Q. I am married to a 40-year-old woman who is an identical twin. Needless to say, my wife and her sister are close, but I almost categorize it as obsessive and/or excessive.
They talk via phone or text just about every hour, and they need to know what the other is doing at all times, even if they are simply at home. My wife and I have very little uninterrupted time, and it is affecting the emotional closeness of our marriage.
Both sisters are equally invested in this relationship, so it does me no good to suggest to my wife that she limit the contact to a “reasonable” degree. I have discussed this countless times with my wife, but she says that her sister was there before me and will be there after me (I am 18 years older than my wife).
My wife carries her cellphone around with her all day, every day to await or initiate contact with her twin.I have done some reading on identical twin relationships, and understand the biological bond, so am I being selfish?
A. You are not being selfish. You are trying (very hard, I assume) to be married. I shared your letter with Caroline Tancredy, who has done research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the twin relationship.
She says: “Our research indicates that twins (particularly identical twins) tend to give a high ranking to their co-twin with respect to attachment behaviors (turning to the co-twin in times of need, for support, to feel safe, etc.). However, generally when people are attached to their siblings, they are able to expand their attachments to include romantic partners.
“Your wife’s attitude is a dangerous one,” Tancredy says. “She says that her twin was here first (a true and significant point) and assumes that her twin will outlive you (not necessarily true and a risky attitude). I myself have a deceased identical twin sister. She died when we were 19. I expected us to grow old and die on the same day, but it did not happen that way. I had to learn to rely on others for my attachment needs.
“It’s not fair to compare partners with twin siblings, and there are many wonderful rewards to be gained by understanding that romantic partners have their own gifts to offer. Even twins take a risk when they put all their eggs in one basket.”
Just as you would alienate your wife if you put another relationship ahead of your marriage, what she is doing is also alienating. You acknowledge the special closeness these twins share. She needs to have a private and rewarding attachment to you too.
Q. Our mother recently died after 16 days in the hospital. My nephew’s wife never visited — not once! They live 20 minutes from the hospital and have two children, ages 1 and 6. The 1-year-old still breast-feeds and is apparently a handful and must be in bed every night by 7 and only the two parents can do this (so I am told).
Mum was cremated, and we had a Sunday evening service. This person also never came to the service — so she did not make even one appearance from the start to finish. This was offensive to the family. How should we handle future visits with this person?
A. You should be honest with your nephew’s wife (and speak only for yourself): “I was so sorry and wounded that you didn’t visit mum in the hospital or attend her funeral; I could have really used the emotional support during a really sad time.”
And then — after the honesty — you forgive and you move on.