I was pulled aside at my son's preschool one day because of something he had said. His teacher wanted to talk with me about his language. I gulped.
Apparently he had called some boys in the schoolyard a "bunch of idiots". I asked for context. She told me that these boys refused to allow a friend of my son's to play soccer with them. While my son was included, this friend was not. And so my son threw an arm around his friend and told him that they didn't care about these other boys because they were just "a bunch of idiots."
I assured the teacher I would have a chat with him about his language but that I would also tell him how proud I was of him for standing by his friend, for being loyal and for having the courage to stand up to a "bunch of idiots".
Now 15 years old, he's still that kid.
I was that kid.
Which is why, I think, my husband's betrayal was such a shock. I thought he was that kid. I thought that, no matter what, he had my back. After all, I had his.
That, I figure, is what marriage is. After the crazy can't-live-without-you phase is over, after the why-can't-you-put-the-toilet-seat-down arguments are settled, after kids and mortgages and sick parents, marriage is about always having each other's backs. It's our safe place.
Or should have been. But wasn't.
Those of us choosing to try and rebuild our marriages are really trying to create that safe space. And it's hard when one of the partners doesn't feel safe. It's hard when one of the partners doesn't seem to have our back at all. When he's working so hard to protect his own back that he forgets he's the one who put the knife in ours.
But I'm wondering if the husbands who also want to rebuild their marriages might understand that we need them to have our backs, no matter what. Might they understand that better than rules of "no contact" or rules of disclosure? Can they commit to trying to always protect us from pain? Can they understand that we were hurt because they let their guard down. Because they didn't have our backs.
It might seem like semantics. Or it might seem like minimizing the devastation of betrayal.
But then again, it might work.
If they can wrap their minds around this idea that marriage is about watching each other's backs. Like guard dogs watching for threats and being conscious of any time they are the dangerous person in our lives. Then maybe they can feel less daunted by what's needed of them. Maybe they can step up and be the man they want to be. The one they should have been.