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This Yes-No-Maybe List Can Help Couples Explore Their Wildest Sexual Fantasies

Kelly Gonsalves
Author:
January 3, 2023
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
Image by Chelsea Victoria / Stocksy
January 3, 2023
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If one of your goals for the new year is to rev up your intimate life, consider one popular activity often recommended by sex therapists to couples looking to explore their desires: the Yes/No/Maybe list.

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The Yes/No/Maybe list.

The Yes/No/Maybe list is an activity designed to help partners explore and share their erotic interests, including what they'd be curious about trying, what they already know they love from past experiences, and what's a no-go. It's perfect for couples or any set of sexual partners interested in learning about each other's fantasies and seeing what overlapping areas of interest exist between them.

So, how does it work?

First, each of you will get your own individual copy of a lonnnng list of sexual activities, fantasies, kinks and fetishes, accessories, and more. There are lots of versions of this on the internet (we link some of our faves below), but some possible line items that might appear on the list include:

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The list goes on! And it can get detailed.

Next to each item, you'll have the opportunity to write in your own personal interest level:

  1. Yes (I'm into it or willing to try it)
  2. No (Not for me/not open to it)
  3. Maybe (I could be interested with more conversation, information, and/or in a specific situation)

Some versions of the Yes/No/Maybe list—like this one from AASECT-certified sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman, M.A., CST—also feature a fourth option: open to fantasizing about it but not actually doing it IRL (which is an important and often helpful distinction "because many people are aroused by the idea of certain acts but wouldn't want to actually do it," she tells mbg.)

Each person will fill out their copy of the list separately and in private—and the privacy is key here because you want to feel open to answer totally honestly without feeling influenced by the way your partner reacts to a certain line item.

After you each complete the worksheet by yourselves, that's when you'll then come together to review your responses together and look for areas of overlap that you can explore together if you so choose.

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Why sex therapists love it.

The activity is often recommended by sex therapists because it allows partners to easily get to know each other's most intimate desires, exposes them to new ideas they may not have considered but find intriguing, and gives them an easy way to bring up a kinky interest that perhaps they haven't been able to talk about thus far.

"I think these are wonderful tools to explore erotic interests, but they are even better to open conversation," Zimmerman adds.

That is, in addition to being a great source of inspiration, perhaps the biggest benefit of the Yes/No/Maybe list is that it simply opens up the lines of communication.

Couples can sometimes go years without ever meaningfully talking about their sex life, and it does them a great disservice. We know from research that people who talk more about sex tend to have more satisfying sex lives, whereas those who have less sexual communication tend to enjoy their sex life less, too.

"If neither partner knows what the other's expectations, desires, or needs are around sex, there isn't much chance of continually making it better," AASECT-certified sex therapist Holly Richmond, Ph.D., LMFT, CST, previously told mbg. "Couples that talk about sex can have better, more exciting sex the longer they are in the relationship, which is exactly the opposite of what we've been told to believe, that sex gets worse or more boring the longer you are together."

In other words, the key to a sustainably steamy sex life is being willing to sit down and talk about it. And if it's not something you've been doing much of lately in your relationship? The Yes/No/Maybe list is one simple and pretty fun way to get started.

Tips for doing the activity as a couple.

Find a copy of the Yes/No/Maybe list that speaks to you. We love the one from Zimmerman linked above; or you could also try this one from AASECT-certified sex therapist Diana Sadat, RCC, CST; this one from sex educator Sunny Megatron; or any other you're vibing with.

"I recommend people treat this exercise as a discussion starter, with curiosity and without judgment," says Zimmerman. That includes judgment toward your partner and judgment toward yourself.

Exploring sexual interests with a partner can be an extremely fun activity, but it can also be vulnerable stuff. Stay open-minded and affirming with each other as you talk through your lists while also being vocal about your boundaries and respectful of the other person's.

(Remember: A relationship becomes safer, and feels all the closer and warmer, the more we're able to say no to each other with ease. So, celebrate each other's "no"! It brings you closer every time you do.)

Also remember that none of this means you have to do anything on the list, Zimmerman reminds, no matter what you answered on the worksheet. Either way, though, "you can talk about what is appealing about particular sexual activities (or what is not) and under what circumstances you'd find it interesting."

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The takeaway.

The Yes/No/Maybe list is a lighthearted, straightforward, yet eye-opening way to kick off a conversation with partners about the things that turn you both on.

Suggest the idea to your partner to see if they'd be interested in doing this on your next date night (feel free to shoot them the link to this article!), and then come into the activity together with open minds and a spirit of playful exploration. You'll be sure to walk away with a good bit of inspo for where to go next.

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Kelly Gonsalves
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.

You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter