Is Furniture Shopping Hard on a Relationship?

by Honolulu Mother

I’d never heard of the theory that Ikea is a relationship death trap before reading this NYMag article:

Psychologists Explain Why Ikea Is a Relationship Death-Trap

I can’t say I’ve ever fought at Ikea, although since we don’t have one here my Ikea experiences with my husband have not focused on serious furniture shopping. Going during a vacation, to take advantage of the option to put your small children in a supervised playroom for an hour while you browse children’s duvets, is probably not the kind of stressor people are talking about.

However, I can’t say that furniture shopping has struck me as a relationship-stressor in general, even though it can be a tedious and time-consuming process. How about others? Are you nodding along with the author, or are you bemused at the idea?

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81 thoughts on “Is Furniture Shopping Hard on a Relationship?

  1. Am I the only one that feels like a mouse in a maze in Ikea? I am usually excited to go there and enjoy eating lunch there and then about halfway through the shopping experience, we all have this overwhelming feeling that we must get out NOW and start looking at the things in our cart to decide if it is really worth staying there any longer. I feel like this experience would be entirely different on a weekday. Weekends at Ikea are intense.

  2. MiaMama – I totally agree. IKEA is purposefully set up so you must walk through THE. ENTIRE. STORE. I feel like I’m in a psych experiment when I go there.

  3. I, too, feel stressed at Ikea. Plus, DH is like a kid in a candy store there. He buys so much stuff, and raves about the bargains he’s getting. This is another type of stress for me, as I want to get in and out as fast as possible and he wants to browse.

  4. I’ve never been to and Ikea, but 25 years ago I did assemble the furniture DW has in her office. So the stuff lasts.

    The most stressful part of furniture/appliance shopping for DW and me is the money part. I’m cheap by nature, especially for things that will get limited use e.g. dining room set. We did the northeast-to-NC thing when we built the house to buy that stuff, and we had budget for it from the gain on our previous house, so I felt better.

    Any of our major furniture purchases since then have been for things we use ~daily or at least very often in season: family room sectional, bedroom furniture, mattresses, area rug in living room when we changed from carpet to hardwood, patio furniture, wall oven. But we did the right thing…looked a bit online, decided on a budget, then did the real shopping. Prices were what they were, sometimes lower, sometimes higher than what we had in mind going in, but we were not going to invest multiple weekends looking for the right sectional at absolutely the right price (that one came in where we wanted to be).

  5. The stress would presumably come when a new couple figure out there styles are totally different.

    When one dreams of:

    And the other dreams of:

  6. I think the most stressful part of IKEA on relationships is the assembly. We’ve had some serious arguments while trying to assemble furniture/home stuff. We pretty much shun any “assembly required” furniture at this point in our lives.

    ” But we did the right thing…looked a bit online, decided on a budget, then did the real shopping. Prices were what they were, sometimes lower, sometimes higher than what we had in mind going in, but we were not going to invest multiple weekends looking for the right sectional at absolutely the right price (that one came in where we wanted to be).”

    This is our usual MO as well. We actually refreshed a number of pieces recently, and this is what we did. Nothing required assembly. :)

    I also agree that IKEA is like a psychological experiment come to life. I do like their wooden hangers a lot, along with a few other things. But I haven’t been inside an IKEA in over 5 years. I just can’t bring myself to go through the maze for a couple of items.

  7. I always felt you paid more for what you get at Ikea quality wise.

    My husband and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to style and price in furniture. The problem is sometimes finding something that fits our needs.

    We go into looking for something with a set price in mind but are usually okay with spending a bit more to get what we want.

  8. Nodding along or bemused? Yes!

    There is an IKEA cure for a break up too.

    My phone isn’t playing nicely–reloads the page every time I leave, so I’ll have to make multiple posts.

  9. I love IKEA. Some people see human sized rat maze (surely there’s a marketing geek on here who will explicate the genius of making everyone see the candles & plants right before the warehouse shelves & registers). I see a clearly laid-out way to see everything exactly once, no FOMO, no repeats. At Costco last week, we were never sure we’d seen everything until we’d foundI love IKEA. Some people see human sized rat maze (surely there’s a marketing guru on here who will explain making everyone see candles & plants right before the warehouse shelves & registers). I see a clearly laid-out way to see everything exactly once, no misses, no repeats. At Costco last week, we were never sure we’d seen everything until we’d found ourselves in sections we’d already done a couple times.

    On the relationship thing, there’s this http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-get-in-and-out-of-ikea-with-your-relationship-intact-218788 They have a good website. Use it before going to the store, so you aren’t having the argument Rhett lays out instead of playing house or hide & go seek or one of these games in the little rooms. http://www.xojane.com/fun/7-new-ikea-games-instead-of-hide-and-seek Pick up a store map when you walk in, go up the escalator to the (loss-leading) cafe & drink your free-for-IKEA-“Family”-members coffee while you plot out your route.

  10. Rhett – you nailed DH’s preference with that second picture. I’ve made my life easy by letting DH do all the legwork on furniture selection. I set a budget, he finds the stuff. I get a veto right when the choices have been narrowed down.

    (I set the budget for two reasons. 1. DH once showed me an Italian sofa that was $20K and said it was the sexiest thing he’d ever seen. I reminded him that we have boys and he has a wife that is standing right next to him. 2. When we bought our first place together, after signing all the paper work, DH asked me “So what is the interest rate?”)

  11. This stuff along with house hunting has been the biggest fights in my marriage. My husband has completely different tastes than me, and also much stronger opinions on home decor than most men. We recently spent an entire holiday weekend trying to find light fixtures he liked enough for our exterior renovations.

  12. Kerri, New York prices being what they are, sales prices on the boys might’ve covered the cost of that couch.

  13. Rio – DH took over a year to decide on lamps for his office and our bedroom. A year. The ones he chose are lovely, but a year. I will never agree to renovate a house with him.

  14. Please keep in mind DH is an architect. His job is very technical these days but in his heart he loves design. He really enjoys shopping for these kinds of things. I OTOH just can’t make myself care that much. That Italian sofa was on sale for $20k (why he was tempted – it was on sale!). It was some super classic, ultra modern Italian designed piece of art in his mind. In mine it was a sofa.

  15. I wasn’t aware that furniture shopping was a couples activity. A bit of decor veto or the final choice between two acceptable alternatives is about it for DH.

  16. Lol Kerri- my husband isn’t an architect but wishes he had become one. Yours definitely sounds cut from the same cloth regarding the lamps. Never ever buy a fixer upper with him. We did, and I currently have no interior doors because he can’t decide…for real.

  17. Kerri, you’ve mentioned that he’s an architect before, usually with bemused eye-rolling at something like the couch or the limited set of neighborhoods he’d be willing to live in. I’d love having an architect at home, because knowing architectural history is part of understanding cultural geography and learning about that design history is fun. But even more, I like being in places that look nice, even though I usuallly don’t know the details (to me they’re details) of why they look good. How cool to have him point out design features and bring something like a drool-worthy couch to your attention!

  18. Saac – part of why I love him! IRL though our apartment is a hodge podge of styles. I don’t know how he tolerates it. Maybe by the time we’re 80 it’ll be how he sees it in his mind’s eye.

    Rio – definitely no fixer uppers for us. We’d kill each other. I watched my sister and her husband build a home themselves. Lets just say, it got ugly. I think some of her interior support beams are still exposed, and not in a decorative way.

  19. Luckily DH and I have the same taste, so no surprises. (Currently we are trying to decide how long we have to keep the furniture from my parents before we can get rid of it.) We also scrutinize the map when we get to IKEA so we can be more efficient and use the doors through the sections. The store by us is always mobbed, so if we want to put the kids in the play area (IIRC we’ve done it twice), we have to get there right when they open.

    Kerri, a year? Gahhhhh! I would never survive! You must have the patience of a saint! ;D

  20. I love Ikea. I love the food, I love the tchotchkes, I love the maze of showrooms. I am intimitatly familiar with ours, so I can skip the maze if I want. I needed part of a kid costume last fall. I parked in 15min parking, and was in and out in 11 minutes. I probably had 3 Facebook posts about this – really a proud moment for me.

    I live in a rainy climate and had a kid who did not walk for 9 months (early cruising, late walking.) . The Ikea sofa section was our best playground.

    I’m always curious when people complain about the quality of Ikea furniture and the difficulty of the instructions. What are they comparing it to? Certainly there are a million beautiful pre-assembled desks out there, but where are people getting higher quality ones for $79? And what assembly furniture have you made that had elegant instructions and all of the right parts?

    $79 Ikea desk
    http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1075/0760/products/IMG_2656_1024x1024.jpg?v=1460682661

  21. Kerri, since your husband is an architect, I would love to ask some questions about the field. My DS2 is considering whether to pursue an architecture degree or civil engineering.

  22. Mooshi – Sure! You know how to reach me. DH is a bit grumpy and overworked these days, so I hope he isn’t discouraging (much like asking lawyers these days about going into law).

  23. We last were in an IKEA about 10 years ago, to buy a sofa. DH and I equally loathe furniture shopping, and we equally share an utter lack of design sense or taste in furniture. So we mesh quite well. We try to do as much as possible online. We had to replace a couple of chairs in the kitchen (old straw chairs, used for the computer desk) so I went to the online Target store, saved a few I liked in my cart, and then had DH tell me which he liked. A few clicks later and we had two replacement chairs (not straw, never again straw)

  24. “I’m always curious when people complain about the quality of Ikea furniture and the difficulty of the instructions. What are they comparing it to? Certainly there are a million beautiful pre-assembled desks out there, but where are people getting higher quality ones for $79? And what assembly furniture have you made that had elegant instructions and all of the right parts?”

    I think IKEA is good quality for the price compared to the alternatives. But at this point, I am generally looking for both higher quality and lack of need to assemble, with the trade off of a higher budget.

  25. I have never been to IKEA. The stores were much further than other furniture stores so we never made it there. DH where he can prefers to buy online so our small pieces have been bought online.
    My style preference has changed from more traditional to modern. I would like to sell my house, get rid of all our existing furniture and start afresh.

  26. I have never been in an Ikea, and I guess now I never will. We’ve managed to more or less agree on furnishings, but DH has far more opinions than he ought to. It was a huge mercy that the California house was sold to us furnished and we both loved the furniture. Otherwise it would have been a long, boring, ugly shopping spree.

  27. I love Ikea. I think it’s a very good value for what you get. Definitely not high-end stuff, but it holds up well. And I don’t mind the assembly, I think their instructions are better than most. But I do it all – DW and I would get divorced if we tried to do it together. We just don’t communicate well with that stuff.

    DW and I have similar tastes, so we agree pretty quickly on things. Except when we were couch shopping and we couldn’t find anything that either of us like in our price range.

    Rocky, you really should go to Ikea sometime. It’s fun, and they have good food in the cafeteria.

  28. One of the benefits of speaking Swedish (okay, probably the ONLY benefit) is that I understand the names of some of the IKEA merchandise. They don’t always make sense, but sometimes they are quite cute – kids lines named “playful” and sheets sets named “cozy”.

    RMS – I’d love to take you on an IKEA tour. No one seems to appreciate my random translations and interesting facts, but I have vowed to keep trying.

    We have amazing modern, black leather sofas that are 10 years old from IKEA. They have held up incredibly well through three kids. (We try not to let the monsters touch the joy bird sofa, because you can’t wipe that one clean).

  29. Wow, Ada, I’m impressed; I find Swedish one of the less rewarding languages to learn because it’s so hard to find someone who doesn’t speak excellent English! I learned a little for a trip many years ago but pretty much all I remember is “jag forstar inte.”

  30. Kerri – your 11:03 post is very funny. I also love the post about your DH taking a year to choose lamps.

  31. I have never been in an Ikea, and I guess now I never will.

    There is one outside Denver. Also the one in Oakland is about an hour from your new house. They have a lot more than furniture. You can also get sheets and towels and pillow and dishes, silverware, cups, bowls, kitchen gadgets, lights and light fixtures, throw rugs, etc.

  32. I would add you’re going to have a much wider variety of items to chose from than going to Target for the sort of home goods they carry.

  33. Rocky, did you redo that room in the new house as a groovy 70s room? I can think of a bunch of IKEA products for it.

  34. Also the one in Oakland is about an hour from your new house

    There’s one in East Palo Alto, too. Still never been in it.

    S&M, no, the current plan is to turn it into an in-home yoga studio.

  35. I remember buying my champagne goblets at Ikea for about $1 each. (I’m not one who appreciates or cares for fine crystal goblets.) If there were an Ikea closer to us I would shop there more often because I do like their merchandise and find no problem with their layout.

    I’m realizing that my H and I don’t do many house/maintenance chores together. Divide and conquer is a system developed over the years, and it works very well for us. Some of the tasks we do jointly seem to give us problems because it requires us to work on the same timeline, which seems difficult for us. Our ideas of “urgent” don’t always mesh, and like Kerri’s husband I sometimes take a loooonng time to get some stuff done. Updating our will is one recent example of a joint project that was a bit trying on our relationship.

  36. “Also the one in Oakland is about an hour from your new house. ”

    I’ve been to that one, and I think it’s more than an hour; the East PA one is a lot closer.

    “They have a lot more than furniture. ”

    We got some plastic dishes and bowls there shortly after DS was born that have really held up well and still get daily use.

    At the kids’ school, the parent association decided to buy a bunch of reusable dishes for the lower grades so they wouldn’t use so many disposable dishes when they have their frequent events to which parents are invited. A lot of those dishes were bought by parents who brought them back in their luggage.

  37. RMS, have you been to any of the businesses in EPA or Whiskey Gulch? Or do they even call it Whiskey Gulch any more, since gentrification?

  38. “Currently we are trying to decide how long we have to keep the furniture from my parents before we can get rid of it.”

    No longer than until some family members are willing to take it off your hands, e.g., kids furnishing their first homes.

    I’ve mentioned before how DW’s auntie was so glad when we accepted their dining set and hutch for the first house DW and I bought together. She’d been waiting for someone to take it so she could buy the EA stuff she’d been wanting for years. I think she’d been offering it to all her relatives that were furnishing homes.

  39. “updating a will”

    Now that DS will be leaving the nest soon, is there anything we should update WRT our wills, trusts, etc.?

    I need to get around to some sort of medical authorization so we can make medical decisions for him if he’s unable to decide for himself. Do we need to see an attorney for that, or is some online boilerplate good enough?

  40. Finn, no way – I am talking about getting a dumpster in the next couple of weeks! :)

    Your DS should have a health care directive and a HIPAA authorization, so if he wants to allow you to look at his medical records, he can.

  41. there used to be a show on HGTV about this topic, Designing for the Sexes with Michael Payne. I have definitely spent too many hours watching HGTV because I remember this show clearly, but I don’t think it has aired in over ten years.

    It was on HGTV during the early 2000s because we used to watch this when we were dating, and it helped us when we got married because we realized that so many couples go through the disagreement/compromise process. Many objects, paint colors, furniture etc., in our home are compromises like Michael used to suggest to his clients. We have similar taste, but my husband would have everything in solid neutrals if I let him pick it all on his own. Our DD has very bright, bold colors in her room and it doesn’t look like anything else in the rest of our home.

  42. “this is in the kitchen so we didn’t want anything office-y”

    When we first moved into our current home, it had a peninsula in the kitchen that was at a height midway between table height and counter height, so it was difficult finding chairs at an appropriate height. What we ended up buying were some adjustable height office chairs whose adjustment range allowed them to work at the peninsula.

    After a while we found some adjustable height stools that replaced the office chairs.

    When we remodeled, we made the peninsula counter height, so we could easily find stools of an appropriate height.

  43. L, do you have Freecycle in your area?

    We used to have it (I don’t know why it’s gone away), and I used it to find homes for much of my IL’s furniture when we cleaned out their house. I also got a nice coffee table through it from a military family that was moving away.

    Craigslist might be another way to find a better home for that furniture than a dumpster.

    I’m thinking that August, and perhaps also the beginning of summer, might be times when there would be a fair amount of people looking for free/cheap furniture.

  44. We have similar taste and similar spending habits so furniture shopping has not been an issue. I typically go shop then either text him pics or bring him to see what I have selected or narrowed down to, and we get it. He rarely has a strong opinion, so when he does, I defer. The only one I remember recently was no dark paint color for dining room walls. That is general enough that it is easy to accommodate. Sometimes I think it would be fun to do together, then about 10 minutes into a joint shopping endeavor I remember that I really like to just get what I like, so I typically prefer to go alone.

  45. HM, was today ACT test day for public school kids?

    I still think of John Cage as one of the partners of Cage and Fish, which employed Ally McBeal.

  46. L, would your parents feel better about you dumping their furniture if you framed it in a heartwarming story about a family at a local shelter who really needed it? Is that your dinner table now, or do you have a placeholder? You might like this one. Have someone else stain and assemble it.

  47. RMS, have you been to any of the businesses in EPA or Whiskey Gulch? Or do they even call it Whiskey Gulch any more, since gentrification?

    Us old-timers call it Whiskey Gulch, but it’s all offices now, so that will die out in a few more years. I don’t usually go over there, but it’s radically different now. It’s no longer majority black. i think the largest group is Pacific Islander, followed by Hispanics. There has been a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth by long-time residents, but the rest of Silicon Valley has completely transformed, so I don’t know why EPA would be spared.

  48. There is a prep class for the ACT at my kid’s school this weekend, and the test is in a couple weeks. We’re using the same plan as for the SAT–go in cold, see which he does better at.

    HM, I saw tweets about 13 lined groundsquirrels at that link. Cute, but I doubt they’d sit for 4’33”.

    Mooshi, a compromise chair is hard to find. I’d go with something like this

    Or http://www.ikea.com//us/en/images/products/janinge-chair-yellow__0325073_PE517376_S4.JPG

  49. Or with a swivel seat & adjustable height to adjust to different heights of table, desk, and kids.

    Or

    But you have your own strong tastes. What’d you get?

  50. I think we’re just throwing out the file cabinet (super old, smells bad), and the water stained bureau (ditto). The other stuff we will have to keep until my parents die or we downsize. We will of course try Craigslist and freecycle, but they aren’t as active near our new house as the old one.

    No dining room table yet, the one we have will be the placeholder until we can get a nice one (2 years?)

  51. It’s ACT day for a lot of schools, not just the ones here, but it looks like there are actually three different dates schools can choose from (one last September, today, and one in April) so presumably there are also plenty of school systems testing on the other dates.

    My son’s friend in MA is taking it today, though.

  52. Who wouldn’t want an office in Whiskey Gulch? Office happy hour mandatory, of course.

    CoC, you have kids take cash because computers are down? You mean in case they have to buy something & stores can’t run cards without being online? Sometime in the past couple of years, a store I went to had internet issues. They had brought out the kachunka-kung slider machines that take a form with several carbon copies, and the top part is slid across to make a copy of the card’s raised letters. The cashier thought it was really cool. I was torn between explaining to him that that’s why the letters are raised and just feeling old.

  53. L- I say get rid of anything you don’t want any time and any way you damn well please. We did take some hand me downs in the past, and we either sold them on Craigslist or left them in the alley for the scavengers which is a real plus of city living – no need to rent a dumpster! I don’t think we even bothered to mention it to the givers. But I live in a small space, so I have no place for keeping stuff out of guilt or obligation. When we hand stuff down, I don’t care what happens to it.

    But I also got the shakes looking at that book title “The joy of leaving your sh*t everywhere”. NO!!! There is NO joy in that. There is peace and serenity in having NO sh*t lying around. :)

  54. Ivy, one of the comments on Amazon reviews of that book mentions that some other reviewers apparently didn’t realize that it’s a parody.

  55. On giving away hand me downs. I was particularly worried recently that my mother would feel insulted about me getting rid of an item that was not a hand-me-down, was apparently purchased just for me, but never has fit in with anything else I have. So I warned her that I was thinking of getting rid of it. Her response floored me: “One we gave you? Really? You’ll have to show it to me so I remember what it is”. Any worry about hurting her feelings by getting rid of stuff came to an abrupt halt at that moment. I don’t know if your parents are as old as mine, but you might want to reconsider whether they’d really be upset if stuff they gave was gone, or if they were just trying to help a young family out with items they no longer wanted.

  56. “explaining to him that that’s why the letters are raised”

    Some of my cards don’t even have raised letters.

  57. The numbers on those cards aren’t raised either. I wouldn’t be able to use them in the situation SM described.

  58. IOW, I was providing another datum in agreement with SM’s point about the raised lettering and numbering becoming archaic.

  59. All the furniture for my children is from Ikea. It works great for them. My DH has gotten quite good putting it together. When he did the loft bed there was only one moment of swearing, We live very close to Ikea. I tend to go midweek during lunch to either pick up small stuff (wooden hangers, lingonberry jam) or to look at the furniture in person. My DH will go online look to see what aisles the furniture boxes are in, and then go after work, going straight to the boxes he needs, thus avoiding the mouse maze. I can’t imagine going on the weekend. I also avoid the mega mall on the weekends. That many people give me the shivers.

  60. Finn as soon as your child turns 18 he should execute the preferred HawaiI state form of the required documents, usually called something like a medical power of attorney. When chooses his college, he should investigate whether that will be binding is that state, or if he needs to execute an additional form.

  61. I need to get around to some sort of medical authorization so we can make medical decisions for him if he’s unable to decide for himself.

    What do you think will happen if he can’t decide for himself and there is no form?

    99.9% of people don’t do forms – next of kin just decides. And in the short term, there is not a lot of debatable, difficult questions.

  62. I think the HIPAA authorization is important. I’ve heard horror stories of a kid away from college in some medical emergency, and the parents can’t find out the kid’s condition because that would be a HIPAA violation.

    At the very least, I should download a HIPAA authorization form and get DS to sign it and keep a copy on his phone.

  63. The HIPAA form makes a bit more sense (for all those situations where your child is unable to communicate with you, unable to state that the health care provider has permission to talk with the parents, but is able to pull up a form on the telephone). However, will your child be appropriately consented for that authorization? “I promise I won’t use this to check and see if you’ve been in the ER for something stupid. Or if you had an STD. Or anxiety. Or too much pot.” I wouldn’t want my parents to have access to my medical records, now or when I was 18.

  64. We’ll need to discuss with DS before he signs.

    From http://www.consumerreports.org/health/help-your-college-age-child-in-a-medical-emergency/ :

    “Young people who want parents to be involved in a medical emergency, but fear disclosure of sensitive information, need not worry; HIPAA authorization does not have to be all-encompassing. The young adults can stipulate not to disclose information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details they might want to keep private.”

  65. It’s my understanding that the HIPAA authorization can be modified so it is only effective if the individual is unable to communicate for himself. I think that’s what our attorney said.

  66. I love Ikea. DH hates it but tolerates it. We occasionally went for a cheap date night when DD was small, just to sit and eat meatballs for $5 while DD played in the playland.

    Our styles were not quite as different as Rhett’s pics, but further apart than you would think now — I am drawn to Art Deco/Streamline Moderne, DH was all “anything wood,” from genuine Stickley to Horror Movie Cabin. Luckily I mostly converted when I discovered that wood furniture could be real cherry (not dark-stained formal-looking cherry), not just oak or pine. But we still use IKEA for generic cheap stuff, like our media console and the shelving units, because why bother with more expensive stuff when this works just fine?

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