The following two paragraphs are paraphrased portions of a session that I had with an adolescent identical twin who lives overseas. Her feelings and experiences typify developmental concerns and feelings about teenage twinships.
“I am afraid to tell my sister to leave me alone. She’ll be mad at me. I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Her being away last summer was so fantastic. I did not have her looking over my shoulder, invading and intruding upon me and my activities. I made friends on my own—until she returned and took them away from me. Once she enters the picture, they include her and invite her to everything. What once was exclusively mine now belongs to both of us.
“Teachers and other kids always gravitate toward her. She is extroverted, funny, and charming. We became co-captains of an athletic team even though she had barely participated. The coach decided on this arrangement because he favors my sister over me. She is either unaware of what is happening or purposefully trying to take away everything I have. My wishes to do things on my own are constantly sabotaged. She wants and needs to do what I do.”
After listening to her struggles and complaints, I suggested attempting to schedule a conjoint session with her twin. She replied that it sounded like a good idea, and she would think about how to present this invitation to her sister. She recalled a situation she had not considered previously. She told me that a pair of twins she had known decided to go to separate schools when they were younger. She shared that she never understood how they could have made that decision, but now she knows why.
I urged her to address these issues now—rather than later. As twins get older and their lives diverge and become more complicated, serious concerns arise. For example, career choices and involvements with other intimate attachments create tensions and conflicts. If the sisters are unable to accept differences and inequities, how will they be able to preserve their twin bond? They will blame each other for the difficulties, citing competitive rivalries and abject rejection. Twins of all ages need help understanding how their twin relationship can be simultaneously difficult and gratifying. Our capacity to acknowledge and accept ambivalent feelings in all our relationships is a hallmark of burgeoning emotional health.