A German perspective on international break-ups


Last January, when I was violently sobbing in front of my laptop, I suddenly started to look at Brexit in a slightly different light. My British girlfriend had just broken up with me via Skype, because she didn’t want to keep up our long-distance relationship, and I was devastated. We had met and fallen in love during my time as an exchange student at Swansea University, and we’d decided to stay together after my return to Germany. But now, after being madly in love for what had been almost a year, it was over. So, while I was ugly crying at my reflection in the dark computer screen I thought, what is Brexit if not a big, messy international break-up?

Now, I do not believe that Brexit is the best metaphor for the end of a romantic relationship, because you are definitely doing it wrong if it is. Breaking up is hard for both parties involved, and it rarely consists of this clean cut that you expect it to be, but believe me when I tell you that Brexit is the worst possible way of leaving someone that you used to love. Here’s to my ex-girlfriend who set a perfect example of how the UK should have left us.

Romantic relationships ought to be equally rewarding for both partners, and I believe that a respectful break-up is way better than painfully dragging the affiliation out until the two – or however many there are – of you are emotionally exhausted. The option of staying friends with your ex usually doesn’t seem intriguing in the moment, but here are three tips that worked out for us:

  • Make a deal. Yes, this one’s for you, Mr Johnson. Ending a relationship, it is very important to agree on the terms. Do you keep in touch or not, or do you maybe want to set a time window where you are not allowed to contact each other? Here, it is very important to respect your ex-partner’s wishes and boundaries and vice versa.
  • Take your time to heal. Breaking-up ultimately means spending more time with yourself. How do you feel about yourself? Have you changed during the relationship, or what would you like to change? What do you want from a potential future partner?
  • Re-initiate the dialogue. There comes a time when you can look back at the relationship without pain or anger, a time when you can appreciate the relationship for what it was – and what it wasn’t. This is the perfect moment to get into contact again. Together, you can reflect on your relationship and learn from the mistakes you might have made.

Brexit is just one more instance that makes me want to shout that the private is political: is it really that difficult to follow the example of two 22-year-old lesbians who broke up via Skype?

Personally, I think that Europe is a great relationship and although it takes a lot of work to maintain, it is infinitely rewarding. I accept that a part of the UK feels like they have outgrown this relationship, but I also want to stress that you have a responsibility towards the relationship you had with your ex-partner. You owe it to yourself not to disregard the great time you shared. And you certainly shouldn’t risk a potential friendship with the partner you’ve been with for over 40 years, because you’ll only be hurting yourself.

Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of DIVA magazine or its publishers.

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