Ask Zeta: "I paid my ex-girlfriend's student loans. Should I ask her to pay me back?"

Aditi Shekar
December 15th, 2020 | 3 min

Got a tough love and money question? Email us at editor@askzeta.com.

"I paid my ex-girlfriend's student loans. We just broke up. Should I ask her to pay me back?"

A precarious situation indeed. I've seen this often–partner A wants to do something nice to help partner B, and then something goes awry and partner A is left holding the bag. This is a classic mix of love and money colliding in a car crash and it's a very crappy situation to be in.

Look, if you're able to support a partner financially, it's certainly an incredibly nice and supportive thing to do, so karma-points for your kindness. But my general advice around lending (or even covering expenses) is to be clear on the terms before you do it. Whether it's a loan or an out-right gift, you'll want to first come to terms with how you feel about it and then communicate that to your partner.

Having a really clear understanding of expectations on both sides will relieve a lot of stress and arguing later. And, this might be surprising, but also give the receiving partner an opportunity to share how they feel about the gift.

In this case, it sounds like that may not have happened? If it's a material amount of money to you (which sounds like it is!), then I'd consider approaching your ex and asking her to help you come up with a plan for payback. Maybe your ex is more open to it than you'd originally imagined? (Maybe I'm being optimistic here.) And if she's not, there's not much you can do at this point. Legally, it's seen as a gift and may even be taxable if it's over $15,000.

You may just have to chalk it up and warn your future self to do your diligence if it comes up again.

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