Have the Relationship Agreements Conversation BEFORE You Go To Burning Man!

by Reid on August 12, 2011

As a Sex Geek and avid Burning Man enthusiast with five+ dusty tours of booty under my belt (er…duty. Tours of duty!), one of the single, best bits of advice I can give any couple, semi-couple, or friends-with-benefits attending the Burn is this…

Have your relationship agreements conversation before you step foot on the Playa.

Burning Man playa dust-covered sex and relationship expert Reid Mihalko and author Allison Moon in love and enjoying the festival
You may not be able to keep out the dust at Burning Man, but having strong relationship agreements can help keep out the drama!

A very sweet, open-minded couple I’d been doing relationship coaching with recently decided that they were going to go to Burning Man for the first time together. They’d been married for over a decade and together for nearly two. They’d heard from their Burner friends plenty of miscommunication horror stories ruining Burning Man and decimating relationships. It was obvious to them that they needed to create their relationship agreements for The Burn, but they’d never had to have such a conversation before. They asked me for my best thinking on the subject and what rules and agreements I use when I attend Burning Man.

I was more than happy to oblige these two wonderful and committed people, and I wanted to share what I told them with you…

Below are some possible Conversation Starters to chew on, as well as my “official” Relationship Agreements & Sex Rules* for couples heading to Burning Man together.

*In the interest of including all those monogamous Burners who aren’t looking to sex-up their fellow faux-fur-clad playa peeps, please feel free to substitute words like “sex” and “sleeping with” with whatever PG-13 and R-Rated phrases that suit you. Some suggestions: “making out,” “flirting,” “dancing seductively,” “naked massage,” “spending more time with,” etc….

These are by no means the only ways to approach Burning Man, but they’re a good place to start kicking the ball around as you get ready to hit the Playa. May they be received as nutritious, bacon-flavored, relationship jerky for the two of you to chew on!

Have a GREAT Burn!!!!! And, please, give Black Rock City my love…


  1. Should you have your own tent or share a tent? On a scale from 1-10, ten being Very Important To You, how important is it that you share a tent?
  2. If your partner were to have sex with a complete stranger at Burning Man, what safer sex protocols could they follow which would make you feel emotionally and physically safer?
  3. If your partner were to have sex with a someone you know at Burning Man, what safer sex protocols could they follow which would make you feel safe emotionally and physically?
  4. Who is on your “Please Do Not Fuck So-And-So List”?
      4a. If they don’t fuck them, and follow the safer sex protocols above, what could they do with them that would leave you feeling safe emotionally and physically? (ie. Kissing? Oral sex? Exchanging energetic orgasms? Showering together? Non-erotic massage? Cuddling?)
  5. Does any of the above change if your partner spends the night with stranger/person you know? Sleeps over? Wakes up next to?
  6. Would it bother you to hear your partner having sex or see them pre or post-coitus entering/leaving their tent with another person? (If so, then consider a “no fucking other people in our camp”-type rule.)
  7. Depending on the answers above, is it okay for your partner to have sex in your tent with someone other than you?
  8. Same question as #7, but you’re included in the sexy time… Does that change anything? Discuss.
  9. Is it okay for your partner to interrupt you having sex or spending time with someone else to get support from you, emotional or otherwise? If it’s not okay, can you be specific as to when it would be okay to interrupt you?
  10. Is it okay for your partner to interrupt you spending non-sexual time with someone else for emotional support or otherwise? If not okay, can you be specific as to when it would be okay to interrupt you?
Sex and relationship expert Reid Mihalko at Burning Man wearing bright pink costume sporting a pink dildo on his head and a t-shirt that says, "My Little Pornicorn."
My Little Pornicorn shows up to offer some sage relationship advice to these two, dusty lovebirds!


This is by no means a complete list. Adjust as you see fit. Your milage may vary. 🙂

  1. Attend BM as “free agents,” meaning that you each can do as you please without having to “check-in” or get permission from the other.
      (Note, this does not mean you are single, but that you’re a couple who’ve negotiated Burning Man Hallpasses for yourselves, which only works when you have an idea of the answers for each of you from the “Conversation Starters List” above…)
  2. Each person gets their own tent. (You can sleep in the same tent every night if you want, but only because that’s what you want, not because it’s an obligation. Plus, this gives you each a private space of your own to decompress if you need.)
      2a. Assume each night that you won’t be sleeping in the same tent or having to wake up next to one another. (This helps in case one or both of you gets sucked into the “flow” of Burning Man and ends up not coming home till dawn, or wakes up before the other and wants to trek out on an adventure. This way you don’t have to worry that you’re breaking agreements or screwing-up somehow.)
  3. Decide if you’re going to go to see the Man burn together, even if it’s as a group. If the answer is yes, work hard not to get separated until after the Man falls. (This helps you both navigate and not “make wrong” if one of you gets sucked away from the other when the Man falls (which is easy to have happen), and it allows you both to enjoy the experience together but not necessarily have to finish it together or at the same time. (Do note that getting back to camp after the Man falls can get confusing ’cause people steal the street signs! Good luck!)
  4. Do find —if you can— a fun, agreeable time every day or other day or so for you two to meetup and check-in, share about the adventures of the previous night, and generally exalt one another for being so fucking awesome and looking so good covered in playa dust!
  5. SAFER SEX. Period. Always have the Safer Sex Conversation, and, at the very least: Use condoms for penetrative sex. (Which means that you should bring safer sex supplies to the playa!)
  6. Since BM is sensory overload on steriods, plan for alone time away from each other (and your campmates, too). Alone time away from each other can look like lots of things. This can mean that you choose to be with others. The main thing is that it’s that you’re-not-together time. Trust me on this one.
  7. Plan separate adventures and strike out on your own! (May I recommend journeying to the deep playa or visiting the Trash Fence?)
  8. If it feels good, go on an adventure together and intentionally plan to split up and go on your own ways instead of returning to camp together. May I recommend journeying to the Temple together at dawn? (Due to the chaotic and flowing nature of BM, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this approach rather than “Let’s meet up at __________ at such-and-such a time.”)
  9. Depending on answers from the Conversation Starters, agree or disagree if it’s okay to have sex with people in your same camp: In camp, in another camp, or not at all.
  10. Depending on answers from the Conversation Starters, agree on how you two will be updating one another on your sexcapades.
  11. The ‘Burning Man Rule of Relationships’ is in effect, meaning that: You agree to not break up while on the playa and for at least 2-to-3 weeks following the Burn. (I also highly recommend adding to this rule that you will not attempt to consciously impregnate someone or be impregnated. Just saying.)

Go HERE to find out what’s in Reid’s BM Sex Gear Bag!

Go HERE to book Reid for a coaching session!

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