Much has been said and written about sugar dating and all its intricacies. We’ve explored its perks and the often publicised lifestyle upgrade that accompanies being a sugar baby. We’ve talked about how to remain safe while actively practising in the community. And we’ve discussed how to seek out the optimal sugar daddy. But when it comes to how life after sugar dating plays out, there is still a lot we are yet to unpack.
By nature, most sugar relationships are short, intense and quick to fizzle out. After a while, the majority of sugar babies look to leave the community and settle into various facets of “normal” society. But is that as easy as it sounds? Short answer is: no.
Although good sugar relationships share a lot of their foundation (respect, communication, boundaries) with regular relationships, there’s enough disparities that make the mindset needed to maintain the two widely dissimilar. For one, sugar relationships are heavily transactional and build up (expensive) standards that regular partners might struggle to maintain.
Kelsey Dunn, a 26-year-old retired sugar baby, told Refinery29 that returning to regular dating was one of the hardest things she has ever had to do. “My first vanilla relationship after a four-year sugar dating spree was a nightmare. Before this, I was getting flown out for first dates and receiving weekly allowances, then I started dating someone who earned as much as me and obviously couldn’t give that. My brain struggled to make the switch.”
I was a toxic ball of entitlement that constantly demanded money and other things.
Dr. Miro Gudelsky, licensed psychologist and sex therapist, explains that some sugar babies struggle with recognising sugar dating as a business and separating it from their personal lives. When the two get mixed up, expectations may become unreasonable, selfish and problematic. “I have seen this happen where sugar babies get accustomed to receiving gifts simply for showing up. It is easy for folks to lose themselves in this mindset and when this happens, the ability to form deeper connections in relationships is stunted.”
Dunn says that although she really liked the person she was dating at the time, it was inevitable that they would break up. “I was a toxic ball of entitlement that constantly demanded money and other things. I never offered to pay for any of our dates and every time we had sex, I expected something in return. I also withheld love when I didn’t get my way. It was hard to see him past someone who liked me and could buy me things.”
Because of the nature of their relationship, many sugar babies deliberately prevent themselves from emotionally investing in their sugar daddies. This is a defence mechanism that ensures the end of a sugar relationship is as painless as possible. But turning the switch back on can be complicated and sugar babies may end up being unable to thrive in non-transactional relationships where emotional investment is a necessity.
“The key to sugar dating is protecting your emotions so you can really finesse and get to the bag,” says Dash Preistley, dating coach and former sugar baby. Preistley, who grew up an unaffectionate person, says that sugar dating exacerbated this and emotionally desensitised her. “I like to think of being a sugar baby as playing a character and you have to turn off this character when you’re pursuing something more long term. Sometimes, you can’t really turn it all the way off though.”
Another speed bump in the life after sugar dating is met when sugar babies become accustomed to choosing romantic partners for the wrong reasons. In regular relationships, security is related to several components like shared goals, common values, emotional and intellectual compatibility.
Sugaring alters the organic decision process that one might go through because it does not take these components into perspective. This means that sugar babies are prone to ignoring red flags in favour of financial compatibility which is what they are familiar with.
“It’s a case of choosing what hill you’re willing to die on,” Preistley told Refinery29. “I date a lot of men who are entitled and self-absorbed. They don’t make good long term partners but their money makes the hassle worth it.”
Like her, Autumn Cody who likes to refer to sugar dating as intentional dating has a history of ignoring major flaws in her partners because their finances made dating them worth it. “I was in a relationship with a guy who came from a wealthy family. He was a really toxic person, we fought all the time and we didn’t believe in the same things but I stuck with it because I was getting all these benefits from his family’s money.”
This approach to relationships is not only exhausting and destructive, but it may also lead to sugar babies accepting abuse within the relationship.
However, life after sugar dating is not always bad. It isn't always selfish actions and superficial thinking. Dr. Gudelsky who regularly works with sex workers, reports that many of her clients become more whole versions of themselves as a result of their sugar dating.
Because the majority of my dating has been sugar dating, I’ve never been afraid to take up space and ask for what I want and know I deserve.
Sugar babies can gain clarity, realise their worth and have a better understanding of what they want out of life. Cody confirms this as she says that sugar dating boosted her self esteem immensely. “I started sugar dating for fun as a sophomore in college. Before that, I was a deeply insecure person but once I started getting attention and loads of gifts from men, I realised I was a bad bitch and I could really do anything.”
“Basing your self-worth off of others isn’t the healthiest option,” Dunn says. “But I think it’s just the right amount of validation needed to kickstart your journey into self-love.”
Sugar dating can boost confidence, it can also teach sugar babies how to set firm and healthy boundaries. Before a sugar relationship even begins, both parties establish expectations, limits and personal boundaries and this sets a precedent for how sugar babies approach future romantic relationships.
“Because the majority of my dating has been sugar dating, I’ve never been afraid to take up space and ask for what I want and know I deserve,” says Preistley.
Dr. Gudelsky says that being able to talk about desires, expectations, needs are skill sets many young people don’t always learn. “This in turn leaves us with ageing adults who cannot ask for what they truly desire and sometimes don’t even know what they want. Learning to ask for what you want in the context of an intimate setting is very valuable and it’s a good thing sugar dating reinforces this.”
Just like any other job, Dunn says that it’s important everyone goes into sugar dating with a comprehensive knowledge of what they’re going to be dealing with. “People talk a lot about how glamorous sugaring is and not enough about all the ways it could mess you up. That’s why I encourage people to ask the right questions and listen to the right people.”