Dear Penny: Will I Ever Get the $2K My Ex-Boyfriend Owes After 14 Years?

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Dear Penny,

Around 2007, I lent my boyfriend at the time around $10,000 to buy a car. He said he would pay me back $500 a month. Well, he couldn't handle that because he kept losing his job. Then he started paying me $250 a month. 

He paid me up to $8,000 and then stopped when he owed me the last $2,000. He moved to Florida because he couldn't afford to live in L.A. anymore, and he claimed he couldn't afford to pay me the rest of the money. After that, he never tried to pay me back. 

I feel like I was cheated and used. Is there anything I can do about this? 

-Feeling Used

Dear Feeling,

Move on. Let go of the hope that you’ll ever collect that final $2,000.

I’d tell you to look into your state’s process for suing in small claims court if this were a more recent debt. But 14 years have passed since you made this loan. The laws vary by state and whether you had a written or oral contract. But it’s likely that the statute of limitations has long passed by now.

If you can’t sue your ex, your only recourse would be to contact him and persuade him to pay you because it’s the right thing to do. Maybe he’s changed in the years since you broke up. But the odds of getting him to voluntarily pay up seem extraordinarily slim. I don’t think $2,000 is worth the price of opening old wounds.

Dear Penny

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Is this really about the money? Or are you seeking closure for your feelings about this relationship? Keep in mind that plenty of people walk away from a relationship feeling used even when money isn’t involved.

The $2,000 he still owes you is easy to focus on because it’s quantifiable. But if you feel like you were robbed of your time or energy or goodwill, those feelings aren’t going to disappear even in the unlikely event that you collect on this old debt.

For what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like your boyfriend set out to cheat you or use you if he paid back the first $8,000 amid considerable hardship. That doesn’t absolve him of responsibility, of course. It’s just that in tough times, you were probably easier to blow off compared to his other creditors.

Think about what this experience taught you. Are there any takeaways you can apply to current or future relationships? Are there any boundaries about lending money that, in hindsight, you wish you set?

Ultimately, I think you have a better chance of moving forward from whatever lingering feelings you have about this relationship if you extinguish any hope of getting your $2,000 back. With the money off the table, there’s no reason to contact your ex again. You’ve closed that chapter of your life. Chalk this up to an expensive lesson learned.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].