Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My friend “Nora” and I found a three-week-long, intensive Italian language course that we both wanted to attend. It was being offered by a university in another part of the country, and, for a reasonable price, attendees could stay in the dorms, two to a room. The dorm was fine with me, but Nora said she wasn’t interested in dorm living, and she’d book a room for herself at a nearby motel if we decided to go. I really wanted to take this course, so I said OK. But that left me sharing a small room with a stranger I didn’t particularly like. Shouldn’t Nora have toughed it out and stayed in the dorm with me? She certainly knew the only reason I stayed there was because it was cheaper, and she and her husband have considerably more money than my husband and I do.
– Shelly, California
Dear Shelly: Look, if you have the resources to spend three weeks attending an Italian course that’s a plane ride away from your home, there’s no reason for your friend to treat you like Little Orphan Shelly.
Had Nora sprung her motel plan on you after the two of you had already signed up for the course, you’d have something to complain about. But she didn’t. She gave you the opportunity to ask a third friend to join you and share your room or to decide not to go if it meant having to stay with a stranger.
Nora also was obligated to avoid putting you in a position where you’d have to spend more money than you wanted to, and that obligation she met. Still, next time you find a course that you want to attend, you might be happier joining forces with a buddy whose budget is more like your own.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I have a problem with my ex-girlfriend. “Jessie” and I bought a condo together a few years ago. When we broke up last fall, I moved out, though I’ve kept paying half of the expenses. But now I plan to buy a place of my own, so I want to get my money out of the condo and my name off the mortgage. The thing is, while Jessie’s determined to stay there, she’s unwilling and unable to buy me out. Do you have any advice on how to resolve this situation amicably? I’d rather not force the sale of the condo, because every time I’ve mentioned selling it, Jessie goes ballistic.
– Edward, Boca Raton, Fla.
Dear Edward: Ballistic, you say. Is that a negotiation tactic, or a character flaw? Either way, it’s probably unrealistic to think that you and your ex-girlfriend can settle the division of your jointly owned property amicably – not when you have completely conflicting goals.
So give Jessie one more chance to buy you out, along with a firm deadline to do so – say, three months (a generous offer, since she’s already had half a year). And tell her – repeatedly, and no matter what fireworks ensue – that if she doesn’t, you’ll have no choice but to force a sale. Then hope she’s sufficiently motivated to figure out a way to pay for your half of the condo she so obviously likes living in.
If you do have to force a sale, don’t feel bad: Your ex-girlfriend is a grown-up, and grown-ups know – or should know – that they can’t appropriate someone else’s property simply because that’s what works best for them.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.