What my complicated relationship with my twin has taught me about myself

Never ‘you’. Always ‘you two’.

I’ve rewritten this paragraph a hundred times over. Because while there is no denying that personality differences between my sister and I is part of the reason we have a strained relationship, I can’t help but think that part of it is due to external sources, mainly the actions (or maybe more importantly the words) of other people. And maybe the two on their own wouldn’t have been so detrimental to our relationship, but the two together were almost certainly a toxic combination.

Now while there’s obviously a lot more at work in our relationship dynamics than the things I will mention (as our relationship is both unique and complex), I will keep to only a few things for the sake of simplicity and privacy. So here’s a little background about us.

We’re pretty similar in a lot of regards, especially with what we like/dislike, our world views. But there are some differences that are pretty damn prominent. For one, our approaches to conflict are polar opposites. I tend to retreat and internalize my feelings. I run and hide. Or if I feel threatened, I often resort to verbal avenues to let off steam. She, on the other hand, is more assertive/aggressive in her approach, often resorting to physical avenues. I’d beat her up with my words and she’d beat me up with her fists. And I’ve always known words can hurt, that’s why I used them when I felt threatened. But it’s hard to comprehend just how much of an impact words can have. A bruise from a punch in the arm goes away after a week or two. But words. The marks they leave are long-term, if not permanent. I learned that the hard way.

So let’s talk about words.

“You’re prettier”. “She’s nicer”. “You’re smarter”. “She’s goofier”.

Imagine hearing stuff like that all the time growing up. You start to not only believe those things, but crave them. It becomes a source of validation. And I get it, it’s hard to see two people that look exactly alike and not be curious about the differences. And picking them out is okay. Differences are okay. But word choice is important here. Using comparators like “better” makes it out to be a competition. It pits one against the other, breeding resentment and jealousy.

And this is where I get stuck. It’s a “what came first” scenario and I can’t figure it out. Maybe I’ve always been insecure, had a competitive drive, and craved affirmation. Or maybe it stemmed from the constant bombardment of phrases like the ones I mentioned above. Either way, there’s no denying that those comparative phrases had a negative impact on our relationship.

The irony here though is that while we were being pitted against each other, we were simultaneously being grouped together. Where there is contrast there is comparison. Never just ‘you’, always ‘you two’. When one of us did something wrong, we both got punished. When one of us did something well, we both got praised.

We were expected to share friends, share experiences, share interests. It felt like I was always only ever getting a half of the whole. And this was particularly difficult for me because I needed my individuality. I needed to be different. Be my own person. And maybe this is a trait I’ve always had, but being paired together all the time definitely made me push harder for my own identity. I hated being a twin and I fought against it for the longest time.

I got upset if I found out my sister wanted to pursue the same hobbies or interests as me. I got jealous when ‘my friends’ became ‘our friends’. I was bitter. I was resentful. I was mean.

And while my attitude towards being a twin has changed since I’ve grown up and matured, I know that my words and actions from when I was younger damaged our relationship. Forgiving myself has been a long time coming. It was hard for me to not take all the blame. I felt responsible. But I couldn’t keep taking the entire blame for how our relationship has evolved, especially when I was actively making changes to better it. Yes, I am responsible for my words and actions. But I refuse to be defined by the past. It was exhausting and debilitating and it wasn’t going to make our relationship any better. That isn’t to say that the past hasn’t shaped our relationship, but now that we’re older there are other reasons (on top of the ones that we’ve carried with us) that keep us from having a healthy relationship. Ones that are out of my control.

I’ve made changes and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made, but I know there’s still room to grow. And my sister is only just starting to do the same. Her journey is a more personal one.

I hope that with time we can both heal from the past. Bu all I can do now is be patient and trusting in this process. We’ve got a long road ahead of us, but it’s a road I’m willing to walk. I’ve come to value being a twin. It’s a unique relationship that a lot of people can’t comprehend. She’s my person. My other half. So I’ll be damned if I let it fail…

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