Dating terms and trends are like sand through the hourglass (so are the Days Of Our Lives…) – by which I mean there’s a bazillion of them and they’re constantly coming and going, being replaced by new terms and new trends. But one that I’ve noticed has stuck around for a few years is the term “The Ick”. Friends of mine use it all the time as the reason they’re breaking up with someone they’ve been dating, and I’m over it.

To give you a bit of background, The Ick was coined by Babe back in 2017. A quote from author Daisy Bernard‘s friend sums the concept up:

“All of a sudden tiny little things like sending too many kisses after texts or even trying to constantly hold my hand started to really irritate me. From then it snowballed and literally everything he did or said pissed me off. I felt awful because I couldn’t pinpoint actually why those things were annoying me. I tried to ignore it, because things had been so great before, but I was so put off I couldn’t have sex with him, and eventually we broke up. Now I know that once I’ve got the ick, that’s it.”

Basically The Ick is when you’re suddenly turned off the person you’re seeing for no apparent reason. There’s no definitive “I’m not attracted to her”, “we don’t share the same values” or “we have literally nothing in common”. It’s when you’re coasting along beautifully until one day you’re suddenly off the person entirely.

Here’s my issue with this.

Firstly, we have to recognise that as a generation, we have zero patience. Blame the internet, our smartphones, social media – we can get information in minutes, we want to digest it in less time than that. It’s made us impatient little bitches – we want promotions NOW, money NOW, love NOW. In many ways this has made us ambitious and self-confident, and those are great things. We should fight for what we want… within reason. The thing with relationships is they grow, they don’t just magically sprout into phenomenal intimate love-fests.

So when you look at The Ick through the lens of us being impatient bastards, what you really see is people who can’t wait for their feelings to develop normally. Of course you think that guy/girl is Hot Shit for a month! You’ve been getting their “Christmas version” – all their best jokes, funniest stories, coolest outfits. And then suddenly it’s been six weeks and you’re realising that hey, this person is a human being with flaws who sometimes wears their mustard-coloured t-shirt with their mustard chinos! Sometimes they make a bad joke! Their constant texts were cute but now they’re kind of annoying! This kind of irritation isn’t because you’re actually disinterested now, it’s because reality has hit. The rose-coloured glasses are off and you’re moving into the stage where this person is becoming a part of your day-to-day life, and that life is busy and full of stuff that’ll stress you out, and in turn so will a person who you’re starting to get to know, sometimes.

Basically, focusing on these irritations is the result of impatience. Relationships develop naturally over time, so we should allow for ebbs and flows of feelings as we get to know this person on a deeper level.

Secondly, fuck Instagram because it’s made us expect perfection. How many people do you follow that are projecting a life via pictures that looks idyllic? For me, it’s like 50% of my feed and THAT’S after I binned all influencers because they were making me feel like shit. Social media is ruining how we live, because now we think those adorable couple shout-outs and perfect romantic weekenders our distant mates are posting is a true reflection of the overall state of their relationship. Guess what – it’s fucking not. I can tell you that those couples are far from perfect and go through patches where they’re off their partner, too.

Relationships are not meant to be 10/10 all the time. You are not meant to look at your partner every day and think “wow, I bagged the best one”. You know why? Because YOU are not 10/10 all the time! You can be annoying, look less-than-hot, make shitty jokes. It’s not like we don’t know this. We’re human – so why do we expect the person we’re dating to never fuck it up? Why do we consider their humanness to be a deal-breaker?

It’s because we compare what we have to everyone else – even subconsciously. And then, once the Christmassy period’s over and we stop seeing the person we’re dating as the pinnacle of perfection, we start comparing them to these high standards set by social media as the bar they need to live up to, even at 7am on a Sunday morning after 40 beers. It’s unrealistic.

Now I know what you’re thinking – has this bitch even felt The Ick? Because if she had she’d know it’s real. Well, surprise – I absolutely have. I’ve had this feeling before, where for no valid reason I’m suddenly off someone I’m dating. In fact, I’ve had it with every relationship I’ve ever been in – because I suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and it seriously impairs my ability to feel normal feelings. Basically, I will fixate on anything and everything to find a way to decide the person I’m dating isn’t worth my time. This is how I know The Ick is bullshit – because I’ve HAD The Ick and then I’ve gotten past The Ick. I’ve had days or weeks where I’ve questioned my interest in a boyfriend. And then the feeling has passed. And then it’s back again at some point. This is what I’m saying. Feelings are fleeting.

I’m not saying that ALL feelings of “do I actually like this person anymore” should be ignored. Obviously a big part of dating is working out if you want to continue spending romantic time with someone else. That can change at any point, and it’s your right to decide if you’re not into someone. What I am saying though is that we are relying far too much on FEELINGS alone to make that decision, and feelings are fleeting. They’re stupid, in fact – yes we should be attracted to the person we’re dating but how we feel emotionally about them day-to-day is not the be all and end all. If you’re looking for someone to be with that will give you butterflies every goddamn day I am telling you now you’ll be alone forever, because that’s not real.

What is real is: accepting that the person you’re dating is human and won’t always wow you with their intellect, looks and charm. Focusing on the facts about whether you’re compatible, not the feelings. And eventually, working on your shit with your partner to see if you can reach compromises and acceptances.

So if you do feel The Ick, my advice would be to figure out WHY. Be honest with yourself – are you simply not attracted to this person. Do you not align on core beliefs about politics and social issues. Do you have zero in common. Are they, frankly, an asshole.

The Ick isn’t necessarily a feeling to ignore. But if you’re basing the demise of your burgeoning relationship on a feeling that you can’t even pinpoint, my advice is to give it more of a shot.

Image: HBO