After so much thinking about all this, I actually broached the topic with my husband last night after all. Not to say I am in love with another or ask his blessing for extramarital sex, but just to say I'd come to understand things about myself, and why I'd cheated on boyfriends and found fidelity so difficult in the past. To let him know that I am able to be in love with more than one man at once.
Well, it went extremely well! He voiced his concerns and his views... Among them, that he sees this is something about me, and my need for love, and not any inadequacy on his part. (He made these statements himself; he wasn't just agreeing with things I was saying to him!)
His concerns lie in 2 camps -one, that my attention to other relationships could distract me from our family, the core of our lives. He is the sort of person who feels burdened by most relationships -extended family, networks of friends -and keeps his attention devoted to just those who are most central in his life; wife, kids, mother, siblings, my parents. He also sees that I am a social person and have always thrived on filling my life with people, so I think he knows I am not going to have trouble in this department.
And two, that allowing someone to become close to me gives them the power to hurt. Here, he seems less worried about my own personal heartbreak, although I think it's that too, but also about our family as a whole. He gave the example of a woman running for political office in the south whose campaign was derailed by several people claiming they'd had affairs with her (she was married; open marriage or not didn't matter to the voting public.) He wants us to always live a life that holds up to public scrutiny. He reads the news too much, I think, so worst case scenarios are never far from his mind.
I came away from the conversation with a few things. I knew he was not a jealous man, and this affirms that he does not feel threatened or lessened by my loving someone else. In fact, he recognized the energy that I bring back to the marriage bed from the happiness I get feeling love for another. He grinned at that. I don't have to feel guilty any more about this. I also know that in loving another, I need to be very careful, for my husband's sake, about where I put my trust, and how much I share of myself. This is fine; I don't feel that sentiment I see expressed so much among people here: "I am poly and this is the way I need to live to feel happiest." For me, it's just about these two men, my husband and the friend I love, so starting new relationships doesn't interest me. (I realize I might fall in love with someone else someday anyway, but I'll cross that bridge then.) I trust both of these men with my life, and all my secrets.
Anyway, I just wanted to share my news of this happy conversation. He's quite the stellar husband, isn't he?
I also wanted to comment on what a loving (that should come as no surprise!) group of people writes on this forum. Anonymous online conversations have a tendency to get unkind sometimes, but I have yet to read a post that wasn't supportive and affirming, even when there were differences of opinion. You all rock!