In a throwaway consumer society, where everything is disposable, upgradable, and replaceable, items that remind us of past relationships rank particularly low on our personal value scale. The common response or advice for dealing with a breakup is to dispose of everything that reminds us of the other person and to get over him or her as quickly as possible, with the fact that the relationship did not last taken as self-evidence that this was not “the right one.” But as more and more people experience several significant relationships during their lifetime, with second and third marriages becoming increasingly common, we begin to acknowledge that our expectations and needs change as much as we do as we live longer, more educated, and self-determined lives. Simultaneously, the notion that the person we spent part of our life with was just “the wrong one” and should be erased from our memory becomes less plausible.
So what to do with the formerly cherished objects that carried so much personal meaning and emotions when the relationship is over? Demoted to the mundane reality of their original purpose or stripped of their ceremonial significance, these remnants are reduced to their often-negligible material value. Even precious stones and luxury items become useless or painful reminders of the hope and aspirations they once symbolized. Holding on to them can keep us hostage to a no longer desirable past, while disposing of them may seem like treason against our emotional history.
This was the conundrum faced by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić when they reached the end of their relationship. By adding the collections of their friends to their personal items, they first created a traveling exhibition and eventually a permanent home in Zagreb, Croatia – the Museum of Broken Relationships. Here, all are invited to contribute their love legacy to the museum’s permanent holdings to establish a collective social document of lost love. Overcoming the often stigmatized and isolated experience of breakups, each contribution is validated with dignity and the shared appreciation of a past relationship.