Dear Moneyist,

I supported my girlfriend during her recent studies. We are not married. She took 3 years from the inception of the program to finish, pass her board exams, and get her license to practice dental hygiene, despite the fact that it’s only supposed to be a 26-month program.

During this time, I paid the rent, utilities, food, entertainment, vacations, some medical expenses, toiletries, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Her mother covered some things for her, and her ability to take loans was restricted by previous undergraduate loans as well as lack of availability of federal loans due to use of grants in undergraduate.

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Our relationship is unwinding. I have sacrificed greatly in order to provide for her. I could have paid for the remainder of my student loans, advanced my career by investing in continuing education and, of course, increasing my portfolio and retirement accounts.

Is there any legal recourse I can take when we break up, to receive reimbursement for my contributions to her living expenses? Despite me not paying a cent towards her actual degree, her living was majority financed by me (80% at a minimum). Her income is going to quadruple with her new job.

Restless in Maryland

Dear Restless,

Common law marriage does not exist in Maryland. There is no comingling of assets or community property or any legal rights attached to this relationship outside of marriage. Only a handful of states recognize that. And even for states that do have some form of common law marriage, the couple must have showed an intent to get married.

Plus, a common law state may have ended up costing you even more.

Your dilemma falls into that eternal question of whether these monetary gifts were considered gifts based on your belief that you would spend the rest of your lives together, or a loan. There is no paperwork for the latter and, as you clearly state, you did this because you wanted to support your girlfriend’s studies.

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It’s a tough pill to swallow. She has been supported financially and emotionally as she furthered her education, and now she is ready to experience financial independence. You could ask her to repay you the money you spent on her rent and vacations during the time you were together, but I’m guessing you won’t get a positive response.

You would also set yourself quite a task calculating all the dinners and utilities.

At this point, you want to exit the relationship the way you came into it: with dignity. As one member of the Moneyist Facebook Group pointed out, “Consider that you both got an education: she, a formal education with a degree, you an education in life.” Your girlfriend’s rent and vacations were not your responsibility.

She accepted your gifts without question or any debate about fiscal responsibility.

I expect her to leave this relationship in the same way.

Also see: My fiancé postponed our wedding, secretly bought a house—and told me I could pay rent

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