Dear Wendy: “My Ex-Fiancé Won’t Help Pay Off Our Engagement Debt”

Three years ago I was engaged, but after much reflection, realized I wasn’t ready for marriage and called off the wedding. My ex-fiance, though surprised and hurt, was nevertheless understanding about the situation. I returned the ring and informed the reception venue that we would no longer be needing their services. The venue did not return the $2,000 deposit I had put down on my credit card and three years later, I still am nowhere near close to paying it off. I recently became a full-time graduate student and am having difficulty paying my minimum balance each month. Here’s my question: is my ex obligated to help me pay off this debt, or should I consider the debt as all mine now, since I was the one who ended the engagement? He has acknowledged multiple times since the breakup that part of the debt is his and promises to pay me back “when he has the money,” but in the last four months, he’s only sent one $25 check. We’re trying to remain friends, but when I think about the way he’s handling this situation I become furious. Should I push him to send money regularly? Should I talk to him about this (again) and try to salvage a friendship? Or should I just consider myself lucky that I didn’t merge my finances with this person and move on? — Runaway Bride

Let me start with something nice (because I’m afraid the rest of what I have to say won’t be as complimentary): I totally commend you on ending your engagement when you realized you weren’t ready for marriage. That takes self-awareness and a lot of courage — especially when you’ve already started the planning process — so kudos to you. As expensive a mistake as your engagement might seem, $2000 is nothing compared to what a divorce would have cost you — and your ex — both emotionally and financially, so consider your decision a big money-saver.

Now … onto the harder stuff: Your ex agreed to pay for a wedding; there was no wedding. He’s under no obligation to pay for a broken engagement. You had a verbal contract to get married — a contract you broke — and since the deposit for the venue also happened to be made with your credit card, your ex is in the clear both morally and legally. You have no right to be “furious” with him. He really owes you nothing except maybe a thank you for saving him a potentially messy divorce. If you want to avoid drama with your ex, I’d suck this up and assume full responsibility for the debt still left to pay. Finally, if after three years you’re still “nowhere near” paying off a $2000 debt and are having a difficult time paying the minimum on your credit card payment, I’d recommend you talk with a financial adviser — or just a friend or family member who’s good with money — about how to better budget your finances. Also check out my tips for making extra money in your spare time and well as the rest of the advice in our Money section.

A few days ago my best friend tells me she and her new boyfriend are trying to get pregnant after only having known each other for three months! To make matters worse, they’re planning this pregnancy with the expectation of having a boy. I held my tongue when she moved in with him a month after their first date because I could tell he made her happy, but deciding to have this guy’s baby? It’s so irrational, I don’t even know where to start. This new guy is a decade older than her, has an established career, is much more financially secure, and has a teenage daughter from a previous marriage. Seeing them together, I don’t doubt this guy is genuinely in love with my friend, but I’m afraid a lot of his feelings and decisions may be the result of his desire to have a son while he’s still young enough to keep up with the demands of having a child. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t at least ask her to marry him beforehand. I’ve expressed my concerns, but she insists this was the fairytale love she’s always dreamed about and gets defensive if her friends aren’t anything but supportive. I understand she has a lot to gain if everything works out, but if it doesn’t, she’s left with a baby, a broken heart, and a mountain of medical bills to pay off because she doesn’t have health insurance. Is there any way to talk some sense into her or should I and her other friends just keep our mouths shut and hope for the best? — Pregnant Pause

I wish there was something you could say to your friend that would bring her back to reality, but unfortunately, this is one of those cases that anything even remotely unsupportive you might say is going to push her away and make her resent you. She can’t see the forest through the trees right now and she’s certainly not going to believe you have her best interest at heart when everything is such an OMG! Fairytale! to her. The best thing you can do is back off on your criticism and warnings and just be there for her as a friend. There are so many ways this scenario could end badly and if it does, she’s going to need you more than ever. So don’t say or do anything at this point that will make it more difficult for her to come to you then. Keep the lines of communication open, let her know how much you love her and want the best for her. Tell her that you think she’s rushing things, but if this is what she wants to do, you’re there for her. And then just keep your fingers crossed it all works out OK. The silver lining here is that she could always sue for child support if she has this guy’s kid, and if he’s well-off as you say he is, the child at least will probably be provided for.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at {encode=”[email protected]” title=”[email protected]”}.