Psychologists Explain Why IKEA Is A Couple's Nightmare

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
Image via Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

You WILL fight at IKEA. Or after.

Going to IKEA with your partner? You WILL fight. And if you manage to make it out of the store without fighting, you will definitely lose it when you’re assembling the furniture together. We don’t make the rules. It’s science.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, NY Mag talked to some psychologists to find out why IKEA is such a relationship death trap. Their answers made a lot of sense.

“Any big shopping experience, when you’re doing it as a dyad, it becomes ripe for conflict … [You have] so many choice options, and then on the other hand you have this sort of burden of balancing your needs and desires with your partner’s needs and desires, and as a result it kind of creates this perfect storm,” explained psychology professor Julie Peterson. Basically, you’re already overwhelmed by choice when you’re navigating the maze that is IKEA. If you go with a partner, you also have their opinions to worry about. Yikes.

The NY Mag article explains that frustration breeds frustration. So if you are getting pissed off by getting lost in the maze of IKEA — or annoyed by the never-ending crowds — you may just take it out on your partner. “Lashing out at your partner, saying things you wouldn’t normally say or mean, or behaving less kindly than you normally would,” explains Peterson.

IKEA suggests couples view the catalogue before they go, to make choosing easier. “Then when in our store, couples, can have a bite to eat or a drink in our restaurant and talk through their choices. When they’ve made their decision, they can choose from several service options to make the final process easy,” a spokesman for IKEA explained to the Huffington Post.

Easy? That may be a stretch. It doesn’t matter how many Swedish meatballs you consume together, unless one of those yellow-and-blue-clad, helpful employees is following you home to assemble that SPROCKEN or whatever the hell you just bought, you are going to fight. The fighting will begin as you try to extricate yourselves from the maze that is the IKEA showroom ( I told you we should have made a left after the fake plants, asshole), and it will continue as you attempt to shove the eight-foot-long, thousand pound box (that is somehow supposed to magically become your new entertainment center) into your trunk. Just wait until you open the instruction manual that doesn’t contain a single word. One of you will definitely be crying.

We put together a handy guide to figure out just what kind of furniture assembly your relationship could handle the last time one of these IKEA-destroys-relationships studies came out. Seems like a good time to revisit.

If you’re considering putting your relationship to the test by assembling one of these pieces, here’s a handy guide to help you decide where you should start.

MOLGER step stool

Image via IKEA

Difficulty level: novice

Instruction manual length: 8 pages

Thoughts upon completion: High five!

NORNAS bench

Image via IKEA

Difficulty level: beginner

Instruction manual length: 16 pages

Thoughts upon completion: There was a brief moment when he was looking at the instruction manual when I thought, “Why is this so hard for you? There are no words. You don’t even need to be literate to follow this thing.” But he finally figured out the pictures of the screws weren’t actually to scale, and restored my comfort in the idea of passing his genes on to my future children.

HEMNES 8-drawer dresser

Image via IKEA

Difficulty level: advanced

Instruction manual length: 34 pages

Thoughts upon completion: What the fuck, dude? No, they do not include “extra parts” for “back-up.” There are literally 18 screws left over and I can’t even right now. The little drawers on top are not “novelty.” They are supposed to open. I would’ve had better luck assembling this with a monkey. I need some space.

LIATORP storage unit

Image via IKEA

Images via IKEA

Difficulty level: NO

Instruction manual length: 40 pages

Thoughts upon completion: I hate your fucking face.

The only way to protect your relationship is to pay for assembly — which by the way is the best-kept secret in retail. Did you have any idea that was even an option? But that sort of defeats the purpose of buying cheap furniture.

Oh, IKEA. We’ll love you forever — probably longer than we’ll love our partners, thanks to you.

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