Most siblings fight. It’s natural. But when you meet that sibling in the womb, that’s when things get a little weird.
I was born as an identical twin. From wombmates to roommates, my sister and I have spent our entire lives together. We walked into kindergarten holding hands and haven’t let go since, supporting each other through math breakdowns and bad dates.
Our relationship wasn’t always perfect. Around the ripe preteen age of 10, with square teeth and awkward matching bangs, we started bickering over small things.
Luckily, as we got older and slightly more mature, our fights became rarer and rarer. We learned — particularly when our school would try to place us in different classes — that we were each other’s greatest strength, even when nobody else could understand it. The twin life chose us, but we chose to be built-in best friends.
Through this powerful dynamic, we’ve created a nearly perfect sibling relationship. Our friends, most of them mutual, were always surprised by our ability to coexist seamlessly all of the time.
If you’re curious to understand how we’ve been able to spend almost every minute of the last 20 years together, then the answer is easy: good communication. Through our ups and downs in the twin life, we’ve experienced the ultimate crash course on what it takes to get along.
Here are a few of the communication essentials:
Manners don’t have an expiration date
I believe that no matter how well you know a person, a please and thank you is always appreciated. With my sister, I still say thank you anytime she opens a door for me. This way, she never feels underappreciated, even with the small stuff. It doesn’t matter if I’ve known someone for 10 days or 10 years; comfort never replaces manners.
Consideration is like cute Target mugs — you can never have too many
If you take a quick dive into Twitter, you’ll notice that a common theme is self-centered thinking. Messages like “focus on yourself” and “love yourself” can be beneficial, but they can also negatively affect relationships when selfish actions are normalized. In my Russian culture, it’s normal to always consider our families and depend on them. For example, anytime I come back from the store, I always bring back a snack for my sister because I know she won’t buy it for herself. Practicing active consideration is an essential element of non-verbal communication.
Speak up; not even twins can read each other’s minds.
It’s not a surprise that speaking is a vital part of communication, yet we expect people to read our thoughts when we’re frustrated or upset. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s so much easier to identify what’s bothering me and address it rather than try to be patient with a frustrating behavior. My sister and I say will say things like, “It’s annoying when you throw everything on the clothes chair. Can you please make more of an effort to hang up your clothes?” Avoiding silent anger and passive aggression prevents future fights and keeps the peace.
Take credit for your efforts
Sometimes when we do nice things, they go unnoticed. A small effort like restocking the eggs can make me feel like the backbone of the household, but if no one acknowledges the eggs, I feel like my efforts weren’t appreciated. To gain verbal acknowledgment, I like to say something along the lines of this: “I just got more eggs, so we can make omelets for breakfast today.” I’m not begging for a pat on the back, but it still lets the household know when something was done for it. This makes my family feel more loved, and with a simple thank you, I feel more appreciated. However, to be clear, no one needs to know that you feed the cat three times a day, every day. The household can tell by the multiplying rolls on poor Luci (my cat).
I’m by no means an expert. I’m not even a sad marriage counselor with a depressing office. But hopefully, I’ve learned enough to make you avoid a fight or two with your annoying brother who never loads the dishwasher (c’mon, the dishes wash themselves).