No couple is safe from this curse.
You lucky ducks in love. You've dated up the ladder from first base to furniture shopping.
If you've just shacked up with your new beau, it's time to carefully tick items off of a list, whilst you cuddle and confer amongst a cascade of displayed cushions.
Perhaps you're in the heady days of ‘going steady’; steady enough to have allocated space in your sock drawer for your boo's belongings, but now, because your bedside drawer bulges, storage doesn't suffice.
Or all you long time lovers out there, downsizing, upgrading, furnishing the shed, the study, or maybe installing a new garden room of your very own (to be away from your beloved espoused)?
Whatever your anniversary, its time to face the adversary to the quintessentially quixotic trip: The contemporary couple-ly thing to do.
A cliched weekend in Paris? No. A Bank Holiday Barney in Ikea. Here's how to avoid a Swedish themed break-up.
As intrepid as it sounds to say you're visiting the Ektorp aisles when discussing a mini-break, there is nothing romantic about having a near break-up over a blazing row in the between the Ektorp aisles.
On the few occasions I’ve had to visit the flat-pack furniture circus, I’ve seen young/ old/ the canoodling/ carefree/ child-free/ those with 3 children (witnesses their desperation!), everyday people in need of storage solutions and particularly couples, ending up in combat.
In the bright welcoming store, cavernous wide mouth-like, revolting, sorry revolving doors swallow couples who arrive happily prattling on about soft furnishings, beaming with a newfound Nordic promise that only a new scatter cushion can bring. However, after hours of obediently following a sat-nav to the nearest suburban nebula to spend hours more within, little do most know that their destination is a warehouse of hate leading them quite possibly down the road to divorce.
“Perhaps they do flat pack divorces in Sweden? Imagine that! A box complete with all the necessary legalese in 16 languages; a pencil/Birchwood weapon to sign with; a tape measure as to distance yourself from the ‘situation’; all shrink wrapped with a jar of rollmop herrings to hide in a nearby radiator.”
-Jayne*, Croydon. (Divorced in 2012 caused by seeking corner sofa segments.).
Jesus, Jayne* your corner sofa wasn't the only thing separating.
The Swedes: such a civil and handsome race. They give us gritty criminal dramas, they love recycling, they offer us a perfect example of equality in the form of equal paternal leave and they also gave us Abba. Swedes are generally good examples of how to be nice humans.
Then they give us Ikea. Dare you to decor there, it could happen to you. I have seen it, I may have even caused it to happen. Anything can light the fuse, you're a time bomb waiting to explode over a miss judged choice of voiles.
Will you go for mirrored-doors-or-not blazing rows that'll erupt in aisle B57-(i). They're on shelf number 6, unit 5, third level up, when the other bit needed will be over in section C14 -(ii), on shelf 2, unit 3, second level up, but right at the back of the shelf so you can’t just grab it so you need some helpful staff assistance with a cherry picker and you've left your aforementioned loved one in charge of saving a space in the queue, who is now nearing the finishing line flanked by the signs of the exit and the steamy mirage of simmering hot dogs to reward your ordeal. But the steam isn't coming from the kiosk, it's coming out from your nose and ears like a raging bull.
Then everything will go in slow motion. You'll spot other couples too, arguing over patterns of cutlery.
Not so much the cherry on the Swedish Princess cake over an extended weekend.
Because I heart both ABBA and rollmops I suggest, rather than having a Swedish themed break up, get your fill at any of my favourite Swedish eateries; The Nordic Bakery, Fabrique Bakery or Fika instead.
Now being all about Meals and all about Boon, I can't just warn you without helping you with a plan.
You like plans don't you, you're about to buy flat-pack furniture.
Also, note the photographs on ikea.com: See how the well lit the large studios are? How do they tidy away what no 5 bedroomed house could ever contain neatly? Notice how beautiful and well behaved the children/ boyfriends/ mother-in-laws pictured are.
Now reimagine that space, but add the layer of your own life: your musty hoarded crap, covered in a sticky mess left by your little marmalade fingered (enter your choice) darlings/housemates/builders, cover it in poopy welly marks, stains left by your (enter your choice) sloppy dog/girlfriend/PA. See that lovely sofa strewn scatter throws and your lovers stinky socks and shove it into your tiny 1, 2 if your lucky, flat.
Are the things you'd like to buy going to fit into your pokey damp flat, with its low ceilings, small doors and lack of light and ventilation? Therefore, *Sharon and *Mike, is it worth arguing over?
If you still want to buy all of the things, including a year's supply of Stromvoort cranberry scented tea lights, an orchid that will die in days and a Vitka drawer separator that you can either use to organise your tights, your tools or tax return and still want a boiled sausage afterwards, then be my guest, go forthwith and bring your spirit of trepidation, resilience and do not forget to get a trolley at the start. Wear something sensible, and don't wear heels.
There'll be others, just you wait. You’ll share a meek smile and immediately look down in shame just after you've gone postal about the colour of picture frame, "black or birch...(bitch!" You say in your head to your husband). Except you quietly fret in a high pitched whisper.. "birch is so noughties isn't it, it'll date".
Here's an exercise.
Take note of the well coordinated family, in man, woman and baby Boden and I anticipate, I invite you to witness that even the most mild-mannered, polenta-cake-making, organic-thread-darning, cycle-holidaying, chicken-keeping Tom and Barbara or Gwyneth and Chris as they descend into a nihilistic frenzy shoving Daim bars down their children's necks to keep them quiet. Mum and dad will then guzzle the sugary Swedish pear cider they bought for the weekend's barbeque but cry as the Poäng won't possibly fit into the car. Notice as you file out in your cars one after another, they're calm, but that couple in their car, driving into the haze of traffic with their rear hatchback door, akin to their relationship, held together with string as exhaust fills their car, threatening to choke them both before they choke each other during their awkward silence on the traffic laden journey home, post a postal pop to Ikea.
Be warned, do your homework, research.
Here's is the Meals and Boon 12 Steps programme for Couples surviving IKEA.
You will need the shelving compartments, the bits and bobs, the things for your boots so they stand up as if still on a shoe shop's shelf.
You're gonna need lighting too. In your wardrobe? Yes.
If you like the oversized-cushions on the page, put the goddamned cushions on your list and forget about configuring your living room to have your three piece suite in the middle of the room representational of a pillowy Mondrian, like in the catalogue. What'll happen is, you'll open the front door and with your coffee on a Vlange breakfast tray that you’ll buy and only use once, you'll possibly trip over, spill Swedish coffee over the arrangement of sofas in the middle of the room, bang your head on ridiculously low pendant light as advised by Ikea stylists, landing softly on the sheepskin rug slung coquettishly along the top of your Billy Bookcases which will fall down like dominoes, as they are not to be used as room separators without being bolting into the floor. Curses.
Just buy the fucking cushions.
Do devour every detail of the catalogue and if you can find out in advance where the '-Badoingj dining' table section is, do. Ring even. On the phone, use your best phone voice.
Parking. Go late. You'll find a space, and if you don't find the right Kulva bed, this is the only time a hot-dog is allowed and you can do commiserative doughnuts in the car park.
Do not take public transport. Unless you are going to just buy a light bulb. Although you’ll probably buy a garden chair. I’ve seen people sitting on Ikea chairs on the tube.
Think twice about buying that lighting, (you will never find the right light bulbs in Tesco or Robert Dyas, you'll have to go back to Ikea to buy replacements.)
Don't go in the cafe as soon as you get there. The enticing free coffee offered and free refills along with the Swedish bakery products do look great but pumping caffeine and sugar into your body before the shock of enduring the purgatory of Ikea will only aid to your definite aggression.
DO. NOT. GO. ON. A SATURDAY/ BANK. HOLIDAY MONDAY.
DO. NOT. GO. ON. AN EMPTY STOMACH.
With above said, go for a romantic meal with your bae beforehand, whether it be a drive thru Burger King, a Harvester with an unlimited tuna pasta salad, or a 7-course taster menu at La Gavroche. Then make sure you remember you adore this person and when you get there, smooch, offer each other your affirmations of love, and no matter what happens in the store, your relationship up until this point has been great fun.
Once you're in that's it you're on your own, together. Do not follow the arrows around the showroom, you know what everything looks like, you have done your homework haven't you...with the catalogue and the online design service, so there is nothing you need to see in the showroom, there are no life-affirming potential purchases within.
Ask a member of the yellow suited army, how to take short cuts. Get your arses straight to the marketplace, pick up whatever sodding shelf it is you need, I repeat ignore The Bargain Corner. That stuff is either missing every part you’ll ever need or it’ll be all broken anyway.
Take a deep cleansing breath a 5-second meditation and just join any queue. They all move just as slowly. Ignore the hot dogs and ice-cream. You ate before you came out remember.
Or ignore all of the above and just go on your own.