The “Ikea Effect” in Marriage

My aunt and uncle came through Atlanta a couple of weeks ago on their trek to escape the horrid winter the north has experienced this year. It was their first time visiting the house we bought a year and a half ago.

And as I was taking them on the obligatory house tour, I realized something.

I don’t feel a super-strong sense of ownership of my home. At least not like I did with my old house. With my first property, there was not a wall I didn’t paint, a floor I didn’t redo or a room that wasn’t meticulously planned and executed. I was proud of that house, not because it was so great, but because my then-husband and I created it through endless hours of sweat and tears, late-night marathons of Love Line alternating with the soundtrack from Jesus Christ Superstar and countless creative work-arounds to create our vision on the cheap. We made that house.

I love my home now. Unlike the last one, this one didn’t require endless hours (and dollars!) to make it what we wanted. In most ways, it was move in ready. All we have really personalized at this point is the basement theater and, to a much lesser extent, the yard.  Which has been awesome (especially because it gives us time to live, not just renovate). Yet it also changes how I feel about the house. It’s mine, but it’s not born of me. I live here, but I didn’t have to give it life.

Economists have dubbed the impact of sweat equity on emotions the “Ikea effect” after the attachment people can feel to their inexpensive mass-produced furniture after they have contributed their effort in the turns of a few cam nuts and the insertion of countless wooden dowels.

It’s why people often have an inflated sense of value of a home they have renovated or believe that others will hold their creations in high regard. It is even part of what makes every parent believe their child is special.

When we build it, we appreciate it.

All of these thoughts tumbled through my mind as I led them through the rooms. Honestly, it was starting to make me feel like we needed to fast-track some of the non-essential projects we have planned for the future.

And then I realized the impact the Ikea effect has on my marriage.

Unlike my first marriage, this one was born of intention and effort on both of our parts. We have removed the rotten pieces of our pasts, sanded smooth the rough edges and built upon the reinforced foundation.

And when we build it, we cherish it.

I may not have much sweat equity in my house yet (although this gardening season will change that. literally.), but I have plenty of sweat equity in my marriage. A trade-off I am more than okay with.

Where do you see the Ikea effect in your life?

Thank you for sharing!

12 thoughts on “The “Ikea Effect” in Marriage

  1. This is a fantastic life observation that makes a lot of sense to me.

    There is a massive collection of great posts that live here. But I particularly like and appreciate the thoughts in this one.

  2. I think life is all about effort. When you have worked towards something, you have a vested interest in it. A while back I read an article about relationships, and it said that many relationships have major milestones, and how people approach those milestones has a big impact on the success and their enjoyment in the relationships.

    The ideas was, some people “slide” through the milestones. They are things that “just happen”, people are just along for the ride or going through the motions. That’s different from when people are intentional about events in a relationships. When you are intentional, it shows your investment. And as you said, when you have invested effort it makes you more inclined to value something and fight for it when times are tough.

  3. Hmm, I think I am moving toward a sedative blinder phase. If I don’t like it I am ignoring it, not talking about it, and stepping over it. But yes, when I cared, what I accomplished was so much more fulfilling, and I think I recall ….happiness!

  4. livebysurprise – Liv is the pseudonym reformed divorcee and single mom - now married, coparenting and working mother of three. She's been featured on ScaryMommy, HuffPost Divorce, The Mid and More at
    Liv BySurprise says:

    Yes – I’d much rather work on my relationship than my house – but both were such a mess before they both crumbled. My home now is just that – a home.

  5. Hmmm, I must wonder if this is why my home meant so much more to me than him. I will ponder this one. I think you must be right though.

  6. It’s so funny that you talked about the “Ikea Effect” in this post. My wife and I always joke that people should build Ikea furniture within their first year of being married to really test the relationship. I really like the way you attributed that same feeling of accomplishment and sense of worth to building a strong marriage. Great post!

    D. Jamison

Leave a ReplyCancel reply