Apart from the thought of all your exes getting cocktails together and talking about you, there’s nothing scarier for many men than the idea of turning the big 3-0. In the scheme of life, leaving your 20s is still a young rite of passage, but something about 30 screams adulthood. You’re no longer fresh out of college, but you’re also not old enough to really settle in and grow roots (yet, anyway).
While every guy is different, there are some basic fundamentals — from how to dress yourself to how to go down on a woman — that are essential to know before you begin your 30s. Most people say this decade is the best of their lives, so before you get there, make sure you check these off your list:
30. Own at least one piece of furniture that’s not from Ikea
You don’t need to have an apartment decked out in rich woods and deep accent colors, but you should at least own something that you didn’t put together with a screwdriver. (Why not start with the bed frame? It might come in handy later.)
29. How to compliment — not hit on — a woman
There’s a big difference between that polar bear icebreaker joke that you’ve been using for the last five years and a genuine compliment to a beautiful woman. Learn the difference, choose the latter.
28. Admit — and embrace — that you sometimes have all of the feels
Tough guys can cry too — and in fact, showing some emotion (instead of hiding from it) makes you a better friend (and, possibly, husband). The key is to let yourself feel things out instead of bottling everything inside. Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist, author and expert panelist on WE’s new series Sex Box, says the best a guy can do is equip himself with good coping skills to deal with inevitable letdowns without raging into a furious tantrum.
27. How to talk dirty without sounding ridiculous
Unlike porn stars, most women don’t get off just by hearing or saying the word “cock.” Instead, you should learn how to communicate what you like in bed (and what you’d like her to do) without sounding like you’re reading a script off of Tities on Fifth. Sexpert Laurel House says that about 90% of men talk dirty during sex, but only 10% of them do it well. “The thing about dirty talk is that it can immediately transform your relationship,” she says. “If you’re a ‘good guy’ and you want to up your ‘bad boy in bed’ attitude, dirty talking will instantly make your woman respect you on a new level.”
26. How to plan a first date that’ll guarantee a second
Sorry guys, the days of taking a girl out to get a beer at your favorite pub downtown are over. Save that for the fourth date when she’s falling for you, says House. Once you’re in your 30s, you should know how to take a girl on a proper date — from ordering a great wine to having interesting and substantive conversation and, yes, knowing how to use a knife and fork. “Pay the check with pride, take care of her valet or walk her to the car… and make her want more,” says House.
25. How to prepare at least one great meal (and pair the wine)
While your mom might think heating up frozen fish sticks and french fries is cute, the girl you’re trying to impress probably doesn’t. You don’t need to be a chef or know a ton of recipes by heart, but pick one dish that’s easy enough for you to do on a weeknight — and know what wine goes with it. Relationship expert Sharon O’Neill says this shows a woman that you’re able to contribute when hosting guests and to treat your partner in a way most women appreciate.
24. Know how to clean a bathroom and a refrigerator and use a vacuum
Seems simple enough, right? Most guys can’t pair the right cleaner with the surface, much less know how to scrub tile, but O’Neill says that expecting your future partner (or, um, your mom) to do the dirty work for you is unrealistic. Even if you manage to meet someone who doesn’t mind doing the cleaning, everyone gets sick or works long hours sometimes — not to mention, one day you may have a family — so knowing how to do these three things will help your relationship. But even before all that, here’s a cardinal rule: no girl wants to sleep over in a filthy apartment.
23. How to ask for and receive feedback about sex
All women know how sensitive you (and your other, promise-it’s-bigger-than-average guy) are when it comes to criticism in the bedroom. But before you let your ego get the best of you, take a second to cool off and really listen to what your partner wants… and in return, share with her what you need more (or less) of in the sack. Sexpert Vanessa Marin says a lot of men feel nervous communicating during sex. And while that’s understandable, she says, it’s unnecessary. “Women know that one of the hallmarks of a confident man is a willingness to solicit feedback and a desire to make the woman’s experience as pleasurable as possible,” she says. So ask… and you will surely receive!
22. How to use your head before you use… your other head
Sure, you think a girl is hot. You might think she’s the sexiest thing you’ve seen all week. And yeah, you most definitely want to sleep with her. But will it hurt her? Will it lead her on? Before you enter your 30s, learn how to prioritize with your head — that is, your brain — instead of always thinking with your crotch. Your glory days might not be over, but it’s time to be a little more smart — and considerate — with other people.
21. Have at least a week’s worth of clean (stain-free, hole-free) underwear
If you’re old enough now to know how to do laundry (or pay to send it out), then you should, at the very least, have adult, cartoon-free undies. And please, for the sake of the sexiness of your member — ditch the boxers. They don’t do a damn thing for you.
20. How to pick out clothes that look great on you — and match your style
Your girlfriend in college liked you in khakis and polos. The one when you first graduated preferred your work uniform of a suit and tie. Your mom still digs button-ups. And your most recent ex thought you were the hottest in slacks. But what about you? Before you turn 30, figure out what style you like the best — and go shopping. A female is not required to make a fashionable decision.
19. Have a financial plan for your future
You don’t need to have all of those student loans paid off or a large nest egg, but having at least some savings and an idea of your financial goals will help set the path to being comfortable. If you’re unsure of where to start, a good beginning is with a financial planner or adviser that will help you map a game plan.
18. How to give her multiple orgasms (and have them yourself!)
True or false? All men have the ability to give a woman multiple orgasms. True! “From clitoral to vaginal, anal to nipple, there are so many ways to give a woman powerful waves of pleasure,” House says. But it might take a couple of sex sessions to get everything flowing, so also being able to recharge within 30 minutes is essential to hot sex. Another round? Coming up!
17. Eliminate the words “she’s crazy” from your vocabulary
The next time you’re having an argument with a woman who is getting emotional, take a breather and clear your head of accusatory words like “you’re crazy” or “you’re too sensitive” and listen to what she’s actually expressing. While it might not seem like a big deal, learning how to effectively communicate in a heated argument instead of closing down at the first sight of tears will not only make you a better partner, but a better, more level-headed employee, too.
16. Accept that you’re jealous — and then let it go
It’s normal to get jealous – of your best friend’s big promotion, of that guy that your girlfriend still pines over every once in a while; hell, we even get jealous of younger versions of ourselves (who didn’t have tiny gray hairs) — but being an adult means learning how to let those jealousies slide without turning into green demons. If you stop comparing yourself to others and start looking at what you do have, you’ll be a hell of a lot happier.
15. How to effectively communicate… with anyone
Whether it be your micromanaging boss, your demanding best friend or your sassy girlfriend, learning how to communicate what you think and what you need is a task that’s easier said than done. “Most people have a hard time listening without interrupting, judging, blaming or shutting down into silence,” Walfish says. “Wrestling with the conflict and hanging in while struggling to work things through with your partner is the stuff that separates success from failure in relationships — talking is the glue that holds relationships and people together.”
14. Decide what your favorite condom brand is — and don’t be lame about wearing one
You’ve probably complained that wearing a condom during sex ruins the whole experience for you, but have you tried out different ones to see which one fits you, personally, the best? Marin says that by experimenting with a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, and textures, the sensations that are usually lessened by wearing a rubber can become heightened again. You might as well test it out since you’ll be wearing one until you’re ready for a baby…
13. Have an answer to the “Do you want kids?” questions
Nope, you don’t need to fork over your swimmers anytime soon (unless you’re ready for that) — but by the time you’re 30, you should have at least an idea of whether you’d like to have a rugrat or two some day. While you might not be hurting for children, most women would prefer to start their families before the age of 35, and will surely be eyeing you as potential father material.
12. Own a tailored suit
You might only wear it once a year at a friend-of-a-friend’s wedding or at an expensive dinner for work, but every man should own at least one tailored suit that makes him feel like all the money he spent on it was well worth it. (And yes, if you must, you can pretend to be James Bond every single time you wear it.)
11. Have a hobby that doesn’t involve beer, boobs or the tube
You might dream of a man cave one day — and your bachelor pad might resemble an over-glorified one — but when you’re out with clients or on a date, you need to have something to talk about when they ask about your interests. Watching porn and sports or drinking a case of beer aren’t exactly “hobbies” that spark tabletop conversations.
10. Invest in a good pair of high-thread-count sheets
Those Joe Boxer jersey ones might be comfortable enough for you, but when you have a lady friend sleeping over, she’ll appreciate the extra detail. Plus, once you switch to rich, silk quality, you won’t go back to discount.
9. Have a (loving) distance from your mama
All women admire men who have healthy relationships with their parents — mom included — but a guy who depends on his mother for every opinion and detail is an instant turnoff. While mom will always be there to guide you (with a casserole in hand), learn how to lean on yourself. And for crying out loud, do your own damn laundry!
8. Have at least one best friend who’ll be completely honest with you
You have your sports buddy, your co-worker comrade and that guy from high school that you shoot hoops with. But all of them combined shouldn’t measure up to your one best pal who’ll give you the hard talks when you need it — and support you when you have a crisis over turning 30. (And it’s OK if you do.)
7. How to stay present — in bed, in life, in the now
While having an idea of what you want is important, sometimes you may be so focused on the endgame that you forget to enjoy the play-by-play. This happens in bed too, according to Marin: “Many men experience intense performance anxiety during sex and end up spending more time in their heads than in their body.” To release stress — both in the sack and out of it — practice deep-breathing exercises (or whatever you need) to find your center and get back into the moment.
6. How to go down on her like you mean it
When it comes to great sex, oral sex is one of the most underrated parts of an exciting finish for both. While some women may shy away, once a girl is comfortable with you and feels vulnerable enough, oral sex could be the big thing that gets her to finish. “Just like good head for you, good head for her involves both technique and enthusiasm,” House says, and the only way to master your skill? Practice.
5. How to get over a hangover
Sorry, but they’re not going to get any easier. In fact, they’re only going to get worse. By the time you’re 30, know how to handle your liquor — the night of and the morning after.
4. How (and when) to tip
There’s nothing sexier than a man who has a good heart to go with a good attitude. Know the proper customs for tipping (the doorman, the delivery guy, the dude who carries your suitcases on vacation) — and impress your girl by being more than a little generous.
3. Be wise enough to pull out the romance, but silly enough to have fun
Most women appreciate the sweet gesture of flowers and a handwritten card, but they also want someone who will make them laugh. Balance your early 20s with your early 30s and do the best of both: a little romance with a big laugh.
2. If you don’t know what a clitoris is, stop right now and figure it out
Every woman is different, yes, but most women are turned on by some sort of clitoral play. If you still haven’t mastered the art of touching, going down on and pleasuring a woman without intercourse, it’s time to learn. Stat.
1. The ability to look back without regret and look forward with hope
When you turn 30, you’ll find yourself reflecting on where you’ve been, what you’ve done and where you hope to be. It’s a powerful time to practice reflection and plan for what’s to come. As Walfish says, by age 30 a man should be comfortable examining his feelings so he doesn’t repeat the mistakes of his past. That self-awareness is comforting and leads to a calm state of mind.
Finally, figure out what you want — and work for it!
Alright, you don’t need to settle down and map out a five- and 10-year plan for your future, but by the time you’re 30 you should have a sense of the things you value the most and want to prioritize. “To wait to become disciplined until after you’re in a serious relationship doesn’t work so well,” O’Neill says. “Knowing what you want is an important part of development into the kind of person who does well in life and in a marriage.”