Can couples survive IKEA?

Posted: November 11, 2012 in About Me, life
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An IKEA Store along Alexandra Road in Queensto...

An IKEA Store along Alexandra Road in Queenstown, Singapore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ikea may have spent 25 years filling our homes with flatpack furniture. But what every couple really wants to know is: will we still be together after shopping at the superstore?


The most satisfying Ikea experience I’ve had was when my boyfriend had crippling food poisoning. I’d hold up a mid-priced mug, he’d gesture yes or no with one limp arm, then I’d walk him briskly through Eating to the toilet by Textiles, where, some minutes later, we’d do the same with a fleece throw – yes, no, toilet, bosh. We were in and out in under 45 minutes and Mark went down a dress size, it was great. We didn’t fight once.

In the 25 years (happy birthday!) since Ikea first came to Britain, it has sold 11.6bn Swedish meatballs and contributed to the slow, crushing break-up of almost as many couples, ones who walked in through those blue sliding doors with joy and hope and aspirational dreams of matching towels, and out again, empty but for the dark realisation that they have wasted four years of their life on the wrong person. Four years and two hours, one of which was spent in the As Is section, testing out slightly damaged footstools.

It’s well known that the real legacy of Ikea is not the 12.8m mattresses it has sold, or even the one in five British children conceived on an Ikea bed, each of whom, rumour has it, is easy to make and surprisingly affordable but ends up being moved to the attic with some key screws loose. The real legacy is the heartbreak, obviously.

The Ikea catalogue has been printed in 29 different languages, but not one is the language of love. Nowhere in the assembly instructions for a Malm chest of drawers does it advise how to stop the tension that comes between installing the first and second drawers from segueing into an argument about fertility.

When you remember that the company was originally designed for young couples who were living together for the first time, and couldn’t rely on handed-down furniture, the fact that 500 couples competed to win the prize of a wedding at Ikea next February makes some sense.

This’ll be the second wedding it’s hosted – the first was organised for a couple whose first date was in an Ikea. Their first date. Australian winners Lynne and Chad were quoted as saying, in unison: “It felt right to be able to show our commitment to one another by getting married somewhere we both love.”

I mean, good for them. Good for them. Because for many of us, a walk through Ikea’s maze-like rooms is like a walk through every dark thought we’ve ever had about our partner, neatly labelled on bits of foam board. Behind a 6ft basket of flannels waits the memory of them maybe or maybe not getting off with their ex around the time you first got together.

Deep within the £10 orchid display is your underlying resentment about their “student politics”, and then at the checkout, you trip up on lack of sex. Every object you pick up is a metaphor for your relationship issues. Every shower curtain (intimacy problems), self-assembly desk (work ethic), every massive salad bowl (body image) and fold-out guest bed (their mother) screams a warning.

You have to really, really like each other to get through this obstacle course of emo. You have to believe there’s something there worth fighting for, because by the time you get to the tealights (memories of how they used to look at you with gentle amazement) you’ll need every ounce of love in order to make it to the carpark.

But writing all this down and looking around my wardrobed flat, my Faktumkitchen, with its slightly wonky cabinet carousel filled with washing powder and bags for life, and the drawer that only opens if you open the cupboard to its right, and smelling the smell of a dinner being cooked for me, I realise that these strip-lit tests in bright plastic and aluminium have a purpose. And we passed. We made it to the carpark.

English: Press Center of the Love2010 Stockhol...

English: Press Center of the Love2010 Stockholm festival at Gallerian, appointed by IKEA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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