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40 Things That Only Men Over 40 Know

As it turns out, experience is the greatest teacher of them all.

Middle age gets a bum rap. Sure, when you get older your testosterone slips, your hangovers sting a little more, and you have to really start listening to your doctor during your yearly check-ups. But you know what? Putting your youth in the rearview also means you're wealthier, you let less stuff upset you, and you're probably in a better place where you can have a lot of fun. And one of the best perks of getting older? Gaining wisdom. You know how to treat a woman, you know that "new" doesn't always mean "better," and you can take bad news better than any-damn-body. Here are more of the things you can only know by reaching your fifth decade. And once you're caught up on these, be sure to purge your life of the 40 things no man over 40 should ever own.

The Difference Between Confidence and Arrogance

single button suit

"There really is a fine line between confidence and arrogance," says Jim White, founder of dating site Singles Over Forty. And it's 40-somethings who have had the life and dating experience who appreciated the difference between the two. "While it's great to sound confident and to even show a little ego while on a date," White says guys in their 40s have matured beyond youthful bluster and know the value of taking "a second to listen to yourself and observe your own posture and mannerisms." See here for The Best Dating Apps if You're Over 40.

The Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom

wisdom old man men over 40

Another distinction that older guys come to appreciate: lessons from books versus lessons from life. "Wisdom is education plus experience," says David Bennett, a relationship expert and author of numerous books including Be Popular Now: How Any Man Can Become Confident, Attractive, and Successful (and Have Fun Doing It). "Younger guys often have the education part down, but lack experience. Experience provides needed perspective and complements education, creating more relationship success."

To Never Stop Learning

speed reading book

A 40-something has come to appreciate that he needs to keep acquiring education, whether that's updating his skills for work or simply boosting his dinner-party skills (a recent Pew study found that the older people get, the more they read). A guy in his 40s has seen firsthand that learning is not something that's only done in class—it's a lifelong essential for success.

Think you could read a book a day? Read our 5-step guide to mastering the art of speed reading.

When He's Achieved Maestro Status 

black belt maestro wisdom men over 40

A guy in his 40s finds himself in a strange new position: Young people asking him for advice. Where, earlier in life, he used to be a sponge—soaking up any and every tidbit of info about his industry, or just life in general—by this point, he's more likely to be the on answering questions rather than asking. And he's comfortable with that.

Not to Sweat the Small Stuff

keep calm relax get to it chill out

"Younger guys often get worked up over little things, like a girl rejecting them, a job not working out, or not getting a high enough GPA in college," says Bennett. "Forty-something guys know that in the long run, most things are little things, and getting worked up over them is a waste of mental energy." That's also one of the 40 Best Things about Being In Your 40s.

It's OK to Be Nervous

nervous man over 40 wisdom

By the time he hits 40, a guy's been through his fair share of nerve-wracking moments: interviews, big dates, major life changes. And more often than not, things turned out all right. Even when these moments didn't go so great—that hot date never called him back—he came out of it most prepared for the next big thing. (And of course, when things went swimmingly, his life changed for the better.) The man over 40 knows that life is best lived outside the comfort zone.

To Focus on What's Important

Dating, matchmaker

Even those who have high-pressure jobs have learned to recognize what is truly worth getting stressed about. White says those in their 40s have learned "to take the weight of the world off of their shoulders and have some fun with those you love." If you're finding yourself worrying too much, here are 10 Ways Successful Men Cut Stress.

When To Keep His Mouth Shut

words and phrases to be honest

But there are plenty of times when a grown man's hard-won wisdom is not helpful. Whether it's chatting with a spouse about her frustrations (at work…or with him) or taking a lecture from his boss, the wise man knows it's best to sometimes just nod and listen. No need to offer advice or go on the defensive. (He also certainly knows not to ever say any of the 40 Things Men Over 40 Should Never Say To A Woman In Bed.)

That Family Comes First

A focus on what's important extends to personal relationships, as well. "Life in your 40s can throw big changes your way without warning," says White. "These changes can come in many forms, from career upsets to relationships turning themselves upside down. And when these changes knock you off of our feet, it's usually family who catch us." Millennials and even those in their 30s might still find themselves seeking approval from new friends or trying to constantly expand their group of acquaintances. Once you've hit 40, you've usually figured out the people you can really rely on.

That Friendship Takes Work


A guy in his 40s has had enough friends come and go to understand why the good ones stick around. Just having common interests or a similar sense of humor isn't good enough: It takes continual interest in the other person, their life, and family, as well as regular demonstrations of trustworthiness and reliability. Remember: keeping close to your best buddies is an essential for maintaining great health.

But It's Well Worth The Effort

Friends friendship guy bromance

Few feelings are more exciting than hosting a party and having dozens of people—friends, lovers, casual acquaintances—arrive. But as a guy gets older and sees how tangential many friendships can be, he realizes that it's worth it to invest in the ones that truly matter. It's great to know lots of people, but true friends require true investment.

How to Treat a Woman

Dating, matchmaker

As guys age, they become more established, both in terms of material wealth and greater level of influence—all of which can be brought into one's dating life and relationships. "Many 40-something guys have 'arrived' in life, and have good careers, maturity, life experience, and more confidence and charm than they had in any other decade," says Bennett. "This makes them highly attractive to women and successful in relationships."

That Good Things Are Worth Paying For

Whether it's pens, luggage, or appliances, a guy in his 40s has gone through his share of sub-par products and learned to appreciate a truly quality product. He's willing to spend a bit more on the good headphones, knowing one of the ears won't stop working a few weeks later, and that a jacket he's going to wear more than one season is worth splurging on.

And Stuff From Urban Outfitters Isn't

urban outfitters men over 40 wisdom

It was the go-to option when he was in his 20s, with hipster wardrobe options that went over great at parties and on dates. But once he walked in and spotted the new line of canvas overalls—or "norm-core" sweatshirts—it clicked that this is not the sort of thing he should be wearing anymore.

That His Clothes Don't Need to Make A Statement

statement clothing men over 40 wisdom

Along the same lines, the wise man wants to make a strong impression—but he knows that people remembering his personality and charm are far more important than remembering his sartorial decisions. No one cares about the funny one-liner on a dated graphic T. By 40, wearing clothes that "make a statement" are more likely to be seen as a way to cover up what's lacking underneath them.

That Few Things Beat A Good Pair of Socks

socks men over 40 wisdom

The era of buying socks by the dozen is long gone, by 40; carefully selecting them by the pair is the way to go. He's learned that feet encased in exquisitely comfortable fabric makes a man feel like he can do anything. Sometimes, the $30 pair of socks are really worth the $30.

That "Newer" Isn't Always "Better"

A man drinking whiskey, first heart attack

He's seen plenty of trends come and go (and jumped onto them himself, with less than great results) and has come to appreciate that things that have been around for a while—whether a bottle of 18-year-old whisky or a 19th-century novel—are likely to yield more enjoyment than the latest thing getting all the buzz.

That When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

is my relationship doomed couple fighting, weird laws

"Forty-somethings have learned not to dismiss early warning signs about relationship partners," says Rosalind Sedacca, midlife dating and relationship coach. "When they get a red-flag warning that something is wrong, off, or just not right—they listen and move on." She's adds that those in their 40s have learned that "second chances just get you more deeply entrenched in a toxic situation" and when those red flags pop up, it's better to head the other direction.

His Go-To Karaoke Playlist

wisdom man over 40 karaoke

Every guy should have a couple go-to karaoke songs that he knows will kill. They get the party going, everyone likes singing along to them, but they aren't that same Journey or Bon Jovi songs everybody sings. ("Just a small town girl…") He doesn't have to belt like he's Adele, but he knows the lyrics, chord progressions, and when to take the right dramatic pause or add in a little call-in-response for the crowd.

That A Good Date is More Than Dinner and a Movie

Dating, matchmaker

A guy in his 40s has been on enough dates to know that the cookie-cutter dinner and a movie can be a nice evening, but it's not particularly memorable—and doesn't create chemistry and emotional connections as quickly as something more unusual. Whether going hiking, taking a cooking class together, or some other outing that's a bit different than you'd do on a typical day, an older guy has figured out that a memorable date is more likely to create a connection—and lead to a great night.

When to Take Sex Seriously

Hypnotherapy, sex, in bed

Forty-somethings have also had their share of one-night stands. They've also seen that when there's something more than a physical connection, sometimes holding off on sex can pay off—both in a deeper connection, and better sex. "Too many relationships go bad too quickly because sexual intimacy takes place before personal intimacy," says Sedacca. "40-Somethings know that lust and a hot body doesn't compensate for integrity, empathy and decency."

How to Set Expectations in Relationships

Relationship, couple, fall

Whether a one-night stand or a marriage, a 40-something knows that setting expectations is essential to a great relationship. He's learned from experience that when he doesn't express what he's looking for, the woman will fill that vacuum, either believing the relationship is more serious than it is, or that he's just not that into her. An older guy knows that it will save heartbreak on both sides if everyone's clear about what they want from each other.

The Value of a Real Toolbox

toolbox wisdom men over 40

A guy doesn't have to be a hardcore handyman to require a decent set of tools. Throughout his 20s and into your 30s, he could easily have gotten away with a hand-me-down drill from Dad and a scattered collection of wrenches and screwdrivers. But by 40, he's done enough substantial home improvement projects and learned, maybe the hard way, that one needs proper tools to do a proper job.

That His Special Place is Essential l

man cave wisdom men over 40

Whether it's a man cave downstairs or a souped-up shed in the backyard, he knows the importance of having a space to think, read, or just hang for a bit away from the day-to-day craziness of home, family, and whatever else is going on in your life.

How to Concoct A Perfect Martini

Classic Martini, cocktails

Sorry, Bond—this cocktail-to-end-all-cocktails is best made stirred, not shaken. Any wise guy over 40 can confirm. For a breakdown of the right way to make a martini, here's a handy guide.

How to Man The Grill

men over 40 wisdom grill

This one's much easier than making a martini, but no less important. By his 40s, a guy knows more than just how to prep charcoal and when to flip burgers—he is also confident cooking up the pricier meat and meeting the specific "rare," "medium rare," "between rare and medium rare" requests of his guests.

The Concept of "Garbage In, Garbage Out"

breakfast meals avocado toast dave zinczenko zero belly breakfasts

A 40-something has learned that he must take his health seriously—that what he eats, how much he exercises, and what he does with his day has a direct impact on how he feels the next day, and the next. Unlike younger guys who can seemingly get away with doing whatever they like to their body and rarely pay for it, and older guy has gone through those all-day hangovers that start to hit him in his 30s and knows they're best avoided. He also knows the 40 unhealthiest foods for men over 40.

Exercising Is About More Than Just a Slimmer Waistline

Luxury exercise classes rowing

By 40, he's learned that he can't guzzle snacks like days of yore and that exercise is key for keeping off the pounds. But he's also come to realize that an active lifestyle and an exercise habit is more about mental health than physical health. Proof: When he's used to working out, skipping a week feels like crap. Instead of seeing the gym as a necessary evil to keep you fit, he looks forward to it to it.

Naptime's Not Just For the Kids

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There are few joys greater than waking up after an afternoon power nap and feeling ready to tackle a dreaded project. Once he hits 40, a guy knows know that a well-timed nap basically buys a whole new day.

Sleep May Be the Most Important Thing

478 method fall asleep faster

Younger guys drag themselves out of bed at a certain hour because they have to—even if it means they have to drag themselves, half-awake, through the rest of the day. But as men move ahead in career and in life, they see what a wreck they become without a decent amount of sleep. A guy over 40 knows that it's often better to sleep in an extra hour if it will make him sharper for the rest of the day.

To Address Things, Not Ignore Them

Couple talking, open marriage

Whether it's a weird rash on his leg or an uncomfortable silence between him and his partner, a guy in his 40s knows that when something seems off, he needs to do something about it. He's seen how ignoring something can backfire, big time.

That, Hey, the Experts Know Their Stuff

personal trainer men over 40 wisdom

Between the personal trainer and the IT guy, a man over 40 is keenly aware of the positive results that come from letting someone who knows what they're doing, well, do what they're doing. In another words, men over 40 know how to say, "This is above my pay grade."

When to Hire Help

Job candidate, recruiting, interview

He also knows that time is more valuable than anything else—and that there are few things more satisfying than being able to hire someone to tackle a menial task he'd rather not do. Whether that's mundane market research or a thorough house-cleaning, by 40, he has an instinct for when something is going to take too long and be unbearably dull. And he's happy to pay for an extra set of hands.

When to Leave a Job

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As in relationships, a guy in his 40s has had his share of jobs, both good and bad, and has learned when a gig or a boss is just not the right fit. Rather than struggle to make a good impression on someone who has the knives out, or stick with a dead-end job for another year because it's less effort than updating his resume, a 40-something knows he never regrets leaving a bad job.

That His Career Will Be Wildly Unpredictable

Office dating

A recent college grad pictures his career as a clear ladder, progressing logically from one gig to the next. But by 40, a man knows that his career is far more fluid than that. Maybe he sticks with the same job for five years before hopping to an entirely new field. Maybe he's gone from one company to the next, to the next—all in a year's span. It's unpredictable, and that's the best part.

To Always Have A Contingency Plan

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Because of this unpredictability, he's also learned that, no matter how happy his is with the latest gig, it never hurts to have feelers out for other potential opportunities. He knows that, as secure as things seem, any gig or organization can collapse unexpectedly. The successful guys are those who are rarely blindsided because they are always ready with a backup.

To Learn From Disappointment

is my relationship doomed man staring out window

All the wisdom in the world won't ensure a guy complete-and-total success. A 40-something will face disappointments just like every man does—but he knows not to take it personally and instead puts it in perspective and gets on with his life. "By age 40, every man should know that we can't protect ourselves or prevent life's disappointments," says Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. "The best we can do is equip ourselves with coping skills to deal with inevitable letdowns without raging into a furious tantrum or collapsing into depression."

How (and When) To Say "No"


Over the years, he's ended up at enough subpar parties—or committed to something he knew, deep down, was a mistake—that, by 40, he knows when to skip the niceties. He knows that, sometimes, it's best to just say "no" and kick back in bed. (Of course, he also knows not to be a jerk about it. But that should go without saying.)

That He Can't Live on Kudos

Job candidate, recruiting, interview

A 40-something guy has learned not to measure success based on what people think—whether a "congrats" from a boss or hundreds of Facebook Likes. Whether it's a professional accomplishment or personal achievement, he's learned that the things that have really mattered over the long-run were the ones he worked for and knew in his gut were important, regardless of what others said about it at the time.

When to Question Himself

is my relationship doomed man staring out a window

Guys in their 40s have a pretty good sense of who they are, what they like and don't. But they also know that they don't know everything. "By age 40, every man should be well practiced in open, honest self-evaluation and introspection. He should be comfortable examining his feelings so as not to automatically repeat mistakes of his past," says Walfish. "Self-awareness is comforting and leads to a calm state of mind."

Next, learn how to stay young and lean by slating these 20 Super Anti-Aging Foods into your diet.

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Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more