The Vine: May 9, 2012
I am a longtime reader and have honestly found myself in an anxiety-creating moral pickle (so to speak…though being in a literal moral pickle might be rather nice!).
Here is the short version: I was in a relationship with someone for two years. In that time, I helped him get settled in NYC, let him stay with me rent-free until he found an apartment, lent him my furniture and paid for every date. This isn't relevant, but we are both young gay men. I did these things because I have a well-paying job and my boyfriend did not.
However, when I lost my job, my boyfriend picked up some of the slack and paid for my rent for a few months and bills, etc. A few months later, we broke up. It was both of our faults, but he technically broke up with me. I let him have our shared apartment and most of the furniture.
Over a year has passed, and now he wants me to pay him back for the rent he insisted on paying for me so I wouldn't be stressed about losing my job. It was an incredibly sweet gesture, and I would love to pay him back, but I am still on unemployment and owe a dear friend almost two thousand dollars after a sleazy landlord milked me out of my security and last month's rent. I feel like that debt should be tended to first, and when I land a job I can pay back the money my ex feels I owe him. But all of my friends say that I don't owe him a thing because what happens in a relationship stays in the relationship. Are relationships like Vegas?
Perplexed and in a pickle
I'd say this one is more like the Yukon, because your ex's shit is cold. Heh.
…Okay, seriously: I agree with your friends, mostly, for a few reasons. First, you had already basically done the same for him and not expected any formal repayment. Granted, the circumstances were somewhat different; the relationship was in a happier place, "staying with" is more amorphous in terms of assigning it a dollar value than "paying the rent for," blah blah blah. But that would seem to have evened things up between you, as far as one partner taking care of the other financially — not put you in a hole.
Second, he ended the relationship. This is a technicality; the fact that he's occupying the apartment you shared and using the furniture you jointly purchased (I assume) is not.
And lastly, yeah, I'd have to say that, within a relationship, fiscal arrangements or trades of this type work the same way as they do among family members: you don't spend or lend any money you expect to get back. And if you do expect to get it back, you formalize its status as a loan, with a letter and a repayment schedule that you both sign. I have done it with boyfriends several times, going in either direction, and it might sound unromantic or distrustful, but nothing kills trust (or a boner) like one partner seething over an interpretation or an unspoken timeline involving money. It's so much better just to take that off the table permanently — and obviously you don't have to notarize every single side table or take-out order. But if it's thousands of dollars and you can anticipate it causing an issue, put it in writing.
You didn't do that, which is fine, most people don't, live and learn. But by the same token, you…didn't do that. So, I don't know if Ex has legal standing here; he can ask you to pay him back, or passive-aggressively let you know that he thinks you should; I don't know whether he can compel it without going to small claims, at which time presumably you could point out that he lived with you rent-free, has all your chairs, and so on.
That said, when I say "mostly" up at the top there, it's because I don't know the dollar figures involved. If "bills, etc." is ten grand in trips to Rio or something, it's probably appropriate for you to ask him to name a reasonable figure; to sign off, in writing, on that figure; and to let him know that you'll repay that agreed-on figure after you get a job and address the other debt to your friend.
Again, I don't know the legalities here, but if all you're asking me is, "Should he just let the shit go and move on?" then yes, I think he should. You don't have the money in the second place, and even if you did, unless it's thousands of dollars that he couldn't spare (and evidently he could, at the time), writing it off as the cost of relationships and moving on is his best move.
Tags: boys (and girls) budget 'n' finance