This is inspired by a question I saw earlier about whether or not a gift should be returned after a breakup from @iman1998 :
I have had my ear bent from a few guy friends who felt very bitter that something wasn’t returned, and I have also been in the position of giving away gifts or items and never seeing them again.
What reminded me most was years ago, I was dating a new guy and listened to him unload about his last girlfriend owing him almost €30,000. I couldn’t believe someone would have walked off with this much money so I asked him how this happened and why not take her to court for so much money being loaned out. It turned out, all he did was the math of over four years of dating to come up with a figure. This included an estimate of how much he would have spent on her on a daily basis during this time, if not an average but also included gas money to get to her and go home before they lived together. He actually believed she should be paying him back that money.
Where exactly do we draw the line on “dating money”?
I expect people to disagree with me on this, but as far as I’m concerned, dating and relationships are a risk. If you don’t get involved, of course you will save yourself time and money invested in to someone. If you break up and start with the, “I want the camera I got you for Christmas back,” routine, then it seems the end of the relationship is more about whether or not someone ‘got the best’ of someone rather than really ending the relationship for its core reason.
Those who decide to give a gift should be doing so because you have no preconceived notion that this gift should come back to you. That’s part of the charm of giving a gift. You made or purchased something from the heart and are giving it away. Root word: give.
Even if it’s a piece of jewelry that has some value to it if it is returned, the point at the time was that you decided that this person was going to accept the gift and you weren’t going to have it back. If you decide giving something expensive was something you could afford never to see again because it would be in their possession, then that is the choice you make when you give it away.
This isn’t to say that the person who holds on to the gift can’t do what’s perceived as “right” and give a gift back, notably expensive jewellery. But in the end, that is their decision to make.
At the time you end a relationship, it’s best to cut your losses and leave. Don’t be a curmudgeon of the past and dwell on the fact you’re out X amount of thousands of dollars or euros because you gave them “stuff”. If you truly cannot part with something such as a family heirloom, don’t give it away – simple.
As far as “dating money” and feeling owed in life because cash was spent on a relationship, it's time to get over it. Money is spent on a daily basis for things you both need or want whether it’s gift-giving or life-living when you share time together. Know the difference. Protect yourself, but also don’t put regrets on the things you gave away or gave up for a life lesson that might have been painful to learn.