The Ikea Assembly Meltdown

The modern testing ground for manhood

Building your own furniture… it’s an unstated test of true manhood. Guys gravitate to the challenge, particularly when it’s a guaranteed shoo-in.

Meet the Ikea* Challenge… it’s supposed to be easy right? Any idiot can assemble an Ikea item. That’s the first good reason why any self-respecting guy isn’t going to use the instructions.

The second one is that if he does it without the assistance of the instructions, he gets extra manly-man points (at least in his mind)… he did it BY HIMSELF! It’s almost as good as making the thing from scratch. Inevitably of course, he gets something out of order, because even though it’s easy, it’s not always intuitive.

So now he’s starting to doubt his competence. And more she hovers and offers suggestions, the more prickly he gets. He doesn’t hear her constructive suggestions as helpful; he hears criticism. She says: “would you like me to read you the instructions?” He hears: “you’re too dumb to even read.” She says: “would it help if I handed you the parts in order.” He hears: “you’re such a loser, you can’t get right on your own.”

She’s sincerely trying to be helpful; she just doesn’t understand that deep below the surface, self-assembly furniture is a modern day proving ground for manhood. The best thing she can do is go out for a coffee with her friends so he can surprise her when she gets back. She doesn’t even need to know that he reassembled it three times before he got it right (eventually with the help of the instructions!) or that a few extra nails were employed to keep the thing from falling apart.

So what’s really happening? Men are particularly sensitive to being seen as incompetent.

The need to be respected seems to be hard-wired and often expresses itself as a stubborn resistance to help of any kind. This ‘shame vulnerability’ as psychologists call it, is part of what makes men great. But it’s also really difficult for women to understand.

So our advice: D.I.Y. stands for ‘do it yourself’ not ‘do it yourselves’! Sometimes the best help is the help that just keeps out of the way.

Questions for Reflection

1. What happened the last time you attempted to assemble D.I.Y. furniture together?

2. How do you react when you feel incompetent? How does your spouse react?

  • defensive
  • critical
  • argumentative
  • withdrawn
  • bossy

Other Posts in this Series

Why Couples fight in Ikea: here

The Ikea Carpark Battle: here

The Ikea Assembly Meltdown: here – this post


*No criticism intended – these observations apply equally to almost all home furnishing stores

Francine & Byron Pirola

Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children. Their articles may be reproduced for non commercial purposes with appropriate acknowledgement and back links. For Media Enquiries Please Contact us here

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