In order to furnish my glorious, 250 square foot apartment in Manhattan with a bathroom so small, my knees touched the wall, I called upon the help of IKEA and my boyfriend. Getting the furniture home was easy, but assembling it and shopping for it was another story. Of course, the process of building the IKEA “Beddinge” (the cheap futon everyone you know has owned once in their lives) was a disaster, and the trip to IKEA wasn’t a romantic walk in the park, either. The whole thing was a major test of our relationship compatibility, and tensions were high when we weren’t laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I was reminded of this feat recently, when Buzzfeed posted a hilarious video of couples trying to assemble IKEA furniture together. It’s the ultimate challenge—relationship-wise. So before you dive into your IKEA shopping spree and assemble that “Micke” desk or “Bekväm” bar cart with your beloved partner, here are just a few things to remember.
1. The store itself is a maze that never ends, and you will probably get lost.
Patience is of absolute importance at IKEA, so set aside enough time to account for it. Wait, how did we end up in kitchen appliances? I thought we were heading for the children’s section to buy an easel! We should have asked for directions.
2. All the food is ridiculously cheap, and one of you is bound to get hungry and distracted.
I’m sorry, but $5 for a platter of most any kind of food is a steal. (Plus $1 cinnamon buns and ice cream cones?! Leave me here forever.) That being said, most people want to get in and out of IKEA as quickly as possible, and it’s no one’s fault if one of you is more pumped about lingonberries than the other. Fuel up before your trip if you want to be slightly less tempted.
3. IKEA comes in a close second to Target for buying things you absolutely don’t need.
Did we really need those festive cookie cutters or wooden dala horse figurines? No. Probably not. Are they awesome? Yes. Yes, they are. Try to let this one go, no matter how silly the purchases.
4. When those “Vivan” curtains you could afford were actually “Sanela” curtains in the wrong bin, someone’s going to suffer.
They’re 7x the price, FYI, but try not to take it out on your partner!
5. One of you will wander into the demonstration rooms and test out beds/couches/chairs/fake TVs instead of helping.
6. No one will help you put the heavy stuff on your industrial cart.
Which means you will laughably struggle to get it on yourselves as the cart slowly rolls away, taunting you. The mutual shame is another test of your relationship.
7. The line will be long. And slow. And you will get antsy. And then you will probably die together on it.
And that’s about the time your partner realizes it’s time to run and grab another jar of lingonberry syrup. Grrr.
8. Someone won’t spring the extra $0.59 for a bag to carry everything back home on the subway.
This is a necessity and not a time to be frugal. Plus, they’re great reusable bags for groceries, etc. Treat yourself and get the bag. It’s not worth fighting over.
9. If you do have a car, parking and loading is worse than Disneyland.
It takes a lot of coordination and snappy rhetorical questions like, “Where are you?!”
10. Important parts and screws will inevitably be missing when you get home.
This occasionally leads to improvisation, but unless you’re 200% sure it’s not going to end in your bodily harm when the bed collapses a couple of weeks later, I recommend you just go back to IKEA and get the missing piece. Try to stay calm. Don’t blame your partner for its absence. It’s not their fault (even if it totally is).
11. There are no words in IKEA instruction manuals, and you will interpret the pictures differently.
I actually rather enjoy trying to decipher IKEA’s hieroglyphs, but that doesn’t mean everyone translates them in the same way, including my boyfriend. If you ever need help proving you’re right, just imitate the positioning of the little cartoon person and hold the piece/screw/whatever in question accordingly. Nailed it. (Pun very much intended.)
12. In fact, the only part that will make sense to either of you is the cartoon person holding the telephone.
Someone send help! It’s an IKEAmergency!
13. You never have the exact right size tool for the screw, one of you tries to MacGyver it and fails.
Few promising situations have ever started with, “Trust me, babe, I got this. Just let me do it.”
14. Whatever you’re building will end up looking nothing like it’s supposed to.
Which means you have to backtrack and start from square one. Try not to point fingers at one another. Keep on trucking! Remember, your relationship depends on the successful assembly of that “Karlstad” sofa. No pressure.
15. You will witness how your partner handles high stress, and it will probably not be pretty.
For long-term couples, this isn’t as big a deal, because you’ll better know how to comfort and calm your partner in these kinds of situations. For a lot of newer pairs, however, the honeymoon period will meet its brutal end (or, at least, be greatly tested). It’s incredibly easy to get frustrated when things aren’t effortless, but try not to take it out on your partner, even if it’s totally their fault they put that major piece on backwards.
16. When you’re handling heavy things, someone is going to get hurt.
Generally speaking, if you lay all the pieces out ahead of time, it makes the building process slightly easier, but that’s dependent on how much space you have—for instance, I had none. There are a lot of awkward angles necessary to put together a piece of furniture, but most accidents are avoidable. Communication is key.
17. If you work together, the results can be immensely satisfying.
For all the sweat and minor bruises (both physical and to our egos), having a tangible representation of our teamwork in the end was pretty darn gratifying. We built a bed together. That’s a very small feat in the scheme of things, but that couch-bed lasted me through three years and three apartments, and is now happily functioning in someone else’s. Not bad for a couple hours of relationship stress.