Burning Man Can Be Tough On Relationships

Photo by Tor Clausen, 2006

Are you attending Burning Man with a significant other or close friend?

How long have you known this person?

More importantly, how well do you know this person?

Truth be told, by week’s end you’ll know that person much more than you did when you arrived.

Anyone attending Burning Man with his or her significant other or close friend should know the potential for stress and frustration the event can have on relationships -especially if this is the first time you’re going to the playa together.

I personally know of several relationships (both romantic and platonic) that were dissolved after a bit of drama erupted into full-blown arguments and, to this day, have never been completely resolved.

It’s hard to say what exactly is the cause: the intense daytime heat and stress of being in the desert; the intensity and over-stimulation of the event; the pervasive spontaneity; lack of sleep; decreased appetite; potential dehydration; or, if this is your first time, your inexperience with the combination of all the above.

Think about it this way: everything you do feels like it’s put under a microscope. And if you’re with a romantic partner early on in the relationship, think of it like speed dating on steroids.
Seemingly little things that might have been glossed over with a short conversation and explanation in the real world somehow have a way of becoming much larger, more intense issues on the playa. Emotions are raw, patience can be short, and before you know it, you could find yourself in a screaming match with each other.

While we can’t even begin to give you advice on every problem that could erupt between you and your partner or friends, the important thing to remember is to be respectful of one another’s feelings and/or boundaries. Sometimes taking yourself out of the situation with a time-out can work wonders. Or maybe it won’t. Every situation is different.

What we can do, however, is to recommend that you read our Relationship Survival Guide, filled with lots of great tips to help you prepare and avoid potential relationship-altering or -ending problems.

We’re confident your relationship can survive the intensity that is Burning Man. And well, if it doesn’t survive, there are plenty more cool people on the playa with you. Find yourself a new playa buddy!

Good luck, and be careful out there.

We’re all in this together, you know!

Burning Man Relationship Survival Guide


About the author: timmmii

Tim was not born on a bayou, but he wishes he had, as that would be more romantic. Tim is a writer, editor, picky eater, lighter of some fluids, co-founder of Fireside Storytelling, wannabe statistician, avid bicyclist, host of the radio show Down The Well w/ Timmmii on RadioValencia.fm, fighter, loud, and Burning Man maven since 1999. Tim has other talents too but he prefers to leave you guessing.

9 Comments on “Burning Man Can Be Tough On Relationships

  • PQ says:

    this is soooo true. one thing you’ll learn is that the playa will give you exactly what you need, whether you know what that is or not. that goes for relationships, or anything else you can or can’t imagine.

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  • rj says:

    Who’s the blonde on the LLC and is she single?

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  • Andie Grace says:

    I’ve seen perfectly rational, super solid couples turn into monsters after 7 nights of interrupted sleep, a little dehydration, and two different expectations of “participation”. Relationships can be made or broken in the desert, for sure.

    Then again, it’s such a fun place to be in love — or even just hot, sweaty like.

    Communication (duh) is key.

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  • timmmii says:

    From Megan – I agree with Andie — you can’t emphasize communication enough. Making sure to spend a little down time every day just talking with your partner/friend, so you two can interact with only each other instead of with the whole overwhelming world, is really helpful. It creates kind of a safe space to discuss whatever’s on your mind before it gets out of hand, and it helps you get a sense of what kind of head space the other person is in.

    The more each person knows about where the other is coming from, the easier it is to be understanding and supportive, and the less likely things will be to get intense in that bad way.

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  • timmmii says:

    From jenmoon: we make sure to take care of our own needs but also pay attention to the needs of our partner that we know we are particularly good at. he’s not good at drinking enough (water) and i need help with physical needs (i have asthma, etc). when we spot those in each other and help ease over them, it makes it easier on not only each other but our campmates too. and let me tell you, they appreciate it.

    (we’ve been to BM 6 and 5 years each; 4 of them together…)

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  • timmmii says:

    From Megan: I agree with Andie, in my experience, the “different expectations” are often the real reason for trouble. Disappointment and hurt seem to grow exponentially more painful on the playa.

    Everything is different out there and more intense. Things can go south really fast, but thankfully the opposite of all this is also true: I found the my most important people in my life out there and that experience changed the course of my life.

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  • timmmii says:

    From Serial Carpens: I asked the guy I’m getting a ride with up there if he was bringing any chicks (he has a huge 40 ft RV) and he’s like ‘what? fuck no! then I’d be stuck with her for 7 days! Find the pussy once you get there!’ or something to that effect. In any case, my name is Carpenns, and I have an air mattress, my own bad self, and I promise not to slip roofies in your beverage, unless you want me too! Leave the boyfriend at home, I’ll cook us some fettuccine for foreplay, and later, see how you look in one of my skirts. ^_^

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  • strangefellow says:

    ditto on it all. Here’s the key bits…Patience…Water…Patience…a smile…patience…LOVE

    tha Strangefellow

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