Estrangement Can Make You Feel Like a Twinless Twin

When we hear about a twinless twin, we likely associate that description with someone whose twin has passed away. Nonetheless, some people who are estranged from their same-age sibling can also feel like twinless twins even though their sibling is still very much alive. Since much of my work revolves around twin pairs who struggle to reconnect or who must come to terms with being estranged, it feels apt to acknowledge that one can feel like a twinless twin when the relationship with one’s sibling is broken or nonexistent.

As I have written previously, twins who do not get along feel like social pariahs and apologetic failures. Not living up to the stereotypic expectation that twins must be best friends and soulmates contributes to their embarrassment. Their sense of shame and self-loathing can be intense and deep rooted, growing out of the powerfully close relationship that defined them for so many years.

Those who no longer regard their twin as their best friend have a steep learning curve. As I discuss in detail in my book The Same but Different, twins grow apart for many sensible, plausible, and expectable reasons. Perhaps if public opinion did not hold them to such absurd, idealistic standards, more twin pairs might be capable of separating emotionally and developing a new intimacy based on adult behaviors.

Feeling the freedom to make one’s own decisions and choices without incurring pushback, guilt, or resentment from one’s twin would definitely help to ameliorate the rivalry and hostility that can lead to twins misunderstanding one another. Learning to view disagreements as two dissenting opinions instead of a breach in the relationship would minimize feelings of abandonment. Unfortunately, emotional rifts can lead to physical separations and acrimonious discord, which are sometimes irreparable.

The process of grieving the loss of one’s twin can become seriously convoluted if the surviving sibling has unresolved feelings, conscious or unconscious, about his or her twin connection. Perhaps he or she was never able to articulate or understand some of the complexities of the twinship. Grief counselors tell us that having closure with a loved one who passed away helps to mitigate the agonizing loss and sadness. Since many twin relationships remain shrouded in childhood constructs, alienated twins may have difficulty working through unresolved issues. Usually, they lacked opportunities to access and understand the hidden, unrecognized difficulties embedded in their relationship. Perhaps having exposure to the complexities of healthy twin development would ease the ongoing process of grief.

Image courtesy of robertsharp (CC BY 2.0)

1 Comment

  1. Michelle

    Thank you for this insight. I am a “twinless twin” and it is very difficult. Your story about the parents or family members ” ganging up” with one twin versus the other when one was marries really hit home. my family has stuck by my twin when it is her lack of reality that has caused the rift. Its very hard to be the discarded one simply because the other twin is stronger and more outspoken.

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