Image: Jordan Lee
Some couples like to take time off and wander the world to recharge, rejuvenate and reconnect with each other. Others prefer a different kind of trip. Psychedelics are increasingly gaining prominence as well as regulatory approval as a form of treatment for mental health disorders ranging from PTSD to anxiety. This has also sparked a larger conversation on whether using hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms or LSD could then also emerge as a form of relationship therapy, given that these substances have the ability to curb inhibitions and change the way we perceive reality.
The rise and rise of psychedelic wellness has also led to couples experimenting with the substances together, either to forge stronger bonds, deal with deep-seated issues in a controlled setting or simply share the euphoric experience together. In fact, though psychedelics are not legal in most countries, relationship counsellors are increasingly advocating their use in counselling sessions, where a couple is administered a mild dosage in a controlled environment, asked leading questions about their hopes and fantasies while they’re tripping, and given calculated counselling based on their experiences. “Psilocybin has incredible [potential] as a catalyst for such therapy because it tears down all your walls and filters, and changes the way you think about the relationship,” Kripi Malviya, a psychologist and founder of de-addiction and rehabilitation centre TATVA, told VICE. Malviya emphasised that when taken in a controlled setting followed by desensitisation and therapy, psychedelics showed massive promise to help a couple get closer on a deeper level. “It helps you look outside the set patterns of your brain and could even merge the experience [of a couple] together to make them feel closer to each other.” She cited the example of Alexander “Sasha” and Ann Shulgin, a couple who synthesised psychedelics and explicitly spoke about how it impacted their relationship in a 1991 book PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story.
Psychedelics can also lead to ego dissolution or ego death, a feeling in which the mind is put in touch more directly and intensely with the world, producing a profound sense of connection and boundlessness. “You feel more attractive and ephemeral on a psychedelic, so there’s a sense of self-transformation that then becomes a transformation together when done with a partner,” added Malviya. But despite the untapped potential, psychedelics continue to face several legal hurdles. This has in turn prompted a DIY culture of couples tripping together to take their relationship to the next level. We spoke to some of them to understand the impact it has made on their connection and intimacy. Names have been changed to protect identities.
My husband and I have been together for 18 years now. About two years into our relationship, he told me he’d tried LSD with some of his friends and had such a euphoric experience that he wanted to share it with me. So, we decided to try it together and booked a house with a terrace near a beachside location for the weekend. For our first trip together, we did half a stamp (blotter paper) each, though I’m not sure what the exact dosage was because it happened so long ago. We went to the beach around 4 AM and took the stamps, then fell asleep on a hammock. We woke up a couple of hours later and our trip had begun. I didn’t know what to expect, but our first time together was amazing. It was intense and euphoric and I remember just being lost in laughter together.
“The more we’ve tripped together, the more comfortable we’ve gotten sharing our deepest, darkest fantasies with each other.”
We’ve probably done it at least 30 times by now and each trip has been more intense than the last. I feel complete freedom when I do it with my partner because it feels like a judgement-free space where we can be our most intimate, not to mention how amazing the sex can be. Once, I laughed so hard during my trip that I peed my pants, but because of how comfortable we were with each other while tripping, it didn’t matter. There’s this overwhelming sense of gratitude that we feel when we trip together. The more we’ve tripped together, the more comfortable we’ve gotten sharing our deepest, darkest fantasies with each other. He opened up about his kink for domination and having someone who works for him bend over for him while in the office, and I shared my fantasy of double penetration – both taboo topics we’d never have discussed otherwise. We’ve even opened up about fantasies we have with other people. It can be daunting for many people to have these difficult conversations, especially because there’s a fear of going into a bad trip. But I feel like the more we’ve tripped together, the more control we’ve felt over our thoughts, instead of trying to control the situation. We’ve had some very bad fights in our relationship, to the point where we’ve thrown things at each other, but facing these issues and talking about them after tripping together made us realise how grateful we are for each other and that all is not doomed. It helped us slow down and reflect on the good and the bad, sometimes for up to eight hours. I used to have issues adjusting to his family’s expectations after we got married, but once we discussed this while tripping, we were able to communicate about how we can be better to each other and work on fixing the situation. –Neha, 37, graphic designer
My fiancé and I decided to trip together for the first time after I trip-sat for him and a friend. I’d experimented with psilocybin, but never LSD. After watching him have the best night, I decided I was ready to try it. We were at home. It was night and he ensured everything was perfect for my first real trip. It actually kicked in pretty fast. We dropped acid at the location where we picked it up itself, assuming we had about an hour to get back home before things got too weird to drive safely. We made a pitstop to see a friend and ended up staying with him for a little too long, smoking some weed. By the time we left his house, the acid was taking full effect. We were crying and laughing for all of the ten minutes it took us to drive home. The rest of the trip was just absolutely textbook perfect. We ate our favourite snacks, listened to The Dark Side Of The Moon while we stared at the ceiling which suddenly began popping like popcorn, we watched Woodstock on DVD… it was the best night of my life.Tripping with a partner is always different because there’s a deeper connection there. Acid strips your feelings down to the core, allowing you to feel everything on the deepest level. When you have the face of the love of your life in your hands, that deep sense of belonging and connection is simply unmatched. We’ve seen our souls intertwine and felt strands of energy tie us together. You simply don’t get that alone or with friends.
“We felt our souls intertwine and realised we were cosmic mates.”
It also made me realise that we were both spiritual, something I never would’ve figured otherwise. One of our trips led to a very sensual moment and during that time, he looked me in my eyes and told me all about how we’re cosmic mates, that our love has collided throughout our every past existence. Once we came to the realisation that we’re destined to love each other time and time again, it made the little hardships seem trivial. We still fight but it’s different. There’s no risk of an end for either of us. A reasonable dose in a controlled setting can lead to complete vulnerability and mind blowing discoveries. Psychedelics are such a powerful tool when it comes to the mind. I conquered alcoholism because of acid. I know who I am now. I’m confident in myself and my relationship. I see the world in a truer, more sincere light, now. Acid changed my life and I’m far better off for it. –Sarah, 28, marketing professional
Though my partner and I have tripped together just a handful of times, each has been a life-changing experience. While I’m tripping, I usually fall silent because my words can’t keep up with the pace of my thoughts. Everything is intense, everything is devastatingly beautiful, and my emotions are really heightened. And though I might not say a word, I feel my partner just gets it, I guess because he goes through the same thing in his own way. I feel like we remind ourselves then that our everyday squabbles and differences of opinion are tiny and do not matter in the grand scheme of things. I also feel very safe doing drugs with him around, and that is a reminder of what a safe space he is for me – something I might forget in the chaos of everyday life and normalcy. This helps me see the bigger picture – why I chose him and how we’ve built our life together. The heightened awareness and emotions kind of remind me how it was to first fall in love with him, that phase when everything is extra exciting and wonderful. Mixing love and other drugs has really strengthened us and led to the most intense shared experiences and honest, deep conversations.
“I feel very safe doing drugs with him around, and that is a reminder of what a safe space he is for me.”
There are some caveats in terms of how we do this, though. The setting is extremely important. We make sure we are largely outdoors in nature but with access to a room if need be, be it to lie down or get down and dirty. We make sure we’re in a safe location, won’t have to deal with strangers or cops, and have plenty of daylight through the trip. I am a bit more wary about drugs than my partner so he makes sure he’s always by my side if need be. There is no pressure to do anything, say anything, go anywhere, which is something we discuss beforehand. I love high sex but it’s not like we will always get intimate – we take it as it goes so there is no pressure on either end. –Damini, 34, writer
My girlfriend and I had been dating for two years when we first decided to trip together. We decided to go camping in a forest near where we lived. We took it just before sunset. As we watched the sky change colours into a magnificent orange, it felt like it was on fire just for us. We spent the whole night stargazing from our cosy tent, and each twinkling light in the sky felt like a room full of candles lit up just for us. Though we had been together for two years, she opened up to me about her parents’ broken marriage, hopes and dreams like never before. It was the closest I’ve ever felt to her. She is my first love, and after tripping together, I hope she will be my last. I know we’re too young to make these statements, but holding her in my arms while we tripped together was such a surreal experience that tethered us together. –Gary, 18, studentFollow Shamani on Instagram and Twitter.