Just in Time for Valentine’s Day

Ah, romance. All goths are romantics, even if they deny it vehemently. There is something about the standard bits of the goth aesthetic (candlelight, roses, decadent food, alcohol, or clothing, passionate declarations or literature) that naturally go with romance.

Then why does the majority of the subculture profess to take a cynical view of the whole dating, love, & romance whirl? Because goths are all idealistic romantics at heart, and either don’t want to be ridiculed, or have been hurt too often …

Which leads directly to what the Lady of the Manners wants to talk about. How to deal with the breakup of a romance in a mannerly way. (No, don’t look to the Lady of the Manners for dating advice. All of her romances just kind of happened, and now she’s happily married and will never have to worry about the whole dating thing EVER AGAIN, thank goodness!)

So there you are in love, and suddenly everything changes. “I need some space.” “I think we should just be friends.” “It’s not you, it’s me.” Or even, “I don’t want to be involved with you,” and no further explanation. After hearing one of the above sorts of statements, there are some very important things to keep in mind:

1. Don’t ask for an explanation from your now ex-lover. You think that sort of information will make you feel better, but it won’t. No matter what the reason for the break-up is, it won’t change the sinking feeling that accompanies the realization that someone you cared for doesn’t want you anymore, and no amount of “friendly” talks with your ex will expunge that feeling. Only time will do that. Besides, do you really want to be told, “because I found someone else I’m more interested in,” “I’m bored,” “I think you’re a controlling, obsessive, abusive loony,” or other statements of that ilk? No, the Lady of the Manners didn’t think so.

2. Yes, cry. Listen to “your” song, get maudlin, and stare blankly at your surroundings. This is a necessary catharsis. BUT – try not to do it in public. Because this is the big trick to surviving a break-up; when in public (and especially when you might run into your ex or friends of theirs), you need to seem like you’re doing okay. Yes, this is duplicitous and runs counter to a lot of pop psychology theories that advocate honesty and showing your true feelings no matter where you are, but think about it for a minute. If you give full vent to your feelings of anger, despair, and weepiness no matter where you are, eventually people are not going to be as sympathetic, just because they don’t want to continually deal with the emotional drama you are going through.

This doesn’t mean acting like you’re perfectly happy and everything is wonderful. This means not bursting into fits of weeping or rage at the local club, out at a restaurant, or at work. And the BEST reason for putting the effort into doing this? Word of how you’re behaving will get back to your ex. Imagine what will go through their mind; they’ve broken up with you, and you seem to be okay with that. Did they just end the relationship before you did? Maybe you were secretly glad to not be involved with them …

Thus, the worm of doubt about their actions is planted in their mind, which is a nice, subtle piece of revenge for you. (The best revenge is to live a happy life after they’ve broken up with you, to go on to do things you want to and end up in a much better relationship. Trust me, the Lady of the Manners Knows Of What She Speaks. *wink*)

3. DO NOT turn up where you know they’ll be so you can show them how miserable they’ve made you. DO NOT torment yourself with “what could I have done to make them stay” sorts of questions. DO NOT call them and hang up when they answer, and for goodness sake, DO NOT send strange, stalker-esque letters and postcards to them. Even anonymously, even years after the break-up. They’ll still figure out the mail is from you, and just pity you for your inability to let go.

Now, what about if YOU’RE the person who initiated the break-up? Oh, there are some things that you need to be aware of; don’t think you’re getting away scott-free.

1. After the first talk where you actually break up with the other person, don’t give in to any impulses to talk things over. You’re not helping them, you’re just making things more painful. Even if you mean the old cliché of “I want us to stay friends,” leave your now-ex-lover alone for a while. They need time to get over the hurt, and the understandable urge to scream and rant, if not throw objects, at you. If you run into them in public, be distantly cordial and polite. DO NOT ask, “how are you doing?” They’re miserable, it’s your fault (even if you did it for the best of reasons), and they probably don’t want to talk to you. Honor that feeling, and leave them alone.

2. As the person who broke things up, you don’t get to make snide comments. An example of what the Lady of the Mannersmeans:

A friend of hers decided to break up with her boyfriend. A few weeks later, the Lady of the Manners and her friend were out at the local goth club, and saw her ex becoming quite … chummy with a young lady that the friend didn’t approve of. When it was time to leave the club for the evening, the Lady of the Manners’ friend went over to where her ex-boyfriend was, in order to say good-bye to his roommate. What she confided to the Lady of the Manners during the car ride home was that she also said good-bye to her ex, and then whispered to him, “remember, if you take her home, you’re f—–g her on the sheets I bought you.” (After recounting this to the Lady of the Manners, she said, “I guess that was bad, wasn’t it?” Yes, very bad.)

No matter how silly or overly dramatic you think the behavior of your ex is, you don’t get to make snide or hurtful comments about it to them, or in the presence of anyone who might repeat them to your ex. Privately you can cast aspersions on what they’re doing, but publicly you have to be polite.

3. If you are harboring doubts about if you should have broken up with the other person, don’t tell them. You acted on your decision, let things lie for a bit before you go trying to re-open negotiations. If you were unsure about breaking up, you shouldn’t have done it.

The Lady of the Manners is not going to say that there is a True Love out there for everyone. Some people just aren’t destined to live happily ever after with someone. But, that doesn’t mean you should stop trying, or wall yourself off from the possibility of romance. When the Lady of the Manners thinks back over some of her more disastrous relationships, she doesn’t regret them because they eventually led her to where she is today. Of course, the Lady of the Manners wishes that some of them weren’t quite the horror stories that they ended up being, but you live and learn. And in some cases, smile in a quietly superior manner when you run into a past love and realize that you’re better off without them. That’s the end result you’re aiming for.

As always, if you have any etiquette questions, send them to headmistress@gothic-charm-school.com, and she’ll do what she can to help.

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