By my mid 20s I had begun to realise that any boyfriend I brought home had to pass the fairly rigorous test of being able to love my family as well as me. It was a big ask, with two elder brothers who have learning disabilities due to Fragile X syndrome. My family seemed full of far more oddities and idiosyncrasies than most other families and potential partners were ruthlessly judged on whether they could handle this or not.
When I was 27 I gradually started becoming closer to a good friend from university who I had known for 10 years and this trusted friendship turned slowly into a romantic relationship – and then followed 25 years of marriage. My husband was the kindest most generous man I had known, providing stability and support to me and my family and then to our children. He became a third son to my parents, a prized brother-in-law to my brothers, a ‘real man’ in our family, who everyone loved.
What I needed was someone who unconditionally accepted my family and this he was able to do. I think it worked because he knew me so well before we became romantically involved so there was no specific moment of needing to explain things. This side of things was wonderful and I was blessed for these years.
After 25 years of marriage however I had become stuck in the relationship and needed to break out to something different. It had become increasingly difficult to talk to each other, and the relationship seemed to have stopped flourishing. We tried over two years to make it work but it has ended in divorce.
What I wanted to share is a sort of warning of the potential for added guilt and extra pain of an already hard situation – I felt I was responsible for breaking not only my own relationship with my husband but also the very special relationships he had with my brothers and my parents. As I have come to realise, this is not in fact something for which I must bear full responsibility.
As a sibling of people with learning disabilities it can feel very easy to burden oneself with more responsibility and guilt than is manageable for one person. My ex-husband, parents and brothers all have their own say in what kind of relationships they continue to have. My message is, try to see through the clouds of guilt feelings in your own personal life decisions and remember that you are as entitled as anyone else to take decisions about your own life path.
All names have been changed.