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Opinions Fly About Man Who 'Chose' His Wife Over Sister With Down Syndrome

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Actor/director Brian Donovan met his wife Tempany in 2005, and though they’ve been together for over ten years, he admits their marriage nearly fell apart before it could even begin. Donovan’s younger sister Kelly has Down syndrome, and in an article for called “I Almost Didn’t Get Married Because I Was Obsessed With My Sister,” he explained how the amount of time he spent with Kelly, and his inability to say no to her, proved to be a major point of contention in his romantic relationships.

Every winter, Kelly would fly from New York to Los Angeles and spend two months with him, during which she would sometimes sleep in his bed with him. Six months into his relationship with Tempany, she made it clear the sibling relationship was an issue.

Donovan wrote:

It was about six weeks into Kelly’s annual two-month visit when the elephant reared its head again, and Tempany uttered those fateful words: ‘I’m supposed to be your other half, but there’s already a half there.’

I knew we were in trouble. We sat in silence most of the night, afraid that what we said next might lead us further down the path of no return. Eventually Tempany softly said: ‘I need to know that I’ll be the other half someday. I need to trust that you would place my needs above Kelly’s if it ever came to that.’

After a session with a couple’s therapist one day, Tempany told him, “You need to choose.”

Donovan wrote:

I wish I could say a magic love wand cascaded over us and my wretched stomach subsided and I chose Tempany. But we all know life isn’t that simple. What I can tell you is the session was a wake-up call for both of us. It wasn’t easy, bone crunching at times, sprinkled with tears and sadness from all of us as I tried to fulfill the compromises Tempany had pleaded for. I gradually told Kelly ‘no’ more often and spoiled her less and less. I shortened her annual visits and made every effort to put Tempany’s needs first…

We still don’t have all the answers, but we continue to finds ways to compromise and embrace conditional love. And more important, Tempany became my other half by not forcing me to choose.

The reaction to Donovan’s piece has been mixed.

“Why can't you ever say no to your sister?”

Posted by TIME on Wednesday, October 28, 2015


While some commenters on Time’s Facebook page were sympathetic (Raquel Ariaz wrote, “Unless you’ve been in Tempany’s same situation, you will never understand…”), many slammed Donovan for his decision to spend less time with his sister.

Karla Maria Novelo wrote, “Family is always first!!!!! Especially a bond like that,” while Dominique Vallee added, “A bit strange! Tempany, his wife, told him to choose and even insisted on it many times, as he repeats it in his narrative. And he concludes by telling she didn’t ask him to choose… It is contradictory! It must not be very clear in his mind!”

The Frisky went on to write an article lambasting Donovan for his apparent choice, going as far as to accuse him of abandoning his sister and giving in to his wife’s demands.

Here’s what we want to ask our Mighty readers: Have you ever been in a situation like Brian’s where you felt like you had to choose between a relationship and a family member with a disability or disorder? Tell us about it in the comment section below or email us a response at

Originally published: October 30, 2015
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