Against all the advice I’ve ever heard about money and relationships, I lent $1,200 to my boyfriend. Not all at once, but in three chunks over a two-month period. It was an astonishingly easy decision for me to make. In fact, it was harder for him to accept. But it was either going to be me or his mother. And I wanted not only to help, but to save him from that small humiliation.
The mere notion of mixing money and love, money and friendship, money and almost anything, triggers a resounding No, Don’t Do It from most people. Do not lend your friends money. Don’t do business with friends. And for God’s sake, don’t lend money to someone you’re dating. It’s no secret that money is the ugliest part of a breakup, and quite often, the reason for it. Several studies have found that fighting about money is the number one predictor of divorce.
But we had been together for nearly a year, and he had been scraping by in the scrappiest of ways. When I realized just how little he had to tide him over between measly part-time paychecks and freelance work, I was stunned — and appalled. Forget saving or paying off balances; the guy didn’t have enough to sustain himself, period. I couldn’t sit there while a man I loved counted out quarters for a burrito. I just couldn’t do it.
Though I was hardly raking in the dough, I had enough money to make frivolous choices (a lipstick here, a pair of shoes there). I figured that meant I had enough to lend to someone in need. Especially someone I cared about this much.
Still, it was one thing for me to occasionally spring for sushi (especially when I was the one with the craving and the cash). A loan was a different story. It wasn’t an exchange you could make with the casual air of “You can get me next time.” This was a bald exchange of funds, from me to him. I knew that being the lender of money could not only set a dangerous precedent, but shift the balance of power in a way that could undermine the relationship.