When the Bough Breaks

I realize I have written about this issue previously; however, each time this situation comes to my attention, I become terribly upset and feel as if I must educate others to take heed.

A concerned mother of 15-year-old identical twins called me to ask for help regarding her daughters’ social woes and difficulties.

She explained that they have no friends. Both girls feel as if they have made attempts to connect with their peers, but to no avail. When they try to make separate friends, the separate friends eventually pair up with one another—leaving the twins socially isolated and together, yet again.

In response to my questions about their exposure to separate activities, mom shared that one of the girls attended a religious camp last summer for a week by herself. Her daughter returned home emotionally traumatized. Apparently, she was ostracized by the other girls and consequently felt humiliated and abandoned.

The mother attempted to put the twins in separate classes in second grade but eventually gave in to the girls’ insistence that they be together. Although they have many separate classes in high school, they spend hours together practicing for cross-country and track. They train in the mornings before school and in the afternoons participate jointly on their school sports teams.

The mother and I talked a bit about how adolescents during this developmental time frame are struggling with challenges of becoming more separate and autonomous. I explained that some adolescents, seeing teen twins together all of the time, may perceive the twins’ connection as strange or weird. Teenagers are struggling to find peer groups they can identify with that will make them feel grown-up and independent.

I was terribly sad to hear that the girls summarily ignored their mother’s guidance about addressing their social paralysis. They told her that they like being together and that they won’t break their bond for the benefit of gaining friends. Both affirmed that doing things separately for personal growth is breaking their bond, and they are unwilling to subject themselves to the possibility of more rejection and isolation.

I explained to this mother that this social dynamic is not uncommon in the relationship between identical twin girls. Their social backwardness and overreliance on their twin relationship have inhibited their learning how to manage the harsh realities of peer interactions. Attempting to inject some optimism into the situation, I brought up having the girls ponder the possibility of attending separate colleges. I am quite sure that, underlying their emotional surrender to the “twin togetherness bargain,” both harbor a real desire to find out about life as a separate person.

Let me know in the comment section if you’ve encountered this situation.


Photo courtesy of Gideon. CC by 2.0

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