Defining the parameters of a healthy twin relationship is challenging because each person’s life experience is unique and complicated.
The majority of the clientele who seek out my services are grappling with how to reorganize and redefine the boundaries of their adult twin connection. They have outgrown their accommodating childhood roles and are challenged by new intimate relationships and evolving life circumstances.
Let me quote a portion of an e-mail I received from a twin struggling to cope with her twin relationship:
I am a thirty-four-year-old identical twin who has managed to grow to be very independent and assertive after parting from everyday life with my sister at the age of twenty-three. . . . It is especially difficult for my husband to recognize me when I am in the presence of my sister. . . . I have struggled greatly in the last few years with my relationship with her as she weaves guilt trips, judgment, and ridicule into even the most deceptively kind-sounding dialogues. . . . Now that I have my own partner and child, I no longer cater to her, follow in her shadow, or seek her approval for no apparent reason at all. My role in our relationship is a shock to those who know me best. My relationship, or struggle to maintain a relationship, with my sister is now a great source of anguish for my husband, who is pained by the one-sidedness of our relationship. My sister insists that my needs take a backseat to her priorities. She shows little or no regard for my feelings or my life circumstances. If I am unable to satisfy her, she behaves in a nasty and punitive manner.
This woman is recognizing and attempting to recalibrate how she relates to her twin sister. She yearns to feel free to be herself rather than be the compliant twin intent on avoiding conflict.
I came across an interesting article by Dr. Ross Rosenberg about the essential characteristics of relationships in which you may have difficulty feeling autonomous:
- You neglect other relationships because of your preoccupation with the relationship.
- Your happiness, contentment, or self-esteem relies on the relationship.
- When there’s a conflict or disagreement in the relationship, you feel extreme anxiety, fear, or a compulsion to fix the problem.
- You feel intense loneliness when you’re separated from or can’t talk to your partner in the relationship.
- You seem to absorb the feelings of your partner in the relationship. For example, if the person is angry, anxious, or depressed, you’re also angry, anxious or depressed.
Growing up, twins are more defined by their twindom than by their individuality. If they are able to comprehend that they are in an unhealthy relationship that they want to break out of, they may be overcome with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and shame. How do they cope with these feelings if they have no one to turn to for help and understanding?
They need reassurance that this urge to pull away from the gravitational tug of their twin relationship is healthy and growth enhancing. They need help learning how to set boundaries, how to be alone, and how to make gratifying relationships that don’t define them. A healthy adult twin relationship makes space for disagreements, ambivalence, and honesty.
The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of SnapwireSnaps.