Getting to know someone and intertwining your lives can be incredibly difficult.
When my boyfriend and I set out to conquer an escape room, we went into it thinking we'd be fussing and fighting the whole time – much like our at-home lives. With the way we'd been arguing lately, I had no idea how we'd make it through the experience. We'd always wanted to try, though, so we had no choice but to figure it out…together.
For those unfamiliar, an escape room is a live simulation in which a group of people – usually two to eight – are "trapped" in a room. Each room has its own story, and each team is tasked with locating clues that will get you out of the room within a certain time – for us, an hour.
The room we were assigned was a crime scene. The murderer hid the code to unlock the door in the same place he hid the murder weapon. It was our task to find both – solving the crime and escaping the room.
With the odds stacked against us, my boyfriend and I began locating clues and using them to find more. We spelled words with hidden Scrabble pieces and found codes to combination locks on the back of playing cards. We watched revelatory videos and listened to static audio of the victim's last phone call. I felt like I was on an episode of CSI.
Though we didn't make it out of the room in time, we did learn something that helped our relationship drastically.
One of the issues we had when coming together – as two very different individuals, from two very different backgrounds – is that we both wanted our individual experiences validated. Instead of working to understand each other, we worked to be understood. We each wanted our own realities honored and spent more time explaining ourselves than we did actually listening to each other. This escape room, however, forced us to work together and to listen. To hear each other out. To communicate in ways that was effective for the other.
Each of us revealed different clues, interpreted the series of events differently, and offered a different skill set that was both valuable and necessary to our ability to break free. The same was true for our relationship: we each held a particular set of experiences and perspective that was valuable and necessary for the success of our relationship – we were simply too self-serving to realize it.
Our vast differences and the way we consumed and communicated information were finally working in our favor. We were forced to trust each other's thoughts and honor each other's decision-making. The pressure was high and we didn't have time to fuss and fight; we only had an hour to escape. So instead, we used our time wisely: strategizing, trusting, trying, and rethinking when our attempts failed.
We realized that's what our relationship needed in real life. It wasn't about who was right or wrong, it was about how we could use our differences to advance us, collectively.
Being let out of that room together reminded us of the togetherness that ought to occur in relationships. It's not about fighting to be heard, it's about choosing to hear. It's about committing to exercise love, grace, compassion, and care to ensure we both are operating in our fullest light and strutting toward a common goal. Relationships are a partnership, and when we decided to be partners (and not just "boyfriend and girlfriend") we were actually able to take steps in the right direction.
Truthfully, we needed this simulation of what partnership looked like to push us to be better partners to one another.
The escape room was the first time we became committed to working together. This lesson of togetherness, collaboration, and true partnership remained with us long after the game was over. So, while we may have failed at the escape room, on that day our relationship took a win.
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