A 'Yes/No/Maybe' List May Be Your Cure to Boredom in the Bedroom
Have you ever had the chance to explore what you enjoy most in the bedroom? Like, really explore?
Of course, if you've been in a long-term relationship, you and your partner could be accustomed to a more routine sex life that you've been enjoying for years. Perhaps you haven't talked much about what turns you on now or had the chance to explore, for yourself, your fantasies, body, desires or kinks.
If you're not feeling the same intimacy, connection and pleasure that sex once brought to you and your partner, then it's time to start a "yes/no/maybe" list—it might be just what you need.
What shall we have tonight?
When you go to a restaurant, you receive a menu that lists the dishes available. As you read each menu item, you contemplate how interested you are in eating each one based on whether it sounds delicious, so-so or perhaps gross.
A yes/no/maybe list is similar, but instead of food, it's a menu of sexual behaviors and fun things to try. In the same way that you choose each dish on a dinner menu, you can use the same powers of selection with this sexual menu.
"A yes/no/maybe list is an exercise that can be helpful for people to get to know themselves and what may sound interesting to them sexually," said Diana Sadat, a certified sex therapist and the clinical director at Allura Sex Therapy Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"This list will contain a variety of different types of sexual experiences and it allows you to rank them as a 'yes, this sounds fun and I'd like to do this,' a 'maybe, this intrigues me but I don't know if this is something I'm interested in doing yet' and a 'no, I'm not interested in this at all,'" Sadat explained.
Different from a dinner menu, you actually mark next to each sexual behavior how interested you are in trying it. And you don't get to have just one entrée.
Marking your list with yes/no/maybe isn't the only way to categorize each sexual behavior, though. Aubri Lancaster, a certified sex educator based in Simi Valley, California, recommended using the terms from the ace [asexual] and aro [aromantic] communities: favorable, indifferent, averse and repulsed.
"Yes/no/maybe encourages the person to think about their willingness and desire [to do each behavior], which absolutely has its place, but sometimes we first need to take stock of how we feel about something before we even start to consider our willingness and desire," she explained.
So before you mark your list with yes, no or maybe, try categorizing each sexual behavior as favorable, indifferent, averse or repulsed.
Discovering your sexual interests
"A lot of us don't feel safe in our desires and bodies sexually due to a lack of comprehensive sex ed, society, familial values and even our own limiting beliefs, so we may feel finite in our knowledge of what we're allowed to enjoy or even the types of sex and intimacy that is possible," said Jeneka Jool, a sex educator based in Ontario, Canada.
A yes/no/maybe list can help you discover the types of sex and intimacy that are possible and exciting by prompting you with behaviors and ideas that perhaps you've never heard of or never felt you had permission to contemplate.
"These lists can also be helpful since they really normalize all different types of experiences. If they're on the list, it's because people are having fun and playing around with all of these different types of sex," Sadat explained.
This list can remove the shame that is sometimes felt by people who wonder if they're the only one with a certain sexual fantasy or who perhaps feel there is something wrong with them for enjoying a fetish or kink.
"Yes/no/maybe lists may also show us that if we're not interested in it, it doesn't have to be [on the list] because there's something wrong with it, or with us, but rather because it just doesn't make us feel excited," she added.
If you're someone who has been in a long-term relationship where you've had the same kind of sex nearly the whole time you've been together, you may long for new ways to connect with your partner, experience intimacy or find pleasure.
"Yes/no/maybe lists can be helpful for couples and partners who are feeling stuck in a rut," Sadat explained, adding that they can reorient couples who "have fallen into the belief that they know everything about their partners or what they like.
"It also provides an opportunity to consider how maybe what we want, don't want or are just intrigued by can change over time," she added.
"Y/N/M lists aren't limited to activities performed during sex. Maybe you're experiencing boredom because you require longer pre-sex attentiveness or post-sex intimacy/aftercare," Jool said. "Different types of touch, texture, sensation and smell should be included on your lists, too. If you're struggling to address something that's been missing [from your sex life] that you feel could elevate the experience, creating these lists can help with that, and who knows, maybe something you've been dying to try is on their list, too."
Making communication easier
"Yes/no/maybe lists act as a nonjudgmental prompt, so everyone can feel comfortable disclosing their 'yums'—their interests and curiosities—without being 'yucked' [ridiculed], which often is why disclosure doesn't occur in the first place," Jool explained.
If you and your partner are feeling stuck, disconnected or unsure about how to explore yourselves or each other in the bedroom, a yes/no/maybe list can break the ice by bringing in new toys, positions, power dynamics and behaviors that you were previously too nervous to consider.
"My favorite thing about the yes/no/maybe list is that it opens up a conversation," Sadat said. "They don't have to be things you actually do, but just talking about it and what about them intrigues you or makes you a 'yes' can open up a door to what you may actually want to incorporate into your sex life."
Perhaps one of the most important ways that a yes/no/maybe list makes communication easier is by clearly showing each partner's interests and boundaries. When you each complete a list, the resulting compilation clearly denotes which sexual behaviors each partner is favorable, indifferent and averse to or repulsed by, and which are a yes, a no or a maybe.
Communicating your boundaries and interests may never get much clearer than that.