Enduring Stories of Heartache from a Touring Museum


The Museum of Broken Relationships is just what it purports to be: a place where one can donate or discard objects that remind you of your former paramour. If you’re in London these next few weeks, we suggest you head over to the Tristan Bates Theatre before September 4 to see the exhibition in person. As it says on the website: “Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves, the Museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum’s collection.” Scroll through our gallery to see real objects that have been sent to the museum, as well as stories which relate to the items in question (in a few cases, with some additional help from us), and if you’re feeling inspired, click here to send in your own item. What are some objects from past relationships you’ve kept, dear readers? Kindly tell us in the comments section below.

Item: Divorce Day Mad Dwarf Relationship length: 20 years Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

The anonymous sender writes: “The divorce day garden dwarf. He arrived in a new car. Arrogant, shallow and heartless. The dwarf was closing the gate that he had destroyed himself some time ago. At that moment it flew over to the windscreen of the new car, rebounded and landed on the asphalt surface. It was a long loop, drawing an arc of time – and this short long arc defined the end of love.”

Item: “I love you” Teddy bear Relationship length: 2002 Location: Zagreb, Croatia

The anonymous sender writes: “‘I love you’ – WHAT A LIE! LIES, DAMN LIES! Yes, it’s like that when you are young, naïve and in love. And you don’t realize your boyfriend started dating you just because he wanted to take you to bed! I got this teddy bear for Valentine’s. He survived on top of my closet in a plastic bag, because it wasn’t him who hurt me, but the idiot who left him behind.”

Item: A cell phone Relationship length: July 12, 2003 – April 14, 2004 Location: Zagreb, Croatia

The anonymous sender writes: “It was 300 days too long. He gave me his cell phone so I couldn’t call him any more.” This made us think of the Dorothy Parker short story, “A Telephone Call.” In it, she writes:

“This is the last time I’ll look at the clock. I will not look at it again. It’s ten minutes past seven. He said he would telephone at five o’clock. ‘I’ll call you at five, darling.’ I think that’s where he said ‘darling.’ I’m almost sure he said it there. I know he called me ‘darling’ twice, and the other time was when he said good-bye. ‘Good-bye, darling.’ He was busy, and he can’t say much in the office, but he called me ‘darling’ twice. He couldn’t have minded my calling him up. I know you shouldn’t keep telephoning them — I know they don’t like that. When you do that they know you are thinking about them and wanting them, and that makes them hate you. But I hadn’t talked to him in three days-not in three days. And all I did was ask him how he was; it was just the way anybody might have called him up. He couldn’t have minded that. He couldn’t have thought I was bothering him. ‘No, of course you’re not,’ he said. And he said he’d telephone me. He didn’t have to say that. I didn’t ask him to, truly I didn’t. I’m sure I didn’t. I don’t think he would say he’d telephone me, and then just never do it. Please don’t let him do that, God. Please don’t.”

Item: A box made of matches Relationship length: 1973-2000 Location: Maribor, Slovenia

The anonymous sender writes: “A box – Jelka, Vlado, November 15, 1975. Vlado made it after the wedding, when he was in the army. After 18 years of marriage he left me for another woman; we officially divorced after our 25th wedding anniversary. I decided to surprise him for the anniversary. I ordered a cake with the number 25 written on it and the pastry shop cut it in half. I sent him the half with the 25. Our sons celebrated our anniversary first with me and then with their father. He and his girlfriend were very shocked but they ate the cake anyway. The cake is gone and so is our marriage. I still have the box, two sons and a lot of memories…”

Item: An ex axe Relationship length: 1995 Location: Berlin, Germany

The anonymous sender writes: “She was the first woman that I let move in with me. All my friends thought I needed to learn to let people in more. A few months after she moved in, I was offered to travel to the US. She could not come along. At the airport we said goodbye in tears, and she was assuring me she could not survive three weeks without me. I returned after three weeks, and she said: ‘I fell in love with someone else. I have known her for just 4 days, but I know that she can give me everything that you cannot.’

“I was banal and asked about her plans regarding our life together. The next day she still had no answer, so I kicked her out. She immediately went on holiday with her new girlfriend while her furniture stayed with me. Not knowing what to do with my anger, I finally bought this axe at Karstadt to blow off steam and to give her at least a small feeling of loss – which she obviously did not have after our break-up.

“In the 14 days of her holiday, every day I axed one piece of her furniture. I kept the remains there, as an expression of my inner condition. The more her room filled with chopped furniture acquiring the look of my soul, the better I felt. Two weeks after she left, she came back for the furniture. It was neatly arranged into small heaps and fragments of wood. She took that trash and left my apartment for good. The axe was promoted to a therapy instrument.”

Item: Handcuffs Relationship length: 2005 Location: Zagreb, Croatia

The anonymous sender writes: “Atam me…” In “Hearts and Hands” by O. Henry, a young woman meets a gentleman in handcuffs:

“‘It’s Miss Fairchild,’ he said, with a smile. ‘I’ll ask you to excuse the other hand; it’s otherwise engaged just at present.’

“He slightly raised his right hand, bound at the wrist by the shining ‘bracelet’ to the left one of his companion. The glad look in the girl’s eyes slowly changed to a bewildered horror. The glow faded from her cheeks. Her lips parted in a vague, relaxing distress. Easton, with a little laugh, as if amused, was about to speak again when the other forestalled him. The glum-faced man had been watching the girl’s countenance with veiled glances from his keen, shrewd eyes.

“‘You’ll excuse me for speaking, miss, but, I see you’re acquainted with the marshall here. If you’ll ask him to speak a word for me when we get to the pen he’ll do it, and it’ll make things easier for me there. He’s taking me to Leavenworth prison. It’s seven years for counterfeiting.’

“‘Oh!’ said the girl, with a deep breath and returning color. ‘So that is what you are doing out here? A marshal!'”

Item: A molecular animal Relationship length: A few years Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

The anonymous sender writes: “An animal constructed out of different objects (chemical puzzle) with eyes glued on and a piece of paper saying who gave me this.” In Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, the daughter sees her father falling for a woman dressed as Marlene Dietrich in Morocco:

“Dad said that being in love had nothing to do with words, action, or the heart (‘the most overrated of organs’), but with the eyes (‘Everything essential concerns the eyes’) and this man’s eyes couldn’t stop slipping and sliding off every curve of her face.”

Item: A glass horse Relationship length: 1982-1997 Location: Maribor, Slovenia

The anonymous sender writes: “One day I was tidying up the bedroom. I opened the closet and found a small cash-box. I opened it. At the bottom of it I saw my wedding ring, and next to it a little glass horse. I took it in my hand. It was made in a workshop on the island of Murano, Venice.

“Old memories – If I remember correctly, my husband and I took a trip to Venice. It was a splendid day, the sun was shining. I was young, I was in love. I had wonderful dreams about our future. Venice is a city of people in love. We walked slowly along the streets, across the squares and stone bridges. The streets were full of people, full of tourists. Young people were walking hand in hand. Everyone seemed happy. We soon arrived at the Canal Grande, a long narrow street full of beautiful palaces. The facades were bathing in the sun. We stopped at the place called Café Gondoliere and went in. Inside there was a group of tourists, older men reading newspapers, and smartly-dressed women eating cakes. We sat down to enjoy the scene. After some time I went to the women’s washroom and when I came back, my husband was paying the bill. We made a quick decision. We went to visit the glass-works of Murano.

“I was admiring an artist who was making beautiful sculptures in glass. In front of us he was sculpting a beautiful horse. I said: Oh, I would be very happy if I had it. Then we returned to the city. It was a long walk back to our hotel. We didn’t talk a lot, but it was a peaceful time which both of us enjoyed. I was very happy. Just before we reached the hotel my husband kissed me on the cheek and gave me a small package. He said: Darling, I love you. I’ll never stop loving you. You are my life. I answered: Me too, dear. When we entered the room, I opened my gift and saw the little glass horse.

“20 years later, I am divorced. His love disappeared like the wind. I put the glass horse into the box beside the wedding ring and shut it. I say to myself: Don’t cry! Tomorrow is a new day.”

Item: A “Mira Furlan” bowl Relationship length: Almost 3 years, January 2003 – September 2005 Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

The anonymous sender writes, “You wanted me to bake bread. Because a woman kneading dough is so erotic, isn’t she? You probably thought I’d work up such a sweat that it would drip from my breasts directly into the bowl. One summer day I dressed up only in an apron, just for you and the bowl. In three years I made bread five times in this bowl. It never was any good, always hard as a rock. I don’t know why. Maybe it is because the bowl is too small for kneading, or because I sometimes forgot to put in the yeast. Do you put an egg in bread? You were always eying me suspiciously when I was ‘getting to work.’ You wanted me to be like Mira Furlan in the film Lepota poroka. But I’m not Mira Furlan. Now I know that the bread was bad because I was afraid that you would – like it happened in the film – smash it on my head with a hammer, if I happened to look at another boy for a tad too long. After that I only ate salad from the bowl for a while. I lost 21 kilograms. And the Furlan woman is not such a babe anymore.”

Item: “Demined soil” Relationship length: short Location: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The anonymous sender writes, “He bought MegAArts demined soil for me at the Markale market in Sarajevo…”