'My ex-boyfriend owes me £10K. I’m moving on'

Could you tell me a little bit about you and your life?

I’m a 31-year-old Irish woman, now living on the Lincolnshire coast with my boyfriend of 5 years. We bought our home here 2 years ago and live with our dog.

Could you share a bit about the relationship?

It was my first real relationship and started when I was in college (which is the same as uni here). I was in love and truly believed this could be the person I would be with forever. Young love, eh? I’m pretty driven and had ideas of what kind of life we would have, which he said he wanted too. Nothing fancy, but it included things like being able to buy a home, have holidays and live a comfortable life.

After a year or two I noticed that he was often jobless and wasn’t driven or motivated. At the time I backed him on the reasons for why he left, e.g. a terrible job or a toxic work environment. After college - so about 3 years into the relationship - we moved into a flat together. He had been holding a job steady at that time, and it made sense because I was on one side of Dublin and he lived on the other. We were spending so much time and money travelling to stay with each other, so why not live together and cut that out?

What's the backstory of the 10k?

It started with giving him money upfront so he could do something, e.g. a trip that we were planning. Oftentimes he would pay for part of it and promise to pay back the rest - but that didn’t happen clearly! Another example was when he was taking up a sport that involved buying kit and starting fees, and I gave the money so he could do it and then pay me back later.

In the end, I was paying for everything - bills, rent, groceries - because he was unreliable with work income and I ended up being the sole earner. I never really kept track during our relationship as I only thought it maybe could be a few hundred pounds. I only ever understood how much he owed after we split up. I totted it all up to find out it was more like £10,000.

When and why did you leave?

After more than a year in the flat, I had a great job opportunity come up, which meant that I would need to move abroad. At first, he was supportive, but as time went on he showed his true colours and said I was abandoning him. He quit his job one day by just walking out and said he was going to move with me (with no job for himself - so expecting me to fend for us both!)

I moved and we tried the long distance thing, but mentally I had already checked out of the relationship. I broke it off not long after settling into my life abroad because I’d realised how much I was changing myself to be with him.

It was hard because I had truly felt that this was the person I would be with forever. But I also felt that it was the right decision, and when the time came to an end I didn't feel as emotional as I did when I'd thought about doing it, so I knew it was best for me.

How did you feel when you finally realised the total amount you'd lent him?

When I finally figured out the full extent of the loan, I was a little disgusted with myself to have put that much money into someone who really didn't care about me at all. I didn't expect something back every time, but to have that care or feeling reciprocated in the ways I needed was definitely missing. Also, knowing the amount sometimes made me feel like I should keep in contact with him and put up with his manipulation to get it back.

Can you talk a little bit about the emotional manipulation?

He held the money over my head for the purpose of keeping me around, said he would pay it back and that he was working, and so I believed him. But as he tried to play on my feelings more and more and tell me things to make me feel sad for him, I was thinking - is this even worth the money I'm owed?

He would tell me that he hated his life and insinuate that he could potentially harm himself because he was so unhappy. That really hurt because it's the last thing I would ever want even though I broke it off. I did struggle at times with that and him saying things like he wished he was dead without me!

When did you write off the £10k?

At first, we stayed in contact trying to be friends as we socialised in a mutual circle, so I didn’t want to make that an awkward situation. And he said he'd pay back what he owed. After I totted it up, and a short while of him being very manipulative emotionally, I wrote it off and never expected it back. Then I had to cut ties completely because I saw I was better off without such a person in my life.

How do you feel about it now?

In the past, I would’ve said that I was good with money, but I’ve realised that I like to make sure the people I care about are cared for properly, and that can mean I put their needs over my own personal ones. I’ve worked hard since then to be more savvy and not get caught in that cycle again. I still like to treat people I care about, but I balance it with being reasonable so I don't get caught like that.

Do you have any advice for those in a similar situation?

I had a friend with a boyfriend who was narcissistic and emotionally manipulative. The relationship didn't last long but she’d loaned him some money for rent one time after he lost his job, and it was still owed in the end. He would use that to keep stringing her along. I shared my experience and urged her to cut ties, accept it as a loss and save her mental health because it wasn't worth it.

Financial Confessions