Monogamous man goes to Burning Man. Man takes psychedelics. Man finds orgy dome. Man returns home polyamorous. We all know the tale. But without downplaying the Burning Man experience, can taking psychedelics seriously make you polyamorous?
A monumental trip can change your views on love, perhaps helping you realize that love is limitless. This experience can open minds to the potential for polyamory, while providing tools to handle emotions like jealousy. Polyamory translates into “many loves,” and means dating and fucking more than one person, while ethical non-monogamy is an umbrella term for all consensual open relationships.
Psychedelics and sexual or romantic freedom go hand in hand. However, whether it’s molly at Burning Man, an ayahuasca ceremony in a forest, or shrooms with friends, a trip is not a replica of real life. Polyamory is not for everyone, psychonaut or not. But if you are inclined toward multiple partners, how can psychedelics encourage ethical non-monogamy, and how you can responsibly integrate wisdom from a trip into your life without going against your grain? Keep reading.
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Psychedelics can open your mind (and your relationship)
You are insignificant. The universe is so vast that your puny ego doesn’t stand a chance. Of course, simultaneously, you are the most important creature in the universe. In fact, you are a universe. It’s not just you—everyone is the universe. There is no limit on love! If you let go during a trip and allow yourself to fall, many learn that the safety net is already there and always was. “The psychedelic experience requires surrender and opening, which is paralleled in ethical non-monogamy, where one is often challenged to let go of the idea of having control over aspects of a partner’s behavior,” says Britta Love, a 32-year-old queer somatic sex educator and healer from Brooklyn. “The psychedelic experience can sometimes give the sense of oneness and interconnectivity with others, which is a helpful imprint for entering into ethical non-monogamy, as well.”
For some, such realizations can make ethical non-monogamy or polyamory quite appealing. A psychedelic experience can give someone the tools that they need to match the lifestyle. This includes an understanding that love is not a limited resource and a healthy comprehension of jealousy. These tools can not only turn someone on to poly, but help those already practicing ethical non-monogamy to maintain their relationships.
“That 5-MeO-DMT trip was monumental for me in how I related to polyamory,” says Jeremie Saunders, a 32-year-old man from Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Words can not begin to describe the overwhelming sense of infinite love that existed within that trip.” Saunders has cystic fibrosis (CF). He began exploring polyamory when his wife broached the subject, concerned that she was holding him back from life experiences. He initially sought out psychedelics to form a healthy relationship with death, a constant fear for someone with CF. His first trip, a 5-MeO-DMT ceremony, not only made him more comfortable with the impermanence of life, but also the limitless nature of love. “When I came back to my body, and through a few weeks of reflection, I felt I had been given this new set of tools,” Saunders says. “There was a newfound sense of clarity. Still, to this day, when dealing with the inevitable emotion of jealousy within my relationships, I recall back to that experience with 5-MeO as a way to work through it.” Understanding the limitless nature of love, with the help of a psychedelic, can undercut the emotion of jealousy.
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Real life rules still apply
Polyamory: Many are called, few can serve. Polyamory is hard work. Imagine the emotional ups and downs of one romantic relationship and multiply that by however many partners you have, plus your partner’s partners, and add a dash of jealousy and some serious organizational skills. You need to take extra care of your sexual health. Communication becomes not just important, but your lifeline.
For some, polyamory is the answer to a question they’ve been looking for their whole life. For others, despite what your acid trip says, you and your attachment style may be better suited for monogamy. Of course, polyamory and monogamy are not your only two options; there is a couture relationship format for every couple who wants one. But what do you do after a trip that says love is all around us when you have a heart that yearns for the monogamous romance of a Lana Del Rey song?
“Often, after a powerful psychedelic experience, it’s easy to want to plunge into major life changes based on the trip,” Love says. “Sometimes the trip will indeed be a powerful catalyst for big changes. But I think it’s always wise to take some time to process and integrate first, to make sure that the change you’re looking to make is sustainable.” Just like with psychedelics, when it comes to trying new relationship formats, start low and go slow. Integrate other people into your dirty talk. Start couple’s therapy. And individual therapy. Have a threesome. Join a dating app. Make friends with your local poly community (if you know the psychedelic community, you can find the poly one). Go on a first date. Communicate with your primary partner, if you have one, consistently.
“Ethical non-monogamy is not the best fit for everyone. I think it’s important, to be honest with yourself and your partner(s) in developing the right relationship setup for you,” Love says. “It’s also OK to become interested in ethical non-monogamy and then spend a lot of time working with emotions that come up around it, or to ask for certain boundaries and support in your journey.” You can’t plan a trip, and you certainly can’t plan your emotional reaction to various relationship formats until you try it.
Just like you should have a trip sitter or shaman to guide you through your psychedelic experience, make sure you have emotional health support in place as you explore your relationship format. There is no completely safe answer. However, if you integrate what you learned from a trip safely and slowly into your love life, with frequent check-ins, you can find the relationship format right for you.
And the best news? You can change your mind at any time. “Often on psychedelics, we get taken by ski lift to the top of the mountain—only to find ourselves at the base the next day, wondering how to climb up again,” Love says. “Trips can give us such amazing insight and ideals to strive for, but real change never just happens overnight. Working to integrate those new ideas and insights can be a lifelong process.”
Sophie Saint Thomas is DoubleBlind’s Community Engagement Editor. Her writing has been published in GQ, Playboy, VICE, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Allure, Glamour, Marie Claire, High Times, Nylon, Refinery29, Complex, Harper’s Bazaar, PRIDE Magazine, SELF, and more.