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Rachael – “Having a partner who accepted my family and all that it entails was a huge priority for me”

I met my partner Isobel at work almost ten years ago. Neither of us were open about our sexualities at this point. We were good friends for around a year before getting together. I told Isobel about my sibling situation very early on as having a partner who accepted my family and all that it entails was a huge priority for me. Isobel seemed totally unfazed and when she met my brothers for the first time on a trip to visit my family. They hit it off straight away.

Both my brothers are a few years older than me (I’m 34) and have global developmental delay. Sam lives at home. He is primarily cared for by our parents. Noah has been living in supported housing since early adulthood and now lives with his wife, who also has learning disabilities, a mile or so down the road. Isobel and I live in a different part of the UK and I think I would describe us both as distance carers. My brothers were totally accepting of my sexuality. I have never felt anything other than unbridled acceptance and love from them when I told them I was gay, and that Isobel was my partner. This is one of the things I love most about them. “Coming out” was not easy, and they were there for me in such an unassuming and kind way. I’ll always be grateful for that.

Isobel works in the social care sector and has worked as a carer for adults with learning disabilities in the past. She absolutely ‘gets it’ and not only supports me emotionally, but also practically. Through her work she has extensive knowledge of how social services works, how local authorities run, and of relevant laws and legislation around social care and mental capacity. As I start to think about the future more and more; looking ahead to the time when my parents will no longer be here, being able to talk to Isobel about things and gain a greater understanding of how things work, is such a gift. I often remind myself of just how lucky I am.

At the moment, I think we do really well to talk openly about things and to be honest about our feelings, worries and apprehensions. When things feel particularly hard or when crisis hits, I can sometimes lose sight of Isobel and take her for granted. Making sure we carve out time to spend together and to re-connect is really important for us. Sometimes I worry that at some point Isobel might decide it’s all too much, though she has given zero indication of this so far. Perhaps, for siblings, carrying this worry/guilt is almost an inevitability, no matter how good or stable things might feel at any given time.

I have been lucky to find a partner who already knows this world very well. Not having to explain absolutely everything has certainly saved me a lot of emotional labour. I asked Isobel what advice she would give to other partners out there. She said, “don’t make any assumptions – meet your partner’s brother/sister and get to know them as individuals, as you would with any other family member.” She also said, “encourage them to join Sibs! Rachael has gained so much from being able to speak with other siblings who share similar experiences.” I could not agree more.

All names have been changed. If you’re a sibling who has identified with Rachael’s experience, and you’d like to pass a message onto her or ask a question, please email as she is happy to receive these. 

Would you like to help other siblings by sharing your own story? Please get in touch.