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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: Navigating Relationships During the Holidays

Dear Stavroula, 

I am divorced and have two grown children, a 23-year-old son and a 27-year-old daughter. Four years ago I began a relationship with a divorced man who also has a 25-year-old daughter. 

When I met him, he was going through financial difficulties and I supported him through charitable personal efforts, as a result of which his financial condition improved significantly. 

Every year during the holidays I make sure we are all together or at least one of my two children and my partner with his daughter, because we live in different cities that are about two hours away. This year, due to the COVID situation, I could not leave my city, while he could not visit due to his job. He preferred to spend both Christmas and New Year’s with his daughter, knowing that I was alone, because due to the travel restrictions my children could not visit me either. 

When we talked on the phone on New Year’s Eve and I told my partner that I was very upset that I was alone and mentioned that if he wanted, we could spend New Year’s Day together, we argued, and we rung in the New Year arguing. 

I tried to discuss it with him again three days later but he could not understand why it bothered me so much. I told him that he could have asked his daughter to spend New Year's with her mother so that we could be together and he reacted as if I was saying something strange to him. 

Is it my fault that I expected my partner not to leave me alone during the holidays? Is it wrong to be so generous and complain when others do not think of me at all? 

I do not know how to manage it. I felt that he left me and I do not know if I am right to feel that way. Can you help me? 

Iliana 

Dear Iliana, 

You have a great gift, that of generosity. When one is in the mood to contribute, to help one's loved ones, when they are in a difficult situation and need help, the giver receives great joy and satisfaction in return. He is full of positive emotions, of love, his psychology and self-confidence improve, he builds more meaningful relationships. 

Many times, however, we feel that we have given a lot, without getting back the corresponding behavior. This can cause us frustration and even feelings of anger both for the person who did not appreciate what we did and for ourselves who were left to give without being sure of getting anything in return. 

That is why in cases where after giving to others we feel more negative than positive, we may need to evaluate our giving and find the motivation behind our own behavior. 

Why do we feel the need to constantly thank others? What do we gain from this behavior? Do we feel this need so strongly, because we learned from an early age, that this is how we are accepted, that this is how we deserve to be loved? Do we think that this is how we keep others so that we are not left alone? 

However, no one asks us to be so generous. This is our choice and we have an obligation to ourselves to understand what our limits are and to set them for others, if they ask for more than we can give them. Thus, when giving, we will not have expectations nor will we be disappointed. 

Then, it should be noted that not all people perceive the same thing in the same way. Many times, in fact, it does not help us to try to interpret an event, especially when we are emotionally involved. 

That's why I'm not able to tell you if you're right or not, if your man really neglected you. Maybe he saw the whole situation completely differently. 

Your partner, for example, may have felt obligated to spend the holidays with his daughter, not because he did not consider you, but because she may have a problem, or because he strongly feels a sense of responsibility as a father, a feeling which may intensify when the father is divorced. Or he may not have realized that this was so important to you. It may not have bothered him at all to be alone during the holidays. 

But I feel the need to tell you, to take care of yourself a little more. As you care about others, take care of your own needs as well. 

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