I recently found myself on the other end of the phone listening to a girlfriend list out all the reasons she should break up with her boo thang. I sat and listened as she lamented over the deal breakers and wondered out loud how they could survive when he was always ______ and doing ______. She ended with a frustrated, “I ain’t ’bout to go through that ish again!”
In 2012, a popular experiment started trending in the US. It was the escape room. These excursive, elusive adult gaming events took the world by storm as organizations, book clubs, friend groups, wedding parties, and athletic teams registered and paid to be locked in a room or series of rooms all for the challenge of getting out.
The whole premise behind these escape rooms is to outsmart the ghostly intelligence behind the wall, the voice coming from the speakers, or some blurred, obscure image on a computer monitor. Given clues and unexpected tools, the individual or group is plunged into the task of getting out. Most escape room adventure participants find themselves escaping into multiple new more challenging rooms until eventually time runs out or you find the way out.
“I wonder how much more joy we’d experience if we spent less time looking for the way out and explicitly working toward finding the way in.”
After I got off the phone with my girlfriend, I was sad for her. I worried that she was about to give up on her relationship and subsequently her happiness. While I spent time offering her space to vent about some new issue that had arisen, at the end of the day I knew she loved him, and he loved her. And although love alone is not enough to stay in a relationship, I had watched her happiness bloom with this guy. She actually spent most of our time talking about all the great things about him and why he was “the one.”
A few months after that phone call, we found ourselves having a similar conversation. This time she was listening, and I was venting telling her how, “I am so done,” and by the end of it I had convinced myself that I had reached a deal breaker. That night, God spoke to me, gently nudged me, and cautioned me to stop looking for the way out and work to discover a way in. I woke up like…really God! Really!?!?
Disclaimer: I am NOT A RELATIONSHIP EXPERT. I am just a girl who has decided to pursue peace and commit to the process of healing. And, to do what I know – – I… HAVE… TO… DO… THE… WORK! (Insert emphatic claps).
So, my commitment to do the work led me to days of self-care routines that helped me be in the space to pray, reflect, journal, and arrive at healthy decisions not borne in and from emotional spaces. While I continued to think about him, I kept being slammed back into thoughts about my own shit.
I was like, ok Chanell. He can find just as many reasons to shoot you the deuces too! Gasp! (As I clutch my pearls! HA!) So, I wondered how much more joy we’d experience if we spent less time looking for the way out and more time explicitly working toward finding the way in.
Today, I am going to focus in on one way in.
View Obstacles as Opportunities
In the escape room experience, each opportunity presented allows for a leader to emerge or some clever plan to be crafted. In my experience in escape rooms, the fun was never about getting out, it was all about discovery—figuring out the clues, seeing who would be the calm one, the rational one, the giggly one (me), etc. The whole experience presented a host of opportunities as the team rallied together to win the challenge.
In our relationships, when the argument happens or we unwittingly hurt each other’s feelings, what would happen if we stopped and realized these as opportunities to open up conversations, revisit traumas and speak our truth about our triggers? Over time, I have been very intentional about stepping away emotionally and viewing our conflicts through a lens of healing and reconciliation. What I know to be true is that most of the time the issue is more deeply rooted than what the argument is about. It lies in fear as residual debris from unresolved issues from previous relationships or experiences. What looks like defensiveness or avoidance is behavior manifested from our fear of rejection or abandonment.
In my own healing journey, I have committed to discovering all the ways to break in. How do I break in to freedom of voice and communication? How do I break in to acceptance of the perspective of the other? How do I break in to new ways to show appreciation? How do I break in to the courage to set boundaries? How do I break in to effective ways to state my needs in love? How do I break in to the supportive space to understand his trauma behaviors?
As a result, my relationship just feels better. Not to be confused with emotion…like the warm fuzzies. No, I am not speaking of rainbows and unicorns and cotton candy clouds. I am talking about peace. You know how when things are rocky, you have that sick ache in your gut, clinched-jaw headaches, and tense shoulders—all the physical symptoms of stress, worry, panic, anxiety. Instead, I no longer experience these things at the alarming rate I did when I was constantly focusing on all the misgivings of the relationship that seemed to afford me ways out. Instead, I feel the peace that comes from a hopefulness of doing love and life in new and exciting ways. Yes, I said doing love (that is another blog post).
Here’s the conundrum: Yes, we still have the same disagreements, and we fuss over many of the same things. We have simply committed to approaching these from a “way in” disposition instead of the cowardly “way out” attitude.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts in this series of Escape Room Relationships. And until next time, listen as Life Speaks!
Peace and love.