If you are reading this, maybe you are getting ready to walk down the aisle and were curious about the title, or maybe you’ve been dating a while and have started to question if your spouse is “The one.”
A quick Amazon search will give you 54 similar titles for books asking “Should we get married?” The selection ranges from women-centric romance novels to workbook-style conversation starters that are meant to help you and your spouse figure out if you have a long-term future.
Overall, these books are a great idea if you need a guided format for discussing topics that can be a little more serious than you are used to. That being said…
Want a quick way to learn a lot about your relationship? Hop in the car and head over to your local IKEA.
The IKEA test has 4 parts, and simply require you to be mindful and observant throughout a normal IKEA trip.
Part I: The Tour
If you have ever been to an IKEA, you know that the store is gargantuan and is partitioned off so that you walk through rooms of various design and you can jot down notes of pieces you like to find them in the warehouse area later.
Here is what happens when my fiancé and I tour IKEA. My fiancé follows the yellow road, while I meander in and out of the rooms. We dream up different decorating ideas, and try out the furniture pieces.
The Main Thing: Be attentive to HOW you communicate during the tour. Do you listen attentively to your partner? Do they value your ideas for your potential habitat? How does the crowd impact your ability to interact with your partner?
It’s Forever: You are able to talk to your partner about what each of you likes and wants. Each of you feel your opinion is important, and neither of you get steam-rolled by the desires of the other.
No Thanks: You feel like your partner isn’t hearing you, doesn’t respect your ideas, or doesn’t see you as an equal in the experience. You feel like you have to figuratively shout for your partner to hear you.
Part II: Climbing The Ant Hill
In large crowds, some people feel stressed and that stress manifests itself as agitation or panic. Ultimately the goal here is to take a mental snap-shot of what your dialogue looks like.
The Main Thing: In every relationship, we will be privy to moments of our partner’s stress, panic, anger, and sadness. These are a natural part of life and to a certain extent are unavoidable. The goal of this section is to determine how you and your partner are able to weather this storm. Does it create a giant divide between you, or bring you closer together?
It’s Forever: If moments of stress or contention arise; you turn TOWARD each other and are able to see what is happening between you. One or both of you are able to reach out for connection and what could be divisive, is a moment that makes you feel closer.
No Thanks: In times of stress, one or both of you lash out with the intention of being hurtful. Barbs are exchanged and afterward you just want to be away from that person.
Part III: Blending Designs
How we choose to create our nests may say more about our personalities than we ever realize. The thing about IKEA is that it works for people who love to surround themselves in trinkets, artwork, and books, just as much as it caters to people who prefer clean lines and minimalist style. The results here could be very interesting if you and your partner have vastly different design styles.
The Main Thing: This section is all about communication and compromise. The partner who craves the creature comforts of artwork and trinkets may feel the Swedish design lacks warmth. While the partner who seeks the calm and clarity of clean design may be claustrophobic with all this junk on the counters.
It’s Forever: You might feel the same and this is easy (congrats). Most people end up in an adjustment period when learning to blend their styles with that of their spouses. How you know it’s working? You feel comfortable talking about what’s important, but you also understand that sometimes you have to give a little to make sure that your partner feels important and loved.
No Thanks: Does it feel like you are talking to a brick wall? Alternatively, does the thought of incorporating your partner’s style into your life make you feel like you want to run screaming? If you are having trouble picturing how your stuff is going to fit into each other’s lives- check your gut and make sure that your intuition isn’t giving you a heads up that something feels off.
Part IV: How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything
After you have made your purchases; the real work begins. The most telling part of the whole IKEA test is about to begin. The assembly. I’m going to illustrate this section with an example.
My fiancé and I approach the assembly of the IKEA Billy Bookshelf VERY differently.
Me: I take most of the pieces out of the box. I give the instruction booklet a cursory glance and start putting pieces together. Generally I will do it wrong a few times. I usually have to take pieces apart and re-assemble them once or twice. If by the third time I still don’t have it; I will probably curse and go take a break for a while and then re-group a while later.
Time: 3 hours (including break) Frustration level: 3, then 8, and then 3 again. Sort of like a bell-curve.
Him: He takes all of the pieces out of box and organizes them by type. He reads the directions and finds a YouTube video about IkeaHacks that will save him time or improve the structural stability of the piece. He regularly references the directions and slowly but surely the shelf comes together. He curses loudly when part of the shelf comes down on his toe, but after a moment hobbling to the kitchen for an Ibuprofen, he finishes the shelf and bolts it to the wall per the instructions.
Time: 1.5 hours. Frustration level: 4
What is so brilliant about this experience is that building the bookshelf is exactly how we approach almost everything in our lives.
The Main Thing: Your approach to problems and to life may be totally different than your partner’s. Neither method is right or wrong. Be present and mindful about how you work together to build your piece of furniture. It’s likely representative of how you will build your future together.
It’s Forever: You work together when it gets frustrating and confusing. You clearly communicate instructions and respect each other’s methods; even if they are different than your own. In the end you can take a step back, check out your work, and feel like you accomplished it together.
No Thanks: You each feel like your way is the best and if your partner would just follow along, you feel like it would go much better. You can’t seem to work together to complete the piece and one or both of you has to take a breather because it’s so frustrating and tense trying to get this made. When it’s finally done, neither of you feel like you accomplished much, and you probably agree that next time you would just buy furniture that comes already assembled.
The IKEA test doesn’t exist to judge your relationship. It’s purpose is to help us be present and mindful about how we relate to one another.
Building furniture is a lot like marriage. They both require time and effort. You need patience, forgiveness, acceptance, and a healthy dose of humor certainly helps.
photo courtesy of Savannah Lauren Photography