Can Ikea actually help your relationship—instead of just destroying it?

By Virginia K. Smith | April 27, 2015 - 3:15PM

Besides the Swedish meatballs and preposterously high shipping fees, Ikea is often best known for its disastrous effects on relationships. Even if you survive the in-store trip fight-free, putting together furniture with just an Allen wrench and vague cartoony instructions can send even the most solid couples into a downward spiral (or to divorce court).

"The store literally becomes a map of a relationship nightmare," professor and clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula told the Wall Street Journal. With that in mind, she has started incorporating Ikea into her therapy as a communications exercise, tasking couples with putting together a piece of furniture from the store and reporting back on how things went. (Durvasula also tells WSJ that while smaller items usually go smoothly, bigger pieces are a problem, and she refers to the wall unit the Liatorp as "the Divorcemaker.")

"Underneath, every discussion is really about how important am I to you," marriage counselor and radio host Dr. Jane Greer told the paper. "How important is my comfort and happiness to you? If I want this couch, and it's important to me, then why isn't it important enough to you?"

To keep the process civil, Ikea actually has its own tips, which include deciding on your purchases and budget before your trip, coming in at slower times (like weeknights), and not trying to decorate your entire apartment in one go (instead, focus on bigger pieces on one trip, and accessorize another time). "We've seen it all," notes a marketing specialist for a California branch of the store.

If you want to put your relationship to the test (or are just feeling masochistic), we combed their catalog for assembly projects at varying degrees of difficulty—and for relationships at varying degrees of seriousness. For beginners, try tackling the KALLAX shelving unit. For intermediate level (and maybe a year or so into the relationship?) try the ORRBERG glass-door cabinet, and for the ride-or-die couples out there, we challenge you to tackle the PAX wardrobe. 

Of course, if that sounds like hell on earth, New York is chock-full of furniture assembly services—some of which are even Ikea-specific—that'll send someone in to do the grunt work for you. Throwing a little extra cash at the problem seems like a worthy investment to keep your relationship intact. (And now we're curious: ever had an Ikea-induced relationship meltdown? Let us know in the comments...)


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