My Boyfriend Went on a Spirit Quest and (Temporarily) Swore Off Sex

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Last month, my boyfriend of seven months went on an ayahuasca retreat. I'm not an expert on ayahuasca, but in the most general terms, that means he went to Peru with a dozen or so strangers to spend ten days in the jungle with a shaman, who provides ayahuasca. Which, as far as I know, is a liquid that they make each day from plants and roots from the forest … a hallucinogen. What happens next is a very dark, deep, personal, and intangible experience, which helps people face themselves in different ways. 

People make commitments to do certain things before and after the experience. It's part of the rules — you go on a particular cleansing diet associated with the ayahuasca experience. And, in my boyfriend’s case, for 30 days after, he wasn’t supposed to drink alcohol, do any drugs, have any pork, masturbate, or have sex. To be precise, “no exchange of bodily fluids.” This even means no kissing.

The retreat was his fourth, but his first while dating me. Before he went away, he explained the rules to me while we were apple picking. It was a little hard for me to totally understand the reasoning. Sex isn’t like drugs or alcohol. It’s intimate and beautiful; it’s not a vice. Not to mention we have a great, healthy sex life.

I’m more pragmatic, and this stuff is definitely not for me, but I needed to accept that the choice was right for him. It’s really meaningful to my boyfriend, and to many others. See, before he went, he wasn’t feeling great, physically, professionally ... Among other things, he was frustrated with himself for not keeping self-promises and commitments. He wanted to examine why he was doing that. So the process of “following-through”  is important for him.

Of course, I’m human. When he was expressing this discontentment with his current state, I’m thought: Hey, I’m a big part of your life; How much of it has to do with me? I had to let it go and see what happened. And as far as the prohibition on sex, I didn’t feel insulted. This was not an arbitrary decision; it was deeply important to him. I did check the website to make sure it was an actual rule though …

I honestly can’t remember having the this-is-our-last-sex-for-a-long-time sex. But that’s only because the day before he left, my 23-year-old cat died. It was a rough day. That’s sort of clouding my memory.

Now that he’s back, the hardest part is no kissing. Knowing you can’t do something makes you want it more. I haven’t been able to kiss him for over a month — and I missed him so much while he was away! Even masturbating is kind of … disappointing. Because what I’m desiring is having that closeness and connection. However, I’ve had a lot of sex dreams recently, which is rare for me. And my friends at work say I’m talking about sex more than I used to.

I bought him a chessboard to kill time during the 30 days. He always beats me; that makes him feel good. We’ve been bickering a little bit. There’s a tension that’s created when you can’t share intimacy. So that’s present, but it’s okay.

In a week or so, we can have sex again. I almost feel nervous about it, like it’s our first time. I don’t want to think about it too much — I’m afraid I’ll be weird and awkward. It’s exciting, too, though. Holding back definitely increases urge and importance.

It’s too soon to see how this will affect us long-term. One friend was quickly judgmental — like, ‘There must be something wrong in the relationship.” And I’m sure some say my boyfriend is “crazy.” It’s fine. To each his own. But I don’t think he’s crazy at all. I don’t think people who believe strongly in new experiences are nuts. I mean, it’s no crazier than seeing a psychotherapist once a week, or going on meds. Everyone has their own way of dealing. You can’t label anyone as crazy.

To me, he’s a sexy, funny, intellectual, deep person who is not afraid to talk about his emotions. And you know, at this point, even if he said fuck it; let’s have sex tonight … I wouldn’t allow it. I wouldn’t want to be involved with the breakdown of his will power. Ayahuasca seems exotic and extreme, from a western perspective, but it’s not necessarily so extreme for other cultures. He found this path; it helps him and it centers him. I can stand behind that.

He’s hoping that he won’t have to do another ayahuasca retreat. But if he wants to do it … and if we’re still in love … and even if I have to go through the no-sex diet again, I would say: Have a good trip and I’ll be here when you get home.