Exploring “The Ick” With Your Partner – Helpful or Hurtful?

definition of the ick blogilates

Ah, yet another TikTok ‘trend’ is floating around. There’s so many, who can keep up? This one’s about telling your partner why they give you “the ick.”

“The ick” — a term that originated in the 90’s TV show “Ally McBeal” — is when someone does something that annoys you, makes you feel uncomfortable, or turns you off.

Social media personalities have been posting videos with their significant others (sometimes using funny voices, which is another trend) to share what makes their so-called beloved “icky.” Here’s an example of a couple sharing what annoys them about each other.


At first, it seems humorous, but is critiquing your partner on social media a good idea? How can it affect your relationship? Relationship therapists and experts weigh in. 

Keep it in the sheets

“I think this trend is toxic, unhealthy, humiliating and will cause a lot of resentment within the relationship,” says relationship expert and podcast host Melanie Verstraete. “You’re ‘airing your dirty laundry’ so to speak, for the whole world to see.”

This is personal between the couple in the relationship and should stay that way, she adds. “This may start off as funny or entertaining, like a joke, but can lead to long term grudges, resentment, and feelings of betrayal.”

Plus, it’s humiliating. “Being in a romantic relationship is a very intimate and raw space where you are opening yourself up to that other person to a part of you that most will never know,” says Verstraete. “It’s vulnerable. A person could feel very exposed and embarrassed by displaying these ‘icks’ for the entire world to see.”

Jaime Bronstein, Licensed Relationship Therapist, and author, says authenticity is important in any relationship, “so trends like these can cause insecurity in a relationship as people might start to walk on eggshells and feel they can’t be their authentic selves if they are worried that they are causing the ‘ick.’ No one wants their significant other to be repulsed by them.”

the ick trend tiktok airing dirty laundry quote melanie verstraete

Not for the sensitive

Certified life coach and relationship expert Maya Tyler says love languages play a crucial role in situations like this. 

“My love language is to hear words of affirmation,” she explains. “In turn, that means the way to HURT me the most is through words of condemnation. Judgmental words like an “ick list” would hurt people like me, especially coming from a significant other who’s had time to make a list that picks at my weaknesses and blind spots created from hard-fought trust and vulnerability.”

Overall? “It’s a no for me.”

How to ‘get over it’

If you and your partner decide to do this exercise (privately, we hope!) or get into a deep conversation about each other’s pet peeves, Tyler advises picking and choosing your battles.

“Healthy relationships are about the work of building a team, not easy demolition. Ask yourself:  Is this a nit-pick or a deal breaker? Is this a discussion in which I’ve prepared a sensitive but clear and fair argument they will be receptive to, or is this a random peeve that I’m using to build a case for my conditional loss/lack of interest?” 

If you’re upset, for example, that your partner says it’s annoying when you’re hangry, it’s OK to take the comment personally. In fact, “I hate when people use the phrase ‘don’t take it personally,” says Tyler. “Sharing what you hate about someone, is, by definition, a personal attack! Of course, they will be hurt! Especially if the delivery is not carefully crafted with that person’s feelings in mind.”

What you can realistically do as the recipient is to prepare yourself, advises Tyler. “Try not to be defensive, even though you may be offended. Decide if you’re interested in what you might be like as a person without these ‘ick’ traits, and if so, try to be open-minded to change. If not, this is going to be an argument, so buckle up buttercup!”

teachable moment schitts creek

The best approach

“I think if the TikTok trend was something more endearing, like listing little things that bothered you about your significant other but you find them cute, it could be less detrimental to a relationship,” says Bronstein. “I believe that sharing how you feel in a constructive manner and not using the word ‘ick’ could work better for couples.”

Yes, it’s healthy to address pet peeves about your partner; however, it’s essential to address them in a kind manner. “Use compassion and empathy when delivering a message about something that is bothering you about the other person. It’s always nice to start the conversation with, “I love you; however, there are some things I want to express that are bothering me…”’

Adds Bronstein: “Listen to what your partner has to say, and if the requests seem reasonable, then you can alter your behavior to avoid your partner getting “icked” by you.”

You can calmly thank your partner for bringing the items to your attention, “and then you can feel free to express any “icks” that you have about them. Having a sense of humor in a relationship can be quite beneficial, and if a couple truly loves each other, they will see these things as minuscule in the scheme of things and can move on from them.”

Don’t be such an open book

Social media is a great way to share your life with the world, but, do you really NEED to share your life with the world? A little privacy can go a long way.

For starters, “the ‘ick’ in the show Ally McBeal was used for guys Ally didn’t want to date anymore, but these are couples on TikTok that could potentially stay together; therefore, it’s not helpful for the relationship,” summarizes Bronstein. Since the term is being used in the wrong context lately, what’s the point of posting the ick game online? Are the views worth it?

As Tyler explains, “If you’re looking for a train wreck, watch your favorite attention-seeking couple on social media spill all their marital secrets online! Social media isn’t the trophy case people think it is; it’s a glass house. It’s fragile and often broken by the people inside trying too hard to please the people outside it.”

She adds: “I can’t even count how many times ‘keeping it real’ has gone horribly wrong, on camera – and is STILL uploaded for likes and shares. If embarrassing your partner with info or secrets about your private life is your thing, good luck with that. It’s not for me!”

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