When most people think of sugar dating, they imagine a woman in her early 20s dating a much (much) older man. Lisa Schmidt's experience, though, speaks to a different truth of sugar dating: It's not just for the sorority girl set.
Women — and men — from all walks of life sign up.
Schmidt, in fact, was in her 30s and recently divorced when she first ventured onto a sugar dating website. "When I truly tried to get back on the dating scene, it was just not what I wanted," she explained. "Everybody was looking to couple up very quickly and start families or have second families, and I'm in my mid-30s so I had already sort of been there, done that. It's not what I wanted to do."
After an unsatisfying stint serial dating, a few friends suggested she try sugar dating. Dubious at first, Schmidt decided to give it a shot. "I signed up for a few days, kind of poked around a little bit and did a little homework," she told us, "and I was like, 'This is perfect.'"
Understandably, adapting to the lifestyle took time. "When you first start out, you don't really know what to say or what to do," she laughed, "which is why I started blogging and ended up subsequently from that creating a kind of community of girls — everybody sort of shares ideas and helps each other out and offers advice."
What she learned along the way was that sugar dating was a lot like real dating. "You're always sort of fine-tuning your approach, as you would with any kind of dating. After you meet and date somebody for a while, you decide, 'Well, that's not really what I want. Maybe I should be a little more forward in my profile about that.' It's very much — other than the negotiating aspects of it — like regular dating, in that sense."
With a few caveats, of course.
Schmidt admits there are a more hurdles to contend with in the beginning of a sugar relationship, such as the potentially awkward allowance conversation. An allowance, she explains, is a stipend that is agreed upon by both parties which is given weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or however each couple decides (although typically, she says, it's monthly). Gifts — things such as cars and apartments that people often associate with sugar babies — are generally not given in lieu of allowance. Rather, "extras are considered spoiling."
The range for allowances varies on a case by case basis. "I have a friend who gets $4,000 a month, just got a new car and her SD [sugar daddy] spoils her on occasion as well with gifts," Schmidt shared.
"If you're not comfortable with negotiating or asking for certain things, it's one of those things that can make you or break you," she said. "'Cause if you never ask or explain or outline your perspective or what you think your worth is in general as a person, you'll never get what you want."
That's where having a supportive community of like-minded women comes in handy. Although Schmidt's sugar baby days are slowing down, she devotes much of her time to supporting and counseling women venturing into the lifestyle.
The morning we spoke, she had just come off of an hour-long phone call with a young woman just starting her journey and in need of guidance. So what does Schmidt tell these newborn sugar babies?
"Your approach cannot be different from regular dating or in life in general," she shared. "You don't align yourself with people that give nothing to you in every sense of the word, just as you wouldn't in regular dating. You can't surround yourself with people who are going to bring you down or hold you back in any kind of way."
The whole premise of sugar dating, she reiterates, is that there should be a mutual exchange. The men are getting companionship, but the women should strive for something more than just designer shoes. "You have to think about it smartly, just as you would if you were looking for somebody to be your husband and raise your kids... you want them to have the same morals as you, the same goals."
Schmidt doesn't pretend as though the monetary aspect and the gifts aren't nice. But there are plenty of other advantages she finds more rewarding, like the freedom. Or "the life experience and the growth that happens in a person if they do it the right way," she told us.
And as with anything — including regular dating — sugar dating has its drawbacks. "You have to be smart, and it's the same as anything you do in life: If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is."
In this lifestyle in particular, a major problem exists with men who use sugar dating sites simply to coax women into having sex. Schmidt asserts that, although some women do misunderstand the way it works, sugar dating is not about exchanging sex for money. "They don't understand that they're just completely devaluing themselves," she said of sugar babies who buy into that notion.
Schmidt also points out that although most sugar relationships involve sex, there are those that don't.
Schmidt once met a 30-year-old software engineer on a sugar dating site (no, not all sugar daddies are in their golden years), and the relationship proved to be about much more than the physical. "It was more so about the friendship and the connection," she explained, "and having chemistry and having an actual real relationship feel."
Another potential danger she warns other women in this dating field about is falling in love with a sugar daddy — something Schmidt has managed to avoid entirely.
"Most men are very, very, very upfront," she emphasized. "They want you to know straight off the bat, like, 'I'm unhappy with my situation for X, Y, and Z reasons, but I'm not leaving my wife. I'm not discussing my family. This is just what I need for myself or what I want to do for myself.'"
Having said that, it's not unusual for sugar babies and sugar daddies to fall in love. However, Schmidt warns that it is often one-sided.
"It's common to care about a SD, not as common to become overly involved emotionally," she explained. "Usually that is a sign that things need to end to avoid problems. Some people choose to wing it and see if they can work through it, and some people choose to stop seeing each other."
So why do sugar daddies, who are routinely married men, start sugar dating anyway? And why do they stay in their marriage if they're unhappy enough to stray?
"Because they still understand the financial and the emotional commitment they have made, and they do still respect their wives or care for them," she responded. "They might not be madly in love with them anymore, but they're not going to rip someone else's world apart over this. Not on purpose anyway — if they get caught, they get caught. But they're not just going to leave their wife."
Using her experience to advise and help other women is second nature for Schmidt these days. As a busy blogger and CEO of EliteSugarMatch and DetroitDateCoach.com — Schmidt's life still very much revolves around sugar dating... although her sugar baby days are on hold.
"I'm taking a stab at regular dating for a minute," she told us, laughing. "So we'll see how that goes!"
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