'How my husband became my brother'

Kristen Armstrong with former husband Brandon Smith. Photo: TikTok
Kristen Armstrong with former husband Brandon Smith. Photo: TikTok
A US woman has revealed why she shares her life with her husband and her ex-husband, whom she now treats as her “brother”, and why the unusual arrangement works so well for them.

Kristen Armstrong and Brandon Smith were teenage sweethearts, sharing a love that was “one for the books” since they met in high school.

But tragedy would intervene, sending their love story off on a course that left them living as “brother and sister”.

They were married in August 2006 but within two years their lives were turned upside down.

Armstrong got a call to learn that Smith had been in a serious accident and was in an intensive care unit.

His car had been t-boned by a truck and the massive impact left Smith with a traumatic brain injury, plunging him into a coma.

Although he would wake two months later, their lives were forever changed.

“I held on to hope that a miracle would happen and he’d be the same Brandon,” Armstrong told the Today show.

“But he wasn’t.”

Smith needed constant care, was unable to dress or feed himself and relied on others for every aspect of his life.

“Every morning I woke up and I was hit by this train of sadness. He was my soulmate, my best friend,” Armstrong said.

“I was grieving a living person, and that was very complicated and isolating.”

But she didn’t let him go, telling a judge “I’m not going anywhere” when she filed papers to become his legal guardian.

Armstrong and Smith were high school sweethearts. Photo: TikTok
Armstrong and Smith were high school sweethearts. Photo: TikTok
After two years, Armstrong, who has shared her story on social media, made the “heartwrenching” decision to file for divorce and move on in the hope that she might find love and have a family of her own.

But she remembered her vows and continued to care for her former husband and remained his legal guardian.

In that time, their relationship changed and several years ago a major shift occurred when Smith began referring to Armstrong as “lil sis”.

“I think the word brother now better defines our relationship but I will always carry his heart in my heart,” Armstrong says.

Meeting James

In 2014, she met James online and quickly formed a connection. Armstrong says she was upfront about her relationship with Smith and he “without skipping a beat said ‘I’m in’.”

James came with a 5-year-old son and Armstrong says she fell in love with him the first day they met. The following day James met Armstrong’s ex and they all went to church together.

Armstrong tells how she came back from the bathroom to find her new love with his arm comfortably around Smith.

“At that moment, I knew what my future held,” she said.

Although Smith is in care, the pair frequently have him at their home and take him out and James assists in every way, even helping to change his wife’s ex-husband when required.

“Brandon just has more people to love him now,” Armstrong says.

Though she once thought it impossible, Armstrong found a man to love her and her former husband, surpassing all the dreams she had.

“James has never expressed or shown any jealousy, he’s never questioned my unwavering love for Brandon... instead he’s accepted Brandon with wide open arms.

“Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and tell the lonely, grieving woman in her early 20s that this story isn’t over.”