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by Crystal Chiang

The audience was on their feet. There was celebration. Trumpets. Confetti. The crowd went wild.

Okay, none of that happened. But that’s how it felt the first time my husband and I stepped out of an IKEA store and realized that we had made it through without arguing.

I don’’t know what it is about furniture stores, and particularly IKEA, that brings out the worst in couples. Maybe it’’s the way our personal style makes everything . . . personal . Maybe it’’s the fact that it’’s rare for both people to want to be there in the first place. Or maybe it’’s just that everything in the store costs money.

Whatever the reason, the struggle is real. Real enough that science has confirmed 17% of couples fight every single time they walk in the doors*.

That’’s why, while we can’’t promise a perfect IKEA experience, we do want to share a few tricks that have worked for us and helped us keep peace in the store and still speak to each other on the way home.

  1. Don’’t talk about your family——seriously. Family is great. And talking about how you were raised is important. Just not at IKEA. Standing in front of a box with only cartoon pictures and instructions in Swedish isn’’t the time to bring up “My dad could build anything.”” Staring at 144 fabric choices isn’’t the time to mention how much you love your mom’’s decorating taste. And if it isn’’t the best time to bring up your family . . . it probably isn’’t the best time to bring up flaws you see in your in-laws either. This is about you and your spouse. If you can get through this together, you can figure out the family stuff later.
  2. Say what you mean. You rarely see a couple have an all-out screaming match about couch designs. (I mean, I have . . . but it’’s rare.) But, what you do see is tense conversations that begin when someone was misunderstood. It can feel awkward to say “I don’’t think we have the money for this” or “I don’’t want to put this together.” But when both partners clearly communicate, it’’s easier to let go of confusion and solve the problem together.
  3. Know whose house you’’re shopping for. If you’’re married, then you live in your house (and the your is plural). So the décor won’’t exclusively match the style she developed in a single-girl apartment or the items he collected in the bachelor pad. When you blend two colors together (around here, we say red and yellow make orange) then you almost always get a completely different third color. Your married house is like that——blended. And it’’s helpful to remember that the third style is the one you’’re shopping for.
  4. Eat something. There has to be a reason they put food by both the entrance and the exit at IKEA. Don’’t get hijacked by hangry. If you’re frustrated, go have a cinnamon roll. They’’re delicious . . . and they’’re a good excuse to keep your mouth shut.


Crystal currently leads the XP3 High School initiative at Orange. Before that, she spent 10 years as a high school teacher and student ministry leader, doing everything from leading small groups to speaking to curriculum design. Crystal and her husband, Tom, live in Atlanta, GA with an ill-tempered chihuahua named Javier.