In order to prepare for our upcoming nuptials, Kris and I took part in a 4 day Relationship Bootcamp this past weekend. At 12 hours per day, we found ourselves committed to 48 hours straight of highly emotional activities on top of very strict rules. We were not allowed to have cell phones, social media, coffee, alcohol, chocolate, over the counter pain medications, cigarettes, and we couldn’t eat alone as a couple. We had to stay with the group even on meal breaks. The purpose was to ensure we didn’t turn to our comforts or outlets of relief when we started feeling the pressure. We had to look fear in the face, rather than running away, which I learned a lot of people, including me, have a tendency to do.
Kris and I were the only engaged couple there out of the 13 couples. Everyone else was married for at least 10 years or more. We were in for a complete shock when we walked in to a room filled with extreme marital strife. One husband admitted in front of everyone that he had just had an affair and another couple were equipped with divorce papers on the table. If anything, this setup could have scared Kris and I from going to the altar.
We delved into the exercises and role playing for the first 2 days, which proved to be revelational and healing for a lot of people. But, I felt like I was sailing through and all my tears were for other people rather than myself. I thought, “Hmm, I’ve done this one before, I’ve identified and forgiven for that.” I was worried that maybe I wasn’t going deep enough or that I might not get anything out of this weekend. I have been through a lot of inner healing and forgiving of myself and others, but I knew I still didn’t feel completely whole and there were still missing pieces to the puzzle of me. I had been praying to God for revelation and clarity on the decision to marry Kris because I had been experiencing a lot of self doubt and anxiety with the wedding coming so soon. And despite my doubts that I could learn anything more about myself or go any deeper, God finally took me there on day 3.
My Reveal, Rewrite, Renew
The foundation of the bootcamp uses the principle, REveal, REwrite, REnew. It is the process that helps people heal from their hurts and wounds to be able to have healthy relationships, especially with their self. This is my experience:
Reveal: I pieced together some little details as to why I react to certain things and why I had developed certain patterns in relationships. The moment the roots to my actions came to light for me, I felt a sense of freedom. I realized they were patterns I had developed because of things that happened when I was a little girl. This is psychology 101, but bootcamp took me to even another level. Those triggers for me aren’t Kris’ s responsibility to tip toe around in order to keep me happy. Although it is his duty as a husband to be sensitive to my triggers, it is ultimately my responsibility to recognize and heal the root. I have the power to choose whether or not I will continue in these bad habits.
For example, one thing I recognized is that I tend to look at life through rose colored glasses. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of fairytales and when my world got crazy, I would hide in my room. Hiding or running away was my coping mechanism. So now, as an adult, if someone hurts me or I feel neglected, I will block it out by running away from the situation. I realized that in past relationships, when I have tried to stay strong through something hurtful, I end up resorting to the same coping defense because it’s familiar and comfortable. I will allow myself to spiral in to desolation, letting my mind run rampant with toxic thoughts. It was easier for me to do that than to power through it. It was my normal, my familiar. Toxic self talk and desolation were my friends.
Rewrite: But if I am going to be in a successful marriage, I have to take ownership of that right now. Say no to this habit I am so used to, and take steps to create a new, healthy way of responding to pain. I learned this weekend that if I put on the glasses of compassion, I will be able to see the heart behind the actions of the man I love. Rewriting your wounds means forgiving the people that hurt you and then choosing to see them through the eyes of compassion. Everybody has a story, every soul has damage. Once we understand that person’s story, we can have compassion for them and understand why they treated us the way they did. We may realize it was never really about us in the first place, it was them operating out of their own wounding and defenses.
When we are in that healthy place, then we can take the steps to “live above the line.” We have a choice every morning: do we want to live above the line or exist below it? Above the line are confidence, faith, trust, hope, joy, peace, self-respect and freedom. Below the line are things like bitterness, resentment, anger, isolation, self-hatred, doubt and fear. When we live below the line, we are ultimately living out of fear. Fear that you can’t trust your partner, fear that you will be hurt again. What kind of life is that? The fact is, we will always be hurt by someone, especially those we love the most. We are human. The key is to look at them through compassion and see the heart behind the mistake. After all, we need the same grace too.
Renew: Every morning when you wake up, start your day by renewing your mind. Set your mind on what is the TRUTH about you, not the the lies you have believed from broken circumstances. For instance; at the end of bootcamp, each person made an “affirmation contract” with themselves. I chose 4 words that I needed to believe about myself and formed them into a declaration that read: “I, Kristen am a whole, strong, trusting woman of God who is gracious.” The power of life and death is in the tongue, so every day, I will speak this out loud over my life until it becomes a part of me. What you believe about yourself is the truth, so make sure it’s who you want to be!
If you are in a relationship, you can form a habit of blessing each other every morning with uplifting words or prayer. We also recognized that it is imperative to maintain a clean slate and forgive those who have wronged you daily. This will keep our minds and spirits weightless and free to enjoy the fullness of life we have at our fingertips.
Finally, it is our choice who we want to be. There is so much freedom in recognizing our damage, understanding and healing the root of it through compassion and forgiveness. We did an exercise where we forgave ourselves and released any shame we carry. Everyone has access to a clean slate, it starts from within. You are the writer of your life story. So respect the incredible person you were designed to be and embrace the fullness of all you are to become. Be committed. Do what it takes. Have what you want.