Too often in love and in sex, we go with the flow. We think things are going well enough or there's no apparent conflict (and many of us are scared of conflict) so as long as there are no rough waters, we think everything must be fine. We're safe, comfortable, maybe we even think at times that safe and comfortable add up to happy.

And then one day someone asks us what we want. And we realize -in a startlingly vulnerable moment - that maybe what we have or what we've chased after isn't what we want after all. Has this ever happened to you? If so, it may be helpful to take the time now to identify what it is you want so that you have a better chance of finding it the next time or in your present life, albeit with a few modifications. For example, do you want:

  • Kisses when you come home? 
  • Someone who you know will tell you the truth, even when you don't want to hear it?
  • Children? No children?
  • Pets? No pets?
  • To live mostly in the same place so your children can grow up with a stable sense of community? But still travel and show them the world? Or do you want to move around a bit?
  • A laptop loaded with episodes of a favorite TV series and a hotel bed for two?
  • A bath tub and candles and conversation that carries you out of the getting-cold-ish water and into warm robes and an even warmer bed and then the warmest of arms?
  • Kisses on your eyelids?
  • A hand on your lower back?
  • Passionate, energetic sex? Slow, passionate sex? Both on the same night? Both but on different days? 
  • Hugs that go on forever?
  • Someone you can say anything to?
  • Morning sex?
  • Eyes (and emotion) you can get lost in?
  • A night away from your children? 
  • A smile that makes you smile?
  • A sense of family?
  • A hand that reaches across the table to take yours?

For some people, their list is rich with descriptions of how they want to feel. Other people identify things they need that are almost more demographic in nature - someone of their own or a different race, someone of a certain religion, or someone within a certain age range. Only you can know what you want and only you can seek it out.

Whether you stick to your list or surprise yourself and find someone who doesn't quite meet your originally identified "wants" but who does it for you in other ways will be anyone's guess, but creating a "want list" of your wants and hopes and dreams may be a good enough starting place. Try to create some space for yourself to identify what you want in a partner, a relationship or a type of touch, kiss or style of making love that you crave. See where it takes you. Hopefully, it will move you closer to a place that feels right and that, in the barest of moments, helps you to breathe out gently, knowing that you've found it (at last).

Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH is a research scientist at Indiana University, a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, and the author ofBecause It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction. Her personal blog can be found at

About the Author

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a Research Scientist and Associate Director at The Center for Sexual Health Promotion and a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute.

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