Hi there. Nice to see you again.
I’m going to put it right out there: IKEA let me down.
I know. IKEA is a magical place where you can find almost everything you need — and so many things you don’t realize you need until you see them sitting there on the shelves. Like soap dispensers and pot lid organizers and decorative pillow shams. And, not only does it offer a plethora of good-quality, affordable furniture, it also empowers you to put them all together yourself with straightforward instructions and chic assembly.
IKEA does so many things right, but it's not perfect.
And, in a way, that’s helpful. After the initial “honeymoon period”, you learn that IKEA might not have everything exactly as you envision, and that’s okay. It’s okay because it offers so much. It’s okay because it reminds you to let go of the little disappointments and keep returning to the big picture of awesomeness that is IKEA.
As it turns out, IKEA is a perfect metaphor for relationships.
At least mine, and, if you’re even half as lucky as I am, yours as well.
Join for me a story, will you?
My husband, D, offers to make me dinner. This doesn’t happen often, and he’s been talking about it for weeks. I’m always the one who makes sure dinner is set. It’s not a wife versus husband thing, but more of a balanced meal thing. When D’s on his own, dinner consists of chicken and turkey jerky. I try to add some veggies to the “meat on meat” situation. I also cover dinner because it’s one way I show love.
Now, I’ve experienced D’s rather astounding level of romanticism on many occasions, so I have pretty high expectations. Therefore, on this occasion, I envision walking in the door to candles flickering, Norah Jones singing, a glass of Bordeaux poured and waiting, and the smell of roasted onions and pan-fried fish wafting.
But, instead, I arrive home to absolutely nada.
I feel pretty low on his priority pole. Arriving home at dinner time to an empty apartment because he “lost track of time” while enjoying a friend’s roofdeck feels less than fantastic. And, when he finally walks in an hour and a half later, I’ve had more than enough time to stew.
Stuck in the funk, it feels annoyingly difficult to pull myself up. And, as usually happens when something so tiny irks me so much, now not only am I annoyed with him, I’m also annoyed with myself for letting that funk linger. The man was late to make dinner. That’s it. Not a big deal.
It’s like those horrible blues that I just couldn’t shake as a teen, even after I forgot why I was so upset in the first place.
At that point, it’s almost an act of will. I’ve always prided myself on doing (or at least trying) whatever I set my mind to, and emotions are no exception. I don’t skim over them easily: I ride those waves and let them crash over me. I feel all my feels. And then the psychologist in me analyzes all of those feels and tries to learn from them. And then the communicator in me talks to my husband about all of the above until I’m blue in the face – and until he’s blue in the face because he just can’t listen to me dig any deeper into something so insignificant.
Yes, what seems in the moment a “healthy” response to emotions ends up being a tedious dissection leaving the emotion splayed out every which way and smelling of the formaldehyde desperately trying to preserve its original essence.
I’m constantly working on letting things go.
So, that night, I attempt to pull myself up by turning on my personal music therapy – James Taylor – turning on our cozy perimeter of white lights, and lighting my new IKEA candles. And just as I start to crawl out of the funk, one of those candles spills over its candle holder and dumps all over our new carpet.
Those candles have already proved less than impressive in their one job of staying lit. In a rather vexing magic trick, the wicks completely disappear within the wax after being lit for about an hour. But, I keep the faith, I keep lighting them, and I keep believing that they’ll come through for me. Just like D does.
I grumble and huff as I clean up the hardened wax, and I mumble, to no one in particular, “Well, IKEA, you let me down. But, you know, no one’s perfect, and you do a lot of things right.”
Yup. There it is. D is my IKEA.
When you're married to IKEA, you expect a lot because, in so many ways, your partner lives up to and beyond your expectations of what you thought possible in a partner. He’s not perfect, because no one’s perfect – but he sure does do a lot of things right.
For one, D never judges me. That in and of itself is worth a thousand deprioritized dinners. He also buys me bottled wine, even though he drinks boxed. He also does a million other wonderful things large and small, too many to list here.
I read a research study this week that found that short- and long-term relationships look very similar – if not identical – in the very beginning. Then, if the relationship becomes long-term, feelings of attachment and positivity grow rather than plateau and decline.
Attachment and positivity don’t always go hand in hand, as I’m sure you know. In a relationship, it’s a delicate balance between feeling your feelings and letting things go.
When you're married to IKEA, you keep wearing those rose-colored glasses of the “honeymoon period” because you see all of the things IKEA has to offer. You keep the rose-colored glasses because, when it comes to big things, your partner does a good job.
When you're married to IKEA, you sometimes feel disappointed because you can't believe IKEA didn't live up to your expectations. So, you let yourself feel that disappointment. You also finally realize that IKEA didn't make you feel that way – you got there on your own. And then you move on.
Because, in the end, IKEA does so much right.
I know that because I'm married to IKEA. I could have had zero expectations about dinner, because I’d learned to not expect anything from D. Instead, I dove without abandon into my romantic vision. And, when things didn’t go according to my vision, I floundered with much less grace than I had hoped I could muster. Grace can be hard when you feel low on the priority totem pole. Just like it can be hard when you discover that your beloved IKEA is capable of letting you down, aka in the candle department.
The late dinner wasn’t a big deal. Just like that IKEA candle not doing it’s one job even semi-well wasn’t a big deal. Merely a small blip in the wonder that is IKEA. Merely a small blip in the wonder that is my beautiful, wondrous, cockeyed marriage.
In the end, my husband does a lot of things right in my book – but he isn’t perfect. No one is, and I wouldn’t want him to be. He keeps me on my toes. He helps me let go of the little disappointments and stay focused on the big picture of awesomeness that is our newbie marriage.
What about you? What’s the IKEA candle in your relationship – and how does it help you?
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.