Make It Stop: “My Twin Brother & I Took Separate Paths In Life — But He Still Resents Me For It”

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.

I have a twin brother and I’ve always been the “adventurous” twin. I went to college several states away while my twin, for a number of reasons, commuted from home. After I graduated, I got a job several states away as well. While I have made several disparaging comments about my twin’s life choices in the past, I’ve tried to mend fences to no avail. We don’t talk regularly anymore. Every time I come home for the holidays, my twin takes something innocuous I say and twists it, going into a screaming fit about how I should go back to wherever I live and never come back. Needless to say, it makes coming home uncomfortable and I don’t want to anymore. My parents usually see that he is overreacting but don’t seem able to stop it either. Do you have suggestions to help mend our fights or make them stop?

I remember when I moved away from the suburbs of Chicago to go to college in New York City, some of my hometown friends who stayed put resented me for it. When I’d come home from school break, I’d tell them about my exciting life in the big city—celebrity sightings, decadent parties on hotel rooftops, cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery!—but the more I tried to bring them into my new world, the more they tuned me out. I didn’t understand why that was happening and I was hurt to see these friendships crumble.

Now I see that while my intentions came from a good place, my constant babbling about my awesome life in NYC completely alienated them. If I could do it all again, I’d downplay the different directions our lives were in and I would’ve spent more time listening them talk about their lives and frankly, just being more mellow about it. I can’t go back in time and tell my younger self to knock it off with the non-stop NYC-talk, even though she deserved a severe scolding, but I can relay what I’ve learned, which is that when people are going through a tough time, don’t rub your happiness in their face. It’s not nice.

While this strife is a bummer, the good news is that this is a terrific opportunity for you to learn how to communicate with your twin as adults. You two share DNA, so with a little patience and humility, you can repair the trust you’ve lost. You could do this one of two ways: with his help or without it.

Before you head home again, I would call him and say that you’re looking forward to seeing him soon and you want your visit to go smoothly so what can you do to make sure that you two have a great visit?

Don’t place blame, don’t make excuses, don’t rehash old wounds. You can’t do anything about the past. Your only concern is establishing a dialogue about what he needs from you to have a pleasant visit.

I don’t know what he’ll suggest, but hopefully he’ll find it refreshing to be so transparent. He might not be self-aware enough to say, “When you bring up how you left town, it makes me feel like you abandoned me and reminds me that you’ve had more opportunities in life than I have, which I resent.” BUT he might concede, “It drives me crazy when you hog the remote control,” even though that’s not the real issue.

The hope is that he’ll give you valuable feedback about what he’s sensitive to, and then you’ll know how to conduct yourself differently around him. Tell him that you’re always available to talk so if he thinks of anything else that you can do to make it a smooth visit, to let you know. You’re establishing a dialogue here so expect this to be an ongoing conversation.

If you don’t feel comfortable approaching him like this, I would try an empathetic exercise. Imagine his life and his stresses through his eyes. How does it feel to have your twin move away when you stayed home? How does it feel to have people view you as the twin who was safe or scared, who didn’t have the confidence or opportunity to move away? How does it feel to have your twin come home with all these life experiences and know that you weren’t around to share in them?

Maybe he felt that instead of sympathizing with his problems you were being competitive. That may not have been your intention, but maybe that’s how it sounded to his ears. Maybe he has a friend, significant other or family member influencing the way he feels about you. Maybe he or she says things like, “I can’t believe your twin moved away and ditched you here. Aren’t you pissed off? That’d piss me off.” I don’t know, I’m just speculating here. But the point is that clearly his head isn’t in a good place because happy people don’t tend to have screaming fits at family members.

When you do see him, I would spend more time listening to him than normal. Resist the urge to volunteer too much about your life because he’s not in a place where he can take active interest in your world just yet. And that’s okay. Remember, your goal is to squash the fights from happening, not having him understand your point of view. I’m confident that once you change your approach and give him the twin support he needs, he’ll come around in due time.

Good luck!

Got any additional advice for this letter writer, readers? Add your thoughts in the comments!