New Star

Twin Troubles

Much of our Twins Realm site focuses on the wonderful aspects of being twins; we like to celebrate the special relationship we have and the exceptional closeness we enjoy.

......But also part of the twin experience......

Mostly twins prefer not to talk about this aspect of twinship....... it's just too painful. It often involves tears and stirs up intense emotions and personal heartache.

It's important we do try to talk about it though, for ourselves and for others. Twins need to know they're not alone in these difficult experiences.

Maybe your personal story can help someone else in similar circumstances. Sharing your story and insight can help other twins get through their own difficult times.

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Most twins will experience twin troubles of some kind during their lives.
These troubles come in many different forms but are often:
  • enormously disruptive and damaging to the twin relationship
  • very difficult to resolve; and
  • not well understood by non-twins (making it hard to find help)

Some common types of twin troubles are listed below:
(click on link to go directly to that area or scroll down the page to view all stories)

Identity Issues
Partner Trouble
Constant Comparison

Separation and Loss

Companionship in Life
Sharing vs Mine

Most of these stories have been written by twins or parents and friends of twins. Please be aware that some stories may be upsetting as they discuss difficult issues such as twin loss and bereavement.

Twin Troubles
Identity Issues

Twins may be identical, but they're not interchangeable; people need to know this!

How to distinguish between us when we look so alike?

For identical twins, people not bothering to, or not being able to, distinguish between them is likely to reinforce the twins' tendency to be seen as a unit (the twins) rather than as two unique individuals.

Growing up I always thought of myself as an individual (as well as a twin) and it was strange to me that other people didn't see this as well.

(Just because we looked so much alike and hung out together all the time <grin>).

We were often called "the twins" and I guess at the time I didn't really mind. Looking back though I suppose it really was because people didn't see us as properly separate individuals.

Even our friends, who could easily tell us apart, sometimes referred to us as the twins rather than using our names. I think some of it is just people's laziness, not bothering to recognise and develop separate relationships, but I think some of it is also because twins have such a close bond that it sort of shuts other people out.

Problems with "unit identification" during early development mean that some twins find it hard to discover themselves as separate individuals (rather than one of a pair).

When my twin sister and I went our own seperate ways, it was hard to deal with being apart. It was difficult to contemplate "me" alone without my twin; she'd always been such an integral part of me. Who was I if she wasn't around?

Who are "we" versus who am "I"?

A big problems for identical twins (and fraternals, to a lesser extent) is what is known as individuation. This relates to the psychological issue of identifying as an individual.

For most singletons this occurs around the age of 3-4 years as they go through the "I" stage - learning to distinguish themselves from other people and things around them. Identical twins often experience this stage very differently from singletons. For twins it's not an "I" stage but instead, a "we" stage, where twins learn to distinguish only so far as "us" and "them" creating a unit style identification.

Many identical twins continue to relate to each other in this way into young adulthood and find themselves identifying as "we" instead of "I" even in their adult conversation.

The eventual results of this unit style identification vary considerably depending on the pair of twins involved and on the specific circumstances of their upbringing. Twins who do develop a very strong "we" identification often define themselves more through their differences from each other rather than with the eye of an individual.

Even into our mid-twenties we often used the pronoun "we" in place of "I" during conversations. I remember one time during a job interview having to give the interviewer a quick explanation why I was always saying we: "I'm actually an identical twin and we both worked for these same employers together". I guess it finally wore off though cause I find myself saying it a lot less these days.

Twins' identity issues often lead to problems for them during their teenage years. Like singletons at this age, twins are also seeking to define themselves, but for individual twins this often involves trying to redefine themselves as "not the same as their twin".

I cut my long hair into a much shorter style (to contrast with my sister's hair which she kept long). Some twins develop an unspoken agreement to split their roles or interests so each one strongly identifies with "her own" interest.

How identical twins cope with this teenage stage depends largely on their previous upbringing and the circumstances they find themselves in at this potentially difficult time. It can prove helpful if identical twins have a pre-established separate circle of friends, so that they are known as individuals within their peer groups rather than only as a twin pair.

People always ask "What's it like being a twin?" but I don't know what it's like to not be a twin. Being a twin is just part of who I am. It's hard to explain to non-twins.

Excerpt from: Identical Strangers: A memoir of twins separated and reunited (page 115) - by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

"Twin researchers make the claim that twins raised apart are more alike than twins raised together, who make an effort to differentiate themselves from each other. If Paula and I had been raised together, perhaps, wanting to accentuate our differences, only one of us would have studied film. Only one of us could have claimed our true nature. But there is no possibility of testing this hypothesis."

Identical twins are not clones of one another; each one is unique in spite of their similar external appearance!

My twin and I always received almost identical marks in all our subjects at school - it was lucky because it meant we didn't have to put up with being labeled the smart one versus the dumb one (like some twin pairs do). We both strove to keep our grade as high as possible, which was usually within a mark or two of each other. Unfortunately, when you look and achieve so much alike it's too easy for everyone to think you are actually "the same" (like a clone) rather than just very similar in your looks and talents.

I've always thought that I looked very different from my twin sister, even though we're identical twins. Often other people can't tell the difference though, which means we have to make obvious ways for them to be able to tell us apart or else they're always mixing us up and they don't even think it matters!

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Intense ambivalence

Twins often have strong ambivalent feelings towards one another. They may express that they love each other beyond anyone else in the world and yet they also feel the constriction of their intensely close twin relationship.

Their twin is often close to their 'ideal' companion, someone who always understands them and knows how they feel. Yet, having someone who knows them so well can be stifling, making them feel smothered.

They want to be free from the restrictions and burdens the twin relationship places on them and yet they don't want to be apart or estranged from their twin.

These opposing ideas and feelings can be very distressing and confusing.

It might be fun to fool people by switching places (and they sure love using this as a plot line in trashy novels) but in reality twins can't be simply switched for each other. For a short time you can act like each other and maybe even fool people close to you, but ultimately even identical twins are different.

When I was 14 years old my identical twin and I spent a year apart. She was popular and because she already had a boyfriend another boy admirer decided he 'loved me instead' even though he'd never met me!

My twin told me about this like it was some type of compliment, but that's not what I thought. I was annoyed not flattered.

To me it was just another example how people don't understand what it's like to grow up as an identical twin. They tend to make twin troubles even worse because of their ignorance. Being a teenager is hard enough without being an identical twin too.

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Twin Troubles
Constant Comparison

People say "If your twin's good at this why aren't you?" - you're the same after all!

It's bad enough that you compare yourselves all the time, you certainly don't need other people to do it too. I guess people can't help it but maybe if they understood the damage they're doing they wouldn't say it then.

Identical twins compare themselves with each other - unfortunately so does everyone else! This is the root cause of many major problems for identical twins as they move into adulthood and intimate relationships.

Constant comparison can cause major difficulties for the twins especially if they are unmatched in some areas. Some people fall into the trap of identifying these areas and labeling the twins with "she's the pretty one" or "smart one" or "she's the bad one, always in trouble". Obviously this type of comparison and generalisation is very damaging to the twins involved. Both twins receive unrealistic roles (which they may even strive to achieve) and sometimes they even come to resent one another, which can severly damage their close twin bond.

One of the other pitfalls comes from outsiders not being able to tell the differences (or not taking the effort to). Especially when identical twins look so much alike (which we so often do!) it is too easy to see them as two copies of one person or as a single unit (not as two closely bonded individuals). This is very detrimental to the twin psyche and often overflows into the twins' relationship causing irreparable damage.

Excerpt from: We Are Twins, But Who Am I? (page 10) - by Betty Jean Case

"Our lives were probably easier in many ways because we lived apart. If we had been raised in one home, like other twins, there would have been a constant hassle to be different from the other twin," Tim said.

Researchers have discovered that twins like Bill and Tim who have grown to maturity without the pervasive influence of an identical twin to modify behavior are actually more similar to one another than those who have been raised together.

As Alice Vollmer, a writer whose subject often is twins, wrote, "Twins raised separately have no chance to interact or be compared to one another. Twins growing up together often work to create identities distinct from one another. To cut down on comparison, they may choose different activities, friends or clothing."

We always achieved as close to the same as possible. We didn't really want to outdo each other or else one of us would feel bad about it. The one who achieved less would have felt their failure, and the other twin would feel bad that their twin's feelings were hurt!

We liked that we were evenly matched at stuff. Mostly just our natural similarities made this possible but once or twice we actually had to struggle to make it come out that way.

Some twins attempt to avoid the constant comparison by magnifying their differences - both physical and personal. They might change their look or follow different trends specifically to be different. They might pursue other interests so that they're not in direct competition over their talents and skills. Each twin will specialise in 'their own' areas so people will see how different they are.

Sometimes these divisions even extend to dividing up emotions.

My sister always thought of herself as the strong one and tried to act that way all the time. Now it means that it's very hard for her to cry and let go of her emotions because she sees that as an area that "belongs" to me.


We both have strong leadership qualities but my twin's always been the leader of the two of us. If I'm in a situation without her, only then I'll step up.

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Twin Troubles
in life

Being born with a near ideal companion means that you get a good experience of what true companionship can be like, very early on.

Later in life this can cause you to be very demanding of your other partner's time and energy. You have to understand maybe the intense closeness is too much for a non-twin.


As a twin you start out your life with a built-in companion for life!

For the early years this is mostly a very positive experience as you've always got someone to play with and keep you company.

Especially in relationships between identical twins, having a person that is so much like you, in tastes, preferences and thinking, means that it seems like they're actually able to read your mind (or maybe they really can!).

This early experience tends to mean that you can set very high, if not unachievable, expectations on partners and friends. Mostly you expect them to just know what you want or need (or even what you meant to say when you don't say anything). After all your twin always had a pretty good idea without you having to say anything. <wink>

For some people being "two halves of a whole" works fine and they enjoy this very close relationship. For others though, it can be just too overwhelming! Your twin often understands things other people don't. Your twin knows so much about you and shares a united history. Often we think the same, like things the same way and can predict each other's reactions. Lots of twins I know treasure and love the intense closeness they experience in their twin relationship.
I find it very difficult to be happy being alone. I feel a deep-seated need to share my life with another person.

Excerpt from: We Are Twins, But Who Am I? (jacket cover) - by Betty Jean Case

"While most people begin life as separate human beings and must learn intimacy, twins are born into intimacy and must learn how to find separateness."


When I was 20 years old my identical twin sister and I were sharing a house. She said to me that I needed to find someone else who would be my partner for life because that wouldn't be her. Although this was a shock to me I took her at her word and decided to do just that.

Years later she recanted her statement saying she'd only said it because of other people's pressure of what our relationship "should" be; she really didn't mean it herself! Unfortunately our relationship was already irreparably altered by then.

Psychological problems of twinship

Identical twin relationships generally seem to fall into three main categories:

  1. Extremely close twins who may live together all their lives (and often have a difficult time allowing other people into the twin sphere).
  2. Moderately close twins who have managed a closeness without too much 'control' of one another's lives.
  3. Distant twins (who have found the twin relationship unmanageable) and have become, often completely, estranged from one another.

On some level I have always envied the ones who happily find themselves in category one. While it might appear to the 'outside world' that they are "too close" I think these twins have actually managed to recognise the intense wonder of their situation (being born with a twin) and have discovered their 'soul mate' within their twinship.

I think the 'most healthy' psychologically are the twins in category two who have managed to keep a high level of closeness with their twin but also found happiness and relationships elsewhere.

I believe that twins who find themselves in the third category have usually done so because of some type of cataclysmic event (brought about by deeper seated twin issues) that has caused a massive split in their close twin bond/relationship and driven them apart.

I am an identical twin and coming up to my (or should I say "our") 30th birthday. My sister and I have been very, very close all our lives. We liked the same subjects in high school and so shared most of our classes. We've shared most of the same friends; we shared a house and a car for years after moving out of home. We worked together in the same office and for the most part really enjoyed the closeness of our relationship. Although there are many benefits of such a close relationship it can also makes for some major difficulties.

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Twin Troubles
Partner Issues


Identical twins can be very demanding of their partners' time and attention. For more about this also see:

in life

Twinship is a partnership role that no-one else can fill and it seems only twins themselves truly understand this. In the documentary The Secret World of Twins, one of a set of identical twins who had married identical twins, summed it up by saying "you can always get another partner but you can't get another twin". Her partner wasn't jealous or upset because he understood exactly what she meant (being a twin himself).

My sister and I have had our own difficulties with partners not understanding our close twin relationship and the jealousy that can eventuate from this (from both sides).

We thought the idea of dating or marrying another twin, who could truly understand this aspect of your life, had a lot of merit. To help twins meet other twins we started the online dating site Exclusively Twins (you must be a twin or multiple to join).

Try to be patient with others and remember to explain things to them more clearly; because they're not your twin they often don't get what you mean with only one word or a meaningful look - and usually aren't telepathic either!

Excerpt from: Twin And Triplet Psychology: A Professional Guide to Working with Multiples (pages 182-183) - Edited by Audrey C. Sandbank

"Expectations that are brought to a marriage can be high. Most of us are hoping to find a soul mate, but may be prepared to settle for less. Twins, who for many years have lived with someone who understood their moods and feelings and who may have intuitively known what they were thinking or what they would like to do, may feel disappointed and cheated if their new partner fails to live up to such standards."

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Twin Troubles
Separation and Loss

.......... Alone ..........

The most difficult and challenging concept for twins to face.

When contemplating the death of their twin and the thought of being alone, most twins will reel back in horror.

The worst thought in the world is to be without your twin!

Exerpt from: Twin And Triplet Psychology: A Professional Guide to Working with Multiples (page 179) - Edited by Audrey C. Sandbank

"The most frightening prospect for many twins is the loss of the co-twin. Elizabeth Bryan (Chapter 11) shows how the death of a twin is probably the most traumatic event in the surviving twin's life, often greater than that of the death of a spouse."


Twinship is forever. I've never known what it's like to not be a twin. It worries me that one day we really will be separated (by death) but I try not to think about it.


Excerpt from The Lone Twin: Understanding twin bereavement and loss (page 11) - by Joan Woodward

"Some of the twins spoke about how, after the death of their twin, they took over their characteristics, becoming more like the twin that had died."

Excerpt from: The Lone Twin: Understanding twin bereavement and loss (page 13) - by Joan Woodward

"The most obvious feature of this loss, and one described so many times to me was a deep, disturbing sense of loneliness. I believe that it is difficult for singletons fully to comprehend this, because they have never had this notion of twinship as providing half of the percption of themselves.

If a spouse dies, the sense of loss in the partner can be devastating, but the person does have a memory of themselves before they were married and some of them may marry again. If a child dies, this can be an agony for the parent that is beyond description, but some of them may at least be able to continue in their parenting role with other children, or even have another child. For twins, they have never known what it was not to be a twin, so that in some sense the twin loss is not comparable with other losses."

Some twins say, after their twin has passed, that the idea of dying isn't as scary to them anymore because they know their twin will be there waiting for them. It's important for lone/twinless twins to know they are not the only ones facing this experience. Other lone twins share the same intense feelings of loss. Some comfort and help can be gained from this knowledge and from connecting with other twins who can truely understand.

yin-yang Click here for links to twinless twin organisations

yin-yang Click here for books about twin loss

My sister and I (identical twins) shared a room and bunk beds until we were 11. Our first attempt at having our own rooms didn't really work out - usually we'd just go and sleep together in one of our rooms for company. Mum was at a loss as to why we wanted our own rooms when we never actually used them. We usually ended up together in one room instead. It's strange to try to sleep by yourself after so long and can even be a bit scary to be alone. It wasn't really till we were teenagers that we finally enjoyed having our own independent rooms.
I've always loved being a twin and in spite of any pain it has brought (mostly through separation or isolation from my twin) I still believe it is the most wonderful relationship and the most special gift anyone could have.

Separation issues are really, really hard for twins.

Despite being close for so many years - or perhaps because of it - my twin sister and I are having severe relationship difficulties. We have been separated emotionally for years and it's been a really difficult time for both of us; probably the hardest of our lives. I'm trying my best to see the positives of being apart and to use the time to come to a better understanding of twinship and the important role it has for me.

Because the twin bond is so strong being apart can seem to be almost physically painful. When you're very close you think about each other a lot. It means when you're apart you miss each other all the more. Talking to each other on the phone can help but just watch out for the massive phone bills!

During our 'breakup', we tried a few counseling sessions but without proper understanding of the twin relationship, and what it means to you as a twin, it's very hard for any counselor to understand what to do. We seemed intent on patching things up because we both agreed our relationship was "the most important thing in the world to us" but somehow in spite of this strongly held belief we just weren't able to do it.

Because we know each other so well, twins know how to hurt each other and we know how to 'push each others buttons'. Feelings run deep and emotions run high and without knowledegable (twin) assistance it's very hard to understand the intricacies of the twin relationship. There's a risk that singleton counsellors will just label this close style of twinship as 'codependent' and focus only on the negatives without understanding and acknowledging the massive positives that the twin relationship also offers.

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Twin Troubles
Sharing vs mine
Growing up we always shared a birthday party. We had all the same friends so it made sense. For the party mum would make us separate (but identical) birthday cakes. We'd all sing happy birthday together and then we'd both blow out our candles and cut our matching cakes at the same time.

As kids there wasn't really an "I" except when it came to making sure things were totally equal between the pair of us. She shouldn't have anything more or better than me and vice versa (which can be very hard work for parents).

To make it easier when dividing up shared food (like chocolate bars etc) we devised a system between us of "you cut and I'll pick" - or could be the other way round ;-) "I'll cut and you pick". End result was that one of us would do their absolute best to cut the item into two exactly even pieces because they knew if there was any variation in size, they'd likely be left with the smaller piece. :-)

Later on, when we met up with other adult twins, we found this same system was actually "invented" by lots of twins as a way of fair and equal sharing - it certainly wasn't unique to us.
Because we looked the same and had the same taste in clothes we'd often borrow each other's stuff but we always made sure we asked first - or else there'd be trouble! We shared a room until we were teenagers which worked out pretty well. We argued plenty but we loved each other's company and wouldn't have wanted separate rooms anyway. Sometimes you might resent having to share everything but mostly it's a good lesson for life. I think these earlier sharing skills lead you to be a more compassionate person (because you're used to thinking about others) and also it makes you better at negotiation and compromise - good life skills.

Sharing friends can be hard. We used to share a group of friends but we each had our own 'best friend'.

When we were little kids mum used to buy us matching things but in different colours. Usually I got blue and my twin sister got red. We sort of made a silent agreement to 'own' these colours. Even much later after we were all grown up my sister would frown at me if I wore something red, like I was stepping on her toes.

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Twin Troubles

Where to find help?

Twinship is an exclusive club that you're born into.


You're not alone, you are part of a huge twin community.

Remember to ask for help if you need it!

As twins we don't like to talk about twin troubles. The topic's too painful and we'd rather put any bad memories in the past. One unfortunate side-effect of this is that twins are frequently left to muddle through any crisis by themselves.

When twins are experiencing difficulties in their twinship or perhaps with separating from their twin (for college, marriage or some other reason) they may feel that no-one around them really understands what they're going through.

The many other twins who have experienced the same thing in their lives, don't want to look back at painful times or relive any of the sadness they felt. Non-twins on the other hand, don't realise that the level of pain you may experience is closer to that felt by people who are divorcing, than to someone losing a friend when their family moves away!

We, as a twin community, need to help each other through the hard times and help others to better understand the additional challenges we face as twins.

We are not just singletons born together - we are twins!

The psychology of being a twin is still little understood. Thankfully this situation is finally beginning to change; it seems twins themselves are studying twinship. Also some interesting work is being produced by parents and family members of twins.

Practical suggestions for those suffering separation from their twin for the first time can be more useful than statements like "Keep your chin up!" and "You'll look back on this as a growing experience". In fact, it will be a hard time, and you should be ready to ask for help when you need it - either from friends or family, through the internet or from other twin groups.

Twins in trouble need someone who's able to offer them sensible and helpful advice, given with compassion. For example, investigate the best phone plan for the two of you - it's easy to run up huge bills if you are used to talking to each other every day. Discuss how you will be getting together again - who will visit who, and when will that happen? Then you have something to look forward to while you're getting accustomed to the change. Set up your PCs with web-cams if you can, so you can see each other while you chat, or even just while you work.

Talking with people who understand what you're going through can be very helpful. Lots of internet chat and mailing groups are now available. Join up to one of the many twin based groups already established - or start one yourself. Here's a couple to get you started.

Yahoo Adult Twins mailing list - - - - Twins Stuff Forum area

Note: These external sites are maintained by other individuals and should not be held responsible for any information contained on their pages.


Twin Books
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I believe the twin bond is a very special thing and a real blessing but it does make for some twin-specific problems. A few of these difficulties are the constant comparisons from others, troubles with individual identity and being separated from your twin.

I've found a disappointing lack of information for adult twins but I have read some interesting books that people might find helpful. The following books all contain personal stories from twins:

These books are all written by twins (or by parents of twins) and try to give some real insight into twinship through telling personal stories. While they don't necessarily give specific strategies on dealing with twin troubles, it does help to know that your experiences are often shared by other twins. Personal stories can inspire you and others.

If you're having problems with your twinship try 'couple's counseling' to talk things through. Marriage-like relationships are the closest thing to twinship and so marriage counselors have a better chance of understanding. If you can find an actual twin counselor all the better!

We are born with a special relationship and closeness that many singletons spend their entire lives searching for. Our twinship is a wonderful thing but also sometimes a hard and challenging thing. Support from other twins and their understanding and compassion for the sadness of separation has been helpful for me during difficult times. Sometimes the closeness and understanding of other twins can however, also be a painful reminder of your own twinship. It helps to remember that other twins have experienced these same types of twin troubles too.

yin-yang Click here for links to twinless twin organisations

yin-yang Click here for books about twin loss

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For other stories about what it's like being a twin,
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