Six years ago, I moved to Germany for a guy who I thought, at the time, was the one.
I gave up my family, my job, and my cozy life in Canada and completely changed everything by moving across the world to an unknown land where I knew I would be an outsider. I am always someone who does crazy things for love, and this was on the furthest side of my craziness.
Fast forward a few years and everything was kind-of perfect. I finally stopped feeling like an outsider. I managed to land my dream job as a global event planner, where I got to travel the world for work. I made a home in a beautiful flat with him. I lived in a gorgeous European city, became part of his family, spoke German and even made some amazing expat girlfriends. I felt so lucky to have my loving German ‘prince’ and the life we created together.
But, around this time last year, over a meal together, the ground was ripped from under me.
As he took a bite into his evening German-style bread, he looked up at me with guilty eyes and said, “I just don’t know if I love you anymore”.
The following morning, devastated, I caught the next flight home to Canada. On his credit card.
While I was in Canada surrounded by the comfort of my family, I felt lost. I looked in the mirror to see a girl with sad eyes, full of anxiety. I wondered what the 'eff' I should do with my life.
All of a sudden, I had to choose if I wanted to be alone in a country I never wanted to be alone in. I felt thrown away, like the trash. I knew the challenges that would come with setting myself up in Germany without him or his family.
I didn’t hear much from him again and later I found out that within weeks of our breakup he had a new girlfriend. Three months later, he even moved her into the flat we shared.
Suddenly, everything that was normal to me had changed. The person who I thought was my biggest supporter decided to exit my life without warning and, with him, took the life I thought I loved.
But I did come back to Germany, with vengeance. And the was the best decision I’ve ever made.
And then my life started to change for the better, and the void of the relationship slowly diminished.
Here are the 5 things that happened:
I became more independent than I ever have been in my life.
I had never lived alone. I went from living with my Mom in Canada to moving across the world and living with him. I always had someone taking care of me.
When I got the keys to my temporary get-away flat in Germany, it was a rock-bottom feeling knowing I was now alone in a country that didn’t feel like home without him...but I knew it could only go up from there.
After deciding to stay in Germany indefinitely I managed to find my own beautiful flat in an even-better neighbourhood and I even landed a promotion at work. Now I feel 100% independent and can afford my life without a second income to support it.
Most importantly, I was able to find a home within myself. My support system became my best friends here, and I never feel alone. My soul feels on fire from new things in my life. Everything completely turned around after being flipped upside down. I walk the streets confidently like a local. If someone asks me why I am here, I tell them ‘Well I came for a man, but now I’m here for me.’
I realized I wasn’t loving myself enough.
I always thought I loved myself, but I look back and I didn’t. Before I thought loving myself was cooking healthy, and going to the gym 3 times a week. Spending time ‘relaxing’ watching endless Netflix and scrolling on my phone (with my ex by my side). I was comfortable with myself but that didn’t provide me with space to grow.
However, this break up and living alone in Germany pushed me to realize how much I needed to love myself more. I realized I was living an uninspired life of a schedule that lacked creativity or passion. I became a person who took on too many traits of my partner, which were never me.
I took the void from the relationship I felt and filled it with my passions that I always had too much anxiety to explore in Germany. For example, I finally attended the dance class I was always too nervous to go too (because of German language). I even got a membership at a yoga studio and started other hobbies.
I took time to improve friendships and made some friends into better ones. I read empowering books, invested in therapy, and took care of my body inside and out, all while also focusing on my career.
I did my best to keep my heart open. I felt empowered by my choice to overcome this challenge of living abroad, not for anyone, but myself. This gave me new confidence, that I could do anything that I want abroad and on my own. I became my biggest supporter and made myself my number one priority.
I learned how much communication matters in relationships and friendships.
If I had seen the signs before and taken off my rose-coloured glasses in the relationship, things would have been different.
There were many times in the relationship when I saw red flags. However, with the fear of leaving him and being alone, I just ignored them. I was too afraid to have difficult conversations, but maybe if I had, I would have realized his intentions weren’t as pure as I thought.
Now with the fear of wasting my time with relationships or friendships, I am not afraid of communicating my wants and desires. If I see we are not aligned, I know that I could be wasting my time.
I now invest so much of my time into reading books and listening to podcasts about relationships and effective communication. This is something that I never thought I should take the time to do before because I thought everything was, just, fine - when it wasn't.
I found my passion for empowering international women abroad.
Surprisingly a lot of women I meet in Germany have moved here for love. I am not saying it is a bad thing, but if I had not built the life I had before the breakup, I would have been in a much more devastating position.
Fortunately, I only ‘lost’ him and his circle, but still had my career and my friends here. Some women only have their partner abroad and do not take the time to invest in their career or a social life apart from their partner.
I wanted to inspire other women to live their best lives abroad, so I started a meet-up group on Facebook for international women who are ambitious in creating their best lives abroad in Germany. Now this group has 200 members and we’ve had five meetups where we share stories of our victories, paint-points and discoveries.
I found new best friends and connected with others through our shared experiences.
I joined an online community (Mend) of other people going through hard breakups and these people became a huge support system. I found that many people had the same thing happen to them and that, in fact, I wasn’t alone in my journey alone in a foreign country.
I connected with them on a different level than any of my other friends, and through our shared experience we were able to overcome our transition periods together. We all realized that the break ups abroad enriched our lives, that change was for the better, and we wouldn’t exchange our friendships for anything else.
With all of this wisdom gained, the void from the relationship and my loneliness eventually diminished and is now filled with an authentic life that I never thought I was brave enough to achieve in a country that isn’t home, by myself.
And now, a year later, which feels like a milestone; I look at everything I’ve built and achieved, and I know the break up was for the best.
Sometimes things need to leave your life to make space for better things.
I am still healing every day from the trauma, but I know that one part of healing is sharing your story. I hope that if you are going through a similar break up after moving somewhere for love, that you know this doesn’t mean your only option is to go home. Perhaps you going there for your relationship was only the start of something bigger.
After all, ‘It’s not how you fall, it’s how you land.'