The Museum of Broken Relationships: there is always someone who is left behind.
Heartbreak. We’ve all been there; one minute you’re deliriously happy with not a care in the world and the next, everything comes crashing down around you.
Traditionally, attempts to get over failed relationships focus on positive thinking and ‘inspirational’ self-help quotes on the road to recovery. That’s where the Museum of Broken Relationships differs – offering an outlet for emotional collapse, through creation.
The Museum originated in Croatia, conceptualised by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, and began as a travelling exhibition showcasing a collection of contributions from the ruins of failed relationships. Although it is based in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, the Museum has toured internationally, and has amassed a huge collection of donations from around the world.
There is no outlet for the end of a relationship – no public recognition. But through the Museum, thousands of people have embraced the concept of exhibiting their love as a legacy, for many offering therapeutic release and acceptance – what I felt was real, and it does hurt.
Visiting the Museum itself, I had no idea what to expect. Gloomy and miserable, full of pity and uncomfortable awkwardness – like when a friend has been dumped and just can’t move on. What I found was the complete opposite. White, bright and clean cut, with the exhibits displayed just as they are, plus a short description. No fuss, no unnecessary frills – the impact of this was astounding. The stark presentation of raw emotion cut through all my preconceptions and reservations, and resounded within me. You can really feel it – the donator’s pain, anger, confusion, acceptance.
Walking around the exhibits you realise that, although the stories are all different – the love legacies differing in location, length, intensity, they are also all the same – they ended, and it hurt. There’s a sense of community; other people understand and have been there too, you’re not alone. There’s a large book for you to write your own comments in – it’s full and the section of wall around it is covered in scribbles and stories itself.
It’s not just romantic relationships that are showcased, but also relationships with friends who grew apart and with parents who left – either through choice or through death. At many exhibits I found myself with a lump in my throat, fighting back the tears. I don’t know these people, their stories don’t affect me directly – but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand their pain.
The donated items themselves are varied. A love letter; a household object; jewellery; an item of clothing; even an axe! But they all represent part of the failed relationship to the donator.
One story in particular resonated with me:
“A plush Snoopy
30 years, Leiden, Netherlands
He gave Snoopy to me on my 17th birthday. We had fallen in love 6 months before, on October 5th 1981. 30 years later, we have 3 sons, a house etc. He fell in love with another woman and he chose her…He broke my heart. Telling me that he hadn’t loved me at all in those 30 years. I just don’t understand.”
In every broken relationship, there is always someone who is left behind.
Words by Meghan Betts