Over the last few days, as the results of the British people’s referendum on whether to remain in the European Union (EU) or to leave the EU have become clear, there have been many comparisons to divorce and nasty divorce at that. But is it a fair comparison? Is it really a nasty divorce or merely a typical divorce, with all the normal feelings and emotions, the highs and lows that go with it?
First you have the spouse who is unhappy, unsatisfied or unwilling to continue with the relationship, for whatever reason, who breaks the news. Often that spouse feels relief and some level of elation that they have taken the first step towards unwinding the relationship. But then feelings of “what now” and “watch what you wish for” come into play, often causing some level of regret. This is the “Leave” group.
The othe spouse reacts with hurt and anger, often jumping to conclusions and making all kinds of threats. This is the “Remain” group. EU President, Jean-Claude Juncker, reacted that way to Britain’s vote to leave: basically saying the politically tactful version of “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out”. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, reacted in the same way after the results were confirmed—basically telling Britain, “if that’s what you want, then get out!.” After a couple of days, however, as the emotions settled down and calmer heads started to prevail, Merkel recanted and said there was no need to be nasty or hasty and that the EU would work with Britain towards a mutually agreeable transformation.
In much the same way, the emotions in a divorce eventually settle down (often sooner with the right support and/or professional help). When this happens, the two spouses are better able to make decisions on what their future relationship will look like.
This is true of the EU and Britain. There will be a continued relationship, though what it looks like is currently anyone’s guess. The only thing we know for certain is that it is going to look much better if they work together than if they fight. Much like the future relationship of two spouses who work together to restructure their family will.