Healthy adult twins do not feel imprisoned by their twinship. They have acknowledged each other’s right to be separate and unique while maintaining their special connection. They have worked through feelings of ambivalence, competition, and jealousy, and each has evolved into an individuated self. They care deeply about one another and recognize and respect each other’s autonomy and choices. They enjoy being together but do not require exclusive possession of one other in order to cope with life or other relationships.
My most recent adult twin consultations have focused upon the difficulties that a number of adult twins encounter when one of the twins is moving in a developmental direction to be on one’s own while the other one is not. I believe it is helpful to think about these troublesome adult twin transitions as co-dependent issues. Since numerous twin pairs have been emotionally reliant upon one another for many years, they unwittingly develop an unhealthy dependence upon one another. Very few people seem to question or be attuned to this codependency because “twins” are expected to experience an extraordinary closeness and intimacy.
In my soon-to-be published book for adult twins entitled MY TWIN, MY SELF, I address this issue of divergent twin agendas in the chapter titled “Separation Blues”. When one twin seeks out a relationship outside of the twinship, both may experience difficulty coping with the new attachments. The twin in the new relationship feels guilty and selfish for “replacing” his twin, and the “abandoned” twin feels angry, resentful, and disappointed that he is no longer the first priority in his twin’s life. These circumstances contribute to tremendous conflict, misunderstanding, and anguish for all concerned. The fact that so many twins and their families are not aware of these dynamics makes these inevitable consequences even more daunting.
Certain tips and suggestions may help to ameliorate the emotional tensions that bubble up when co-dependent behavior patterns are disrupted. First, one has to recognize and admit that he or she is an “enabler”. An enabler helps someone who should or is capable of doing things on his own. It is the antithesis of a helper, who helps someone do what he or she cannot do on his own. For example, often one twin feels resentful and at the same time obligated about including her twin in her dating life because her sister is alone, jealous, and depressed. The content twin is emotionally conflicted by her tremendous confusion about how to manage the connection and the separateness. How does she nurture her new relationship and simultaneously sustain her loyalty, attentiveness, and availability to her twin?
It requires tremendous patience and perseverance to tolerate painful and anxiety provoking situations with your twin that you cannot fix. Twins have to be especially vigilant about not taking responsibility for their twins’ actions and about not being seduced back into the old relationship by feelings of guilt or selfishness. One must be consistent with newly drawn boundaries and limits in terms of personal time and responsibilities.
One’s reframed twin mindset should reflect the feeling that I WANT to be around my twin rather than I NEED her around. “…there is an essential difference between missing one’s twin and needing her” (Emotionally Healthy Twins, pg.115). Each twin must recognize that both need to develop new behaviors so that they can alleviate the turmoil between them and nurture respectful attitudes about the new attachments in both of their lives. It is similar to the progressive changes that children need to acclimate to following a separation, divorce, or second marriage. It requires time, tolerance, and acceptance, and it opens up the possibilities for newly created, healthy life long twin intimacy.
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