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Ikea Might Cause Divorce

August 14, 2010
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Ikea sets us up for failure.  Whether you’re shopping with a roommate, friend, partner, parent, or spouse – you are doomed the moment you walk through their door, ride up their escalator, and begin your shopping experience in the Vegas hotel-like mega warehouse.  We all begin by thinking we have come to the land of furniture mecca.  Prices are cheap, things look pretty, and the false sense of accomplishment that we can all actually build something starts to creep into our minds.  We could spend hours wandering through their carefully planned out labyrinth of art deco coffee tables, and do-it-yourself custom closets.  But those of us who have survived days in Ikea know the truth – watch closely and you will find a world of dysfunction unraveling before your very eyes.

My husband and I went to Ikea twice over the course of 3 days.  We made the hour long trek to the land of promise, full of hope and expectation for the furniture manna that was going to be poured down upon us.  We rode up the elevator when I was greeted by the first Ikea Crusher of Dreams: the child in the safety seat.  There were dozens of them.  Children screaming while their parents pushed them around in metal carts with small yellow flags that said “Kids Meals: $0.99.”  Moms and Dads tried desperately to weave their kids around in entertainment while they shopped for furniture, but no matter where I looked, babies and toddlers screamed.  After about half an hour, I was practically shouting at my husband to get his attention, and neither of us could concentrate on the tasks at hand.  Tension was brewing as we fought to keep our sanity among the child safety seats and arguing parents (who could blame them?).

We made our way through most of the store and passed through the next Ikea Crusher of Dreams: the build-it-yourself kitchen center.  It occurred to me here that this is where many couples begin the road to divorce.  Can anything good come from attempting to measure, design, and install a kitchen yourself?  I heard wives yelling at their husbands.  I heard arguing over who got to use the mouse at the kitchen layout stations.  I heard the scrape and pull of measuring tapes going out and in and out again as people attempted to get their dimensions just right.  One lady was in an aggressive conversation with an Ikea staff member, a lady who clearly thought pictures of her kitchen on her iPhone would be more accurate than a detailed drawing with measurements.  I only wish I could have seen her husband’s reaction when she came home with whatever grossly inappropriate order she was about to place.

We pressed on, through the self-service furniture warehouse, onto the check out line, and back to our car.  Building the 2 bookshelves and dresser we bought was no easy task for my husband, but he did it (poorly detailed Ikea picture instructions and all).  I thought things were going well for us.  We felt like DIY weekenders conquering our household projects.  We were a team.  We built stuff.  The first physical manifestation of our love was not babies, but bookshelves.  And it felt good.  But Ikea sets us up for failure.

My husband moved on to building a storage shelf for our kitchen.  It was going to be lovely – tall and white with glass doors and storage shelves.  He had built all the other furniture himself, but I thought maybe I’d try to help this time.  Maybe we could do a little husband/wife role reversal and go back to my theater scene shop days of hammering 2×4’s and hanging canister lights from catwalks.  I tried to help, but he had his system.  He had everything laid out in its perfect pile, organized well, and was ready to work alone.  All he needed me for was the final installation of the glass doors at the end – could I help hold them up while he wedged them into place?  Absolutely, I could!  I did laundry and waited for my big moment of being helpmate to my husband.

When he finally called for me, I was ready to go.  I grabbed my door and held it up.  “It’s upside down,” he told me.  Oh.  Oops.  I corrected my mistake.  “Just hold it right there.”  Done, I said.  “No, right there,” he said.  Oops, right.  I moved it.  “Now push it into the hole where it will align.”  I didn’t see a hole.  I didn’t see any alignment.  So I just stood there holding the glass door and hoped I was helping.  He finally took the door from me and wedged it where he needed it to go.  “No, no!” I panicked, “that’s too much!  You’re going to break it!”  He assured me it was where the door needed to go.  “You’re pressing too hard on the unit, it’s going to break.”  He kept working, ignoring my concerns.  I went into over analyze mode within seconds.  Does he not hear me?  Does my opinion not matter in this marriage?

He screwed in the first door.  I just stood there, letting my mind reel.  He asked me to hold up the second door.  I held it correctly this time.  Again, he wedged it into the slot where I didn’t think it should go, and continued to work around my small yelps and gasps and critiques of his work.  “You shouldn’t screw it in there,” I said, “that doesn’t go there.”  “You should line that up better.”  “Do you really think that doesn’t need a screw to hold it into place?”  He kept going, ignoring all my suggestions, and shockingly the shelf came together.  He was building it while being able to tune my bickering out.  I glared at him while he popped a drawer onto its track.  Jerk.  Even if my suggestions would have sent this process backward, who cares?  Even if you spent countless hours building things for me without complaining, who cares?  Even if you were as exhausted as you looked, who cares?  Why am I not irrationally the center of your attention all the time?  I kept glaring.  He kept building.

I sat at the kitchen table, stewing over how I should be the center of my husband’s attention.  I thought about this long and hard.  He put another half hour of manual labor into building.  Jerk.  The real work was in thinking about our marriage (as I was), not in doing things for the other person.  Obviously.  He snapped me out of my thoughts by announcing the shelf was built.  I stopped chewing on my fingernails and looked up, prepared to utter a sarcastic “thank you.”  But I couldn’t add my sarcasm if I tried.  The shelf was beautiful.  In fact, it was stunning.  Doors and drawers were perfectly aligned, glass was shiny, and he even put felt gliders on the bottom.  I looked at my sweaty husband, with sawdust and blisters on his hands from 3 days of drilling and hammering.  “Ta da!” he beamed, and kissed me.  Crap.  I was the jerk.  The Ikea kitchen shelf loomed over me, judging me for my selfishness and insanity.  Rightfully so, as I should have just let my husband work his magic and build our furniture in peace.  I had to go and get all “wifey” on him.  Touche, Ikea shelf, touche.

A few lessons learned from Ikea – don’t have children, never install a DIY kitchen, don’t trust a $0.50 hot dog, and let one’s husband build furniture alone, unless he truly wants the help and opinions.  Building furniture is not exactly the Control Freak’s weekend bliss, but I have survived, and surprisingly, so did my husband.  Maybe our next furniture purchase should be at a yard sale.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 14, 2010 6:17 pm

    Thank you for giving a very enjoyable 5 minute distraction from (what seems like) already insurmountable law work.

    I love you two.

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