My Boyfriend Has No Idea That I'm Sleeping With Sugar Daddies — Should I Tell Him Or Keep It Secret?

Hello, world. My name’s Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.

Today, we’ve got this woman, who’s hiding a big secret from her boyfriend: She’s been meeting up with sugar daddies for extra cash. Her boyfriend knows she used to have this side hustle back in the day, but she promised to give it up when they started dating. Should she tell him that she’s still meeting up with these other men, or keep it quiet? Here’s what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

My reply…

There’s nothing wrong with the work you’re doing, but there is something wrong with the way you’re going about it. Your boyfriend is under the impression that he’s the only person you’re having sex with. It’s important for him to understand that he is not. And while your partner has no right to dictate what you can and can’t do for work, he does have a right to decide whether he wants to be in a non-monogamous relationship. If sugaring is something you want to keep doing, you need a partner who’s on board with that. It could impact him, in ways both physical and emotional.

So, let’s start with the physical: Your boyfriend needs to know what’s going on so he can make informed decisions about his sexual health. It’s good that you’re using protection with your outside partners, but I can’t fully agree with your claim that your actions “would never put him at risk.” Condoms reduce your risk of STIs, and they’re definitely worth using. But they do not eliminate the risk entirely.

Of course, this is not to say that the sex you’re having needs to be feared, judged, or avoided — a lot of sex carries some degree of risk, and it’s fine to weigh those risks against the benefits and decide for yourself whether it’s worth it. But the emphasis here is on for yourself — you can’t make these decisions on behalf of your boyfriend, too. He gets to do his own risk assessment, which requires all the information you are currently withholding from him. And if he decides to stay in the relationship, there might be added precautions he’d want to take moving forward, like using protection in your sex life together, or committing to a routine testing schedule, or establishing some ground rules for safer sex with others.

And then there are the emotional impacts for your boyfriend in this situation. Even if sugaring is nothing but a job for you, the job still requires going on dates and having (or at least performing) emotional intimacy with another person. Your boyfriend should know that you’re chatting with these other people, flirting with them, having sex with them, forming some sort of an ongoing relationship with them. He’s allowed to decide whether he’s comfortable having a partner whose work involves going on dates with other people. If you don’t let him make that decision for himself, you’re opening him up to some inevitable devastation down the line.

Having said all that, I think you have two options for how to proceed here:

Option 1: If you want to keep sugaring, you should explain to your boyfriend what’s been going on, and ask if he’s willing to stay in the relationship with the understanding that you are going to continue that work, Of course, your ask here is going to be complicated by the fact that you’ve been doing it behind his back this whole time, despite assuring him that you were not. That may be too big a betrayal for him to get past. But if you can explain what this work means to you (financial freedom), and also what it doesn’t mean to you (having genuine romantic connections with other people), then maybe he can get on board with it. And if he can’t, at least you won’t have to keep this part of your life a secret anymore, and you’ll be free to find a partner who’s perfectly fine with it. That sounds like a happier existence to me.

Option 2: If you don’t want to keep sugaring, well, I still think you should tell your boyfriend what’s been going on, because he has a right to know. But you should also stop sugaring! There’s nothing wrong with having a sugar daddy, but ideally that’s an arrangement you enter enthusiastically, not under duress. And it sounds like the source of your financial strain here is that you’re splitting expenses 50/50 with a partner who makes significantly more than you. Would he be open to splitting bills in a way that’s proportional to your incomes instead? You’ve already moved and changed jobs to be with this guy; it seems reasonable that he pay more right now to ease the transition.

Although…just like in Option 1, this request will inevitably be muddied when it’s paired with your admission of guilt. It will be hard to pack “I’ve been sleeping with other people” and “Would you mind covering more of the rent?” into the same conversation. Again, it is certainly possible that the deceit of the past six months will be too much for him to overcome. But having an honest dialogue about the difficult financial situation you’re in right now — and the sugaring work that it led you to — seems like a healthier way to proceed than continuing to sneak around behind his back.

I’ll end this with a small-but-important disclaimer to everything I’ve written above: People who do sex work of any kind often face higher rates of violence and abuse, even from their own significant others. It’s not always safe to come forward about this stuff, and sometimes secrecy is vital for protection. In my advice, I’ve suggested telling your boyfriend the truth, in part because he knows your history with sugaring and (unless you’ve left something out of your story) he did not respond in an abusive manner. As far as I can see, there aren’t any red flags in your DM that telling him would put you in danger of anything worse than possibly getting dumped.

But if I’m wrong about that — if you think there’s any chance that telling him would cause him to have a violent reaction — then ignore my advice. He has a right to be upset about the deceit, to be sure, but he has no right to harm you over it. If that’s a possibility, focus on getting out of that relationship ASAP, and do whatever you need to do to make it happen. Honesty is important, and I’ll always advocate for it when I can, but it is not as important as your safety. I hope this disclaimer doesn’t apply to you, but it felt worth mentioning for you or anyone else who might be reading this. Good luck.

That’s all the advice I’ve got for today’s DM’er, folks. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @stephenlc. And if you happened to miss last week’s column, read on!

Last week, we heard from this woman, who found a mysterious red hair inside her boyfriend’s underwear while doing laundry. The boyfriend insists he has no idea who it belongs to, but she can’t shake the feeling he’s cheating. Should she dump him? Here’s what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

DM that a woman's boyfriend came home late and a few days later the woman found red hair in his underwear in the laundry

My reply…

Well, I certainly don’t think you should kick him out over one unidentifiable hair; that alone is not conclusive evidence of cheating. But if this discovery is part of a larger issue in your relationship — if it’s just the latest on a long list of suspicious things about your boyfriend, and your gut tells you something is off — then maybe this should indeed be the hair that breaks the camel’s back. Only you can make that call, but I’ll give you some things to think about as you weigh your options.

Let’s start with the hair itself: I do think you should at least consider the possibility that it came from an innocent source. There are plenty of non-scandalous ways a stray hair could end up in a pile of dirty laundry. And frankly, from a purely logistical standpoint, for this small hair to go from the supposed other woman, to your boyfriend, to his boxers, to the floor, to the laundry pile, and then to you sounds…unlikely. Not impossible, by any means, but unusual! If there’s a housekeeper or a dog in the picture that this hair could belong to (which your boyfriend indicated, and which you did not really dispute in your DM), then I think that’s a reasonable explanation.

a woman examining dirty laundry

BUT — and this is a big but — it sounds like you jumped to this cheating conclusion so quickly, and with so much conviction, that I have to wonder if there’s more to the story that you’re leaving out! Like, does your boyfriend have an overly flirty coworker or a too-close-for-comfort ex who also happens to have bright red hair? In that case, your laundry discovery would carry a little more weight. Or, do you have reason to believe your boyfriend wasn’t actually at Lowe’s on the night he said he was? Then you’d certainly have something to be suspicious about, if not the hair.

Or maybe what’s missing from this picture is your boyfriend’s general pattern of behavior within your relationship. Does he have a history of cheating on you or flirting with other women? Do his actions put you constantly on edge, desperately searching for evidence that he might be sleeping around? If so, let me assure you that you can dump this man right now, regardless of who that strand of hair belonged to. If your boyfriend’s behavior leaves you in a constant state of paranoia, insecurity, and fear, that’s all the evidence you need to break up with him.

a woman with her head in her hands sitting on the floor

And if there isn’t anything missing from this story — if your boyfriend is truly a standup guy who has never given you reason to doubt him, and it’s just this one singular hair that’s sending you into a tailspin — then I think you need to consider whether the problem here could actually be you. Absent of any other suspicious factors, finding one unusual hair in your boyfriend’s laundry is not a good reason to burn your entire relationship to the ground, and the impulse to do so might reveal some larger trust issues on your part.

As the old saying goes: “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” When we have an outsized, disproportionate reaction to something, it’s often because a past trauma is resurfacing for us — whether we realize it or not. Are you particularly wary of being cheated on because of something that happened in your past? Is it possible you’re carrying baggage from an old relationship into this current one? If so, I think you should address that — not by dumping your boyfriend, but by working on yourself. That involves genuine introspection and a willingness to change. Sometimes it involves therapy, too.

a couple arguing

I think there’s a lot more you need to examine here — about your boyfriend, about yourself, and about your relationship together. But one thing you don’t need to examine any further is your boyfriend’s dirty laundry. The answers you need are not in the hamper. They’re likely right in front of you. Good luck.

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PS: If you’ve got any advice for today’s DM’er, sound off in the comments! I’ll be reading…

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