Relationships

What Does “Getting The Ick” Really Mean (And Should We Follow That Feeling)?

By Meghan Dillon··  5 min read
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If you’re on TikTok, you’ve probably seen viral videos talking about “the ick.”

“Getting the ick” is when you suddenly find someone you’re romantically or sexually attracted to repulsive, and it seems like everyone on TikTok has experienced it. Though it’s common, should we always listen to the ick? Or is it just another way to self-sabotage a potential relationship? 

What Is the Ick?

Australian sex therapist Laura Miano describes the ick as "when you're initially romantically or sexually attracted to someone, but then suddenly get this feeling of disgust about them." The cause of this feeling can range from something that’s a deal-breaker like if he’s super rude to a waiter on a date (how someone treats waiters says a lot about them, and I will die on this hill) or something petty like if he uses an Android instead of an iPhone, wears cargo shorts, or likes Nickelback.

The ick is when you suddenly feel disgusted by someone you were initially romantically attracted to.

Miano continues, "The ick is something your mind is doing to motivate you to steer clear of this person. But it doesn't necessarily mean your subconscious is picking up on a red flag. It could be that you have unresolved issues from your past that are manifesting as the ick."

So is the ick reasonable, or are you unconsciously self-sabotaging a potential relationship over something superficial?

Is It the Ick, or Are You Self-Sabotaging?

Though talking about icks can be funny, it can also be a sign of self-sabotaging a relationship or having a fearful-avoidant attachment style. We live in a dating culture that talks about "catching feelings" like it’s the plague, so it only makes sense that we look for trivial reasons to get out of a budding relationship the second you realize you’re developing feelings for someone.

If the ick is actually a real red flag, you should listen to your gut and walk away. However, many of the icks you find displayed on social media have little to do with his values or character, like if he wears a clothing brand that’s out of style or likes a type of music that you don’t like. Some of these are so superficial that they almost sound like an excuse to write off a relationship with someone before it gets serious, and that’s where our self-sabotaging tendencies and attachment style come into play.

You probably know the four main types of attachment in attachment theory (secure, avoidant, anxious, and disorganized), but did you know there are subcategories in attachment theory? One attachment style is fearful-avoidant, a type of anxious attachment where one “craves intimacy but fears rejection.” Those with a fearful-avoidant attachment style are more likely to self-sabotage relationships, and one of the many ways to do this is to use an ick as an excuse to end a relationship before it even really gets started.

How To Overcome the Ick

So what do we do with the ick? And how do we know whether it’s something superficial or a real red flag? Miano says, "If you have a partner who's doing something that's bringing up a disgust response, definitely work through that. You want to feel good about the person you have so close to you."

She continues, "If you're getting caught up on this ick, I would say you should reflect and think if you can work through it. It doesn't mean you need to end everything, because the 'perfect' person does not exist."

Ask yourself if it’s a superficial trait or a character trait. If he treated the waitstaff at the restaurant you went to for dinner like crap, that’s an actual red flag because it says something about his character. If you’re not a fan of the shoes he wore to dinner, it’s probably superficial and you should look into why you feel like his shoes are a hang-up, especially if you really liked him before. There’s no such thing as Mr. Perfect, so you shouldn’t expect your date to be perfect. If you feel like you’re self-sabotaging due to your attachment style, take time to figure out what triggers your self-sabotage and discuss it with a therapist. 

Ask yourself if the cause of the ick is a superficial preference or a character trait. 

Another reason for an ick is if the behavior your date exhibits is something that an ex once did, even if it’s as small as ordering the same drink at the bar, making you feel like he’ll end up being just like your ex.

Miano says, "Remind yourself that you aren't back then. You're in the here and now, where you might have met a really great person that you genuinely like." We like to avoid things that remind us of toxic exes like the plague (even when we unconsciously date similar guys), but him being a die-hard basketball fan didn’t make him a crappy boyfriend. He was a crappy boyfriend because he didn’t treat you the way you deserved to be treated, and unless he’s Tristan Thompson, his interest in basketball has nothing to do with how he’ll treat you. If his favorite sport is his biggest red flag, you should be good to go.

Closing Thoughts

The ick can tell us to get away from a guy you’ve just started dating due to a potential red flag, but it can also be used as an excuse to self-sabotage a potential relationship for superficial reasons. If you experience the ick, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re turned off by the trait – you could be missing out on a great guy just because he prefers Kanye West to Drake.

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