How to share a chair
August 14, 2017 10:12 AM   Subscribe

I need to work in a very specific chair due to some medical concerns. I spent many years of trial and error, research and money finding an ergonomic solution which culminated in the purchase of a special chair years before I met my partner. When partner and I initially moved into together, I was the only person who used this chair. Then, little by little, they began using the chair for their own work when I wasn't around -- and now they insist on sharing it even when I am around. I actually need this chair for medical reasons and I feel that it is "mine". They think the chair is now "ours". How do we proceed?

Let me preface this by saying that I love my partner and that we are both trying to come up with a reasonable solution to this cyclical problem.

Relevant factors:

1) My partner works from home several days a week. I also work from home at some point every day of the week.

2) We only have one office, which we share. "My" chair is in the office, along with a sofa. There is no room for a second chair (like mine) in the office.

3) When I am working in the office in "my" chair, my partner will work in the living room. This arrangement seemed to suit us for a couple of years until my partner realized she did not have a proper ergonomic arrangement and she increasingly began to use my chair.

4) "My" chair is the only place I can work without significant pain, which is why I purchased it. Unfortunately, when my partner is working in the office in the chair (which they also find very comfortable), I cannot work safely or ergonomically anywhere else in the home.

5) We've tried to begin to address this by purchasing a new sofa (it's on it's way but we'll have to wait another month). We are sharing the cost of the sofa. My partner says she thinks the sofa will allow her to work comfortably at home when I'm using the chair in the office. In the meantime, we still have occasional conflict over the chair.

We have discussed setting up a schedule for sharing the chair in the office -- or purchasing a second chair like mine. However, setting up a schedule is still problematic because it means there are times when I will want or need to work at home and I won't be able to because she's using the chair. Whereas, I feel that because I have specific medical concerns, this chair is basically my medical equipment and I should be able to use it whenever I need to.

I've also noticed that I feel resentful about the idea of researching and paying for half of a new chair. I feel that my partner should research a chair that suits her needs and buy it on her own. But even as I write these words, I wonder if I am being selfish or unreasonable.

My partner thinks that the chair is "ours", just like the bed is "ours" even though she purchased it before we met. I feel that a bed and medical equipment (my chair) are not the same things and that if she needs an ergonomic chair, that's a personal expense - especially because there's no guarantee I will be able to use whatever chair she ends up feeling comfortable in. The model of chair I purchased is hard to find at a reasonable price.

Should I simply suck it up and agree to pay half of the cost of a new second chair exactly like mine, which we would put in the living room? We are thinking about eventually getting married and I suspect (?) that a properly-marriage-minded-person would see this as a joint concern and pay whatever it costs to find a joint solution, rather than wanting the other person to handle it on their own. Which is a long way of saying, I think I'm probably wrong to feel resentful. Married or long-term-committed Mefites: How would you think about and handle this?
posted by Gray Skies to Human Relations (49 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cancel the sofa, replace it with another desk and a proper chair for your partner.
posted by mochapickle at 10:15 AM on August 14, 2017 [70 favorites]

FFS, it's your chair. She should buy a chair of her own.

If this is the way she treats your medical equipment--I mean, jeez, take a fresh look at this relationship.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:19 AM on August 14, 2017 [44 favorites]

What? Your medical needs vastly outweigh your partner's comfort. The chair that you researched and paid for is yours to use whenever you want it. I think your partner is being unreasonable and, frankly, a jerk.

Joint investment in a sofa that is comfortable for both of you makes sense. Whether or not you should split the cost of a new chair, I can't say.

The second expensive ergonomic chair is actually something you should have a long talk about before marriage, because this kind of thing (how to pay for something expensive that will solely benefit one person) is something that will come up A LOT in a partnership, and reasonable people can hold a variety of views on how stuff like that gets paid for.
posted by lalex at 10:20 AM on August 14, 2017 [13 favorites]

The real problem here is that you both need home office space, since you're both working from home at the same time, and you only have one home office. If you have a second area where you could set up an ad hoc office space, pool your money and do it.

I'd be tempted to do something novel with the second space to mix things up a little, like a sitting/standing desk, or some sort of office nook instead of a full office layout. If it's only a couple hours of the day, you might not need anything as formal.
posted by mikeh at 10:21 AM on August 14, 2017 [24 favorites]

This has nothing to do with being "partners" (unless you are business partners), or about maybe getting married someday. This has to do with work and health.

The equipment you use for work is not community property like a bed you sleep in together. Your partner needs to do her own research and purchase her own chair.
posted by headnsouth at 10:21 AM on August 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

The bed/chair comparison doesn't work. You can both use the bed at the same time.

This is your medical equipment. It's something that you need to avoid pain. I'd be very concerned about sharing my life with someone who thought she had as much right to it as you do.
posted by FencingGal at 10:26 AM on August 14, 2017 [32 favorites]

Avoidance of pain trumps preference for comfort. No brainer.

I don't see the need to call this medical equipment, though. Your case is strong enough without that terminology-- if you're trying to get her on a technicality, this isn't the way to do it because she could say that technically the chair is not medical equipment if it wasn't prescribed or whatever. The argument will go nowhere. It's about being considerate, not classifications of furniture.

You either need to totally rethink the office arrangement so that she's comfortable too, or assess your partner's kindness. Sorry, but I can't imagine taking a chair away from someone in pain even if I didn't love them!
posted by kapers at 10:32 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

What kind of "partner" denies you something that you need to alleviate pain?

I agree with the second office idea—and your partner should get whatever chair she feels she would be most comfortable in. I think it's her job to research this (unless you are some sort of super-knowledgeable furniture expert?) but it would be kind and team-spirited of you chip in on the purchase cost.
posted by BrashTech at 10:32 AM on August 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'd be very concerned about sharing my life with someone who thought she had as much right to it as you do.

I really agree with this. If you needed to use a motorized scooter for disability reasons, would your partner insist on getting to use it sometimes because they found it more comfortable than walking? It's basically the same thing.
posted by lalex at 10:34 AM on August 14, 2017 [16 favorites]

"My" chair is the only place I can work without significant pain

It's actually appalling to me that anyone, let alone someone who supposedly loves you, selfishly does not seem to care about this. I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around her thought process. Please insist on exclusively having the chair whenever you are working, and let her buy her own chair.
posted by the webmistress at 10:35 AM on August 14, 2017 [27 favorites]

Yeah, it's your chair. If she likes that specific chair, she should buy one like it for herself. If she does not want to pay that much for a chair, then she needs to research chairs and find one that she likes that is also in her price range. The burden is not on you to pay for half of a new chair to keep her from using your chair that you need just because she likes to sit in it.

If you didn't have the chair and were purchasing a medical chair now, I doubt she'd see it as a purchase for both of you.
posted by Polychrome at 10:36 AM on August 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm not clear if she is also in pain when she is working on her non-ergonomic sofa. But I think you need to reorganise the home office so you both can have an ergonomic setup and she can get her own chair, either the same as yours or not as she desires. I agree that the chair is not a shared chair, but "sorry you can't have any chair at all because we don't have room" is also a bad result.
posted by jeather at 10:40 AM on August 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

[Thanks for the responses.. you're all raising good points but maybe let me clarify this:

It's not just a matter of my partner feeling "comfortable" when they work -- they also feel pain when they try to work without the use of my chair. When we lived separately, they had an at-home work arrangement that suited them, but they no longer have the desk/chair they were using at the time -- long story, but those furniture items belonged to their roommate at the time. It seems my partner never invested in researching and buying whatever they need to work ergonomically from home. So now the question is: is it reasonable for us to split the cost of whatever it is they need, or should they handle this on their own? And if it matters for context, at one point in our relationship my partner moved in with me in a town far from their job and walked 3 miles a day to and from the train station to commute to work mainly for my comfort and convenience -- another story for another time. We're no longer in that situation and we now live somewhere that is convenient for both of us. But.. trust me when I say that my partner is not someone who is selfish or a jerk. ]
posted by Gray Skies at 10:40 AM on August 14, 2017

Your partner should buy another chair for their own use.
posted by something something at 10:41 AM on August 14, 2017 [16 favorites]

You two need two distinct office spaces, not a more comfortable couch, unless your partner is really OK with working room home while sitting on the couch (which it sounds like they kind of aren't).

A good compromise might be that they keep the dedicated office space with their own brand new chair, and you get a brand new desk somewhere else with your chair.
posted by muddgirl at 10:41 AM on August 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Which is a long way of saying, I think I'm probably wrong to feel resentful.

Nope. I saw your follow-up and still...nope.
posted by the webmistress at 10:44 AM on August 14, 2017 [11 favorites]

If there is no room for a second chair in the office, that is the problem to solve. Your partner is also deserving of an ergonomic set-up that is not painful for her either. It sounds like she has a really crappy set-up when you are using the office/chair, and that can cause real physical harm too. You should prioritize coming up with a solution for a second office set-up. That is the only fair option for both of you. If there was space for a second chair, and she was still using yours, yes-- that would be jerky. But that's not the situation. So you are just as responsible for helping to create an equitable workspace as she is. Maybe that can be done in another area of the house, but seems like that should be a major priority/non-negotiable step if both of you want your totally reasonable needs met, at least to me.

I have no idea why people are painting your partner as a monster. There is no room for a second chair, and working on a couch is absolutely not a long-term fair solution.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:45 AM on August 14, 2017 [40 favorites]

Honestly it is reasonable to purchase a chair together, or it is reasonable to have it be out of her money, and that just depends on how you split up your finances (I lean towards her paying for the chair). The first discussion is how you can set up your space such that you can both work from home pain-free, then you figure out what needs to be purchased that fits into this new setup. If there truly is only room for one chair and desk, then you need to make a WFH schedule and just take turns, because you can't call dibs on working from home forever.
posted by jeather at 10:46 AM on August 14, 2017 [8 favorites]

FFS buy another chair. It's a benefit to both of you, it helps your partner, it helps you. How do you split other purchases? Is there a house fund? Split the cost of the chair however you would handle the purchase of toiletries, work clothes, or medical expenses.
posted by raccoon409 at 10:47 AM on August 14, 2017 [9 favorites]

I think she's responsible for finding a chair for her pain management and her budget, but if the issue really is an office rethink/redesign/addition, then you'll both end up needing to pay toward that. (And if you're feeling romantic and she has a birthday or holiday or anniversary coming up, you might get her a chair and then there will be no hard feelings about the chair ever again.)
posted by kapers at 10:48 AM on August 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Your partner is a mooch.

They need to step up and take care of their own needs, otherwise understand that your needs will always be a distant second and they are too cheap (or mean?) to take care of themselves properly in a way that partners should. It'll always be on you.

This would actually be dealbreaker territory for me. Everyone can be a little oblivious to others' needs periodically, but this is a shocking lack of boundaries.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:57 AM on August 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

If they are also feeling pain, then definitely cancel the sofa. There's a reason that there aren't egonomic office sofa's - because it's a not-workable concept.

With the space gained from not having a "work-couch" setup a second work space. Maybe your partner doesn't need an exact clone of your chair, but maybe your partner does - that's something that they need to investigate for setting up a second work space.

Depending on how the two of you do finances, this is either a joint purchase, or a purchase all of your partners. In my household things needed only for work (which have included clothes only worn for work) would be a joint expense/investment, even if more regular clothes (jeans, t shirts) come from personal allowance. If you don't have joint finances, then this should probably be an expense of your partner for setting up their office. This chair/desk would then also be their's if they ever move out.

But seriously cancel the couch.
posted by nobeagle at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think it's completely unreasonable for you to pay for a new chair for your partner in this situation. They should be taking care of themselves. I just can't even wrap my brain around this. I would never steal my husbands stuff and claim that it's "ours" and impose on him in this way. I'd talk with him about creating room for a second chair and then I'd buy myself whatever I needed. Ultimately though- this is about how you want to handle money in this relationship. I recognize that not everyone is like me. I do think it's reasonable for you to work with your partner to redo your office or whatever to make space for their needs too.
posted by FireFountain at 11:18 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I would redo your home office by getting rid of the sofa in there, and getting a new desk of some sort for your partner. I would then get a new ergonomic chair for you, and she then takes over full time use of the existing chair. If you like having separate spaces, then cancel the new sofa, and replace with some kind of living room work space desk/carrel for your partner. Wall desk, as an example, or armoire desk with doors that close it off when not in use. Again I would give her your existing chair, and buy a new one for yourself. If existing sofa will not work in the living room with the addition of a workspace for your partner, then replace with comfortable chairs, or a love seat.

I don't have any advice on the money part of it, which is really part of a broader conversation you two need to have going forward on how to pay for things (in my household partner would pay for the new desk, and I would pay for the new chair, but really we pretty much share expenses on this kind of thing; i.e. a good home workspace for a partner would be a priority.)
posted by gudrun at 11:41 AM on August 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't know whose idea it was to pursue the avenue of a more comfortable couch for working from home (for someone who works several days a week from home?!?!) but your partner needs their own, dedicated, proper office setup. It seems the most logical approach to that is to get rid of the couch in the office and have two desks/two comfortable chairs. Who pays for it depends somewhat on what your financial agreement/individual situations are (like, if you make twice as much as she does it would certainly be the kind and loving thing to do to help out financially, especially if they got rid of their old office setup to move in with you).

How are you guys as far as communication in other areas? Because the whole scenario is just...odd...from my perspective anyhow. Like, why didn't the obvious solution of replacing the office couch with a proper desk/chair get pushed harder? Why didn't you defend your chair and your need to use it more assertively? It could be that your girlfriend is a jerk who has poor boundaries, but you could also be contributing to that by not asserting yourself enough and then feeling resentful afterwards.
posted by drlith at 11:45 AM on August 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

The responses are helping me understand that we need more clarity about joint vs personal expenses. We're going to work on this..

why didn't the obvious solution of replacing the office couch with a proper desk/chair get pushed harder? Why didn't you defend your chair and your need to use it more assertively? It could be that your girlfriend is a jerk who has poor boundaries, but you could also be contributing to that by not asserting yourself enough and then feeling resentful afterwards.

Office couch/futon turns the office into a multi-function room: it can be a den where we sit/lay down to watch movies (there's a second TV in there).. it can be a guest room when friends stay over.. it can be a second bedroom if one of us wants to sleep alone.

Our communication is pretty good and has improved dramatically in the last year (we've done a lot of work in this area). I've definitely made my needs known about the chair.. and she made it known that she really does need a proper work space aside from my chair.. we have struggled with finding the solution, thus the question. My work schedule is far more flexible than hers so mainly, I let her work in the office when she needs to, and I re-arrange my schedule around hers. Our arrangement seems to work 80-90% of the time except when I ask to use the office chair when she's working from home and it happens to be/feel inconvenient for her.
posted by Gray Skies at 11:55 AM on August 14, 2017

Yes, you need a second proper office setup. Whether that comes entirely out of her pocket or a shared expense is really up to the larger financial picture of your partnership - there's not a right or wrong answer here.

For what it's worth, personally, I think that I would split the cost of the new desk/chair/whatever (or maybe split it 70/30 if 50/50 raises your hackles too much) but I would put the bulk of the research on her - she should find out what setup will work best for her, that's not your job. You may of course have some good insight or sources from your own experience and would likely share that with here as a starting point, but she should do her own research on what is newer in the marketplace and will suit her own needs best.
posted by Stacey at 11:56 AM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Commenting on your followup - if both of you need to work from home from time to time, you can not afford to not have separate work spaces. Your choices are:

1) You stop living together. Each of you has an office at your home/apartment.

2) You admit that this den/office cannot be multi-function if it can't serve it's primary function. Currently it's like you have a hammer/screw driver combo which is a crappy hammer and a crappy screw driver. Two separate work spaces in this office so you can both work at the same time.

3) You decide that you want the multi-function room so badly that one of you sets up a separate work space, that they use full time, elsewhere. In the bed room, in the primary TV room, wherever. Again, I'm not talking about a space that someone *can* use, but ultimately won't if they have any choice in the matter. I.E. if you partner won't spend all of their time working on this "work couch," then this shouldn't be considered.

When I say that you can't afford to not have one of these options I'm not talking financially. I'm talking about emotionally working together as a couple. It's relatively "up there" on the adulting scale, but an absolute necessity for adults who work from home. Anything less than two distinct work spaces is a compromise which will be a breeding ground of problems.
posted by nobeagle at 12:10 PM on August 14, 2017 [34 favorites]

As you ended the original question with this: "Married or long-term-committed Mefites: How would you think about and handle this?" I will answer that broad question. I would think about it not as a question of office furniture but as a question of love.

And so I suggest that you, and your partner, each to try to look each other in the eye and fill in the blank here: "Baby I hear you when you tell me that you suffer actual physical pain if you work somewhere other than in that chair. But nonetheless I insist that you let me have the chair now because _________."

I suggest that if either of you can, with a straight face, fill in that blank in any way - then you have bigger problems than the chair. As for the particular problem of the chair, just buy another damn chair and share this one (with a coin flip or chess timer if necessary) until you have saved up enough money for another.
posted by sheldman at 12:13 PM on August 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Your chair is a bit of a red herring to me. It sounds like you've monopolized the only office set up at home while she has tried to make due with the couch. She even works from home more than you. This is really strange that it's framed as her not respecting or caring about your medical needs. Right now having a guest bed is prioritized over her having a workable office solution.

I agree with everyone else who advises that the priority needs to be on getting her a desk and chair set up. Maybe she could buy the chair and you split the desk?
posted by JenMarie at 12:18 PM on August 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

JenMarie: I work from home far more than she does -- but I also have more scheduling flexibility. Okay, bowing out for good now -- thanks so much for these very helpful responses!
posted by Gray Skies at 12:25 PM on August 14, 2017

Get rid of the office couch and set up a second workstation. Something you need to use every day to make a living trumps something you might use once in a while for movies or an overnight guest.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:29 PM on August 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

Everybody, I swear to god, thinks that they can totally make this work because most of the time only one of them is at a desk at any given time. And it never works. It didn't work for me when I was living with my ex while they were in grad school. It just doesn't work. Two desks. Two chairs. It seems, on some intuitive level, like it should work. But it doesn't.

You need your medical needs to be respected, and that should come first, but she needs to feel like a first-class occupant of her home, which includes having her own work space that belongs to her personally. On the level of the chair alone, your medical condition should be the primary concern, but the problem is that this chair is acting as a proxy for access to the only proper work space. This is going to be even more true if the two of you share any computer equipment, whether a desktop machine or just monitors or whatever, that lives in that space. If she had another chair she could use at the same desk, you'd almost certainly still be having disputes over who should get to be there when.
posted by Sequence at 12:42 PM on August 14, 2017 [28 favorites]

Pay for half of the new chair. Otherwise, you are indicating that her comfort and health are not as important as yours. Her not having a "proper ergonomic arrangement" is likely to lead to pain issues for her down the line, if they haven't already.

Also, if the fix is that easy, why wouldn't you for the sake of the relationship?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:43 PM on August 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh sorry -- I misunderstood that part about who works from home more. Nevertheless I still think the solution is another workstation. With maybe some creative thinking on how the office can be organized or set up to still allow a guest air mattress as needed. I do understand it's ideal to keep guest options if possible! Good luck!
posted by JenMarie at 1:36 PM on August 14, 2017

When we lived separately, they had an at-home work arrangement that suited them, but they no longer have the desk/chair they were using at the time -- long story, but those furniture items belonged to their roommate at the time. It seems my partner never invested in researching and buying whatever they need to work ergonomically from home.

OK it sounds to me like you need a particular type of ergonomic chair but your partner can work comfortably in a much wider variety of chairs. She never did a bunch of research because she doesn't really need a specific type of chair, most will do--but it needs to be an actual workspace. She's using your chair now because her only alternative is working from the sofa.

Find a space in your house where you can set up a table or desk and buy a basic office chair and see if that helps.
posted by mama casserole at 2:01 PM on August 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I misinterpreted your situation in an earlier comment so perhaps it makes more sense for you to stay at the current workstation, but someone who works from home 3 days a week needs their own space! I agree that the chair has probably become kind of a symbol of this unspoken argument about who "gets" to use the one office space, where you appear to have a monopoly because you own the only office chair. I can totally understand how that both feels very fair and very unfair depending on which perspective you have.

Personally in the spirit of relationship harmony, in my long term relationship we would split the expense of a desk and chair that only one person would use, the same way we split the vast majority of our expenses. Getting your partner an office space setup increases your work flexibility as you won't have to schedule around them anymore. It will likely increase their happiness and comfort in the home which increases both of your happiness and comfort.

If the sticking point is that your partner won't do any research to obtain a better office situation - research that you had exhaustively done for yourself - then I do sympathise. This kind of mental work is a burden that is not often acknowledged as a form of contribution to the relationship. I don't get a good sense for why your partner hasn't done anything to get a desk of their own (learned helplessness? some stuck mental pattern about how much space they "deserve?" lack of funds? thinking this work from home stuff is temporary when it's not?) so the first step would probably be asking them if you don't know either.
posted by muddgirl at 2:58 PM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

You share an office but they have no actual working space in the office but a couch? Everyone needs their own space to work, I'm with the get rid of the couch & get a desk & chair in there. If the couch is in good enough condition sale of it could help offset costs of new furniture.
posted by wwax at 3:25 PM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

To add to the chorus: you each need your own dedicated work space with a desk and chair (and kettle and framed
photos all the other office stuff that makes work alright). Especially if you are working from home as a regular part of your schedule. Working hunched over on a shitty sofa while your partner is on a big desktop in the other room is a great way to feel really bad about your work and somehow even life. Ask me how I know.

Here to add: is coworking an option for either of you? That was how I made it out of the aforealluded to "two grad students, one desk" problem.
posted by athirstforsalt at 3:40 PM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Suggestion: Use the room exclusively as an office. Partner who can reasonably cite the new chair and desk as a business expense (or medical expense?) on their taxes buys and uses the new chair & desk. (I am not your C.P.A., this is not tax filing or accounting advice, please do your own research regarding feasibility for your respective filing situations.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:04 PM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I totally agree that you need another chair and desk urgently. But I think there's a slightly deeper problem visible.

There are two ways of joining forces with a partner. One is that you combine and everything becomes "ours". The other is that you maintain a knowledge of what belongs to each person and maintain separate accounts and a joint account for "shared" purchases. It seems to me you're trying to get the best of both worlds in thinking of the bed (she bought) as "ours" but the chair (that you bought) as "yours". Personally, I think that attempting to treat if differently because of its semi-medical status is a red herring. It seems to me that she is thinking in the way I would, that all things become "ours" and we go out and buy more stuff together as needed.

Neither your view nor hers is necessarily wrong, but conflict is going to arise if you can't meet on this kind of issue. Whatever happens with the chair is likely to come up again otherwise.
posted by tillsbury at 4:55 PM on August 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you have a really nice and expensive chair, that you bought, which you need in order to earn a living. Having a solution is good. This is your solution. It is independent of a solution for her home office needs.

It sounds like both of you are a bit passive-aggressive and it is moving into the cranky stage. You are both being too nice, and it will cause you to resent each other unforgivably eventually. Tell each other what you need, even if it sounds silly or petty or weird, and set priorities, and make plans together.

So, together, make the room a real office: Get rid of the futon, find a desk and other accoutrements that will work for your partner. Assuming that you'll be ok with both of you in there working from time to time. Watch movies in bed or somewhere, and hypothetical guests can be creatively accomodated when they crystalize into real guests.

However. Under no circumstances should you give her your chair. Unless you were planning on buying yourself a new one anyway before this came up. Because that's weird, passive-aggressive guilt talking. If she wants exactly the same model of chair, then she can hunt one down at a price that she's willing to pay, or fit it into the joint office outfitting budget that is reasonable for both of you and that you won't resent each other for later. Otherwise, she can find some other chair to use at her desk.

She needs to ask herself, will she be resentful if she doesn't have a Very Expensive chair too? Even if she has her own desk and work space. Is it important to her that her chair is equal to yours in quality/value/price, or will something less special be ok? Emotions are real, and even if they don't make sense, they still need to be factored into this. When she's figured this out, either way, the two of you can move forward with clarity and do it the way it needs to be done for both of you to feel right about your home and relationship.
posted by monopas at 4:59 PM on August 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

If your partner is also in pain when trying to work without a proper desk chair, then it sounds like you both actually have a medical need for an ergonomic work station/chair, even if yours is the only medical condition that has actually been diagnosed by a doctor. I agree with those that say there's a need to set up a second office space either in the office room, or somewhere else in your living space. Another good option could be for one of you to rent a desk in a coworking space -- I am guessing it would make the most sense for your partner to be the one to do this if she is more flexible in what types of chairs she can comfortably use.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:15 PM on August 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Even before we were married, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my partner and I decided, when we committed to one another, that our possessions and income were, collectively, OURS, not hers or mine. We've maintained separate bank accounts because it's easier to manage them (i.e., neither has to ask whether a check or ATM withdrawal will result in an overdraft), but they're joint accounts. We consult one another on major purchases (though as we've aged and our earnings have grown, the threshold for "major" has increased).

As far as possessions, we recognize that some are primarily used by one or the other. My bicycles are too big for her, and hers uncomfortably small for me. My laptop is configured the way I want; hers, the way she wants, but we each have user accounts on the other's, and we do share them if need be. Because of size and body shape we don't share clothes. But our basic attitude is that we have signed on to share resources, and "mine" is a functional designation, not a property designation.

To apply our principle to your situation: If my spouse experienced physical pain when she wasn't using a chair that she had bought for that specific reason, I wouldn't want to use it if she needed it, because that's pretty mean. If I found that I couldn't work pain-free without using the same chair, I'd do one of two things, depending on how much I valued my time vs. my money: (1) research less expensive chairs that might work for me, or (2) pull out my credit card and buy another of the same damn chair.

Not a direct answer, but I'll just add that back in 2012, when I was experiencing severe lower back pain that led me to get a standing desk, I persuaded my doctor to refer me to a physical therapist, who gave me a set of core exercises that, after 3-4 weeks, almost completely eliminated my pain. If your circumstances permit, and you haven't tried PT, I strongly recommend it. My doc thought it was age-related arthritis and more or less inevitable, but the PT proved otherwise.

And this, too, also not a direct answer: If you both work from home a lot, and there's a co-working facility near you, consider that, too. At least in the short run, a small monthly rent might be worth it if it gives both of you an ergonomic workplace. Plus, as someone who spends weeks/months working from home, I often think I'd get more done if I joined a co-working facility.

posted by brianogilvie at 5:23 PM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd do one of two things, depending on how much I valued my time vs. my money: (1) research less expensive chairs that might work for me, or (2) pull out my credit card and buy another of the same damn chair.

In my marriage, this is how it would work, too. (And in fact, it currently is -- it turns out she really likes the expensive chair we bought to be "mine," so this will become more "hers" and I'll go chair shopping again.)

Financially, we have everything combined into just "ours." There is no mine/yours money in how we have it set up, so decisions like what you are presenting are a bit easier. You have the added layer of needing to negotiate finances as well as the furniture decisions, and that isn't always easy.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:37 PM on August 14, 2017

It sounds like you both genuinely need an ergonomic set-up. To my sensibilities, since you share office space, having a set up that works well for both of you is a shared expense (my husband and I pool everything, so my sensibilities may not be either of yours).

Overall, I understand resenting doing extra work/spending more money...but in light of this:

if it matters for context, at one point in our relationship my partner moved in with me in a town far from their job and walked 3 miles a day to and from the train station to commute to work mainly for my comfort and convenience

I think recalibrating on your part may be in order. Not in the sense that you're being horrendously selfish or that you owe her for the commute. But in the sense that you need to think of making life better and comfortable for both of you. It's a new way of thinking.

As you noted, you guys need to figure out how to manage money, and that will probably help a lot with your money concerns. As far as the time: Is researching big purchases a strong suit of yours, relative to her? If so, you could offer to do the research, then you get the new chair (or the old one if you'd prefer) while the purchasing is a shared expense. Think of the research as your version of taking on the long commute: something annoying you for her comfort knowing she does the same thing for you. Or research together, whatever works for you two as a couple.
posted by ghost phoneme at 8:31 PM on August 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

This sounds like it's on the verge of being A Thing. Sometimes, a chair is just a chair, but, in this case, it almost sounds as if it's symbolizing whose work, whose pain, and, indeed, which partner really matters in this relationship. If you get your partner a crappy chair, or one less nice than yours, it sounds as if there's a risk she might perceive that her work is of lesser value - or, worse, that she is. There's also this element of "saving the good chair for father when he gets home" that is undergirding this, although I don't know if you're male or male-presenting. But a lot of us grew up in homes where the dominant/male partner had special, protected areas, but our areas were never special or protected.

Given that, I would work together as a team to redesign two really nice workspaces for both of you, where you both had really great chairs and good ergonomics, and one partner isn't stuck in a corner with poor light or a draft or whatever. Bonus points if you ask her to name her dream chair, and she comes home one day to find it in front of her desk with a great big huge bow on it.

You may also want to pursue counseling, if this kind of attitude and discomfort is creeping into other areas of your relationship.
posted by dancing_angel at 12:45 PM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

A possible other solution given that you both telecommute: rent nearby office space for both of you to work in, furnish with existing desk and chair and new desk and chair. Turn home office into multipurpose TV/guest room.
posted by telophase at 11:22 AM on August 16, 2017

Update: Some of the comments here were enormously helpful in getting to the root of what needed to be solved. nobeagle's response was particularly on point as it helped me see that I really couldn't afford to *not* have a second chair for my partner (and for me, when she wants to use "my" chair). It took a few difficult conversations and some logistical planning but... We did find a great solution: a second, nearly identical chair, for a very good deal (partner took the lead in finding a sale). We split the cost, now have two chairs with appropriate work-surfaces within reach and couldn't be happier.
posted by Gray Skies at 6:07 AM on September 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

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