When twins write to me about not having contact with their sibling for a long time, they usually display shame, surprise, sadness, and anger. In some instances, the separation is gradual; at other times, it appears to happen out of the blue. Regardless of the timing, I am often struck by these twins’ unfathomable reactions. They are confused about why animosity and resentment exists in the twinship. They often demonstrate an unsophisticated mindset and an oblivious attitude about their own responsibility for the rift.
Estrangement from one’s twin can happen at any stage of development. Each case is unique. Sometimes one sibling rejects or feels rejected by the other. In other instances, the problem is nothing more serious than feeling tired of always being together and longing to not be defined by having a twin. In more critical situations, an external event such as a move, a new romance, or a marriage can lead to conflicts that cause some twin pairs to stop speaking to one another.
While the precipitating factors are relevant, I feel that the best indicator of a positive outcome is the willingness of at least one twin to work through feelings of jealousy, competition, and power. These three variables can lead to untenable, insurmountable breaches if taken to extremes. The twin pairs who are most adept at resolving their differences demonstrate some of the following behaviors:
- Redefining expectations for their relationship
- Recognizing personality traits and differences that emerged in each twin in adulthood
- Respecting the notion that one’s twin is not required to be the most important person in one’s life
- Realizing that resolving conflict is not about being right but about being respectful and tolerant
- Remembering that mindful boundaries in close relationships require tact
Over the years, I have come to appreciate how many twins do not realize the tremendous influence their bond had on their psychological development. Many of my patients sought my expertise for this very reason. Learning how growing up as a twin impacts relationships in general unlocks a treasure trove of wisdom.