What is the Ick and Why You Get to Feel It

By Wilbert S

January 10, 2024   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

You’re several weeks into dating someone you met on a popular dating app. Everything seemed promising until, during a casual outing, they utter a phrase or display a behavior that unexpectedly gives you a feeling of disgust. The excitement dissipates, replaced by a nagging sensation you later identify as “the ick.”

“The ick,” deeply rooted in pop culture through shows like Ally McBeal and Love Island, describes a sudden, often inexplicable loss of attraction towards a potential partner. While sometimes it acts as a red flag, indicating incompatibility, frequent experiences of “the ick” in the early stages of relationships might suggest deeper personal reservations. Dive into this article as therapists and experts shed light on this intriguing dating term and its implications.

The Ick Defined: More than Just a Feeling

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Often brushed off as just another feeling, “the ick” is a deep-seated, unconscious gut reaction that goes beyond fleeting emotions. Imagine being in the throes of initial attraction, only to have that spark overshadowed by an unexpected turn-off or feeling cringed due to a minor action or remark from the person you were getting to know. While it may elicit chuckles or seem inconsequential to some, for many, “the ick” becomes a pivotal deal breaker in their dating journey.

The term “the ick” gained traction after being popularized by the character Ally in the TV show Ally McBeal. As dating expert Hayley Quinn elucidates, “It’s a dating term that encapsulates that sudden shudder or feeling of disgust when you’re romantically involved with someone, leading to an almost instant aversion towards them.” This isn’t about spotting red flags or identifying glaring issues; it’s a visceral response to seemingly innocuous habits, behaviors, or personality quirks of the individual in question.

From a psychological standpoint, once “the ick” embeds itself, it can profoundly affect our perception of the other partner. These negative sentiments intensify, often making us pull away, distance ourselves, or even contemplate a break from the relationship.

From Initial Attraction to Feeling of Disgust

Photo: Canva

The landscape of modern dating, especially in the age of dating apps, often sees a whirlwind of emotions, with initial attraction being one of the most potent. The exhilaration of swiping right and feeling that instant connection can be electrifying. However, juxtaposed against this euphoria is the startling realization that a feeling of disgust can manifest just as swiftly.

The origins of “the ick” are not always rooted in significant missteps or glaring flaws. Sometimes, it’s the subtle, everyday actions that amplify this emotion. It might be the peculiar way a potential partner chews their food, the sound of their laugh, or even the cadence of their speech. Seemingly inconsequential behaviors, like talking with food in their mouth or the choice of words they frequently employ, can suddenly become the catalyst for this profound aversion.

This abrupt shift from admiration to aversion underscores the complexity of human emotions and connections. It serves as a reminder that in the intricate dance of dating and relationships, it’s often the minute details that hold the power to sway our feelings, for better or worse.

Is it Just a Gut Instinct or a Red Flag?

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In the realm of dating and relationships, gut instinct and red flags are often intertwined, and discerning between the two can be a challenging endeavor. The “ick”, at first glance, might appear as a transient gut response, yet it can be a mirror reflecting profound concerns or red flags about the individual or the dynamics of the relationship.

Take, for instance, a scenario where your date exhibits rudeness towards a bar stool attendant. This behavior, while seemingly minor, could be unveiling deeper-rooted issues related to empathy and respect. Such instances warrant introspection: Is this a genuine concern or are you magnifying trivial matters? Perhaps underlying fears of commitment or the dread of future heartbreak are pushing you to seek exit routes, however insignificant.

Yet, it’s imperative to be vigilant, for sometimes, the red flags are camouflaged as mere icks. You might be navigating uncharted territories in a relationship, experiencing issues for the first time, and your inner compass—your intuition—alerts you to tread cautiously.

When these unsettling feelings arise, it’s crucial to probe deeper. Ponder on the essence of your discomfort. Was the behavior an infringement of personal boundaries? Did it evoke intense unease? Or maybe it highlighted a stark contrast in core values? Identifying the root cause aids in making informed decisions, ensuring you prioritize your well-being and emotional health in the intricate dance of relationships.

>>Also Read: Red Flags: When To Start Giving Up On Relationships

Navigating the Ick: Is it Overcome-able?

Photo: Canva

The onset of the “ick” can indeed cast a shadow over a blossoming relationship, leading one to question its longevity. However, this sensation isn’t necessarily the final verdict. It’s pivotal to introspect, diving deep within oneself to decipher whether this feeling is an insurmountable deal breaker or a fleeting wave of aversion. Through candid conversations with friends, one can often navigate these emotions, possibly transcending them or at the very least, uncovering their roots.

Tackling the ick can be a daunting task, demanding time, patience, and a mental shift. If the source of discomfort stems from a trivial idiosyncrasy, a deliberate effort to reframe this trait as an endearing characteristic can be beneficial. Instead of fixating on it as an annoyance, envision it as a unique quirk that adds to their individuality.

Taking a step back and focusing introspectively can be enlightening. Gauge your emotions during interactions with your partner. Often, your inherent feelings provide a more accurate portrayal of the relationship’s vitality than external observations. Embrace empathy. Perfection is an illusion, and every relationship journey entails embracing imperfections. By understanding the backstory behind a partner’s flaws, one can foster compassion, which is instrumental in cultivating a space of mutual vulnerability.

However, if the ick remains persistent—resistant to introspection, discussions with mental health experts, or efforts to pinpoint its genesis—it’s vital to trust your instincts. Such unwavering feelings might signal a lack of genuine connection or interest, and acknowledging this truth is essential for both individuals’ well-being. Remember, it’s entirely acceptable to realize someone might not be the right fit for you.


The ick, while a seemingly modern term, is deeply rooted in our feelings and fears. It can be a way our subconscious tells us to distance ourselves from someone or something that doesn’t align with our values. However, it’s also crucial to be aware and not let fleeting feelings dictate the course of meaningful relationshipsUltimately, understanding the ick offers a unique insight into our desires, fears, and the complex world of dating in today’s reality.

>>Also Read: TikTok’s New Relationship Term: Beige Flags

FAQs: What is the Ick

How do I differentiate between “the ick” and just a temporary feeling of discomfort?

Differentiating between the ick and a temporary discomfort can be challenging. While both might seem similar, the ick tends to persist and overshadow the attraction you felt. Temporary discomfort might arise from a one-off event and usually fades with time or understanding. Always reflect on the feeling and discuss it with friends or a trusted person for more insight.

Can both men and women experience “the ick”?

Absolutely. The ick is not gender-specific. Both men and women can experience this unconscious gut reaction when dating. It’s essential to remember that emotions and feelings don’t discriminate based on gender.

Is it possible to salvage a relationship after feeling “the ick”?

Yes, it’s possible. While the ick can be a strong turn-off, if both parties are willing to communicate and understand the root cause, the relationship can be saved. Sometimes, understanding the reason behind the ick might even strengthen the relationship and deepen the bond.





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Wilbert S

Wilbert is an avid researcher and is deeply passionate about finance and health. When he's not working, he writes research and review articles by doing a thorough analysis on the products based on personal experience, user reviews and feedbacks from forums, quora, reddit, trustpilot amongst others.

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