Festivals create a magical, fantastical world full of possibilities, openness, and wonder.
It makes sense you’d want your real world lover to be experiencing these with you. However, festivals can also be difficult, wearing, and triggering. How can we use the festival experience to our advantage to strengthen our relationships instead of letting it destroy them?
Bring back a sense of newness and novelty.
Oftentimes in long-term relationships we settle into a routine with one another, creating a sense of security and predictability. This security and predictability can kill sexual passion and feelings of excitement and curiosity that accompany a relationship.
Between the art, music, yoga, and workshops occurring in all corners of the festival grounds, there is ample opportunity for newness and stimulation. Use this occasion to create new, shared experiences together. Go on an adventure and wander through the art. Put on sexy costumes to re-ignite your sexual sides. Dance like it’s nobody’s business. Learn something new together at a fascinating workshop. Stepping out of your routine and incorporating new experiences will help keep your relationship and sex life fresh, exciting, and forever interesting.
Get to know the inner world of each other.
We often think that after being mates for two, five, 10, or 20 years, we know our partner inside and out. We as human beings are ever-evolving and we never stay the same person day-to-day or year-to-year. Our perspectives, desires, habits, and beliefs all change with life experience.
Festivals can provide a time for you to explore one another’s inner worlds. One way to stimulate conversation is to explore the art at a festival. What comes up for you when you gaze at a sculpture or a giant Amanda Sage painting? How we interpret art can reveal a lot about how we make sense of the world or what type of problems we’ve been processing lately. One partner can explain what is coming up for them in the art piece, while the other can shift into a curious mode and ask questions that cultivate deeper understanding of each other.
Be sure to take turns, whether that’s with the same art piece or another. The point is to learn more about the person you are with.
Self-sooth, partner sooth.
Festivals are teeming with stimulation, which can become overwhelming for anyone! When we get overstimulated, it is very difficult to receive any other input. Our system is flooded with adrenaline, we become highly sensitive, and logical reasoning can seem impossible.
Research shows it can take our body 20 minutes to return to a calmer state after becoming flooded with stimulation. Arguments are going to be much more intense during this time, with little or no resolution.
So instead, can you identify something to soothe yourself or your partner? You can pick up the disagreement at a later time, but in this sensitive moment it’s time to practice calming the central nervous system. What soothes you? Deep breathing? Yoga? A walk around? Food? What can you do to soothe your partner? A hug? Slow breathing with them? Holding eye contact and smiling? Food?
Build in a solo adventure day.
When we come together to form a relationship, a level of merging occurs. This is a normal occurrence as it brings two individuals from different backgrounds, life experiences, and interests together to co-create a life that accommodates both.
If we don’t remember that within the unit we are still separate individuals, we can find ourselves enmeshed, or overly identified with the other person. Sometimes we lose our own individuality or interests for the sake of our partner and as a result we may feel less energized, disconnected from ourselves, suffocated, or even experience feelings of resentment.
Practice rediscovering yourselves as independent human beings and assign one of your days at the festival as a day where you both go off on your own separate adventures. Set a time (if that’s even possible) and a place for you both to come and meet at the end of the day or the following morning, where you can reunite and share what you have experienced as separate individuals.
Initially this may be difficult as sometimes we worry about the safety or comfort of our partner going off on their own. Reframe this discomfort as a chance for growth and expansion with your relationship. Process later what thoughts, fears, and discomfort of the separation came up for you both throughout the day.
Talk about what challenges or new endeavors you both dove into without the comforting feeling of proximity your partner provides. I can guarantee you both will enjoy discovering, not only yourself in the process, but the exciting stories of your partner’s day.
Practice congruent communication.
Your partner tells you that they are “fine” with one decision, but their face and body language says something different. Nothing is more difficult than when your partner puts you in a double-bind that makes you wrong either way you choose to go. This can easily occur at a festival where we often ignore our basic human needs such as food, water, and sleep for the preferred experiences of exploring and dancing.
If our desires for specific activities differ from our partners, we need to practice open communication and come to common ground. If we don’t speak up about what’s internally going on, or if we choose not to listen and honor the needs of our partner, we are only creating an environment where resentment, distance, and insecurity can breed. So speak your truth. Hear and honor your partner’s experience. Negotiate how you both move forward together. You’ll save yourself some trouble.
Attending a festival with a partner can be an amazing, yet challenging, experience. How you approach the festival and how you manage the stressors that arise can ensure that you both have a great time, and provide opportunities to grow in aspects that may have fallen to the wayside.
Armed with these strategies you can come back to each other and discover ways in which you can grow as a couple.
Just remember not to leave these learned lessons on the festival grounds. Bring them home with you. Integrate your experiences into your day-to-day interactions and see how your relationship evolves.
Author: Dr. Cat Meyer, PsyD, LMFT
Editor: Lieselle Davidson