The Museum Of Broken Relationships

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photo by Pete Heck


…is how I felt after visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.

It started as a traveling exhibition now finds its home in Croatia’s capital city, and is one of the best things to do in ZagrebThe museum serves as an offer of a new beginning for the broken-hearted. Whether a relationship ended by love lost, death or even cultural circumstance, the museum asks contributors to submit those material reminders they wish to expel to clean the relationship slate.

Submissions are displayed from all over the world and range from the deeply sad to the cringe worthy to the hilarious. Combined in one exhibit, there are obvious patterns that the devastated can find solace in, and perhaps even discover inspiration for overcoming similar grief.

Every single one of then made me grateful for the love I have had over the years, making the pain of my own early breakups be almost entirely forgotten.

That is, until I saw (and related to) one of the exhibits….

Rubber shoes – Manila, Philippines

It is said to never give anyone a pair of shoes as a Christmas present because then the shoes would make the person you gave them to walk away from you. A few months after Christmas 2004, we call it quits. Superstitions? I don’t believe in superstitions. I just walked away. Today, I’m still walking, but without the shoes.

Museum in Croatia

In the summer of 1994, I gave my boyfriend of one year a pair of Doc Marten boots for his birthday. He said “thank you”, and then ended it immediately afterwards. His classy choice of how to break up with me? He ignored me completely. He didn’t answer my phone calls, nothing. Just an abrupt and painful severance.


Thankfully, there were others that were hugely entertaining, or at least reminded me that I didn’t have it so bad.

Fake Breasts – 3 year relationship – Belgrade, Serbia

So, after three years together, my husband bought fake, sculpted female breasts which were, of course, larger than mine, and that was the time of our biggest relationship crisis. He made me wear them during sex because they turned him on. I was disappointed and because of those sculpted, fake breasts, I left him for good.

A Stupid Frisbee – 2 years and 2 month relationship – Belgrade, Serbia

Description: A stupid frisbee, bought in a thrift store, was my ex-boyfriend’s brilliant idea as a second-anniversary gift. The moral was obviously that he should be smacked with it in the middle of his face the next time he gets such a fantastic idea. Since the relationship is now preceded by the word “ex”, the frisbee remains in the museum as a nice memory and expelled negative energy. Feel free to borrow it if you like. P.S. Darling, should you ever get a ridiculous idea to walk into a cultural institution like a museum for the first time in your life, you will remember me. At least have a good laugh (the only thing you could do on your own).

A Key Bottle Opener – 5 month relationship – Ljubljana, Slovenia

You talked to me of love, gave me small gifts every day; this is just one of them. The key to the heart. You turned my head; you just did not want to sleep with me. I realized how much you loved me only after you died of AIDS.

And of course, there were some interesting, politically charged submissions.

Newsweek Magazine with President Obama on the Cover – 2 year relationship – Bloomington, Indiana, USA

I really wanted it to work out.

A Wardrobe (small table top) – 15 year relationship – Kilkenny, Ireland

Shortly after birth, in a misguided if well-intentional way, I was baptised a Christian by my parents. It took me 15 years to be able to break that forced relationship.

On the way out, I asked Pete if there were any which resonated with him.

He struggled with his answer, claiming to not remember much of any former heartbreak. After a few minutes, he came up with something.

“A tent, like the one I opened to find my girlfriend sleeping with someone else.”

Thankfully, our individual stories, along with many others in the museum, ended with happiness. Yes, we’ve all had our hearts broken at one time or another, but more often then not, we were better off anyways. And at least in our case, the best was yet to come…

A wisp of hair – Less than 2 month relationship – Skopje, Macedonia

Well, a relationship very short, but mentally so tough and “crazy” that it brought me to a moment of complete madness…and I cut my hair and I lived without it for a long time and no one loved me…and I was happy.

For a review of this museum from a couple of single fellas perspectives, check out these posts onΒ Go See Write and Wandering Earl!Β 

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    1. That’s a really nice take on it, Roy. I think I would have been mopey and anxious to get out of there, but it really could be therapeutic.

      1. So many of the stories ended in…”and now I am with my new spouse with X number of kids and am soooo happy”, that sort of thing. It can be taken as a very positive thing seeing the good from the bad, and like you said Roy, a great place to get closure.

      1. I am, and am doing quite well. I think there are going to be many positive aspects that emerge from this. It may also speed up my “escape-from-Canada/the cubicle” plan.

        1. Good to hear! Sometimes (unfortunately), it takes a big event to make the “plan” happen. At least, it did for us. As long as you can see the positives in what happened, then you’re on the right track! πŸ™‚

          1. Yes, I am aware of the event that spurred you on. This is my second big (emotionally) event in just over a year, I’m thinking the escape gods are trying to tell me something.

  1. I’ve read the other two posts on this museum that you mentioned at the end, and it’s interesting to see the items that overlap! I love the idea of this museum, though, and definitely want to visit it someday!

  2. This place sounds fantastic and definitely sets itself apart from most attractions.

    It will be places like this or statues like the “World’s Largest Squirting Clam” that all of a sudden become motivators for visiting a certain city or place.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go add Zagreb to the list…

  3. I think such a museum would be too painful for me right now. So many fresh wounds still festering without the benefit of someone to stand beside me and remind me, “that’s all in the past now” with a reassuring hug.

    So glad you were able to experience it together!

    1. Aw Kirsten, I’d go with you!!! A lot of the stories did end quite positively, with people referring to the much better relationships that they are in now. I actually think that the overall feeling out of it is one of “hope”…

      1. I’m really glad to hear that! That, might make me like it. After all, if we don’t keep hope that something better is around the corner … what’s the point of anything?

  4. This is kind of weird, right?! I sometimes look at art and think… hm, that is okay- but museum worthy… and this is totally questionable in my opinion!

  5. Wow, when I read the title I didn’t know what to expect. It sounds like a great museum and I would have at least two thinks I would donate them…

    I will definitely visit it when I visit Zagreb! Sounds like a place where you can finish with a broken relationship!

  6. This popped up in #TTOT a few weeks back. So happy you wrote something on it! Those sculpted breast are ridiculous, but the key is heartbreaking. What a wild idea for an exhibition. I really want to see more.

    1. Those breasts do take the cake!! There were a few, long, heartbreaking stories of being separated by war. And of course, a discarded teddy bear section – haha! A very interesting museum and well worth a visit.

  7. Might be the fact that 3 years ago, to this day, I ended a 17 year “relationship”…but, the story made me think of the “trinkets” I have stowed away.

  8. Now, that is an original theme for a museum – I’d never heard of it before. Reading these stories makes me feel grateful too because I’m in a happy relationship. But I guess I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t gone through a bunch of broken relationships before πŸ™‚

    1. Some were just completely sad, but so many of them had a more positive note at the end. I think they needed that, or everyone would come away pretty bummed out!

  9. I read about this museum when I was planning a trip to Croatia with my now ex boyfriend. It seems like such an interesting concept. If I were to contribute anything to the museum it would be a six pack of beer – cause it was his alcoholism which tore us apart.

  10. I second the fact that the sculpted breasts really weirded me out. Thanks for sharing guys, we made it to Zagreb but missed this gem!!

  11. Very interesting museum, I love the idea behind it because while every piece may seem random. It is that randomness that allows a deep connection to resonate with your own personal experience.

    1. Very good point Cornelius, I’m sure there is something that almost everyone could resonate with at some point in their life, which is what makes it such a unique place!

  12. I visited this museum just the other day… it was fascinating… possibly one of the most interesting I’ve ever been to… I spent over an hour in their just getting to grips with all the stories… some quite heart wrenching stuff among some of the funnier tales πŸ™‚

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