SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A Southern California clinical psychologist is using the world’s largest retailer, IKEA, to study the dynamics of a couple’s relationship.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, who also teaches psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, said time spent at IKEA, and the time it takes to put together the furniture purchased at the store can say a lot about your relationship.

“Keep in mind, why are you in a furniture store? To furnish your home and that’s a place you occupy as a couple,” Dr. Durvasula said. “The tricky bit here is, it’s not even selecting it, which is half of the battle. But then you have to get it home and you have to put it together. And that requires communication, cooperation, collaboration and respect – the tools every relationship needs, but unfortunately [can] fall apart as soon as there are hammers, nails and allen wrenches involved.”

Durvasula said just the fact that the couple is purchasing furniture at IKEA speaks a lot about their relationship.

“The couple may simply be under stress. The fact is if they’re buying new furniture so they may in fact be in the midst of a move, they may be remodeling, they’re spending money that they may or may not have,” she said. “So there’s already a baseline stress that sensitizes the situation and makes it a powder keg.”

“But it also gives some insight into their respect for each other. Are they mindful? Do they take a minute before they call the other one a name? It can speak to how dismissive they may get with each other under a stressful condition. In essence, putting together this furniture is like a pressure cooker. How do they behave when the stress is on?”

And a massive wall unit like IKEA’s Liatorp? She calls that the “divorce maker.” “It is a wall unit extraordinaire. Some pieces of furniture require two hands, two people, pieces of glass, making drawers,” said Durvasula. “Because it requires so much collaboration, so much cooperation, and there’s a potential that someone could get hurt if this thing comes crashing down, you better be on the same page. It’s the ultimate test – if you can put that piece together, you can start planning your 50th wedding anniversary party.”

Dr. Durvasula said that the process of buying furniture and putting it together can be difficult on the relationship, but many times, it can also bring two people closer together, where they see their hard work and dedication in the finished product, and a sign of the strength of their relationship.

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