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James Brown offers an identical twin’s perspective on the milestones of adulthood: living apart and falling in love

As children, my brother Tim and I were inseparable and resented being in different classes at school. But as we approached the rite of passage to adulthood that was represented by leaving home for university, we faced the first real time in our lives when we would head off on our own.  We had chosen different degrees in different parts of the country: Tim would be studying theatre in the Midlands and I was off to immerse myself in a business degree in the north-west.

 It was a real transition for both of us. For so long we had been ‘the twins’, but now we  were just two individuals. Strangely, neither of us mentioned that we were a twin at our  new universities. This was partly mischief – we knew one day the other would visit and  all the joy and confusion that would cause! – but it was also partly because we were  learning to define and reinvent ourselves as our own people. Looking back, it was a  critical point in our lives. We remained close, speaking or emailing almost daily, but  revelling in a new-found freedom to explore our own personalities and become self-  sufficient. It was also during this time that we both began to have relationships, which  brought its own challenges.

 A number of relationships broke down because the girl in question was either jealous or  didn’t understand the closeness of twins – a bond that’s unbreakable – and that led to  resentment. More than once I was given the ultimatum: ‘Either your twin is more  important or I am’. Yet we would often resent each other’s girlfriends, too, for monopolising time and attention that used to be exclusively for one another.

Also, the influence we had on each other made girlfriends feel they were competing. It wasn’t until later that we understood this.

When my brother married I felt far more emotional than I expected. It seemed that everything had changed, and it took me a couple of weeks to understand that actually it was just a new chapter in our lives. I now have a sister-in-law who is amazing, and who complements my relationship with Tim. As he underlined in his wedding speech, it was a day for ‘buy one, get one free’ for his wife! Ten years after graduating and our lives continue to run a different course, but with an amazing number of parallels; we are just as uniquely different as we are totally the same. Being a twin has great advantages and an exclusive bond, but when this is complemented by the strength and connection that a girlfriend or wife can bring, the relationship is deepened. 

‘Buy one, get one free’ may not be everyone’s idea of a bargain, but when they understand the value, it’s priceless.


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