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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: I Feel that I Did Not Get Back the Love I Gave

September 18, 2021

Dear Stavroula,

A very dear relative of mine, a little older than I am, promised to tutor me for free as I prepare to take some qualifying exams at the University (I want to continue my studies at another school), in the summer when I returned to my hometown for six months. Our relationship has always been very close and I felt she was very much in my corner – and I also supported her through some very difficult times.

I was very happy for the fact that our lessons would be free, because I could not pay for tutoring, I was relying on her word and did not seek out other tutors. I arrived in my city, alerted her and waited for her to tell me when we would start. The first time I called her and asked her when we would start, she told me that she did not have time, because she had various health issues with her husband's family and that she would contact me. But a month passed without any news from her. I called her a second time and told her that I was very upset that she did not keep her word and that if she could not tutor me from the beginning she should have let me know so I could make other arrangements. She told me that she expected me to show more understanding of the fact that so much happened to her and she did not have time for lessons. I replied that I did not expect her to leave me hanging like that, after what I had done for her. Since then she has not responded to any messages I have sent her. I am very upset with all this. I feel that I did not get back the love I gave, but she is a really important person to me and I don’t want to lose her from my life. Nevertheless, I do not know if it is right to insist on communicating with her, since she does not answer me.

A.

Dear A.,

It is not easy to lose a person from our life that we consider important, especially when we have invested in him and spent quality time with him. In fact, there are times when we believe that while we

‘gave’ love, we feel that we did not ‘get’ it back, and it is difficult to ‘let it go.’

But love does not have the same code for everyone. Each of us understands and experiences it in a different way and this has to do with personality but also the way we have grown up. Many of us believe that love is something we give and receive in equal amounts, because from childhood it was passed on to our subconscious by our parents – without being responsible themselves for that view, as they were educated by their own parents to believe that – that love is always given with terms. For example, we often hear adults say, "Mom and Dad will love you if you behave or if you eat all your food," so it is not easy to imagine how it is possible for there to be unconditional love that one is not obligated to return.

But is that really so? Can the love and connection we have with other people be quantified? Does love really grow stronger when it is given unselfishly and when it leaves the other person free to decide how he wants to love and to show his love?

In your case, you feel that you did not get the love you gave, and this is a difficult emotion. But keep in mind that sometimes we tend to focus on our own point of view and interpret facts in our own way. And that if we isolate the fact from the interpretation, then we may be able to see things more clearly without the influence of negative emotions that may be exacerbated by our own insecurities.

If you were sure that your relative really intended to help you but that a lot really happened to her that was out of her control, so that she does not have time, would you still consider that she left you hanging? In other words, if you did not take personally the fact that she did not help you but accept it as something she could not avoid, would you feel just as hurt? If not, it might help to think about why you thought she might not want to help you.

Of course, her mistake is that she did not inform you in time, so that you could make other plans. But maybe she felt bad that she promised you and that's why she avoided facing you. Or she may have been waiting for things to work out for her and be able to find the time.

However, it might help if you could see things from her point of view with understanding. Because, unfortunately, often when we judge others, we evaluate them based on their actions even though we ourselves want to be judged based on our positive intentions. So, if you think her intentions were really positive, how should she feel or think after your reaction? What is important to her? What is important for you in the end, and how do you show your love for your relative?

Let us not forget that in order to give love to others we need an initial love capital, which is none other than to love ourselves. To truly means to accept everything and everyone for what they and for what they are not. But that is hard to do. When we love, understand and show true compassion to ourselves, then and only then can we understand and love others without conditions, artifice, or the need for control.

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