Joan A. Friedman admits that many twins — perhaps most twins — lead happy, satisfied lives.
Yet the psychotherapist, a twin herself and mother of twins, has become an expert on issues facing twins, both as children and adults.
“People don’t want to talk about the difficulties and challenges. Society wants to see twins as saints,” says the author of “The Same But Different: How Twins Can Live, Love and Learn to Be Individuals.”
Friedman, a Southern California-based therapist who will be in Redwood City next week to speak to Mid-Peninsula Parents of Multiples, wrote the book of guidelines and explanations based on both personal and professional experiences.
She finds that twins — having grown up as part of a unit and been taught to consider their siblings’ needs and feelings as much as their own — often feel guilty, frustrated, disappointed, dissatisfied or confused when trying to go about their daily lives as adults.
Friedman herself can relate to the cases described in her book.
“My parents didn’t understand that twins need separate experiences. We had twin beds, desks, closets, sinks. My sister and I never separated until we went to college,” she says, noting that college, for many twins, represents the first time they ever behave or function as a separate people.
As a twin, she says, “you have star status,” and you don’t develop social skills to be on your own.
Other difficulties revolve around finding, and living with, a mate.
“It’s hard to get connected to another person,” says Friedman, who describes one person who knew she had to move away so her sister would have space to fall in love. Then there’s the issue of being a twin’s spouse — those folks need to know that they’re not necessarily marrying one person.
One typical characteristic of twins’ relationships is that in each pair, one takes on a caretaker role. Friedman, who was in this position with her twin, Jane, says the caretaker is typically the one who has the most emotional difficulty at first when twins begin to make a healthy split. The caretaker’s sense of self is solidly in that role, which gets taken away, the cared-for twin often experiences a new freedom of sorts, or relief.
Friedman advises people who know twins to do their best to treat them as individuals, and to let them talk about issues they face being in their situation of simply being “born married to a partner they didn’t get to choose.”
Having previously written a book called “Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children,” she and her husband are practicing what she preaches with their fourth and fifth children, fraternal twin sons who now are 25.
“We didn’t even tell them who was older until they were 13,” she says.
IF YOU GO
Joan A. Friedman
At Mid-Peninsula Parents of Multiples
Where: Redwood City Main Library, second floor, 1044 Middlefield Road, Redwood City
When: 10:30 a.m. April 26
Contact: (650) 780-701
The Same But Different: How Twins Can Live, Love, and Learn to Be Individuals
Published by Rocky Pines Press