Tuesday 24 April 2018

Family Life: I'm scared my twin boys will get violent with each other

David Coleman

David Coleman

Q I am at my wits' end. I have identical twin boys who are 18 years old and who constantly argue with each other.

They have physically fought lots of times over the last two years. Their language is absolutely dreadful to each other also -- they seem to have no respect whatsoever for each other.

They used to be the best of buddies but now seem to have an absolute hatred of each other. I thought this would resolve itself once they separated and one went away to college but no, when he returns at weekends the war starts all over again. There seems to be a jealously thing also going on. I am finding it hard to cope with them.

They have an older brother and sister and the older ones have been no problem growing up and have huge respect of each other. The only time the twins are good is when their older siblings are around as they know that they would not accept that behaviour.

However, I don't seem to be able to stop them when they are alone with my husband and me and it is now getting to be a huge problem. What should we do or where should we go before one of them hurts the other badly?

A This sounds like a very serious problem on the one hand, because the twins are clearly at a stage where they could indeed hurt each other badly. On the other hand, they also seem to have the capacity to put their differences aside when they know that they will not be allowed to express them in a physical fight.

This latter point is useful, because it shows that the potential is there to get the twins talking without fighting. I believe that the only solution to their difficulties is to talk about the conflict and try to resolve the source of it.

At the moment it sounds like the two boys adopt an aggressive approach where each tries to dominate the other and they seem to believe that eventually one of them will 'win' the war that has emerged between them.

You say that they used to be the best of buddies but now have 'an absolute hatred' of each other. A dramatic change in a relationship, such as you describe, rarely happens without one of the pair involved feeling very hurt, betrayed, disappointed, jealous, or rejected by the other. Something must have led to one of these very strong feelings being present.

You mention that one has gone to college and the other, presumably, hasn't. Is this the source of the jealousy? Could one of the twins have felt envious of his brother's academic ability, which he couldn't match? Could it be that one of the twins feels less successful and, possibly, less adequate because of it?

I could guess forever about the reason why they fell out originally and I may never hit on the real reason. Your twins know what that real reason is and so only they, with a bit of support from the rest of you, can really resolve the conflict between them.

Take advantage of the fact that your older children can still exert some influence on the twins and use their support to get the boys together as part of a family meeting to put some gentle, or not so gentle, pressure on them to sit down and work it out.

Don't expect them to resolve things there and then, in front of everyone, but as a family you can set some expectations for how and when the twins will work things out.

Resolving conflict requires that both parties actually want the conflict to be sorted out. Establishing an agreement between them that they both want their relationship to improve is a first step. Then they both have to be encouraged to listen to the other and to be willing to work collaboratively together.

This is all a bit ahead of where you are at with the twins. However, if you can get them in a room with a shared belief that this can, and will, get sorted then their former good relationship and probable genuine caring for each other should win through.

It is quite likely that the lads will struggle with talking about the truth of their relationship. They are showing, currently, that they don't have either the skills or the desire (or neither) to be able to resolve their differences.

So it could help to arrange to have a neutral third party present, perhaps someone from your extended family whom the boys also respect, while they are talking things through. It may even be that you decide to get some professional help to get them talking to each other rather than fighting.

Whoever it is that mediates between them needs to help them to actively listen to each other, express their feelings rather than blame each other and to continue to believe that this can be resolved, even if it is tough going at times.

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