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 Zagreb. The 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.
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.