My wife and I just decided (well she did) that we should try and open relationship. At first I was devastated but we talked and over a few weeks we’ve been more honest about things than we ever have. We absolutely love each other, we have 3 kids and a house, good jobs, the dream to be honest. That’s not a question, she completes me in every way, but the same isn’t for her. She’s outdoorsy I’m not. Our sex life is great (even better after we agreed that flirting isn’t cheating).
The problem I have. She is way hotter than me. I’m not even sure how I landed her other than she was at a low point in her life and I’d like to say that I came in and fixed it. Financially. Emotionally. I got her to stand up to her controlling parents and we’ve grown together. We don’t have much family near us and for the most part we’re each others friend. However she started working again after about 8 years and she’s become more in contact with other guys and I know that excites her.
I know she’s been cooped up for years and I want her to be happy. It just seems like it overcompensated too much. Now she does have friends that she flirts with but I do know nothing has happened physically. Her friends don’t even know about our open relationship. It’s all waiting on my go ahead more or less. (It’s only been open a month).
Here’s my question. It scares me that I could lose her and my life even though she reassures me that we have a connection that can’t be shared with another person. How can I deal with this knowing she could pull the trigger and go all the way while I’m at home with the kids looking like an old dad? (I’m 40 shes 38) I feel like I would resent it because I don’t have a job that is in contact with different women all day like she does with men, even coworkers.
So I feel like I have to join a gym and fix myself and do a ton of work with a slim chance of meeting anyone who’s interested in a married guy. While she can just pick. It’s conflicting me. How do I meet girls to boost confidence without using apps that don’t cater to my situation. I don’t want to visit bars at night when I should be home with my family. I don’t want to take away from them. Help.
The biggest misconception you have about this, which is a very understandable misconception, is that it’s the opening of the relationship that could cause your partner to up and leave you, ignore you, or not devote time into your relationship. And this isn’t really the case. Monogamy, especially the more we get involved in what looks like a deeper commitment like getting married or having children, makes us feel safer and less likely that our partner might just up and leave us — but it’s an illusion of safety to a certain extent.
Nothing about opening your relationship necessarily makes her more attractive or you more unattractive. It doesn’t devalue what you’ve built together and she was fully capable, by virtue of being free to get to know and even flirt with other people, of “replacing” you from the beginning of your relationship. While, yes, obviously you have had an exclusive relationship so that means you’ve been the exclusive provider of romantic attention for a good long while, people are fully capable of being supported to stand up to anybody by friends and anyone caring about them in their lives.
You’re telling yourself this narrative really hard where she is the one who is super attractive, you’ve built her up, and now she has a value that you don’t and this is a really narrow way of looking at love and relationships when it’s so much more complicated than that. She could decide to leave you but that isn’t necessarily because you’re an “old dad”, but for lots of other reasons that I can’t necessarily predict. Accept that you have this fear, but maybe expand your thinking to realise this was the case all along. You have always risked losing her. It only feels like now you’re competing more because of the society you’ve grown up in and the feeling of safety that comes with it.
The second part of this is not only realising that you’ve always had the risk of losing your partner to someone else (or even to death — it happens!) but that there is only so much control you have over that. There are billions of people on the planet. Someone out there who is better at a skill than you exists in any way you can imagine. The lie that you’ve been sold, which is that you must strive to be the best (“go to the gym” and “fix yourself”) encourages you to believe that you “won” a partner because of this skill. But that’s just not true. There’s a myriad of reasons why we choose partners. If you want to know why she chose you and continues to choose you — ask and explore that. Challenge yourself a little more on your assumptions.
There is a kernel of truth in your fear. Absolutely women do find it easier to get attention from heterosexual men while in polyamorous relationships because of a variety of cultural reasons and stigmas. I’m not going to bullshit you. It will be difficult because, if you decide to attempt to find dates within your typical pool of heterosexual available women, many will assume you’re cheating. Maybe speak to your partner about how you might address that. However, you should not assume that the attention women or people who are read as women get on dating sites or in real life is genuine interest, always welcome and wanted, or can develop into a real relationship. And plenty of people like flirting, but have zero interest in much else. And some people are only interested if they think it’s cheating and get less interested when you tell them that your partner knows.
There is an aspect here of you talking to your partner about what it is that non-monogamy brings you and how it’s going to change your day to day life. Especially since you have children, division of labour and time and childcare needs to be worked out. There are many different ways to do open relationships, so figuring out what it is your changed life will look like might help relieve some of your anxiety. I speak about this in my Non-Monogamy 101 article, so check that out. You’ll figure out if you actually have compatibility together when it comes to what type of open relationship you want.
When it comes to the other stuff, maybe accept that there are complicated reasons why gaining attention (which isn’t confidence boosting for everyone) might be easier for her given both of your life circumstances but also participate in dating sites and schedule time where you do have the chance to go out, not necessarily to bars, but to events or meeting spaces where you might get more attention. I’m confused as to how you might think that you might have other dates and date others without spending time away from your family and you may need to let go of the idea, if you want to be in an open relationship, that it’s bad for you to be away from your family inherently.
Be honest and forthright about being in an open relationship and accept that it just might be something that turns some people away, but you will be wasting less time by being honest. Find other ways to boost your self-confidence that doesn’t necessarily rely on the attention of others completely since you can’t control that. Question some of your self-attacking assumptions here about your inherent worth. Maybe part of the work you need to do on yourself is less about making yourself into the perfect partner but accepting some of where you’re at and giving yourself a little bit more credit. I feel like if you’re going after “girls” who are perhaps out of your age range, maybe you might struggle but people around your current age range, perhaps other polyamorous people who are also parents, might be of interest. If you and your partner are looking for actual multiple romantic relationships, then the polyamory community might work for you but if you’re just looking for hook-ups then the swinging community might work for you.
All in all, I think having some conversations with your partner about how non-monogamy is going to work within your life, challenging some of your self-limiting beliefs, and getting out more will help you overall — but just make sure you and your partner are compatible in terms of what you want from non-monogamy first.
I hope this helps and good luck!
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If you’re looking to start exploring polyamory or you’ve been non-monogamous for awhile and struggle with anxiety, The Anxious Person’s Guide to Non-Monogamy may be for you. Even if you aren’t exactly struggling with anxiety, it could be a great book for beginners.