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Dear Demetria:

My best friend, who lives with her boyfriend, got into a car accident. Via mass email, she asked all her friends for money to help with the expensive repair. I said to her privately that her boyfriend should be handling that, not us. She called me judgmental and unrealistic, then we fought about my high expectations. In this instance, was I wrong? —Anonymous

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It depends. There are two separate issues here. One is your response to a friend who was asking for help; the other is whether her boyfriend is responsible for covering her repairs.

Your response to a friend in need wasn’t wrong per se, but it also wasn’t right. Your girl is in need, and what you were supposed to do as a friend was let her know whether or not you could help, period. Telling her that her man is responsible for her finances wasn’t really your place. It sounds as if you didn’t want to cough up any money—and it’s your right to say no—but instead of just being honest about that, you tried to pass the buck to your friend’s man. That was overstepping the boundaries of your friendship.

Your friend may have asked her man for money and he didn’t have it or didn’t have enough to cover everything. Or maybe he said no to her request, too. After all, as a boyfriend, he isn’t obliged to cover her car repairs—just as you aren’t. The only person financially responsible for the car is your best friend, along with her insurance company. Speaking of which, why aren’t they covering the expensive repairs for her car? (If there was any question to ask your friend, this was it.)

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But back to her boyfriend. I find many people these days have husband or wife expectations of their boyfriend or girlfriend. Covering or contributing to a major bill is a spouse duty, not a significant-other obligation. It’s nice when a boyfriend wants to pitch in to help, even though that can come with its own headaches, but he certainly shouldn’t be your primary option for bailing you out of a financial mess. Your man isn’t your personal ATM or a financial plan.

Your friend’s situation is a little tricky in that she and her partner live together, sort of like husband and wife, but without the primary benefits of that commitment. Their situation is a gray area, one in which couples get to pick and choose which traits of a spouse they will take on. This is one of the complications of living as husband and wife without actually being such. It seems that the boyfriend here has chosen not to cover the cost of the car repair as a husband typically would. And that’s fine, since he is, in fact, not a husband.

I suggest that you apologize to your friend for meddling in her business and let her know if you have something to put toward the bill—or not. It sounds as if you don’t want to pay, so tell her you’re glad she’s OK but you have nothing to spare.

Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at askdemetria@theroot.com.

Previously in Ask Demetria: “The Hair ‘Down There’: How to Ask a Woman to ‘Trim the Hedges’”