Many young-adult twins live together out of necessity or by choice. Their situation appears to work well until a change in one twin’s circumstances disrupts the twin dynamic, causing disharmony or disparity. For instance, one begins to date seriously, one achieves significant financial success, or one finds his own social group that does not include his twin.
A twenty-seven-year-old man whom I shall call Michael confides that he is at his wit’s end trying to care for his twin, Bruce. Bruce does not enjoy his job and makes considerably less money. Since he tends to be shy and anxious, he has had little success at developing his own social network. Michael relates that he repeatedly tried to help Bruce look for a different job and include him in social events that Michael attends. Michael attests that the brothers’ increasing frustration with one another is causing frequent verbal confrontations that leave both upset and dejected.
Michael feels trapped by his ambivalent feelings. He longs to live on his own but cannot fathom the guilt and shame he will suffer if he abandons Bruce. This is an excruciating decision—how does one separate from one’s twin without creating irreparable emotional harm?
I advise the many twins who find themselves in this conundrum to consider the damaging consequences that can result from overrelying on one another. While not exactly the same, parents who impede their children’s separation and independence encounter these same psychological predicaments. Changing one’s ways sooner rather than later is key. The longer the overreliance persists, the more difficulty both twins will have assuming responsibility and developing resilience. Each has so much to lose and so little to gain if this unhealthy dynamic is perpetuated and encouraged.
Bruce needs to learn to advocate for himself and move on with his life. Michael needs to renounce his caretaker’s guilt and attend to his own needs. Without this opportunity to go it alone, neither will be able to embrace his individual accomplishments or preserve an affectionate twin relationship.