As I describe in my book The Same but Different, twins feel relieved when they can talk about their problems with a fellow twin. Twins have a unique emotional trajectory that does not parallel the experience of different-age siblings.
Most siblings are able to express how they feel about their brother or sister. They feel comfortable arguing for status and position without incurring much guilt or opposition. Twins, on the other hand, frequently do not experience this emotional freedom. While twins expectably argue and vie for “me first” exhaustively throughout the day, often they feel guilty because the closeness they feel toward their rivalrous other is unlike that of different-age siblings. Twins have a difficult time integrating their ambivalence—their expectable love and resentment toward one another. This emotional challenge predictably extends into adulthood and becomes particularly disturbing as each twin makes different life choices concerning a mate, a job, or a place to live.
Most people do not worry excessively about how their life choices will affect their siblings. Naturally, most brothers and sisters want to have harmonious relationships; however, they do not feel as if their life choices will dutifully affect their sibling connections. Many twins, however, have tremendous concerns: Will my twin sister get along with my husband? How can I make sure that she does not feel left out? How will my twin sister feel if I am married and she is not? What if I have children and she does not? How do I make room for her in my life without alienating my husband? Who is number one now?
While these are issues that most nontwins do not worry about, many twin pairs become paralyzed about moving ahead with their separate lives because of these concerns. These difficulties can be handled appropriately when parents help their twins individuate early. Twins fortunate enough to have had separate experiences along with a strong connection to their parents have much less difficulty living a happy, individuated life that will not be crucially affected by their twin’s emotional needs or life circumstances.
How strongly does being a twin affect your life choices?