I received an email from a distraught young woman describing how her boyfriend of five years struggles with divided loyalties between her and his identical twin brother. The young woman says that her boyfriend’s twin frequently requires rescuing due to chronic problems with drug use and unemployment. Her boyfriend’s family has always been insistent that he take care of his less fortunate twin. The family resents their son being in a committed relationship because it derails his commitment to his brother’s care. As a result, they blame the girlfriend for fragmenting the twin attachment.
I imagine that the young woman writing this email is at her wit’s end. Either consciously or unconsciously, she must feel defeated and frustrated that her boyfriend seems unable to make significant decisions so that she can get on with her life—with or without him. She is certainly not being treated with the respect and devotion that she deserves. I think that she was initially optimistic that her boyfriend would find a solution to this conundrum. She had no idea when she became involved with this young man that his twinship might lead to a break-up.
However, as many intimate partners of twins discover, some twins suffer from tremendous heartache, sadness, and a sense of betrayal when they switch their allegiance away from their sibling. My heart goes out to all of the involved parties. This disconcerted young man has been forewarned by his family that refusing to accommodate his twin’s needs will result in being abandoned by the rest of his family members. So, he must choose between his loving girlfriend and his demanding family.
Sadly, this scenario is not terribly uncommon. One gentleman shared his experience of being married to an identical twin. Fortunately for both him and his wife, they had a nine-year relationship before they married, and he helped his wife navigate many of the separation difficulties that arose between the sisters. Those long years together facilitated a smooth transition to new dyadic and triadic dynamics.
With a big smile on his face, this gentleman told me a story about the twin sisters. At his wedding, his wife’s twin was the maid of honor; she defiantly wore tennis shoes rather than dress shoes underneath her gown. She claimed not to have had time to buy an appropriate pair of wedding shoes! Both he and his wife were able to laugh about her twin’s passive-aggressive behavior rather than feel angry or disrespected.
When I give presentations, I often discuss the struggles of the many people who contacted me over the years about the emotional difficulties of being involved with a twin. Men and women alike have suffered because of their significant other’s relationship with a twin sibling. I frequently muse that twins who marry twins skillfully avoid this emotional upheaval.
Image courtesy of Stas Knop from Pexels