How to get through an Ikea trip without ruining your relationship

It’s a universally acknow­ledged truth that a trip to Ikea can cause extreme discord in even the most loving relationship. Follow our guide to avoid a rift.

The Ikea store on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
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It's a universally acknow­ledged truth that a trip to Ikea can cause extreme discord in even the most loving relationship.

It could be because you’re confronted with an idealised version of what your home – and by extension, life – could look like. Or because it raises pertinent questions about the dynamics of your relationship – does your partner have the right to veto that new kitchen if they never do any of the cooking, for example? Or because it makes you question how you could possibly survive a lifetime with someone who has such terrible taste in curtains.

I’d counter that it’s actually the fact that you’re trapped in suspended reality, with no natural light, surrounded by semi-crazed individuals, with no immediate means of escape. Which, last I checked, was a definition of hell.

Add to that the stress of working out whether you really need seven new scented candles, trying to remember the precise dimensions of your dining room table, and attempting to picture how that monochromatic rug might look in your entranceway, and it’s a wonder anyone leaves the place without the aid of a straitjacket. And that’s before you have even tried to assemble the things.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ikea. There’s no design snobbery here. Those trips are an essential part of life, so here are five ways to help ensure that your relationship survives the experience.

1. Choose your timings carefully

This is make or break. If you decide to visit Ikea Festival City on a Friday afternoon, there’s nothing to it. Your relationship is doomed. If the inconvenience of a full-time job means that your Ikea pilgrimage has to take place on a weekend, go first thing in the morning (stores open at 10am) or midway through a Friday.

2. Go prepared

Every Ikea store in the world is designed to entice you into buying trolley-loads of stuff that you don’t really need. So go armed with a plan. Make a list of absolute essentials – and stick to it. If you’re shopping for a specific piece of furniture, do some online research in advance, from the comfort of your sofa. This will be far less stressful than trying to work out in-store whether that bedside table will match your colour scheme, then publicly arguing with your partner about the merits of wood versus plastic.

3. Set a budget

We all know how easy it is to get carried away. “Oh, I could do with a new colander; it’s only Dh14,” you cry. “Oh, but this bath mat is so soft. And it’s only Dh25.” And so on. Until you find yourself at the cashier wondering how you’ve managed to spend Dh2,000 when you just popped in for a new set of plates. There’s no better way to annoy your partner than blowing the month’s food budget on stuff you probably won’t use.

4. Plan your route

Don’t join the shuffling herd as they meander, ooh-ing and ah-ing, through a maze of semi-­identical room sets. There’s nothing more debilitating to your relationship’s health than hours spent following the infamous Ikea arrows. Refer to your list, and work out where you actually need to be. Maybe you can avoid the room sets altogether, and head straight to the accessories area. If you’re super-organised, you will have noted the “article numbers” of your desired purchases from the website. Then you can get a friendly sales rep to tell you exactly where to pick them up.

5. Use the cafeteria

It’s no coincidence that the Ikea cafeteria is located where it is: the exact point where your spirits start to plummet, and your partner is working out how to throttle you with those jazzy new tea towels. Take one for the team. Send your loved one in the direction of the meatballs as you “pick up a few last bit and bobs”. Only get them to join you once you are in sight of a cashier. Similarly, if you have children, leave them in the crèche. Enough said.