Experts reveal why we get the "ick" when dating

Have you ever looked at your partner and suddenly become overwhelmed with a feeling of physical repulsion? If yes, you’ve definitely had the "ick".

Experts reveal why we get the "ick" when dating
Continue reading
Read the article

If you’ve been keeping up with Love Island, you would have witnessed Priya Gopaldas utter infatuation with fellow islander Brett Staniland, only to be quickly followed by complete aversion. From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem strange that a person could turn off from their partner so quickly. But in reality,the "ick" is a very real and common dating phenomenon.

What is the "ick?”

If you don’t know what the "ick" is, Priya very aptly summed it up when describing her feelings to the rest of the girls:

I feel like sometimes when he holds my hand I feel like it’s my dad holding my hand, you know? Or like, my best mate... Honestly, I just don’t want to kiss him.

Priya’s take isn’t the first time the "ick" has seen camera time on the UK dating show. The term is actually believed to be coined by Olivia Attwood in season 3 when describing her relationship with Sam Gowland.

The "ick" is essentially the curse of modern dating. You could be wildly attracted to someone one day, but the next, any thoughts of physical intimacy would make you want to dry heave, seemingly without explanation.

Why do we get the “ick?”

Let’s set things straight; the “ick” isn’t anyone’s fault; it’s just a sign that maybe things aren’t meant to be.

Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist and clinical director of Private Therapy Clinic, explained to theIndependentthat the “ick” tends to set in early in a relationship, ‘after a period of mutual attraction, and before the relationship has had time to mature into a settled, long-term situation.’

However, if you’ve managed to pass the six-month mark “ick” free, don’t assume you’re safe. The “ick” can also sometimes develop later in the relationship if your partner reveals a trait or habit that’s deemed an absolute turn-off or deal-breaker.

Gurpreet Singh, a relationship counsellor and psychotherapist at Relate, spoke to Cosmopolitan, revealing exactly what triggers this involuntary reaction when dating:

It could be that you've picked something up in their value system that's completely different from yours, the way they laugh or tell a joke might completely irritate you, or it could even be just their look or smell. There are a whole variety of reasons why the “ick” develops, but it's a deep feeling that this person isn't somebody you want to be with.

During the honeymoon period, we may be blind to the incompatibilities that mark our relationships. But, when those rose-tinted glasses wear off, our subconscious can no longer deny the truth.

It may not just be incompatibility that determines “ick” factor; Sally Sheldon, the lead neuroscientist at brain training app Peak, gave a rather hot take to the Independent, describing that the dating phenomenon could all come down to our “inner saboteurs.”

When you start to feel your relationship is heating up, your brain tries to protect you. When our minds circulate fearful, critical, judgemental thoughts, our brains release stress hormones, such as cortisol. Why? Because our brain doesn’t know the difference between an event that’s actually happening and one that we are imagining.

Dr Sheldon continued: ‘Our survival response (fight, flight, or freeze) overrides our logical brains, putting our system on guard. We then convince ourselves that we’re going to get hurt by this person, and we convince ourselves we don’t like them anymore.’

What should you do if you get the “ick”?

The ick can sometimes be unshakable, which could be a sign that you and your partner should go your separate ways. Singh provided a resolve:

If you feel the ick, give it some time to think about whether you could put up with their behaviour long-term. However, if you can't even tolerate them touching your hand then it's not something you can continue to put up with. Ultimately, you shouldn't ignore it. The ick is a gut reaction, and usually the best thing is to trust your gut.

If your relationship has been doomed to the “ick”, make sure to be considerate of the other person’s feelings. It can be hurtful to admit your feelings of repulsion during a break-up, so it’s best to be tactful when explaining why you’ve had a change of heart. And remember, in the end, it’s really nobody’s fault.