Identical twins in pop culture are known to look the same, dress the same, talk the same, and even have the same likes and dislikes. Turns out there's some scientific basis to this 'sameness'. But, does it extend to their choice in partners, too?
On 5 December, the papers were splashed with a picture of a pair of identical twins, Rinky and Pinky, all decked up in bridal wear, flanking a happy groom. That's right, one groom.
The headlines read different versions of – 'Twin Sisters Marry the Same Man'. The (il)legality of the marriage aside (the groom was booked for it), what really caught people's attention was that they were identical twins.
"Twins make news because we’re all so fascinated with the idea of two people who act and look so much alike. It challenges our belief in the way the world should work."Dr Nancy Segal, Director of the Twin Studies Center, California State University told FIT
The case is reminiscent of a pair of Australian 'twin-influencers' who got engaged to the same man in 2021– because they insisted on being 'identical in every way', because they considered themselves 'one person.'
We don't know if the Mumbai twins operate on the same plane, but their story made us want to delve deeper into the psyche of identical twins, and how their bond impacts their relationship.
Does genetics play a part in their 'sameness', down to their choice in partners?
FIT speaks to identical twins, and experts in Twin Studies, to find out.
Identical Twins and the Bond They Share
In India there is a saying – 'Jab bhagwaan ne farak nahi kiya, hum kyun farak karein.' It roughly translates to – 'When God didn't differentiate between them, how can we.'
And so, from the moment they are born, twins are treated as one — they're named alike, dressed alike, and brought up alike.
As a result, many twins find their identities often entwined with the other.
Dr Aruna Yadiyal, a Psychiatrist based in Mangalore, who is an identical twin herself, says she and her sister were always seen as a pair – and not as individuals.
"People looked at us as some rare species in a zoo. Curiosity about us prevailed more than sensitivity towards us. People often knew us as 'the twins', and many didn't even know our names."Dr Aruna Yadiyal to FIT
Growing up with people constantly treating you as a novelty can further push twins to stick to one another, strengthening their bond.
Craig Sanders, a website designer in Texas, tells FIT he grew up in a family of seven kids, but "despite it being a large family, my twin brother and I pretty much relied on each other for companionship and support."
He calls his twin brother, Mark, his 'built-in best friend'.
There's Also Separation Anxiety
Dr Nancy Segal, Director of the Twin Studies Center at the California State University, and the author of Deliberately Divided: Inside the Controversial Study of Twins and Triplets Adopted Apart, says being treated as a unit may reinforce sameness (not create it), but may also tend to make twins go separate ways.
"When we were separated post our respective marriages, initially we suffered a lot emotionally, but we were able to manage," says Dr Yadiyal.
Dr Yadiyal says her sister now lives in the US, and owing to their different 'contexts' they’ve since developed their own style, and self identities.
Not all twins are able to cope as well with separation. This could be a reason many twin pairs find comfort in having partners who are also twins, or have a partner that will let them stay together, like perhaps in the case of the Mumbai twins.
Craig and his brother Mark are married to a pair of twins, Diane and Darlene, respectively. The couples had a double wedding, and they've been married for 23 years. Craig and Diane even have twins of their own.
'Only Twins Understand the Bond We Share'
Diane tells FIT that she and her sister Darlene grew up inseparable.
"I do think lots of identical twins have similar interests and may have the same taste in partners. I feel very fortunate that Darlene and I were lucky enough to find twin husbands."Diane Sanders to FIT
The pair met Craig and his brother at the annual Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg Ohio.
Now, the couple lives in Texas, next door to their respective twins. The brothers run a business together.
Craig and Diane also have twins of their own!
"We've had no conflicts because everyone respects and understands the twin bond."Diane Sanders
How Identical Are Identical Twins?
Genetically, nearly 100 percent.
"For all practical purposes, they are identical genetically. Identical twins share all their genes," says Dr Nancy Segal.
Dr Segal has been studying twins for decades, and is a pioneer researcher in the field. She says, “We know that genetics plays an important role in human behaviour because of studies conducted on twins."
A study conducted by Dr Segal and her team in 1990 on identical twins raised apart found that there was about 75 percent influence of genetics on their intelligence.
"If you compare the similarities between identical twins in terms of their personality, interests, and hobbies, you find that there are alike. "Dr Nancy Segal, Director of the Twin Studies Center
"This is why twins often go into similar careers too."
Dr Vivek Belhekar, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Psychology, University of Mumbai, on the other hand, says in certain traits, like extroversion, or neuroticism, your upbringing plays a bigger role than genetics.
"Studies show that heritability for these traits are very low. Almost 50 percent of the variability for this trait is accounted for by the environment."
"If parents provide the same set of parental practices to both the twins, then the observed similarity can be seen."Dr Vivek Belhekar, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Psychology, University of Mumbai
Considering most twins experience a very similar childhood and upbringing, it can be difficult to distinguish between traits derived from nature or nurture.
Does this mean that genetics and similar upbringing also influence their choice in partners?
The Love Interests of Identical Twins
"We weren’t looking for twins, but I think it was a bonus that the guys were twins," Says Diane.
Dr Segal says, "It is complicated. The thing about identical twins is that they tend to often pick the same friends, but when it comes to partners, or spouses, they can be pretty different."
"The interesting thing is that the non-twin spouse don't feel very attracted to their spouse’s twin. That’s always puzzled me a lot."Dr Nancy Segal, Director of the Twin Studies Center
"I could tell the two of them apart from the start but Mark had a little bit of trouble initially (it didn't help that you have to dress alike at this twins festival). I only liked Diane from the start and vice-versa," says Craig.
Diane says she felt the same, and that she "thought Craig was the better looking."
"It's important for each twin to like the other one’s husband or wife and there can be contention because when you have single people marrying twins, they know that twins have a very special close bond."
"It’s not uncommon for twins to have marital problems that stem from jealousy by the non-twin spouse," she adds.
What really made the relationships work is that they each understood the twin bond, say both Craig and Diane.
"I do feel that identical twins are much closer in general than fraternal twins so there's something to be said about sharing the same DNA with someone," says Craig.
"Dating and then eventually marrying a twin makes it easier, as I'm fine with Diane spending time with her twin sister as I know how much it still means to here. Same thing, most likely with Diane and Darlene's feelings about whether Mark and I are doing things together or not."Craig Sanders to FIT
"What I’ve come to realise is that very small differences between twins make for big differences when it comes to marriage. People tell me, 'I married twin A and I love them, but I could never marry Twin B'. And I’m thinking, how is that possible?" says Dr Segal.
"We can learn a lot about what makes a happy marriage by studying identical twin marriages," she adds.