My Ex-Fiancé Spent our Rent Money on Weed

by Guest Author - Published September 6, 2019

shocked monkey

[Morning! I’m still chillin’ at FinCon this week (if you’re around – come find me!), so here’s another great post in my absence today, this time courtesy of The Financial Lifeguard, Christine Luken. Hope you find it as fascinating as I do! You can’t make some of this stuff up!! Haha…]

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My Ex-Fiancé Spent our Rent Money on Weed

So, yeah, that really happened to me back in the late 90’s. My then-fiancé, Jeff, told me he would give me $300 towards our rent when he got paid that week. But when it came time to pay the rent, he didn’t have it.

Why? He spent the money on weed. Evidently, he prioritized getting high over having a roof above our heads. But he had a plan… to sell part of it to his friends and make a profit. So, he’d get his weed for free and have the money I needed for rent. Sounds like a sure-fire plan, right?

Unfortunately, his friends were under-motivated and under-employed, just like Jeff. Only one of them paid his full share. The others made partial payments with IOU’s for the rest.

Sadly, my landlord only accepted cash or checks for the rent. I scrambled to come up with the money before the grace period expired and late fees kicked in. This situation began my saga with payday lenders that I previously shared on this site.

I spent seven years with Jeff, from ages 19 to 26, most of them brimming with tales of financial misadventures and downright horrors. To be clear, I possessed a skill for money management and majored in accounting in college. So what was my problem? I was a financial enabler.

Financial enabling occurs when you relieve someone of the natural consequences of their behavior and take them onto yourself. It’s a form of co-dependency.

According to PsychCentral.com,

“Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior.”

This described my relationship with Jeff to a T.

I didn’t just pick up the slack for him in the bill department. I called in sick for him when his massive hangovers kept him in bed. I made his doctor and dentist appointments for him. I bailed Jeff out of jail on more than one occasion. It’s like I was engaged to a juvenile delinquent in a man’s body.

It’s easy to judge this situation from the outside, looking in. “You should have kicked him out of the apartment or broken up with Jeff for not contributing!” Yes, you’re right, I should have, and I eventually did.

At the beginning of our relationship, Jeff acted irresponsibly, but in smaller ways. The longer we dated, the more he pushed the envelope and tested my wimpy boundaries. I hid money from him because if Jeff knew I had any, he’d figure out a way to talk me into giving it to him. His favorite method was escalating arguments into fights which, being a pacifist, would cause me to cave.

I swear that man could figure out how to squeeze $20 dollars out of ten, then go blow it on something worth $5.

Money is emotional, even more so when financial enabling is involved. This behavior can happen between partners, friends, or relatives. What starts out as someone wanting to genuine help the other person can devolve quickly into dysfunction.

As a money coach, I see this situation come up during my coaching sessions. Many times, parents are “helping” their irresponsible adult children and constantly bailing them out of their financial disasters. It’s a sensitive subject that causes a good deal of drama and conflict for a family. Fortunately, because of my personal experience, I’m able to assist people in breaking the vicious cycle of financial enabling.

Here are Some Signs You Are Enabling, Not Helping:

  • The person expects you to help, and uses guilt to try to manipulate you
  • The person makes the same kinds of financial mistakes over and over again
  • The person seems to get worse, not better, after you help them
  • You are suffering financially as a result of helping the other person
  • The situation is a constant source of stress — and you feel bitter and resentful

The first and hardest step in breaking this cycle is admitting you are a financial enabler and you are part of the problem. You have been shielding your loved one from the financial consequences of their own behavior, which isn’t a good thing for either of you.

Once you have reached this conclusion, it’s good to arrange a sit-down meeting to discuss the situation. Be prepared for the other person to be upset and even to say that you are unloving or uncaring for allowing them to face their own consequences.

Depending on the situation, you may need to set up a timeline for change. For example, if your 28-year old able-bodied son is living in your basement, you’ll want to give him a short, yet reasonable time frame (say 60 to 90 days) to find an apartment before you start charging him rent. He will likely test you, so make sure you are mentally prepared to stick to your guns.

It’s important to understand that financial enabling exists on a spectrum. The situation might be as simple as a parent spoiling their grown child a little too much. However, financial enabling could be much more severe and complicated if it’s intertwined with substance abuse or other types of dysfunctional relationships.  In this case, it’s a symptom of a much deeper problem.

There is no shame in reaching out for the help of a trained mental health professional to help deal with financial enabling and co-dependency issues. In fact, I encourage it. One of the very best things I did after I broke up with Jeff was seeking counseling.

Money is emotional, and for issues like this, a simple budget template isn’t going to solve the problem. The most important thing my counselor, Dave, taught me, was how to create and enforce healthy boundaries in all areas of my life, not just money.

My boundaries were almost non-existent when I left Jeff, because I had become such a people-pleaser to keep the peace. I distinctly remember my counselor asking me, “What’s your favorite ice cream?”

“Cookies and cream,” I answered right back.

“Was that Jeff’s favorite ice cream?” Dave asked, narrowing his eyes.

“Yeah, so?” I countered.

“You don’t even know what kind of ice cream you like!” Dave exclaimed. Then he gave me a homework assignment: go to the grocery, buy five pints of ice cream that sound good, and figure out which one was my favorite. (Mint chocolate chip, in case you’re wondering.)

Repairing my boundaries and overcoming codependency was a long, but worthwhile journey for me. Now, I joke that my poor husband, Nick, doesn’t get away with anything, because my boundaries are strong like bull, lol!

So, what happened to Jeff? Did he learn from his mistakes and turn over a new leaf? Sadly, no. Last I heard, he found and married the first woman who would take care of him financially, had a couple of kids, and moved into the cozy trailer right next to his mom. (OMG… that could have been me!!)

I have no hard feelings about the situation anymore. It’s because of what I went through that I now have a career as a personal finance coach. There’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to financial enabling: you’re only responsible for YOU and your own behavior. You can’t control or fix the other person, unless they truly want to improve themselves.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? How did you handle with it?

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Christine Luken, the Financial Lifeguard, is a Certified Financial Counselor, speaker, and the author of Money is Emotional: Prevent Your Heart from Hijacking Your Wallet. You can find her at her website at ChristineLuken.com, where she empowers people to rescue their financial dignity by showing them how to create a personalized prosperity plan.

Previous articles Christine has written for us over the years:

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate September 6, 2019 at 5:25 am

Thank you! What a great read! I dated a Jeff from 19-21. He literally smoked all his rent money in a bong too! Thank God he cheated on me with his best friend’s girlfriend (classy!) and I didn’t end up his ex-wife waiting for child support payments! I must say, whilst he was a pretty awful person, it did teach me a good lesson at a young age! 20 years later and my husband’s only spending “luxury” is a monthly yoga school subscription. Yesssss!

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2 Christine Luken September 6, 2019 at 10:12 am

I’m glad to hear he’s your ex! And that you learned your lesson in less time than it took me!

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3 Debbie September 6, 2019 at 7:40 am

Yep, been there, done that from age 22-26. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when a friend of my boyfriend came to our apt. He dragged a chair into the hallway, climbed up on it & opened up the crawl space in the ceiling. He then retrieved a bag of weed that I had no idea was there! My boyfriend had bought/put it there. I dumped him shortly afterwards but he had also taken the $$ I gave him to get my car brakes replaced & spent it at the bar! Payback is a b…ch. After we broke up, he called me & begged me to reconcile. I told him I needed $$ to get another apt (went back home for a month when I dumped him). He wired me $1000 & I got my own apt with that $$ with only my name on the lease! The scammer got scammed! LOL
Thanx for a good read!!! It brought back bad memories of my 4 years in …the hot place, LOL

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4 Christine Luken September 6, 2019 at 10:13 am

LOVE that you recouped some money and got sweet revenge! :)

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5 J. Money September 12, 2019 at 6:51 am

PEOPLE ARE SO CRAZY!!!!

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6 Fred Leamnson September 6, 2019 at 8:34 am

As the parent of a recovering heroin addict, the advice here is sound. Every dependent person has enablers around them. They are experts at manipulation, cover-up, and excuses. We were those people to our son for years. It takes time to figure out what to do.

Treating adults like children keeps bad behavior going. Keeping yourself healthy by setting boundaries and sticking with them is the best solution. Don’t move the goalposts. If you set boundaries, keep them. They will test you, count on that.

Our son is now 15 months sober. We are the lucky ones. If you’re the parent or family member of someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, we found great help in the PAL Group. (https://palgroup.org/). Going through it alone is tough. Don’t be afraid to get help.

Thanks for sharing your story.

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7 Jackie September 6, 2019 at 10:04 am

That’s awesome – great work with your son!

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8 Christine Luken September 6, 2019 at 10:14 am

Fred, I’m glad you finally broke the enabling cycle and your son is sober!

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9 Ramona @ The All Finance September 6, 2019 at 6:09 pm

I can only imagine the horror of having to get your son sober from such a dangerous addiction. Kudos to you for the progress and best of luck in the future.

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10 J. Money September 12, 2019 at 6:52 am

Thanks so much for sharing your story, man…

Here’s to 15 years on top of that 15 months of sobriety!!

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11 Jess September 6, 2019 at 9:17 am

OMG, mint chocolate chip is one of my favorites too :P

Thanks for sharing your story. Boundaries are important for so many reasons (self-respect, mental health, financial health, etc.). I’ve had a couple of toxic relationship situations in the past, which is where I learned how to define and set some personal boundaries. And yes, one involved weed!

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12 Christine Luken September 6, 2019 at 10:16 am

Boundaries are SO important! I’m glad you learned how to set them and get out of toxic relationships.

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13 Adam September 6, 2019 at 9:19 am

Saw something related on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and it really resonates:

“Folks act like the difference between wealth & poverty is a matter of personal choice, that the wealthy simply make better choices than the poor. False. The only difference is that the wealthy have resources & personal safety nets for their dysfunctional & criminal behaviors.”

Incidentally, my wife and I went out for ice cream on Tuesday evening… and she gave me the stink-eye when I got a scoop of cookies and cream (her favorite, but in my defense I hadn’t had any in months!). Oops. :)

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14 jenny September 8, 2019 at 10:10 am

Excellent point!

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15 Jackie September 6, 2019 at 10:16 am

I think I’m a partial enabler, but I have some awareness, and we keep separate accounts. And he doesn’t smoke weed – just buys a lot of random crap.
Two of the five signs you list are true for us:
•The person makes the same kinds of financial mistakes over and over again
•The situation is a constant source of stress — and you feel bitter and resentful
I wouldn’t say “constant stress” – but I am an over-thinker, so I think about it too frequently. I’m currently working on paying off a HELOC that he convinced me we needed “just in case” – but turns out he spent the money on a bunch of crap he can’t even account for. And in turn, this makes me bitter and resentful. It’s gotten better over the years, but it’s not resolved yet. As we get older and closer to retirement age I’m wondering how bad it will be when he’s not working much and bringing in a full income – but keeps spending (with a credit card) and then we have to figure out the giant bills each month. He’s a bit defensive when we talk about it – so that doesn’t help. We will see how it plays out I suppose – I just keep trying to set things up to limit his access right now!

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16 Christine Luken September 6, 2019 at 10:19 am

Hey Jackie, Good for you that you’re aware of what the issues are. If you want to shoot me an email, I’ll send you a free electronic copy of my book “Money is Emotional: Prevent Your Heart from Hijacking Your Wallet.” I think it will help you both get on the same page, if you can get him to read it too. ([email protected])

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17 J. Money September 12, 2019 at 6:56 am

“Spend as you please!” budgets might help too!! And limit the amounts he can spend, while still having all the fun/freedom :)

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18 Tammy September 6, 2019 at 11:35 am

Thank you! As a recovering Financial Enabler I relate to your story. In order to be “loved” I gave money to everyone. As I aged and began creating boundaries my circles changed. It didn’t come without growing pains, however. Money is emotional!

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19 Christine Luken September 11, 2019 at 12:52 pm

That’s great to hear, Tammy. I think it’s a challenge (but not impossible!) for people like us who are generous and helpful by nature to enforce boundaries. :)

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20 Christine September 6, 2019 at 6:49 pm

Another Christine here! That’s a horrible experience to go through. Glad you got out of it. Too bad he never learned anything.

I was in an enabler relationship when I was younger too. Mostly emotionally, but some financially too. Now I’m in a great relationship of 11 years, married, with a man who pulls his weight and more:P Happy endings…and so on!

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21 J. Money September 12, 2019 at 6:57 am

YAY!!!!! glad to hear that!

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