According to statistics published by eDivorcePapers.com, January is the month when most divorces are filed. It may be because the holidays are over, or that people want a fresh start at the New Year, or that you are back at work with that colleague you missed rather more than you thought you might. Some couples delay a planned break up to avoid disrupting their families during the holidays. Others may be hoping that the situation, or their partner’s behaviour might change, and when that doesn’t happen they head into the new year with dissolution as a resolution. Either way, the start of the first full working week after the holidays is the year’s biggest divorce day according to The Legal Services Commission.
Divorce is a nightmare, particularly when there are kids involved, and when people feel hurt or angry, the legal system can become a very expensive form of revenge. Although groups such as Resolution (which was founded by my neighbour John Cornwel) attempt to take the heat out of the debate, the amicable divorce tends to be advocated by people who have not experienced the fierce pain first hand.
Moving on from a big break up is always more difficult and more painful than anyone involved ever imagines, but when your relationship is history, Olinka Vištica and Drazen Grubišić suggest that making a donation to their travelling Museum of Broken Relationships can make you feel a little bit better. They founded The Museum in 2006 after their own relationship ended and so far, around 800 objects have been donated to the project. The touring exhibition has been shown in 21 cities, including Berlin, Belgrade, Cape Town, London, Istanbul, Singapore, Bloomington, St. Louis, and Houston.
Vištica and Grubišić’s philosophy stems from the idea that our society obliges us with rituals for other landmarks such as birth, marriage, death, even graduation, but denies us any formal recognition of the demise of a relationship, despite its strong emotional effect. Some braver individuals do throw divorce parties, but really, most people who emerge from failed relationships are so overwhelmed by feelings of shame and failure that they have no desire to do anything other than crawl into a cave and lick their wounds.
There is clearly something cathartic about participating in a project which records collective loss. There are the inevitable sexual leftovers; fluffy handcuffs or a wall of brassieres, but what strikes the viewer is that all the donations, – which range from a battered garden gnome thrown at an arrogant husband’s car, to an album of wedding photos with a cover made of matchsticks – were once interpreted as objects of affection or symbols of intimacy. After the break up they are poisoned by feelings of ambivalence, despair, guilt, rejection and hate which come across in the personal stories that are attached to each of the items. Though some of the items seem humorous, the accompanying narratives demand to be taken seriously.
In the Museum of Broken Relationships book, Vištica writes ”whatever the motivation for donating personal belongings — be it sheer exhibitionism, therapeutic relief or simple curiosity — I believe people embraced the idea of exhibiting their legacies as a sort of a ritual, a solemn ceremony.” So, if your relationship is history, why not put the best of it in a museum? Click here to donate a personal object and your story to the Museum and you’ll be taking part in the creation of collective emotional history. Fill in the donation form in your native language. All submissions are anonymous. From December 19 you can visit the travelling display of the Museum of Broken Relationships at Le Centquatre cultural centre in Paris.