Five Reasons Why Your Twins Dislike Each Other

For the most part, my teenage twin sons get along very well. But like all siblings, they have their moments. Big, loud, smack-down moments. It’s never easy to hear them speak rudely to one another, or worse, physically push or punch, but I only intervene when I see there’s an intent to kill.

Just kidding about the killing part. Well, kinda.

I’m lucky that my boys actually like each other. But that’s not always the case with every set of multiples. Not all twins are soul mates (including my own). Many twins are not best friends. In fact, some twins downright hate each other. (OK, hate is a strong word but it is an adjective that some twins use to describe their feelings for their same-age sibling.)

In the 15+ years since I’ve been writing on the subject of twins, I’ve received a fair amount of e-mail from distraught parents asking why their twins don’t get along. Although every set of twins is different and the circumstances surrounding the animosity that they feel for each other may be deep-seated, there are a few basic reasons why twins might dislike each other.

1. The Twin Mystique.

two boys fighting over a stuffed animalWhether born identical or fraternal, twins are first and foremost siblings, and all siblings fight. Yet to the outside world, twins have always been something more. Something fascinating and mystical. Our society sees twins as soul mates, inseparable from the moment of conception, their happiness dependent solely on the strength of their bond. Psychologist Joan Friedman, author of Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children, calls these misconceptions the Twin Mystique, the idea that twins are nothing without each other.

Yet some twins simply can’t live up to this romanticized view of twinship. How could they as they would deny their own individuality in the process? The pressure to fulfill these cultural expectations may prove too much for some multiples, resulting in anger and resentment towards the one person they believe is holding them back—a cotwin.

2. Twins Lack Privacy and the Chance to Fly Solo.

Being the same age and many times, the same sex, twins are automatically grouped together. They often share a bedroom, a classroom, a yearly birthday party, many of the same friends and many of the same after-school activities. They rarely get a chance to do anything without their cotwin. In fact, research has shown that the average twin doesn’t spend a night apart from a cotwin until age 14, compared to a single-born child who ventures away from the family for a sleepover or summer camp for the first time by age 9. That’s a gap of five years! Furthermore, they are expected to be comfortable sharing every aspect of their lives. In short, twins aren’t afforded the same opportunities for privacy and solo adventures as single-born children. And when you’re a child, unable to fully articulate your need for space, your desire to break free from living your life as a pair, it can manifest itself in other ways such as resentment towards a cotwin.

3. The Couple Effect.

In his research back in the 1970s, French psychologist, Rene Zazzo, found that twins who grew up together often tried to exaggerate their differences in order to be seen as individuals while those twins who were separated at birth and then reunited as adults often found that they were remarkably similar. Zazzo called this twin phenomenon The Couple Effect. There is sometimes a conflict within the twin relationship, he wrote, between the attachment to the other twin and the sudden need for differentiation, personal autonomy and independence. For some twins, the need to be seen as different from one’s cotwin can far outweigh maintaining a strong relationship with that cotwin.

4. Twins Have Been Raised to Feel Responsible for Each Other.

Some twins (including my own) feel a responsibility towards the welfare and happiness of their cotwin. Yet that constant accountability for someone else (Is he happy? Is he lonely? Do I need to step in and help him?) can be burdensome for some twins. The result? Uncomfortable with the role of guardian, many twins pull away, distancing themselves from their cotwin.

5. They Don’t Get Enough Parental Attention.

Sometimes with twins, we tend to let them parent each other. It’s starts when they’re young and we don’t get down on the floor and play with them as often as we would if they were born singly. We don’t need to—they have each other to entertain. So as they grow up, their relationship with each other strengthens while the parent-child bond never gets a chance to fully form. But for many twins, they simply can’t sustain that level of intensity with their cotwins.

Tips for Parents Whose Twins Dislike Each Other:

  • Give up on the Twin Mystique. See your twins are two separate individuals with two distinct personalities, and treat them as such. Being a twin does not give you any special powers.
  • Avoid dressing your twins alike, always encourage each child to explore his or her own interests, hobbies, and sports. In fact, introduce each child to different interests, hobbies, and sports!
  • Prepare your twins for classroom separation starting when they’re toddlers and separate them in school as soon as you feel they’re ready.
  • Allow for differences and disagreements between your twins. For instance, never say, “Don’t be mad at him; he’s your twin.” Sibling rivalry and arguments are a normal part of growing up. If you don’t allow for the negative feelings to be openly discussed, they’ll simply go underground where they will fester.
  • Offer as much privacy as possible. If separate bedrooms are out of the question, at least insist on respect for each twin’s personal belongings. Never insist on sharing; we all deserve our own “things.”
  • Never compare one twin’s behavior to the other as a way of shaming (“Why can’t you be neater like your twin brother?”) or as an incentive. (“If you get an ‘A’ in Spanish like your twin sister, I’ll take you both shopping.”)
  • Find opportunities for each twin to live life (temporarily) as a singleton. Separate after-school activities, separate summer camps, separate schools if each is on a different academic path. What about separate birthday parties? If one gets invited out to a party or sleepover, don’t insist that the other tag along, too. Allow each twin the opportunity to live life as an individual, not as a pair.
  • Always insist that each twin be responsible for his or her own life. If they both require lunch money, don’t give the money to the ‘responsible one’ but give them both lunch money! Never ask one twin to “keep an eye out” for the other or spy on him.
  • It’s never too late to start spending more one-on-one time with each child. It not only builds trust between you and your child but it also gives each twin the opportunity to confide in YOU.


27 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why Your Twins Dislike Each Other

  1. cierra

    I wish I could have given this article to my family 30 years ago. Ugh….all of this is true. The sharing, comparing, just the whole thing. I am 35 years old and I absolutely hate being a twin. I love my sister but I wish I was not a twin. I constantly moved around the country to get away from her, my family and me feeling responsible for her. This article really hit home for me. Thank you.

    1. Blackbee

      I was just about to share my feelings when I read your comment, i’m leaving the island shortly and its mainly to get away from my twin…. I’ve thought about her dying sometimes and I cry because I know its wrong but i’m the guardian and have always been treated that way ever since I was a toddler, and my parents and everyone in my life defined me that way. We dressed alike, we’ve never been away from each other until we graduated University. We’ve shared the same bed, same room, same everything. I’m twenty-two years and we still share room. I’ve bottled everything I feel from childhood, and now I resent her. I cant even stand to look and her, and we haven’t spoken in 6 months and living in the same room because of its convenience. We’ve had major fights and its embarrassing but I think cutting the cord is the best thing I can do now. Maybe then i’d learn to appreciate her. I have other sibling and I’ve never stayed mad at them from more than a day, I love them so much but I just don”t feel that way for my twin.

  2. James

    This is all so true. Me and my brother have been breed to believe that we cant survive without each other ( not from my mother but mostly by my father who referred to us as “the Twins”) we are both in college and 20 years old now and our problems are more prominent then ever. Any little thing that he does bothers me and I feel that he feels a constant need to control me. Please Encourage your twins to go to different colleges. The last thing I will say is something that another set of twins told me long ago. “You are one person, your bother is another person. You AND your brother are an imaginary persona that people expect to always meet; You don’t have to live up to their expextations”

    1. Cece

      Finally I am not alone with feeling the way I do about my Twin Sister. I’ve tired to get away from her but something just keeps pulling me back. I don’t hate my twin but I just don’t like being around her. I don’t think I’m wrong for feeling this way maybe she feels the same.

  3. Kayona

    I have a set of identical twins boys of whom are now 54 years old and they very rarely get along, they never agree with one another and are usually very nasty with one another when they get together and I sometimes have to ask one of them to depart in order to get some kind of peace and it breaks my heart, yet when one of them is in trouble, say medically or broke down somewhere they some how know that something is wrong and will go to the others rescue, it drives me crazy and I stay dumb founded most of the time. Hard to handle

  4. hashan

    This is so true.I hate being a twin.I alaways had to share everything.and all those people compering i hate me and my brother go to deferent colleges.

  5. Mary

    I feel horrible tonight. After 5 years of not getting pregnant, we did IVF. I was excited to have twins. Now, hearing them treat each other the way they do, I see I’ve not done well with encouraging their autonomy from the start. They are fraternal and we didn’t dress them alike. But they went to a small school until 5th grade and never cultivated separate friendships. While I encouraged people not to invite both of them, they always did. Now, in 7th grade they rarely get asked by anyone. Reading the article, I can see now that one boys boundary to not help his brother was not stingy. It was a step toward differentation. One is far more charismatic and not a strong acsdemic. The other more introverted and strong academically. We’ve unconsciously cultivated a reliance and a repulsion. And I want to go a different direction. I’m worried about each of them. I also wonder if entering into adolescence might be a great opportunity to support this separation. But they are on the same hall for middle school and I think.asking one to be moved to a separate hall could be really painful for that one. They are friends with identical twins and that compounds there constant togetherness. Help

    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting in general, and parenting twins specifically, is that you can’t blame yourself for every bump in the road. It’s pretty normal for fraternal twins to dislike each other for a time. That said, it’s never too late to help each boy cultivate his own identity, and help them to get along. Start by talking with each individually to get to the bottom of their animosity. Also, go out of your way to spend time alone with each on a regular basis.

  6. Mary

    Thank you Christina. I know that to be true, I know that I wrote when I was in the heat of the moment. Nevertheless, point well taken. We will be exploring what is at the root of it. And working toward encouraging their autonomy. I think it’s time to handle some bumps. One of which, being picked as a friend over the other. It will hurt initially, but it may if we can facilitate it, help the other one look at how he has to decide what he really wants and work toward that himself. And as my sister-in-law says, it may make him mad or hurt, but, he’ll get over it! Or through it. Thanks!

  7. Sue

    I am a mother in despair. My 24 years old identical twin daughters are STILL arguing and fighting as they have their whole lives. Even in the womb they were doing battle. They share a flat together and are forever falling out. One is stronger than the other, but both very intelligent. They still compete with each other and bicker over just about everything. Then each one calls me to complain about the other. I never take sides. I am past the end of my tether with them but still continue to try to help them patch things up, until the next time. But it has taken a toll on my health and my entire life.

    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

      That sounds terrible! But at age 24, they are big girls and I’m not sure that as a mom there’s much you can do. Perhaps sit with them and explain what you’ve written here–that their bickering is hurting you. Then, suggest that they split up and each find a new roommate. And finally, tell them you will not listen to them complain any longer. When one calls you to rant about the other, simply say, “I’m sorry but I will not listen to this. Let’s change the subject.” If she doesn’t, say good-bye and hang up the phone. You see, I have a feeling that your daughters may be using you to vent, and that their arguing bothers you more than it bothers them. Don’t be their sounding board.

    2. Elaine

      I can totally relate. I came across this while researching what to do as I’m in despair myself. I could have written what you have sue.I am a mother of adult identical twin daughters (25) who live together but absolutely hate each other. They both have a lot of deep rooted problems with each other which I have tried over the years to counsel them about, but I have now decided to stop trying as it has made my life hell. As children they tried to tear each others hair out, and could not be left alone together for a minute. They were very close at school, and throughout their teenage years, but since they turned 20 all hell broke loose. I cry at the way they speak to and treat each other. They are forever ringing me to complain about the other. It has ruined what is left of the life I should now be enjoying after all the hard years of bringing them up. I honestly don’t know what to do anymore. I have given it my all, and now have to face it that there is nothing more I can do. It literally makes me ill when I’m around them. I dread their phone calls.I had arguments with my sisters but nothing like my girls. Both girls are beautiful and extremely intelligent but with terrifying personalities that I cant begin to understand. I’ts a comfort to know I’m not alone with this problem

  8. Cass

    I have a twin who always feels the need to be skinnier then me. Growing up she always heard how she was the bigger twin, like that’s how people could tell us apart. She was ashamed of me in jr high, told people we were cousins who looked alike. In highschool she would judge me for how I dress but yet on Halloween she wore my clothes and dressed like I do. As adults she has hooked up with boyfriends after me including my ex husband. She rubbed it in my face. When we fight she tells me she’s prettier and skinnier then me. She’s been known to ask people who they thought was prettier, she’s been known to ask the ones I slept with first who was better in bed. She judges me so much but yet feels the need to dress like me or go after my boyfriends and feels the need to look skinnier and prettier when we are twins. Like we are both beautiful in our own way. Why is she like this

    1. Cass

      I also add how when she does something it’s ok but if I do it’s not. She used to religiously tan like she was so bad she would tan twice somedays. Now all of a sudden she stopped because she claims she sees herself aging. Now she shames me for tanning when she’s only stopped for not even 2 weeks. And she smokes cigs lol so it’s hypocritical when she tells me I’m gonna get skin cancer when she’s killing her lungs.

      1. Cass

        And she shames me for wearing make up. She decided it ruins and ages her too so she went from wearing it to not and now insulting me for it. She even tried to tell me I’ve aged because of it all. Like it hurts my feelings and u can’t tell her anything because she is quick to disown anyone, she’s disowned me several times

        1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

          It must be so difficult and frustrating for you. There are doctors (psychologists) who specialize in twin relationships and may be able to help you and your sister understand what’s going on and perhaps help you form a healthier bond. For instance, Dr. Eileen Pearlman, a licensed family and marriage counselor and a twin herself, specializes in issues surrounding multiples and their families. Call her: 310.458.1373.

          1. Cass

            Thank u so much, I do truly appreciate that! My sis however refuses counseling or therapy. I just gotta find acceptance and ways to not respond to her negativity instead of letting her get to me all the time.

          2. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Post author

            You don’t need her to seek counseling. You can go by yourself and benefit from it. Remember, you can’t change how people treat you; you can only change how you react to the way people treat you.

  9. Magda

    My twin is deranged. She’s always been jealous, hateful towards me, mean and vindictive. She’s lazy and jealous of my accomplisments in life. My mother raised her to rely on me completely, and my mom pretty much got off the hook on all responsibility. But now as an adult, my twin feels I’m supposed to financially support her, do everything to make her life comfortable, all while she is abusive towards me, critical and just plain mean to me, and everyone she comes in contact with. She has and has always had the attitude that I owe her my life or something. I can’t stand being a twin, it’s the worst thing that ever happened to me. My mom made the mistake early on of pushing her off on me, always dumping her on me, and I resent my mom for that. She never treated me like my own person, and mine was a truly sad, warped & pathetic childhood.

  10. Twin B

    We have arguments all the time, we can never see eye to eye. We were in separate classrooms until 3rd grade, we had different taste in fashion for example, and we had different bedrooms when we became pre-teens. I hate my sister, everyday is more and more like a proof of my own feelings I have of her. She thinks she is better than me because she has more friends, and is more talkative. I, on the other hand, am more introverted, and when I suffered from depression, my sister said that at least she is not like me and bring every time in an argument the same deal. I hate to be her twin, I am always seen as “let’s spot the difference from this twins!” I hate that she is not only using my past depression to make her seem better, but the fact she is walking all over me by bossing me around, talking to me as if I were under her command. She never once did anything for me, when we are cool and there is no fighting, I have no troubles saying that I love her and think she is beautiful, or agree on helping her and assisting her if she needs to, but she is taking that in her advantage. Is all about her, her story she has to tell, her friends matter than my own (because she has more and I am shy), she is prettier ect. The deal is that she never once offered helping me when I need her, she offers herself if she needs me to return the favor, nor refers me to any compliment so the only words from her mouth is you are worthless. My twin has everyone believing she is this wonderful person when with me, she acts as an object she can use. I am sincerely thinking of cutting ties, is getting more and more out of control and our fights are left with me thinking that I really hate her. Worse is that I have to continue school and future career with her because of our parents.

  11. twin A

    I’m having the same problem. I don’t want to live with my twin anymore. We can’t look at each other, eye to eye, every time I told her or proposed her something she exploded and argued as if I insulted her or something! She waits for me to pay for everything, never took responsibility of helping me with at least one bill.
    She always wants me to like her relationships and her boyfriends BUT NEVER been happy for any relationship I had and really hated my boyfriends, She dances when I breake up with him! And not shy to do it when my ennemis are looking.
    What’s that??! She criticizes my parenting skills!!! she makes me feel like I’m not good enough or I don’t make good decisions like her, so all that made me react not so kind towards her too, I ignore her and because of that, I wish I had the courage to ask her to move out but I’m scared of my parents and siblings thoughts about me.
    I’m not happy.

    1. Cindy Burke

      I have an identical twin sister, we are 45 years old. My sister is stronger and more opinionated than myself. I have to listen to her stories and I can’t disagree with her or she explodes and accuses me of not supporting her. I cannot share my positive life stories with her, only negative experiences. If I share something good that happened to me, she gets jealous and petty and takes it personally. So we are in the cycle of me moderating my conversation to not get her raging. It’s almost like she enjoys my pain? She also speaks badly behind my back and invents stories to tell family members and friends about how inappropriate I am or what a bad mother I am etc? I have never started a fight with her in my life but finally a few days ago, I decided to call her out. I insulted her and told her how I feel and I cut her out of my life, blocked her from my chats etc. I feel so much better. Life is difficult enough that we don’t need our identical twins stabbing us in our backs. Over it!!!

  12. bryo

    its totaly true man…Im 18 n cant spend 3 days without a quarell with my twinbro…straight_outta_kenya

  13. Kenie

    I and my twin brother we used to fight everyday when we were living with our parents ,I decided to move out and got an apt in another state ,he left home too and we both didn’t see or talk for 5 months ,one night he called me that he had a problem with his friend he moves in with ,he need me to accommodate him and now what piss me off most ,he still want to rely on me like we used to when we were living with our parent and that’s what bring our fight mostly we going to go through old same shit which I don’t want anymore in my life ..have been there have done that

  14. Mis

    Been through all this with my twin girls. One of mine has mental illness with personality disorder yet can appear normal. Already divorced twice and jealous of sisters successful marriage and life. The happy one lives in England and the other in US. The happier one has had to cut ties after years of abuse and apologizing and making excuses for her often disgusting behavior. The happier one said mom don’t think of it as a death of a twin but rather a birth of my own life from her who’s always held me back in life. She is relieved to have her own identity and life and being in another country not having to have people mistake her for the other and cause her pain. Sad as a mom but what can I do…. and then people say “but they’re twins how can they do that”? People just don’t want to see them as single persons but a pair… God gave them each their own soul and they are single people for gosh sakes. My happier twin says this is the happiest she’said ever been away from her jealous angry mean twin.
    As a mom I pray for a miracle of healing between them and it’s in God’s hands.
    God be with you all and I pray the best life for you each with or without your twin.

  15. Brenda

    I have twin grandsons. One is very aggressive, pushes his brother down and is generally ugly to him but looks to him for help sometimes. He is mean & doesn’t listen to me or his parents. They are five and in separate classrooms in school. My daughter does dress them alike and they are on the same sports teams. I keep them every Wednesday after school. They try to out talk each other by getting louder so I can’t hear them at the same time. Today, I was in tears when they were here. What can we do?? Thanks.

  16. Sharon Velazquez

    I am a twin. We never got along. Im the middle kid and my mom always believed and took cheryls side. We went twin study for 12 years.
    Yep were identical twins. We are 56 and shes the same. Acts like shes better. So different from each other. We were dressed alike and she would leave her coat somewhere or closes and blamed me. I would get the beating. as she got older she would tell people i did things and blamed it on her im told now it could be shes jealous cause im secured. I have job,married an so on. Its life im at the point of just erasing her from my life.
    So it depends on alot being a twin.

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