This Museum In Croatia Is Dedicated To “Broken Relationships”, Here Are 41 Of Their Most Touching Items And The Stories Behind Them

We all handle breakups in our own ways. Some people need to lay in bed with a pint of ice cream and an endless stream of Netflix for 5 days, while others might feel the desire to burn and destroy every physical reminder they have of their former significant other. Some of us might even feel inspired to share our breakup stories with the Museum of Broken Relationships.

This museum, which is housed in Zagreb, Croatia, is dedicated to documenting all of the emotions that come along with a breakup. Their website even features some deeply personal stories that visitors have shared, so we’ve gathered some of the most touching tales down below. Keep reading to also find a conversation we were lucky enough to have with Charlotte Fuentes, Collection Manager of the museum, and be sure to upvote the stories that tug at your heartstrings the most!

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#1 The Toaster Of Vindication

When I moved out, and across the country, I took the toaster. That'll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#2 Empty Bag Of Fortune Cookies Attached To A Starbucks Cup

You were my first love. And I wished you would also be my last. When we got those fortune cookies and I opened mine, it read ‘You have to learn to read between the lines’. I should have followed that advice because between those lines there was you cheating on me over and over. Isn't that ironic?

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#3 An Exe Axe

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.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

To learn more about the Museum of Broken Relationships, we reached out to the museum’s Collection Manager, Charlotte Fuentes, via email, and she was kind enough to have a chat with us. First, we wanted to know how the museum came about in the first place. “Like so many other things in life, the idea of the Museum of Broken Relationships was born out of a personal experience,” Charlotte told Bored Panda. “It first occurred to Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić as a concept in a late night conversation, one of many Dražen and Olinka had during their breaking up, while desperately trying to say goodbye to each other as their relationship was obviously running out of fuel.”

“They were obsessed by the belief that the moments they lived together remained present in the banal, everyday objects that were lurking at them from every corner of the house as silent witnesses to their separation,” Charlotte went on to explain. “This late night conversation somehow gave birth to the simple idea to collect the objects that were too painful for them to keep, and those of a few friends who had also endured break-ups."

"However, it took a period of over two years before the idea fully formed itself and came into existence," she continued. "They made an installation during an art show and displayed them anonymously in a ship container, using stories of their former owners as the only text. They named this place the Museum of Broken Relationships. At the time, they were proud of their little art project and quite unsuspecting of what would happen…”

#4 Espresso Machine

For a long time he loved the coffee I made for him using the espresso machine he gave me. For a long time he loved me. And then, one day, he no longer loved the coffee I made for him using the espresso machine he gave me. And then, one day, he no longer loved me and left. And so I took the espresso machine he gave me that made the coffee he loved and I put it in the basement so I don’t have to look at it anymore... But every time I come down to the basement, there it is.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#5 A Magnifying Glass

She gave it to me as a remembrance before I left. I never did get why she gave a magnifying glass nor did she ever explain what it meant. But she always said she felt “small” whenever she was around me

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#6 Key Ring

At one time we used it to lock the doors of the life we shared, and now I see the damage caused by the passing of time. Love is long gone; the wind blew the happiness away; and the sun dried the sorrow. Looking back on our journey when we were holding hands, I remember the scenery we had travelled through together while it was showering outside. Forever turned out to be never, Leaving only a gap

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

“The first installation in the Shipping container in 2006 immediately caught the attention of the international audience,” Charlotte told Bored Panda. “This simple idea snowballed over the years into an international traveling show that still goes on. The Museum has since toured internationally, holding 63 exhibitions in 32 countries, simultaneously creating an ever evolving, community built collection that challenges our ideas about heritage. Today our collection counts more than 3000 objects and it is growing regularly with every traveling exhibition, but also daily since everyone can donate by filling out a contribution form on our website. In 2010, they decided to found a permanent place, a brick-and-mortar museum in Zagreb that has housed our collection ever since.”

#7 World Map

This world map was a Christmas gift & it shows all the places the couple has visited together

Image credits: brokenships

#8 A Forget-Me-Not Porcelain Doll

My first true love. We got together just before we started our studies and we became adults together. We studied and lived together, and then finally realized that we had different expectations for the future. We separated quite suddenly without saying goodbye properly. Six months after the separation I got this doll from his parents as a Christmas present together with a letter explaining that the doll's name is Forget-me-not and that they hope I will never forget them. They were always so good to me and I really loved them. I have not forgotten. And I never will.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#9 2 Claddagh Rings

14.5 years, 4 countries and 3 rings. I lost the first ring down a drain and he replaced it. I broke the second one trying to bend it back into shape and he replaced it. I looked after the third one exceptionally well, realizing how important this must be to him. He left me.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

We were also curious about what the experience of visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships is like. “At its core, the MoBR is an ever-growing community-built collection of objects donated by individuals all over the world, each one a symbolic memento of a past relationship, accompanied by an anonymous story of its donor as the only text,” Charlotte says. 

“It is a Museum about love and life. People find comfort in knowing that we all go through the same rollercoaster of emotions when it comes to love. Museum of Broken Relationships is an invitation on an empathetic journey to the depths of the human heart,” she went on to explain. “It is a testimony to our ultimate need for love and connection despite the difficulties that go with it. It is a desire to connect visitors in meaningful ways across growing divides of class, community, and culture that seem to define our world.”

#10 Number 2

He had another woman. He couldn’t make me his number 1; I couldn’t stand being his number 2

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#11 Sailor’s Cap

For 46 years I have kept this memory of my Spanish friend. As a student of the engineering school for shipbuilding, he spent his military service year as a sailor. After I left Spain, our love lasted for another year. The distance between Frankfurt and Madrid was too big, but wonderful memories remained. Now this cap might find a place for itself. Up to now I did not know how to part with it “with due respect”.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#12 Dreadlocks

These are my dreads. Morbid, I know. But notice the braided ends. I didn't do that. Must have been every week for a year. She even tied them together using matching sewing thread. Our nuptial knots. Ten years old, a cut-off from our lives. They belong in a museum.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

“The freedom is given both to the donator and to the viewer/reader to interpret what is before them, as life, in general, lends itself to myriad interpretations. This blurring of the lines between fact and fiction reflects the human condition in all its equivocal glory,” Charlotte told Bored Panda. 

And lucky for us, everyone is welcome to contribute to the museum. “Our collection is growing regularly with every traveling exhibition, but also daily since everyone can donate by filling out a contribution form on our website and by sending the object to our Zagreb address. People can also contribute virtually on our website – by pinning a place on the world map and sharing the story that marked it, or they can even time-lock their story away from themselves and entrust us with what they wrote for a chosen time.”

#13 An Iron

This iron was used to iron my wedding suit. Now it is the only thing left.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#14 A Hamburger Toy

His dog left more traces behind than he did

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#15 A Plush Snoopy

He gave Snoopy to me on my 17th birthday. We had fallen in love six months earlier, on October 5, 1981. Thirty years down the line, we had three 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 really loved me in those 30 years. I just don’t understand.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

And as far as how the museum impacts its visitors, Charlotte says, “[They] often recognize how people are really alike in matters of love and loss. In a way, the museum offers an exchange of experience, so they no longer feel alone in both their suffering and joy. Again and again they feel moved or inspired: almost all visitors feel the need to write down their impressions of the exhibition in our guest book and sometimes even share their own intimate story.”

#16 Sign Made Of License Plates

We met in graduate school and were quickly engaged. Shortly after we were married I went to a local shelter and rescued a cat. Although we named him Milo, we had many nicknames for him. Chicken, Chicken face, Wubbies, Wubbles and Wubbs. We were at a street fair and made a sign out of old license plates and spelled out "WUBBS." It was such a great day and the sign hung above our door for years. We were divorced in January. I can't bear to look at it anymore. I can't donate it because it's so personal to our story. I also ... can't seem to throw it away. It evokes feelings of happiness as I remember the wonderful afternoon spent making the sign and the love I have for my sweet animal. On the other hand, it makes me sad and angry and frankly represents a failed marriage. I'd be happy to donate the sign to the museum. This way the special memory won't die the way our marriage did.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#17 A Toy Motorcycle

After he had a motorcycle accident, an ex gifted this toy to him and said:
“Bringing you this seems fitting seeing as how you are only capable of taking care of something of this size. You’ll have to get yourself a toy woman too because I seriously doubt you can handle a woman like me.”

Image credits: brokenships

#18 Dreads

A 39° Celsius relationship which ended as a supernova and left a huge black hole... Those were difficult days - those were dangerous days.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

“Museum of Broken Relationships is an example of a contemporary contact zone that preserves individual stories from sinking into general societal processes through the live encounters, sharing that takes place between the visitors and the exhibits that represent real living people,” she went on to share. “We created the unique narrative of hybrid authorship, somewhere between the documentation of everyday life and its artistic sublimation, prying voyeurism and cultural anthropology.”

“It is a celebration of those moments when we truly meet one another no matter how painful, or difficult they might be. And if its diverse, elliptic exhibits convey something universal it is their desire to share, it is their longing to fall in love again,” Charlotte says. “The museum added unexpected cathartic rituals, personal transformation and bereavement support to the museums’ role in society and many times we have witnessed this magic happen at the museum.”

#19 A Little Rubber Piggy

He gave me this piggy when we met on student exchange in the US. It was just a joke over how much he loves bacon and me never wanting to taste it as my heritage forbids it. Many evenings we spent together at home drinking some wine and cooking dinner. Loving and annoying each other. What goes first in the pan?! Enriching each other with family memories and favourite foods. How different our habits and clothes were, how different our food from Israel to Denmark. And yet we are so much the same. We loved each other purely and deeply, we loved our differences and we both knew that was part of our charm. Imagining our children was like imagining how it would feel to win the lottery. But for me it was too hard to change my path, to hurt my parents who only wished for me to be happy, with a Jewish boy. I made the wrong decision; one that was not fully and consciously my own. Here I am standing, 27 years old, like a toddler learning to walk, I’m learning I can make my own decisions in life, fully... Only now do I know, falling in love has changed my destiny and for this I am grateful. Maybe I evolved too late for this wonderful, wonderful person but I know it’s never too late to change. I’m giving you a glimpse at my piggy and a taste of our story, hoping we will all have the courage to consciously make our own decisions and the will to stand behind them. I will always follow my heart!

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#20 Frogs

Mom left when I was 3. This is one of the few Christmas gifts she has given me.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#21 Gift 3: Ceramic Heart

This is one of the two ceramic hearts that were fired in the sand on the beach at Pescadero, California by burying them under a large fire. The glass beads inside were supposed to melt. From nearing the end of the relationship. These three gifts were kept in a trunk in the basement for three years. Seems much longer.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

Charlotte went on to note that the idea behind the museum is so universal that it appeals to people of different nationalities, religions, cultures, races and ages. “Love in all its forms doesn't need an interpreter, so everyone can find a story that speaks to them,” she told Bored Panda. “People react differently based on their own experience, but one thing is sure – the exhibits never fail to provoke a response, be it a sudden giggle, a hidden tear or silent contemplation. When they leave the museum it seems for me that the visitors are quiet, probably meditative about their own relationships. I hope and wish they all leave with hope and the desire to love even more.”

#22 Two Figurines

These two little figurines symbolize my two children. Today they are in their thirties. I so wish to find a little home for these figurines. My heart was broken in England in the 1980s when I could no longer accept my husband’s vicious temper. The eldest child bore the brunt of it, and I simply had to take responsibility for their safety. We left without his knowledge and travelled to Ireland by boat on a winter night. We came only with the clothes we were wearing. Ironically, it was my eldest girl who was most distraught. 'Leaving Daddy behind' was the hardest part. A couple of years later, when we had settled into our new life, I purchased these two little figurines to remember these sweet little girls. The older one loved writing letters to her Dad and the youngest loved knitting … Note the inscriptions on the bases: 'Wishing you a warm and cosy winter' and 'He hasn’t forgotten me'. My husband never improved his mean temper, but the girls still keep in touch. Thanks for this opportunity.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#23 Hairdryer

When I was a child, we used to have a ‘special’ hairdryer. Once switched off, it sometimes took a while before it could be used again as it somehow overheated. We tended not to switch it off whenever several family members needed the hairdryer one after the other. During the relationship with my ex-boyfriend he often used the hairdryer before me since, most of the time, he took a shower first. Although it was not the same hairdryer, I often asked if he could check whether I was ready to dry my hair and hand the running hairdryer over to me... He almost never did, but turned the hairdryer off instead.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#24 A Postcard

I am a 70-year-old woman from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. I visited Zagreb back in 1967 and the city is very close to my heart. When I found out from a local newspaper that there exists the Museum of Broken Relationships, I was sad and happy at the same time. This is a postcard that was inserted through the slit of my door a long time ago by our neighbours’ son. He had been in love with me for three years. Following the old Armenian tradition, his parents came to our home to ask for my hand. My parents refused saying that their son did not deserve me. They left angry and very disappointed. The same evening their son drove his car off a cliff...

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

We also asked Charlotte if any particular stories from the museum stand out to her as personal favorites. “There are so many powerful objects and stories. The ones that touch you the most are often those of the people who personally entrusted you with a part of their lives,” she says. “For example, in Amsterdam, Olinka and Dražen were invited to the home of an amazing man who entrusted us with a joyful, huge painting representing him and two other men in an intricate threesome relationship. The story connected with it ends with a line: ‘Don’t let death stop you from traveling.’ It will resonate with us forever knowing that its donor silently passed away just a day after the exhibition opening.”

#25 A Drawing Of Us Made By A Stranger In The Train

We met at a students Valentine's Day party, the connection was immediate. She came into my life at its lowest point. I had just lost my company and was heavily in debt, working 2 jobs I really hated to pay back my loan. She didn't care. She adored me and loved me blindly and unconditionally, she was the only positive thing in my life and she kept me going. One evening we were in the Metro, getting a pizza for a movie night at home. A guy we didn't know approached us and asked if we are a couple. Defensively I said yes, and asked why does he wish to know? He said "your love feels so special so I wanted to give you this". He handed us a torn first page of a book he was reading, on which he drew us, and wished all the best. We were so touched and amazed we didn't know what to say. She was my soulmate, my best friend, lover and the love of my life. That's why I broke up with her. My life at the time felt like a sinking ship, and I didn't want her to go down with me. She was accepted into a good university abroad, but was about to give up her dreams in order to support me, and wouldn't listen to me when I told her to go. So I broke up with her, and broke her heart. About 4 months later when I almost lost my life in a work accident, I contacted her and told her the accident made me rethink my life, and I would move abroad to support her like she supported me. She told me I am couple of months too late. She has moved on, has a new relationship and she doesn't want me in her life. I couldn't find the strength to throw the drawing away. I never stopped loving her for a moment, and I'm happy for her, and hope that some day I will find some as amazing as she was.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#26 Our Puppets

These puppets were handmade by my ex-girlfriend, who gave them to me for my birthday. They represent the two of us. I have coloured pencils on my shirt and a CD attached to my trousers because I am an art director and musician. She has a sewing machine on her clothes because she is a tailor. Just like us, they too have a star tattooed on the arm. The gift also included two tickets for a concert of Block Party which we never attended.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#27 A Galileo Thermometer

A teenage crush on campus. Now I am writing it all down in remembrance of the pure love. At the time, I had an almost feverish imagination about what kind of a boy I would fall in love with, and I even listed all the criteria. He should: 1. Be tall 2. Be tanned 3. Play music 4. Love post-rock 5. Especially love 'Explosions in the Sky' 6. Be able to cook (hopefully) And I met him! He satisfied all the criteria I had listed above, even the sixth! As luck would have it, this boy, my Prince Charming, also fell in love with me. We started our whirlwind romance. Like any girl in love, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. This passionate love lasted about six months. One day I suddenly realized that a criteria-fulfilling boy might not necessarily be a considerate and tolerant lover. He might not understand you. He even gave me a Galileo thermometer, wrapped in a crushed paper box, as my birthday gift. WTF! Could that be the kind of birthday gift a 20-year-old girl would expect?! So we broke up. From that day on I have never made another list.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

“On the other hand, there are, of course, objects that seduce you with their sharp joking humor,” Charlotte added. “As the already legendary Toaster of Vindication from Boulder, Colorado: ‘When you left, I took the toaster. How are you going to toast anything now?’ The museum in Zagreb is so often echoing with laughter thanks to these lines.”

“As the manager of the collection I am reading stories of breakups everyday, they are all moving me in their own way,” she went on to share. “Of course, depending on the day, my mood, and what is happening in my private life they affect me in different ways.”

Finally, Charlotte left us with these wise words, “Keep failing, keep loving and keep feeling.” The museum currently has touring exhibitions happening in Mexico City and Indianapolis, with an upcoming exhibition in Podgorica Montenegro this month. You can find all of the details on the Museum of Broken Relationships' website right here.

#28 Stockman Mannequin

His dream was to be a fashion designer. He had just finished university in New York City and came to live with me in Europe. We had met the previous summer in Norway and kept the flame alive via Skype. On a hot summer day in 2001 we drove into traffic-crazy Paris, parked on the pavement in Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and bought the mannequin. The sun was shining on our relationship and our hopes. Years went by and no paid work was in sight for him; maybe we lacked drive or maybe we were just out of luck. The mannequin was mostly standing idle, at times serving just as an expensive clothes hanger. His fashion design dream was broken, but our relationship was still working on the surface. Broken dreams and lazy days might not have been the most fertile ground in the long run. We drifted towards our 40s – drifting slowly apart with the occasional crises. Communication between us got quieter. The talk was more superficial; problems were just tolerated, never really addressed. We shared the same small apartment in downtown Oslo, yet we lived in separate worlds with very different aspirations. Like naked mannequins in a shop window. Lonely lives together. Three years ago, we separated and he left the mannequin behind, along with our broken dreams. When the rainy days of the separation had gone, I realised that even a broken relationship has many sunny moments. Moving on, I want to celebrate those good moments by donating the mannequin to this collection. Reality can be hard on dreams but, even so, never stop dreaming.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#29 A Child's Pedal Car

I waited almost 40 years to learn the meaning of the word love. Unfortunately, the intensity of our emotions carried us from one extreme to another. When we loved one another, we loved without holding back. When we fought, we fought till it hurt. Thanks to her I climbed a tree for the first time in my life, and I did it at a time when my children were climbing trees. We enjoyed making each other's dreams come true. Each dream fulfilled was a joy to both of us. She knew that as a child I'd always wanted a car with pedals. But I never had one. I was over forty when one was given to me. She went for a walk with her sister and there it was, next to a trash container. They brought it back to the apartment, put it in the tub and washed it. They decorated it with little flowers and wrote my name, their nicknames and the date on its wheels. This car represents our love. It shows that when two people truly love one another, no dream is left unfulfilled.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

I sincerely hope none of you pandas have had to go through a breakup any time recently, but if you have, just remember that we’ve all been there. Regardless of how long you were together or how the relationship ended, whatever you’re feeling is valid, and I’m sure many visitors of the Museum of Broken Relationships have felt the exact same way. Keep upvoting the stories that hit home the hardest for you, and let us know in the comments if you’d like to open up about any of your own breakups. Then, if you’re interested in checking out another Bored Panda article discussing reasons why people realized they needed to end their relationships, you can find that story right here.  

#30 A Stiletto Shoe

It was 1959, I was ten, T. was eleven. We were very much in love. When I told my mother we had gone skinny dipping in the canal, I got my ears boxed and was sent to spend the rest of the school holidays with an aunt. When I was fifteen, we had more wonderful times together until he moved to Germany with his parents. Our goodbye came with many tears and promises. We would write every week and never marry anyone else. It was 1998 and I had just stopped working in prostitution. I wanted to write a book about S&M and was going to work for a dominatrix for a few weeks. On the second day, the dominatrix allowed me to belittle and whip a client. First I made him lick my stilettos. Because he wasn’t submissive enough and had the nerve to address me with ‘mistress’ (instead of ‘high mistress’), I wanted to whip him harder. And that was when I recognised him, 'T., is that you?' He was startled and stood up. At once we were back in 1966. He told me he had the desire to be submissive because his father had often beaten him as a child. T. was now in his second marriage, and he wanted to make it work. It was better we never saw each other again. After a few hours we said our goodbyes, and he asked, 'Can I keep one of your stilettos as a memento?' When he walked out the door, it felt like my stiletto-less foot was no longer mine.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#31 Stupid Frisbee

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 right across the 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. PS 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).

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#32 A Gingerbread Cookie

We met in the middle of Oktoberfest. I'm an American diplomat, he a bloke from Liverpool working in finance in London. We connected easily and ditched our friends to hang out alone for a while. As soon as we left the biergarten tent we started laughing like kids, going for rides, dancing, singing and we really connected. I did not want a long-distance relationship. But after much convincing I gave in and we exchanged details. A few days later I received this text: ""Stephanie, it is hard for me to say this to you as you are a great girl but could we leave the 'friends' thing please. It is true I am engaged with 2 kids and going through a bit of a tough time but I know in my heart I love her and want to make a go of it, having a good looking single 'friend' will only make that a whole lot harder to work out in my head I feel. Many thanks for a great time I will always remember it, please don't phone or text as I fear it would only cause trouble. Have a great life. P. ('Liverpool').""

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#33 A Key - Bottle Opener

You talked to me of love and presented me with 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 just how much you loved me only after you died of AIDS.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#34 Watch

In 2002, when I was still young and innocent, I spent November and December in Vancouver, Canada, to improve my English so I could subsequently study a semester at a university in New Zealand. Three weeks before I left, a girl from Brazil arrived and... I really fell in love for the first time in my life. It was complicated: I was confused, she had a boyfriend in Brazil... Nonetheless, she was the sincerest and the most naturally warm-hearted girl I had ever met. I returned to Switzerland heartbroken. I was devastated. Being Swiss, I liked watches and so, in addition to the watch on my left wrist showing local (Swiss) time, I put another watch on my right wrist showing her time. Even though I was constantly thinking of her (she had returned to Brazil), I stuck to my plan and went to New Zealand for six months. When I came back, I had gotten used to wearing two watches and kept doing so. I was always wearing them – when swimming, sleeping, pretty much all the time except when going through security checks. Now, whenever I travelled, I had both Swiss and the local time on my watches. It became a reminder that people in various places in the world had also taken a place in my heart. One day the watch broke down. I took it off but couldn’t fall asleep that night, so I put it back on again and fell asleep. Hence, I kept wearing the broken watch and it slowly continued to disintegrate. Water got into it; sand got into it; scratches accumulated on the glass until it cracked and started falling out bit by bit; the face plate followed suit; the inner parts eroded... The left wrist remained exact Swiss time; the right wrist showed the slow changes in life. My friends didn’t like the watch and would tell me to take it off or joke that one day they would hack off my hand and throw it out the window along with the watch. The poor guys had to listen to the story of the watch whenever we met new people who curiously noticed it. Some could tell the story so well themselves that people got confused whether it had happened to them (telling the story) or me (wearing the watch). Girls I met would also learn the story. Some were intrigued, others weren’t amused. I kept wearing it anyway. It had grown on me. I visited the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb twice in the last two years and really liked it. However, I found a lot of the stories rather sad (naturally, one would think). So, I thought I’d send you this watch that has now accompanied me for 15 years as a sign that even when a love story ends, we can continue to draw happiness and beautiful memories from it and give it new meaning over time. What became of the Brazilian girl it all started with? She is living happily in Brazil. I met her when I travelled there in 2013, and we write to one another from time to time. I still think she is an amazing person and I’m happy that our paths had crossed in 2002

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#35 Action Man

My godmother was really godly to me. I felt understood and she was generous beyond all measure. For Christmas or on a normal day, she rained presents to me. Whatever I wished, I got. My relatives were green with envy. One day I eavesdropped while my mother was on the phone. I can only remember how puzzled I was by the term “anonymous alcoholics”. I did not really know what that might be, so I coined my own definition without asking anybody. At some point my godmother moved to another country. She did not say goodbye to me and I have never understood why. My mother told me that she had to abandon everything – her husband, her children, me – in her old life in order to start anew… Until today I have not asked what had happened. My “Gotti” is back – I have met her shortly. We are still very close, I can feel that. We have not spoken about the old days. But I intend to ask her.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#36 Belly Button Lint

D.'s stomach had a particular arrangement of body hair that made his belly button prone to collecting lint. Occasionally, he'd extract a piece and stick it to my body, which was sweaty after sex. One day, angry he'd disrupted the heavy charge that lingered in the wake of an orgasm, I met his oddity with my own: I put the lint in a small baggie and concealed it away in the drawer of my bedside table. Our relationship was tumultuous; as off-again as it was ever on. From time to time, he would remind me that he wasn't really in love, but I blithely ignored the warning. He gave me his lint, after all

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#37 A Picture Book

I had never received any letters until I was 19 years old. I was so fragile that I avoided people around me who wanted to tell me something essential. It was put under my pillow on a snowy Christmas morning. I woke up and found her smiling like a mischievous kid. We had so many things to say to each other but no clue how to share them. She broke the wall between us. After receiving this cute letter, picture book, expressing our emotions dynamically got easier. She was a real storyteller of love. But we broke up. We expressed too much to each other. It was a young love. Now I know we need some walls to protect ourselves from others, even if that other is a true lover. I’ll never forget how she broke the wall between us. But this picture book hurts and reminds me of our young love. Goodbye, my youth. Hello, world.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#38 Twenty-Seven-Year Old Crust From A Wound Of My First Love

In 1990 my friend, my first great love, had a motorbike accident. Its consequence was severe road rash with several large crusts. The accident shocked me, although nothing serious happened. Since then I had constant fear that I might lose my dearest one. For that reason I kept one of his crusts as it fell off, with the (not so serious) idea that in case of need I could have him cloned. At that time I studied biology. My constant fear for him finally made us come apart. Paradoxically my fear caused precisely that which I was afraid of most. I have kept the crust until today, twenty-seven years long. In the meantime I have become a biologist. However, the desire to clone my partner from that time exists no more. But I am still struggling with my fears.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#39 A Chaplet

The chaplet has finally found a new home. In the 1980s I had a high school sweetheart, called Esther. She was religious and one day she left her chaplet on my desk without either of us realising it. A few days later we had a car accident. She died and I lived. When I got home after the tragedy, I saw the chaplet lying on my desk. For many years I was suffering and agitated, trying to find explanations for why it had happened like that. I had a terrible sense of guilt. Two years later I went to the fire station of the brigade that saved my life. I wanted to join them. Luckily, I was accepted and I became a firefighter, saving lives every day. I never wanted to drive a car, though it was not me who was driving that day. Fourteen years later, life persuaded me to learn to drive because of my job. I put the chaplet on the rear-view mirror and it protected me on my journey. My recent girlfriend, Kriszta, asked me one day why this was in the car as I am not religious. First I could not tell her the story. I could not talk to anybody about this story. But during those years stress and suppression were making me sick inside. When it became unbearable, I looked for help. In therapy I managed to overcome the sense of guilt and I’ve been a new man ever since. I could tell Kriszta the story of the chaplet. I have closed down my past and now I am concentrating on the future. I gave up firefighting after ten years, found a new job and now I am leaving home for a new country, for a new life. I sold my beloved car and was searching for a new, remarkable home for the chaplet. Last year we stumbled across a place in Zagreb, somewhere the chaplet can find rest and peace and tell its story.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#40 A 3-Volume Proust

These battered, sand-strewn volumes are emblematic of a long love relationship which has recently ended. Soon after I married my wife, we got into an addictive Proust habit - I used to read the novel out loud to her, especially when we were on holiday. The bulk of it was read during successive summers on the Isla de Tavira in the Algarve - we would walk out to an isolated stretch of sand, build a shelter out of driftwood, bamboo and silk sarongs and lose ourselves in the hypnotic prose with the dull roar of Atlantic breakers in the background. I still think it's the best way to enjoy Proust - to get inside the head of the narrator and feel how his obsessions loop back on themselves, and to get the hilarious, laugh-out-loud comedy of the book - though it's hardly a practical one, as you need the best part of a decade to get through it all! It sounds like a weird, nerdy thing to do, but it happened gradually, and some summers it felt like we were in a sort of ménage à trois, with Proust as the funny, neurotic third party, brilliant at rhapsodizing on the theme of love but never getting any of the sex. Perhaps it's symbolic that, unlike Proust, we never got to the end - the last 200 or so pages are unread, in an envelope, detached from the final volume to save on luggage weight.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships

#41 A Packet Of Gastritis Tablets – Controloc

As a child of 13 I was diagnosed with gastritis. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s an inflammation of the stomach lining resulting in gastric juices frequently rising and entering the upper digestive tract. The most common trigger is frequent nervous agitation and loss of patience. It results in quite a nasty pain and a lot of discomfort. With time I had reduced the dose to occasional intake i.e. I took them only when the need arose. I wrestled with it because I was one of those people who always kept silent and said everything was OK. In time, I found my ‘ill-fated high school love’, as I’m sure many of you who are reading this now also have. Why all such loves have to end in ruin, I don’t know. All I know is that mine was fierce, at times painful, and certainly became ruined. We both despised materialism by nature, and so even when it came to birthday presents, expensive gifts or things we already owned weren’t tolerated. For my 18th birthday, when everyone expects a bottle of something strong or a gift-wrapped packet of condoms, my ‘ill-fated high school sweetheart’ appeared with an EXTRA LARGE packet of my gastritis tablets. I remember her saying, ‘Here, take them when I get on your nerves or before I go out with the girls’. And yes, I used them. Frequently. The biggest dose I’ve ever taken was 3 tablets within an hour, and that was right after we broke up.

Image credits: Museum of Broken Relationships