By Chris Seiter

Published on May 16th, 2023

This is the definitive guide for figuring out if you should help your ex financially.

First things first though,

Should you help your ex financially?

I believe you shouldn’t assist an ex financially unless you’re together in a relationship. Your own financial well-being should always be your primary concern. However, there are exceptions, such as when children are involved, if you co-own a business, or in life-or-death situations.

I’ll discuss these exceptions later.

For now let’s talk about what we’ll be talking about (see what I did there?)

  • My argument for why I believe you shouldn’t help your ex financially
  • Taking an in-depth look at the main exceptions to the rule
  • Setting up the ground rules for how you should pay your ex (yes, there’s a certain way I recommend to do it.)

Let’s just dive right in.

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Why I Believe You Shouldn’t Help Your Ex Financially

Whenever I write an article I always make an extensive outline and that outline revolves me looking at papers, studies, searching Google, looking through our own personal articles, our own personal research to kind of come up with a with an idea or a stance on something.

Here’s what this one looked like when I finished in case you were interested,

What’s interesting is when I started writing this article I started looking at what some of the people who are ranking in Google were saying.

And it was always the typical things I tend to come across. You know the type, they would say a lot of words but they wouldn’t ultimately take a stance on if they should help their ex financially or not.

And there’s a lot of reasons for why I think that is the case but that’s not what’s going to happen here.

So, as stated above here’s my stance;

My stance is you don’t help an ex financially unless you are together. Your own financial well-being should always come first.

But why?

Well, in my heart of hearts I knew I felt strongly about this but even after my extensive research process I had trouble finding the words. It wasn’t until I asked my wife, “why do I feel so strongly about this?”

That she basically helped me figure it out and it really boils down to one simple quote,

Why buy the milk when you can get it for free?

Any relationship benefit shouldn’t be given unless you are actually in a relationship. And helping someone financially is without a doubt a relationship benefit.

But I think it’s more than just that.

It’s also opening yourself up to be taken advantage of.

Helping Your Ex Financially Is Not Smart (According To Benjamin Franklin)

One of the best things you can look at is the Benjamin Franklin effect.

And we’ll quote from the man himself.

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He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.

Basically if you do someone a favor then you’re actually more likely to do them another favor and then another and another.

Most people think it’s the opposite.

They think well if I just do my ex this one favor if I give them this money this one time it will be a one time thing. But what research has found is it’s the opposite.

You helping your ex out financially usually isn’t a one time thing. It usually opens them up to take advantage of you.

And so then you’re paying them again and again and again and they know they can keep coming to you. They know the well isn’t going to dry up.

You see, you want it to be the opposite. You want your ex doing you favors not the other way around.

Of course, there are legitimate exceptions to this rule.

An In Depth Look At The Exceptions To Helping Your Ex Financially

All right so let’s get the legal stuff out of the way.

Number one; I am not a lawyer.

What I am about to say are my own opinions based on what I have witnessed in my time coaching individuals that have gone through breakups. So take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt.

I think the rule that you should always abide by here is your own financial well-being should always come first.

Ok, now that legal talk is out of the way let’s take a look at the exceptions.

  • Legally Bound To Pay Them
  • Living Together
  • Giving Gifts Back
  • Child Support
  • Owning A Business Together
  • Life Or Death Situations: (outlier, ethical, pet surgery example)

Now, let’s take a moment and talk a little bit about each one of these so we can kind of understand the scope of them.

Exception #1: You Are Legally Bound To Pay Them

So this is going to be things like alimony, car payments, cell phone, rent.

In this particular case if you are legally bound to pay them you kind of have no choice but to help the ex financially.

And the reason I separated the alimony, car payments, cell phone, rent away from living together and gave living together which is our next thing that we’re going to talk about its own space is because it’s one of the more common situations that we’ve seen and we have some radical advice.

Exception #2: You Are Living Together

All right so if you’re living together our stance is that you need to find a way if financially possible to find a new place. But while living together especially if both of your names are on the lease or on the mortgage then you are legally bound to pay that mortgage so pay your half whatever that is.

Exception #3: Giving Gifts Back

Then there’s the complicated concept of giving gifts back, something my wife brought up when we were discussing this article. She introduced the idea of an engagement ring. Theoretically, it’s a gift, but it’s an expensive one, and legally, you’re supposed to give it back.

Keeping it could be interpreted as asking for something financially, or even as theft in some instances.

As I mentioned, the legal waters can get a bit murky.

Ironically, this exact scenario surfaced in a TV show I’m currently watching. I often watch TV shows at night to decompress. Anyway, I was watching an episode of a show called “The Rookie,” which centers around a 40-year-old rookie cop, played by Nathan Fillion.

I enjoy it—it’s a guilty pleasure.

In one episode, Nathan Fillion’s mom, a 70-year-old woman, gets proposed to and, thinking the guy was cheating on her, she hawks the engagement ring instead of returning it.

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In essence, what I’m saying is, don’t emulate the woman in that show.

And then of course we have kind of the easy stuff.

Exception #4: Child Support

If you are required to pay child support then yeah you need to pay child support. It’s as simple as that.  It’s one of those legally bound type things that we took out of the legally bound because it’s something that we see a lot of.

Exception #5: You Own A Business Together

If you own a business together then yes legally you need to help that business survive. Not really much to dig into here.

But the one outlier is life or death situations.

Exception #6:

People might quickly assume scenarios like an ex’s mother having cancer and needing financial assistance for treatment. This becomes almost an ethical issue.

However, in my decade-long experience running Ex Boyfriend Recovery, I haven’t seen this situation. What I have encountered falling into the life-or-death category are pet surgeries.

During your time together you accumulate things.

One of those things might be a gift of a pet.

You know, your ex might have gotten you a pet or you might have gotten your ex a pet.

They loved it, you loved it, but old Sparky (we’re going to name your pet that) unfortunately got sick or hurt and needs a surgery and your ex can’t pay for it or at least needs help paying for it.

What do you do?

I always advocate that your own financial well-being comes first. That’s a given. But ethically, it might look terrible if you allow the pet to suffer or die due to a lack of funds for surgery. So, if you’re financially able to help, I suggest you do so for your own peace of mind and to avoid guilt later.

(Poor Sparky…)

And this leads us to the final thing that I want to talk about.

Setting The Ground Rules For How These Payments Should Go Down With The Exceptions

Which is setting ground rules for how these payments should go down in the exceptions.

So, we’re going to take a book from our limited no contact concept.

If you aren’t familiar, our no contact rule,

Has it’s very own dark twin in almost an identical situation to what we’re discussing here. Basically there are certain exceptions to the no contact rule. Situations which people find themselves in where it’s impossible to properly do a full no contact.

For those situations we recommend the limited no contact,

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And it just so happens that the rules for how to handle interactions with your ex during a limited no contact rule are the same with paying your ex.

So for example with a limited no contact you’re allowed to be nice to your ex but you want to keep it short and sweet and keep the main thing the main thing. Keep it strictly on business.

You’re there to pay them.

You get the payment done.

You’re not there to talk about the breakup.

You’re not there to talk about anything else.

I think it’s important to set a boundary as well.

Many of the exceptions I mentioned earlier often involve recurring, typically monthly, obligations. It’s not usually a one-time payment. However, if you’re in a situation like returning gifts, handling a life-or-death pet surgery, or perhaps making the last few rent payments, it’s important you make it clear to your ex that this is a one time payment.

Se that boundary.

But that’s the tricky part, isn’t it?

A lot of people that come through our program don’t have a problem setting the boundary, they have a problem keeping it.

So, if your ex comes back asking for more money later on, those who have set good boundaries will firmly say, “No, I told you last time that this was a one-time thing.”

This leads me to the final point I want to make: ensure you document the conversation in some way.

I want to avoid the “Oh no, that’s not what you said” type of ‘he said, she said’ argument that could potentially arise.

For instance, if you have sent a text message to your ex stating, “I’m going to help you out financially this one time,” and it’s within the exceptions, they can’t guilt you later.
You can always refer back to the text message, which also provides legal protection because it documents what actually transpired.

So, when setting the ground rules for payments, take a page out of the limited no contact playbook.

  • Keep the main focus the main focus
  • Stay strictly on business
  • Set a boundary if your situation allows
  • And document the conversation.

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