Straight woman and gay man 'make marriage work' with weekly feedback
The pair belong to the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints - a faith that doesn't condone same-sex relationships
A mum has told how she keeps her marriage to her gay husband on track through weekly sex feedback sessions.
Brynn Embley, 35, describes herself as straight while her husband Matthew Nielson identifies as gay or pansexual and is "more attracted to men than women".
Nielson, 33, dated men and women before he committed to Embley - but had never had sex with anyone - including her - before they tied the knot. They now have two daughters, Guinevere, one, and two-year-old Amandine.
"We enjoyed kissing, and hoped everything else would at least be okay," Embley, who lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, said, adding: "I think that many more people are gay, bi, pan, or other, than have made that known openly."
The couple are members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints - a faith that doesn't condone same-sex relationships. Nielson admits a strong motivation for dating women was so he didn't have to be single and celibate forever.
"Obviously, not a great place for me or most of the women that I was dating," he said, adding: "I’ve heard gay men say that they can’t even imagine trying to be sexual with a woman, and I have never felt that way."
While Embley sometimes feels insecure about their connection, she says the relationship is stronger because it's not reliant on physical chemistry.
To keep the union on track, the couple attends therapy, and every Thursday they discuss their sex life, offering feedback and tips.
"We share whether we need more if there’s anything the other can do to help make that a better part of our marriage, and so forth," Embley explains.
While a lot of Embley's previous relationships "revolved around that chemical attraction", she said, not having that as the focus was "refreshing".
"I think that liking and matching with a person is so much more central to a long-term relationship.
"And it turns out that the sex thing works great, so it all worked out!"
While Nielson said "it is easy for me to wonder about what I might be missing if I were in a relationship with a man", the sex with his wife is worthwhile.
"We do enjoy having sex and being together in that way, which is a relief!"
Nielson met Embley at church in early 2016 and a few dates in revealed he was gay - something he had known since he was a teenager.
He'd dated women throughout his twenties while being honest about his sexual orientation but had always received mixed responses. This made him nervous about coming out to Embley.
However, to his surprise, she shrugged it off.
The mum-of-two said: "He looked straight at me and said 'Brynn, I’m gay.'
"I remember it because he seemed so serious - or like he was looking for some sort of reaction from me.
"It just wasn’t a huge deal, he was with me, his choice - what else mattered?"
Embley said early on she "already knew" the sexual chemistry she had experienced with other boyfriends was not there, "but it didn’t really matter to me".
"I know he thinks I’m attractive, and I know he’s drawn to me, and his sexual orientation didn’t negate those things.
"I was really happy that I had a relationship where the selling point was liking and respecting each other as people."
But the road to the alter was a rocky one. After dating for a few months the couple split up after Nielson developed strong feelings for a man. But they got back together in September 2017.
Nielson, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology, said: "It was definitely a leap of faith, because I still wasn’t certain what sex with Brynn, or any woman, would look like.
"But we trusted that the other elements of our relationship were there and if that part was more difficult, we could work on it together."
Embley added: "There was this mutual feeling of complete and utter happiness - like he was my person."
The couple married in Manti, Utah in December 2017, and were finally able to be intimate with each other.
"For a while, I would get stressed out if we weren’t having sex a certain number of times each week because I thought it meant that Matthew wasn’t enjoying it enough," Embley said.
"That’s not the case, and I try to remember that if we both feel satisfied sexually that’s all that matters."