Unlike many men and women I know (but mainly women), I really don’t like shopping. Sure, I like a mooch around town as much anyone else. But what I actually enjoy is the company of the person I’m with (hello mum!), and the prospect of stopping for lunch as soon as humanly possible. And a walk. The walking is nice too. What I don’t enjoy? Well, I don’t enjoy the crowds, for one thing. I don’t enjoy queueing, and I especially can’t stand the endless ‘this or that?’ decision-making that shopping requires. So, you can imagine it all steps up a gear when faced with the prospect of the biggest, most challenging shop of all… IKEA.
Beloved by children and almost no-one else, IKEA is less of a shopping errand and more of an… experience. It’s an entire day out, and you can bank on huge meandering crowds and an endless number of choices to ponder over. But throwing a relationship into all that, too? Well… it can become a test.
I should pause here for a second and tell you that my last shopping trip to IKEA was actually good fun. It wasn’t a disaster at all. I don’t mean that in a cocky way (no sir-ree, getting cocky about IKEA success is a slippery slope, and we all know that), but it just wasn’t anything like as bad as these poor couples had to contend with. There were no arguments, we largely agreed on most things, and despite the fact we bought loads of beautiful things and scarcely a damn thing on our list, we escaped unscathed. Our relationship wasn’t broken somewhere between the rugs and the house plants. But (and I’ll level with you here), I think that the reason my last trip to IKEA was so successful is because Lee and I bring some pretty awesome skills to the table. He’s patient and will spend a long time pondering a decision if he’s asked to. And, not to blow my own trumpet (which I am most definitely doing right now), I think I’m good at getting us to talk about things we disagree about without it escalating into a massive argument.
So far (and I say so far because again, no-one should count their chickens), Lee turned out to be the one who pushed the trolley, was equally as interested in which colours go with which (!), and wanted to bubble wrap e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g the second we get home.
Lee diligently recorded the price of everything as we moved through the store, totting up the total and amicably splitting the bill in half with me. He even devised a master plan with my mum in order to tackle the unfathomably small conveyor belt at the till. I, on the other hand, enjoyed pulling out the kitchen draws for all of a five minutes. It’s a miracle I didn’t break the glassware I’d balanced in the trolley, and by the time we’d reached the bedding section, I’d have wearily agreed a lime green duvet if you’d just let me see natural light for… oh I don’t know, 30 seconds.
But why is IKEA so hard? Why is it such a minefield for (“other”- she says so smugly) couples? Well, I suspect it has something to do with the fact we’re exhausted by the time we’ve completed the kitchen section (raising my hand here). My finite amount of energy for decision making was depleted to diddly squat, and that doesn’t leave much energy for remembering to be generous and patient and tactful with one another, does it? More significantly, however, is that there’s perhaps an unsaid feeling between you and your other half that if you can’t agree on a flat pack wardrobe or whether 100% cotton is really important in a bed sheet (it is), your relationship is doomed. Doomed. IKEA requires you to decide what you want and need (hard enough, right?), while simultaneously accounting for what your partner wants and needs. All the while you cross your fingers that the stars will miraculously align, or, at the very least, that you’ll both be nice enough to just let each other have the damn coffee mug.
In our case? Well, this time round we were nice to each other. We each picked the coffee mugs we wanted. “Throw in a couple more if you know you’ll use them” we said. “I probably won’t ever use them, but you should get them if you really like them!”. We agreed ahead of time on the kind of stuff we wanted to buy and had even searched out a few things on Pinterest to (god, I cringe to write this) “check that we’re on the same page'”. We took food breaks so we (cough, me) wouldn’t get hangry. We wore comfortable shoes. I shoved my coat in the trolley straight away so I wasn’t overheated and therefore irritated and unreasonable. I took Lee to one side at some point to say “am I being bossy? Do you feel like you’re getting enough of a say here?”. He insisted that yes, he was, and that it was some seriously good luck that I happen not to like much colour or sparkle. I picked the wine glasses because only I’ll use them. He picked the whisky glasses, because only he will use them.
So far, so good – right? Then we debated how many Kilner jars we need for a kitchen we don’t own and can’t even imagine right now, but I think that our brief ‘be nice to each other’ approach and quick chat to ‘check in’ was enough to keep us feeling excited about buying stuff for our first home, rather than questioning our very decision to move in together.
But if you find yourself falling out with your other half over a chair you can’t agree on? Well, I wouldn’t worry. It’s probably not indicative of a bigger problem in your relationship. (Hopefully). You probably just don’t like the damn chair and you’ve been holding a wee for an hour. Perhaps the kindest thing you can do is fight your way against the tide of customers, find the bathroom, buy some biscuits for the car ride home and cram the ugly chair into the car. Your relationship is most definitely worth more than the bounty you’re bringing home from IKEA – even when the stuff is as nice as this.
Wouldn’t you agree?
More on this subject: