This Simple Activity Can Reignite Your Sex Life
By Emma McGowan
Here’s some real talk about relationships: Your sex life is going to ebb and flow. For many (if not most) couples, things are hot and heavy in the beginning, only to peter off as time goes on. There are a lot of theories about why this happens: Maybe it’s the monotony of monogamy. Maybe it’s the complex combination of things that create desire. Maybe it’s just that kids and jobs and pets and life get in the way. But whatever the reason, many people in long term relationships find, at some point, that things just aren’t sparking in the bedroom they way they used to.
That’s when a want/will/won’t list can really help. A want/will/won't list (sometimes called a “yes/no/maybe” list) is simply a list of your sexual interests, hard limits, and maybes that you share with your partner. It opens up a conversation about your desires, fantasies, boundaries and the specific acts you're open to exploring together. While many people use it at the beginning of a relationship in order to get to know their partner better, it can also be a great way for couples who have been together for a long time to reconnect.
What is a want/will/won’t list?
A want/will/won’t list is kinda like homework. But for sex! So it’s not boring! It’s a worksheet where you each list sexual activities under one of three categories:
- I want to do this: Things you're down to try
- I will do this: Sexy stuff you're open to
- I won't do this: Hard limits or things that are off the table
Sharing your lists with each other helps open up honest communication about your desires, boundaries, and comfort levels. It gives you a chance to explore new, fun, sexy stuff together or gain a deeper understanding of what you both currently enjoy. It’s basically just a tool to help open up and guide the sometimes awkward conversation about what you want to do in bed. (Or on the couch. Or in the kitchen. Or the back seat of… You get the idea.)
How to create your want/will/won’t list
Creating a want/will/won’t list is easy: Just take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns labeled “Want,” “Will,” and “Won’t.”
In the “Want” column, write down your deepest desires and fantasies. Don’t hold back—this is your chance to share what really turns you on. In the “Will” column, list the things you’re open to trying. Maybe you’ll discover some things you didn’t even know about yourself! Finally, use the “Won’t” column for hard limits and boundaries.
Then, sit down with your partner and share your lists. Look for overlap in the “Want” and “Will” columns—these are great places to start exploring together. Be willing to compromise by moving some items to the left or right. The key is finding what you both need versus what you simply want.
“There was one couple who had been together for 40 years and when we started talking about their desires, she mentioned that she loves to have her toes sucked,” Hirschman tells Ohnut. “He was like, ‘How did I not know that?’”
Hirschman also points out that people’s desires, interests, fantasies, and even bodies change over time, so what your partner liked when you got together in your 20s might not be what they like in their 30s or after having kids or in their 50s. A want/will/won’t list, can help ensure that you and your partner are continuing to grow together sexually over the years and decades.
How do we use a want/will/won’t list?
To use a want/will/won’t list:
- Each partner fills out their own list privately. Be honest and specific.
- Come together and share your lists. Discuss any surprises, concerns or questions. But remember to stay open-minded—your partner's desires and dislikes are valid too. Unless your partner's wants are nonconsensual, it's important to withhold judgement to create a safe environment.
- Focus first on the “want” and “will” lists to find shared interests. Try some of those activities!
- Respect each other’s “won’t” lists. Those are hard limits and should not be pushed. But, on the flip side, Hirschman encourages everyone to analyze their own side of the “won’t” list. What makes that a hard “no” for you? And if it’s something your partner is really interested in, could you move it to the “will” list? While no one should feel pressured to do things sexually that they don’t want to do, it is still important to examine why we feel certain ways about different sex acts.
- Review and revise your lists regularly as interests and boundaries change.
What should we include on our list?
That’s entirely up to you! But here are some suggestions:
- Mutual masturbation
- Oral sex (giving and receiving)
- Dirty talk
- Watch porn together
- Use a vibrator
- Making out and heavy petting
- Touching of painful genital areas
- Rough or forceful stimulation
Want/will/won’t list topics for painful sex
Because your list can be customized, it doesn’t hurt to add a little bit about painful sex! Some things to consider for your want/will/won’t list if you experience pain or discomfort:
- Types of foreplay you enjoy and find arousing without pain (e.g. massage, oral sex, mutual masturbation)
- Sex positions that minimize discomfort (e.g. spooning, receptive partner on top)
- Use of lubricants, dilators, or other pain management tools, like Ohnut, that can make sex more pleasurable
- Non-penetrative activities that still feel intimate (e.g. sensual touching, kissing)
- Hard limits for when pain is too severe to continue
- Ways your partner can touch you or turn you on that don’t cause discomfort
A want/will/won't list can help break down barriers by starting a meaningful conversation about sex. Give it a shot—you've got nothing to lose and a whole lot of pleasure and intimacy to gain. Now go get connecting!