Non-monogamy and being replaced

I am 34 and my husband is 39. We’ve been together almost 17 years and have 2 kids. I know now that I am heteroromantic bisexual. I like to be proactive and keep finding ways to keep us engaged and not get bored in our marriage. After looking for ways to keep our marriage spicy I came across open marriage information. It got me thinking about how I never got to explore my bisexual side because I committed so young.
My husband and I have now considered a temporary open relationship for 3 years. We already have a solid foundation in our relationship. We great sex, support, communication, love, care , kindness, etc. We both just want some variety and to explore some new sexual experiences. The issue is I have generalized anxiety and clinical depression. I have inadequacy, insecurity, jealousy, possessiveness, controlling tendencies, and fear of abandonment issues. Before we open our relationship I obviously need to work on my self esteem, worth, value, self care and self compassion. Although we are going to wait a year or even more if I need to do more self work. We are reading books about opening up and I can't help but feel intense anxiety. My mind goes to worse case scenario that he will find smarter, younger, sexier and better than me.
I know this is irrational, because it's not about better it's about different. The irrational part of me also fears I am opening pandora’s box by opening my marriage and my family to the possibility to be ruined and end. The thought of him with other women makes me kind of sick to my stomach and petrified. I know we need to do this because I don't want to get to old age and regret never being with a woman or experiencing other things that could make me happier, learn and grow. But my mind keeps coming back to losing the love of my life. I know no reward without risk, but I wonder if this risk is too great to take. I know my husband loves me and his family. He would never intentionally do things to mess up this life we built together. But, you never know once emotions get involved.
Some may say he is taking a risk too and I could leave him, but nope. I am an analytical, self aware and can overthink things, so I know myself enough that no one will come before him and my family. I am loyal af, and deeply in love, so I know I ain't going anywhere.
It also doesn’t help that most of the open relationships stories I heard about are men leaving their wives for younger and hotter women. I also worry he may want a permanent open relationship and at this time in knowing myself I don't see being able to handle that either. Of course once we get going my feelings may change, but I doubt it.
I agree five or six decades is a long time to ask someone to refrain from sleeping with others. I have heard about couples who opened their relationships temporarily and that’s what I want. I discussed this with my husband, but before we go forward we need some guidelines.
I know I could be overthinking and most likely I am stressing myself out for nothing. Also my husband wants a dont ask dont tell, but wants to also have the option to spend the night with others. I agree I don't want the other person feeling used like he just picks up and leaves, but if he stays the night I will know he is with someone else. The dont ask dont tell wont work if he doesn't come home every night. So, how can we make this work and before we start what are some other things we should discuss?
My husband has no worries at all. He is the opposite of me. Lol. How can I focus more on the positives of opening my relationship and what I will be gaining over what I could possibly lose? How do I prevent myself from sabotaging this and creating a self fulfilling?

There are a couple of things I want to address here:

  • Fear of being replaced
  • Types of open relationships

Fear of being replaced

Your fears around being replaced aren’t irrational at all, but considering the context of these fears might make you realise that their intensity is lying to you. It makes perfect rational sense to believe that opening up your relationship could be opening up Pandora’s Box, because it may very well be, but what you need to realise is that the box is already open and there isn’t any way to close it.

Because monogamy is given to all of us as a cultural script and default, we take it for granted how much it can soothe our anxieties. When we go along with these scripts, we have something to follow and we feel a lot more stable because we know where the path leads. Non-monogamy doesn’t have this same cultural script. You’re walking alone, through the wilderness without much of a path to follow. So it is very rational to be afraid.

The truth is, however, that the cultural script is just that. A script. It’s a guarantee. It’s not a rule. You and your husband could abandon non-monogamy and forget it ever happened — but that will not mean he will not leave you for someone younger and more attractive. People develop feelings and fall in love with or without permission to do so. There isn’t going to be anything you can do to stop or control that. There are billions of people on this planet and there will always be someone out there who is ‘better’ at something than you are. You also can’t control that. And anxiety is all about giving you the illusion of control so you focus on what you think you can change so you can be less afraid of what you can’t.

You’re going to feel anxiety when you try something new. And different people are going to feel anxious at different points. Your partner may not feel anxious *now* but that may change when you actually start dating other people. I think you’re in a way self-sabotaging yourself in a way that a lot of people new to non-monogamy do. You see it as a freer option and a space to explore your sexuality, which is legitimate, but in that regard you would think that you would feel happy, but you don’t, and that’s confusing. It would be helpful for you to accept that you feel anxious and instead of expecting yourself to feel happy all of the time. Embrace that you’re going to feel scared and learn to cope with it instead of beating yourself up for it. Which brings me to my next point.

Types of open relationships

Non-monogamy is an umbrella term for all different kinds of lifestyles and different ways of approaching things. You can have a setup as your husband suggests where you don’t ask, don’t tell. Or you could potentially consider swinging as an option. This is something you’re going to have to work out with your partner to compromise and figure out something that works for both of you. There’s no quick solution on this and it might end up being something you need to discuss for a long time.

I would consider speaking to a polyamory friendly therapist to talk out different ways of how you might want to pursue things. You might sit down together and both think of your ideal scenarios and how you could potentially meet in the middle, what you can compromise on and what you can’t. This is a scary process because you might find that what you want is not compatible, but it’s better to address this early on than agree to something you don’t want and end up being resentful. I think it’s very possible that you can find something that works for the both of you if you give it some thought.

Part of what could be triggering your anxiety is that this is so up in the air and you either haven’t thought or clarified what your new non-monogamous life is going to look like. It could be wildly different and that prospect is going to be worrying, so of course you’re afraid. I think when you nail down what you both want and get a clearer picture of what non-monogamy means to you and what you both want out of it, you’ll feel more stable and secure.

But don’t beat yourself up for being scared and don’t assume that just because your partner isn’t *currently* worried that there is something wrong with you. It’s okay to be afraid of new things and its okay to worry, even if you’re changing things for the better.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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