

Strategies to Curtail Fighting


1.  Is this argument worth my time or should I ignore it or give in?

2.  What is my objective or goal for fighting with my sister or brother?

3.  Is there a better way to get my point across?

4.  Is there a pattern or trigger to our arguments?

5.  What can I do to calm down our power struggles?

6.  Why am I so threatened by my twin’s decisions?

7.  Do I feel guilty that I cannot solve my brother or sister’s problem?