What Is 'The Ick' And Can We Ever Get Over It?

Love Island's Priya caught the ick for Brett – and it wasn't just about cheese.

Does the person you’re dating suddenly make you cringe? Are their habits grating? Has your attraction evaporated? Sorry, you’ve got the ick.

“The Ick” is a term first made popular by Leanne Amaning in season six of Love Island. Leanne found herself catching the ick for fellow contestant Mike Boateng. After she discovered this newfound feeling for Mike, everything he did made her feel a bit...well, icky. Leanne didn’t give us a definition of the term, but we all knew what she meant.

This season, the ick has returned and attached itself to Brett. Priya coupled up with Brett after being in a love triangle with him and Matt. Though she seemed to really like him and even admitted to snogging him in bed, their date didn’t go as well as planned. Priya told the girls she found him boring and was sure she got the ick.

But what exactly is the ick? Why do we experience this sudden change of heart? And is the ick a deal-breaker?

Priya thought she'd caught 'the ick' for Brett.
Priya thought she'd caught 'the ick' for Brett.

“Getting the ‘ick’ relates to suddenly being turned off by your partner, quite often through no fault of their own,” Natasha Briefel, from the dating app Badoo, tells HuffPost UK. “The thing about the ick is that such a small thing can trigger it – and once you’ve got it, sometimes there’s no going back.”

Liam Barnett, who is a relationship expert at Dating Zest, defines the ick as an “immediate turn off”.

“It is something that they did or said which shows a certain human behaviour that at times is, and at times isn’t, acceptable by social norms,” he says. “This could be in the way they dress, eat their food or it could just be something about them that makes us feel odd.”

Having an ick for someone feels uncomfortable, but it’s different from discovering a red flag, says Barnett. While icks can be caused by the smallest of things, red flags indicate unhealthy behaviour or potential harm for the future and shouldn’t be ignored.

That doesn’t mean you should disregard the ick altogether, though. Barnett says we should try to understand where this feeling is coming from, instead of downplaying it. “Give it a good analysis, where it is really coming from – both deeply and superficially,” he says. “Have some time on your own, and try not to pour it down on the person. Think it through.”

A little contemplation is a good idea, but Briefel argues we shouldn’t overthink the ick too much. “The number one thing to do is to not start to fret,” she says. “Take a minute away to think about why your ick-meter has been triggered, and if this is a dealbreaker for the relationship.”

Does the ick mean game over?

It may sound awkward as hell, but Briefel believes you should be upfront about your ick, because this is the key to resuscitating a limp romance.

“If brushed under the carpet, an ick can grow until it becomes a far bigger issue,” she says. “An ick should be addressed almost as soon as it occurs, as you and your partner need to be on the same page. Honesty is vital for this - talk to your partner, express how you feel, what needs to change and what you believe the next steps are to move forward or nip it in the bud.”

Barnett agrees you can get over an ick, but it won’t be easy. “It is difficult, as the feeling is connected to deeper parts of ourselves, more than just a superficial and random behaviour,” he says.

Of course, you also don’t want to lead anyone on and be disingenuous about your feelings, but the ick may be transient – and you may develop deeper feelings that cancel out these concerns.

“It differs from person to person as to whether getting the ick means the end of a relationship, or if you could get over it,” says Briefel. “It is completely possible for relationships to move past an ick - it could just be that you don’t know your partner well enough yet! So chat to your partner or the person you’re dating, get to know each other a bit more and go from there.”