Dear Quentin,

My girlfriend and I have been together for about four years. We had a child three years ago. Around that time, we decided that I would relocate about 200 miles and move in with her. While I was in the process of moving, she found a house that she loved.

Having just quit my job, I assumed I couldn’t be on the loan with her and, due to a large divorce settlement, my affairs weren’t quite in order to secure the financing. We moved into the new house and I fully contribute, not only financially but also in repairs, painting, upkeep, etc.

My girlfriend is also divorced and is reluctant to remarry. How can I protect myself financially from being completely left out in the cold if she wanted to break up with me? I’m not saying I deserve half the house as if we were married, but I feel like I would be left with nothing if we broke up.

More Than a Boyfriend, Less Than a Husband

Dear More Than,

I recently received a letter like yours, except this couple is three decades down the line from where you are now. One partner owned the home and the other lived there. They were on the cusp of breaking up, so the letter writer, who had lived in the home, asked me if he was entitled to anything more. I said no. His partner did not want to commingle their assets, and he did not want to get married.

The homeowner, of course, could decide to give his partner a little helping hand, but I was not going to sit in judgment on that question. The letter writer, like you, had helped out financially, but he had lived in that home at a greatly reduced cost, which had helped him to amass $3 million in assets.

What, you may ask, has this couple got to do with you? The principle is the same for a gay couple as it is for a straight couple, even one with a child. Always plan ahead, and if you are living far below the market rate in your partner’s home, take that into account on day 1: Put money aside and/or invest it, or better, yet buy a separate property as a rental.

That way, no one is dependent on anyone else financially and, if you decide to break up, you can both walk away without any regret or recrimination. Plus, you don’t have to stay in an unhappy relationship because one partner feels at an economic disadvantage to the other, or because they are attached to their current quality of life.

You may not be able to buy a house now, but that will change, and you can start saving today. Be clear and transparent with your girlfriend. She may even help you look.

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