Joint Accounts

When Your Partner Takes Money From an Ex

Managing money as a couple is complicated

Kristin Wong
Published in
5 min readApr 29, 2019
Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Welcome to Joint Accounts, a weekly advice column about money and relationships of all kinds. Have a question? Email

Dear Joint Accounts,

My girlfriend and I have been together for about six months, and I’ve come to accept that one of her exes, an older man, is going to be a part of her life. He’s helped her with money in the past, like paying her rent when she was in a tight spot. They’re just friends, and I trust her.

But recently, the ex received a windfall and gave her $2,500 to help get her online business up and running. I have the means to help her, too, but I told her I’d want to see a little more substance to her business before I felt comfortable putting money into it. She didn’t want to tell me her ex was helping her out, and while I’m glad she ultimately did, I’m also a little mad at the entire situation. I guess I didn’t realize that by accepting him as part of her life, I’d also be accepting scenarios like this, where I feel undermined in my relationship. What should I do?


In Love But Leery

FFirst, let’s talk about trust. Your girlfriend didn’t tell you about the money from the beginning, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean the worst, it does raise some red flags. Transparency is critical in a relationship, and that’s especially true in tricky situations like this one, which has all the ingredients for some serious drama if all parties involved aren’t honest with one another. You need to be able to trust her situation with the ex, and she should trust that she can come to you with this information.

You have to consider whether both of you can trust the ex, too. People don’t often give money away without an expectation of something in return. He might simply expect his money back, which is reasonable. But if he considers the $2,500 a loan and your girlfriend thinks of it as a gift, that could create a problem down the road. A more worrisome scenario is that he’s using money to assert dominance and control over your girlfriend, or trying to insert himself into your relationship. Or maybe he’s the world’s…



Kristin Wong
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.