Dating and Debt Disaster: Part 1

by TTMK on October 8, 2012 · 11 comments

How do you handle money issues when dating?

The idea that the guy pays for the first dateis pretty well established in our society, though it’s certainly becoming less set in stone.  After all, more than half of college degrees are going to women, who are of course just as able to work and earn money as men.  When a couple has been dating a while, it gets a little more variable in how things go. Sometimes the guy still pays for most things. Sometimes two people share in some way. And, in the occasional situation, the girl pays more.

What about when it comes to financially helping somebody you’re dating? Especially when it comes to dating somebody in debt?

A friend of mine, who I’ve known for quite a number of years, was faced with this situation.  He is a really great guy, who has happened to have some bad luck. He has been previously married, and then dated somebody who was younger than him but a seemingly good match.  He seemed excited about the relationship.

Things seemed to going well, and he seemed really happy. Now, keep in mind that he’s not as into personal finance as I am, so I’m really not sure how much thought he might have given to his girlfriend’s finances.  In other words, what kind of problems might be facing him!  Well, you might be guessing that problems emerged, and you’re right.  What happened is that she was in debt, and he decided to help her pay off her debt. 

Now, I have no doubt that he probably had the best of intentions in helping out.  However, the relationship suddenly hit troubled waters out of the blue, and before long they broke up.  He was hurt over this.  Furthermore, there is that realty that he did help her with her debts, and ended up getting a raw deal out of the whole thing.

He asked her if she would pay him back for the money he helped her with.  Now, I don’t know exactly how much it was, but I’m guessing it was probably at least several thousand dollars.   Well, as you might imagine by now, he didn’t get it back from her.

She was appalled that he would have the nerve to ask, apparently thinking that it was dishonorable for a man to ask a woman he dated to pay him back.  He, on the other hand, seemed to view it differently.  The notion was that the money he spent on helping her with her debt should be repayed, as it wasn’t a part of normal dating expenses and courting.

I’m with him on this.  She should show more honor, and should pay him back for the help he gave with her debts. Or, at the very least, make a genuine promise to pay later.  On the other hand, I’m not totally with him on this because I don’t think he should have helped her pay back her debts in the first place.  It’s smart to work to avoid debt, as we just discussed in a prior post.  Taking on somebody else’s debt? That should only come later, something that would happen only if a couple actually got married.

I do have a couple of questions for you:

  1. Who do you side with here, my friend, or the (ex) girlfriend?
  2. What do you think about the idea of helping out a person you’re dating with his or her debt?

Part 2 will cover what happened months later, when she eventually expressed interest in patching things up and dating him again. This will come in another post!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ evolvingPF October 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I think it’s extremely foolish to loan anyone money in the context of a personal relationship. Even worse, there was no communication – the boyfriend considered the money a loan and the girlfriend considered it a gift. So I agree with you. My husband used his savings to pay off my debt – AFTER we were married!

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter October 8, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I would agree. Unless you know the person really well and have some kind of commitment with them, I would not loan money. If I was even tempted, I would work out an agreement with them, one that I knew they understood and it would include a repayment plan.

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TTMK October 8, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Miss T – money and relationships are intertwined, but until things reach a certain point – some things just don’t mix all that well.

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter October 10, 2012 at 9:35 am

Yup. And in fact, even once you are committed to each other, money can still be an issue. My hubby and I are still finding our groove.

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TTMK October 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Miss T – very true, money can be an issue later. Getting that right, being on the same page, and raising awareness of these things is important.

TTMK October 8, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Emily – I think we see this the same way. Though I don’t know that he considered a loan, but rather he thought he was helping someone who was invested in a long-term relationship with him. But that’s a good point that the net effect of him asking for money back is that the money given is functioning similarly to a loan. Better to wait until being married to pay debts.

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Andrea @SoOverThis October 8, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Unfortunately I have to side with the ex on this one. Unless he helped her with the stipulation, “If we ever break up, I’m going to want this money back,” he really can’t expect her to repay it. Nor can he expect her to stay in the relationship because she feels obligated.

I am a huge believer in separate finances even for people who are married, so the idea of paying debts for someone I’m only dating is completely insane to me. I think it’s nice of him to want to help, but it might have been better to pay for dinner or something, allowing her to save her own money for debt repayment. At least that way he would have benefited from it too.

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TTMK October 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Andrea – interesting point you make about the feeling of obligation to stay in a relationship. That wouldn’t be fair, I agree. I think he feels really burned on this one. Best to avoid paying someone’s debts when you aren’t married to that person!

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Kathleen @ Frugal Portland October 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm

He should not have lent her money, and he should not have asked for it back. It does fall outside the normal realm of dating expenses, but since he put up the money, it became part of his expenses. Unless it was set up in a way where he said, “wow you should not be paying 25% on a credit card — why don’t you pay me 5%” or something where there was an assumed pay-back timeline and requirement, he should have called that a sunk cost. Was he expecting to be paid back, or just married?

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TTMK October 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Kathleen – I think he was helping her, thinking the relationship was going places. Really, I don’t know that he thought through that it might not. I do feel bad for him, as he got burned. But, again, I don’t think that he should have given it to her in the first place. It wasn’t his job or role to be helping her financially while dating, and hopefully the lesson was learned!

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vibes86 October 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

It sounds as though the younger woman may have been looking for a “sugar daddy.” I truly believe she’s taken him for a ride.

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