When Is Enough, Enough?

I recently had a conversation with a young woman in her midthirties about her fraternal twin brother. She and her brother got along well all their lives. They went to separate colleges and lived and worked in different cities until six months ago. Prior to her brother moving to the same city, they spent time with one another on family vacations and visited one another perhaps once or twice a year.

Now that her brother lives close by, she feels imposed on by his expectations and lack of boundaries. She is married and has a busy career. Her husband is very understanding about her brother wanting to spend time with them while he adjusts to a new community and a new job. Nonetheless, this patient feels annoyed by her brother’s desire to spend so much time with her and her husband. While she understands his concerns, she does not want their relationship to be tainted by her resentment and frustration. Intellectually, she recognizes that she must have a conversation with him about her feelings and needs; emotionally, she fears hurting him and making him feel unwelcome.

I can empathize with the dilemma this woman faces. This type of conversation is difficult and scary. Nonetheless, she must find the courage to have an honest discussion with her brother to preserve the love and intimacy that they share. I also pointed out that she and her husband are hindering her brother’s efforts to create his own community by continuing to include him in their activities. Hanging out with them all the time will not help him find new friends who will enhance his quality of life in his new environment.

While setting boundaries with a loved one may feel callous, failure to do so can result in estrangement. Honesty and authenticity offer an opportunity to communicate openly about what is important to each twin.

Image courtesy of Ace Armstrong (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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