I Don’t Want You to Be the Barometer of My Well-Being

A few years ago, I went out to lunch with an acquaintance and her adolescent identical twin boys. One of the boys accidentally knocked something off the table. What struck me about that incident was his twin’s reaction. Rather than expressing a more typical sibling response, such as calling his brother a name or making fun of him, the bystander twin was thoroughly humiliated and ashamed. He reacted as if both were responsible for the accident.

In many of my adult twin patients, a similar pattern occurs. For example, a female identical twin becomes enraged when she feels that her husband acts inappropriately in front of her twin sister. She complains that he talks too much and does not pick up on social cues. This behavior occurs frequently in many other social settings. My patient’s intolerant responses to her husband’s behavior seem to be the result of her belief that his actions reflect on her. She added that she felt similarly about her first husband, thinking that his being on the quiet side reflected poorly on her and her choice of a mate.

I pointed out that in many relationships, our significant other can exhibit traits that legitimately annoy us. I am quite sure it works both ways. However, if you feel like you are separate people, you need not react so vehemently.

Feeling as if someone is a reflection of you is built into twinships from very early on. Societal and parental expectations reinforce twin stereotypic thinking: “They look the same; they perform similarly; they represent an inexplicable bond; they are the same inside and out; they are each other’s best friend, playmate, and partner.” Twins frequently feel that if they were to defy stereotypes, they would let down their audience.

The multiple times twins are confused or taken for the other sibling builds up a tremendous sensitivity to and sensibility about being a positive reflection of the other. Unfortunately, outsiders see them as the same person, so either major or minor slip-ups condemn them both. Since parents appear to initiate the stereotypes and expectations that develop around their twins, they need to be mindful about making decisions that encourage and enhance separateness and individuality.


Photo by iSawRed on Unsplash


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