My boyfriend owes me money: what should I do?

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I am a 46 year old single mother and have been with my boyfriend for almost four years. He moved into my apartment almost immediately after our relationship began, and we still split the bills. Then, about four months ago, he lost his job and has since accrued a debt to me of over $8,500. I always wonder if I’ll ever get that money back. I’ve set myself a $10,000 limit, but I don’t know what I’ll do if and when it hits it. It’s a horrible place for a relationship, and I have so much tension and resentment. I think he should borrow money from his family instead of me – is that wrong? I’m dipping into hard-earned savings just to keep us afloat, and it’s ruining us. Can we overcome this?

You face two possible scenarios. Behind the curtain n°1, your boyfriend has simply had a bad time; it’s only a matter of time before he finds a new job, reimburses you in a timely manner, and expresses his endless gratitude for your support during this difficult time. Alternatively, behind the more ominous curtain #2, he’ll sink into long-term unemployment, continue to owe you debt, and eventually drive you so mad that the relationship will implode and you’ll walk away broke and furious as you did I didn’t cut it earlier. We are all in favor of the first scenario, but you must guard against the second.

The intrinsic problem with confused love and money is that the latter is finite and the former is not. Therefore, if you are lending or gifting money to your boyfriend (or anyone for that matter), the terms should be clearly defined: how much you are lending, what you expect in return, and the timeframe you have in mind. Your feelings for the borrower may be immeasurable, but your finances have clear and strict limits that must be understood and respected. Many people don’t know what those boundaries are until they’ve been crossed, and it looks like you’ve discovered yours the hard way.

Your first, most logical step is also tricky. If you haven’t already, discuss your loan limit with your boyfriend (the $10,000 cap you mentioned) and work out a rough plan for how and when he’ll pay you back – for example, a once he finds a job, he’ll give you 10 percent of every paycheck, or whatever seems doable. (It might go without saying, but be nice about it. No one wants to be in your boyfriend’s situation, and he probably already feels like crap.) Then put your agreement in writing and do- Sign him a promissory note, which you can do quickly and inexpensively using a service like LegalZoom.

This formalization process sounds cold and clinical, but at least it will put you both on the same page – literally – about how your financial exchange will work going forward. It should also give you some peace of mind that if the relationship suffers further, at least you won’t have to worry about losing your money. and your boyfriend – you will retain a legal right to collect what he owes you, regardless of your relationship status.

If he refuses to sign the note, then that’s a huge red flag – don’t lend him another dollar, period. He can flatter, beg or threaten to leave, but hold on: the honey crate is closed. “If he sees this as a breach in the relationship, remember there was already a breach in the sense that you’re not comfortable with what’s going on,” says Brad Klontz, psychologist , certified financial planner and founder of the Financial Psychology Institute. Also, you shouldn’t apologize for drawing that line, and your boyfriend shouldn’t make you feel like you have to, particularly since you also have a child to watch. He’ll have to look for the money elsewhere, and it’s not up to you to suggest where he might find it.

In the meantime, if your intuition is giving you red flags, take a step back and try to take a more objective look at this guy. Is his current situation an isolated case or part of a larger pattern? “If he’s spending eight hours a day looking for work, maybe it’s a one-off problem,” Klontz says. “But if he spends most of his time playing fortnite and hanging out with his friends, then it might be more chronic. Has your boyfriend done this in previous relationships? Is he also running away from his responsibilities in other areas of his life? The best predictor of his future behavior isn’t your optimism, it’s his past behavior. “Pay close attention to its history,” Klontz says. “It’s much more likely to happen again, rather than becoming the person who magically changes it.”

Economists have a term for the human tendency to stick with something that doesn’t work just because you’ve already invested a lot of resources in it: the “sunk cost fallacy.” For example, I once bought a dress that didn’t quite fit me, made several unsuccessful attempts to get it cut, and then kept it in my closet for years because I had spent so much money. This is related to “loss aversion” or the irrational fear of giving up something (in my case, an unwearable dress) even though the result (more closet space) is ultimately in your best interest. . Or, as Klontz puts it, “loss aversion is the urge to hold on to something because you don’t want to endure the emotional pain of admitting you’ve made a mistake.” Do you see where this leads, nudge?

Four years is a decent amount of time to be with someone. Do you side with this guy because of your sunk emotional and financial costs, or because you truly believe he’s a good match for you? “A lot of people stay in a relationship for too long, and when they think back to the beginning, there was always a little voice that said, ‘It won’t work, but it’s too late,'” Klontz explains. “Then, ten years later, they have three kids and a house, and it’s an even bigger mess.” In other words, it’s always and never too late to break up with someone — if you hang in there, that $8,500 debt might feel like a small potato after a few more months.

But if you To do want to stay with him – and it looks like you might – this is your opportunity to come up with a better contingency plan for the present and the future. “We all like to think that if we go through a dry spell, our partner will give us support,” says Klontz. “But how far does this go? When will it just take a job, even if it’s not the best job? When your boyfriend gets a job, will he work to save more so it doesn’t happen again? Otherwise, how can he reassure you after this period of stress and upheaval?

Many couples have a live-and-let-live policy about money until they have to deal with their financial differences. Like you, I moved in with my significant other pretty early in our relationship, and we just started splitting the bills without a fuss. It wasn’t until years later that we had our first fight over money (of all stupid cliches, it was about our wedding budget) and I realized we never really discussed finances. Despite what you’ve read about the need to “align financial priorities” before cohabiting or marrying someone, I believe there’s not much you can anticipate before it becomes a sticking point. For us, it took a number of bumpy disagreements before we learned how to communicate about our spending (“I want to buy this. What do you think?”), and it’s still one of my most popular topics. less preferred. But a hard and fast rule is that we always state our limits: if we share a cost, I’ll say how much I’m willing to contribute, and vice versa. This is your chance to learn how to do something similar – mark out your financial comfort zone, and if he’s not willing to join you there, then he’s on his own.

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