Grudges, Guilt, and Grief: The Facets of Twin Estrangement

The inability of twins to get along has many possible explanations—for example, complications with a twin’s significant other, a twin’s mental illness or emotional instability, unabated competitive rivalry, parental favoritism of one twin over the other. What underlies all these issues is the siblings’ profound grief and sadness about the loss of their twinness. Their shared childhood fantasies and aspirations are shattered. These imagined scenarios and hopes cannot be fulfilled by anyone else.

One young woman sobbed inconsolably about not fulfilling her dream of shopping for her bridal gown with her twin sister. As children they had invented fantasies and played out countless plans about their growing up together. Often these thoughts would include marrying twins, living next door to each other, and being a mother to each other’s children. When twins read about this actually happening to a few select twin pairs, they envy and admire this possibility.

However, as life evolves and disparities occur, some dreams inevitably fade. There is no replacement for one’s twin. The ongoing unraveling and devastation of the siblings’ mutual dreams and desires may reach a breaking point. They cannot find their way back because there is none. They must forcibly let go of their childhood wishes. Frequently they blame each other for the ending of their blissful run. Either one or both twins end up feeling shortchanged or cheated out of their happy ending.

Having relied on each other for mirroring and validation, they are lost after the rupture as they struggle to find support elsewhere. They are panic stricken and overwhelmed, desperate in some cases to reconnect to feel some modicum of familiar stability once again. Or they must forge ahead to create and develop alternative ways of connecting to others to establish new attachments. Sadly, many twin pairs are ill equipped to do so because they are inexperienced in managing conflict and accepting differences.

Their disparities contribute to their feelings of disconnection and abandonment because they have missed opportunities to develop self-reflective capacities. Having grown up with a shared self rather than a separate self impedes twins’ capacity to embrace and accept divergent perceptions and experiences that do not mirror the other’s thinking or beliefs. Sadly, they cannot be real twins if they disagree.

Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Mary Ann Maher

    Hi Joan,
    This is a profound exploration of the agony-level pain that twins experience when rage, betrayal, hypercompetitiveness, shattered trust and abandonment occurs. The broken dreams and broken hearts are real and, although we move on, the pain remains deep down. It will never be the same as childhood fantasies never manifest in their entirety in any relationship. However, we leave friends who break our trust, abandon us and betray us which we can never do with our twins. We just love them too much and couldn’t bear it. What a sad dilemma!!!

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