It was about nine months into the relationship when I noticed it.
There was something about his smell. The scent of his deodorant made me not just angry, but furious. The stories he told were repetitive and he had a habit of feigning a laugh before he told a story – as though what he was about to say was so funny he just couldn’t help himself. I dreaded having to introduce him to friends, and was irrationally annoyed every time he rested his right ankle on his left knee as though he was commanding a room.
His touch made me squirm.
I’d caught The Ick, and there was no going back.
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No one ever wants to come down with The Ick. It’s an infection for which there is no cure. Its onset is quick – without warning – and its spread is rapid and ruthless.
Prior to contamination, you truly believed you liked or even loved that person. What you once found sexy or endearing, you now find yourself cringing at. For seemingly no reason at all, you are struck with a sense of – and this is an awful word – revulsion.
The Ick has destroyed countless relationships over thousands of years. Cave men were probably pissed off by how their lovers held their paint brush in their right hand like a goddamn Neanderthal, while painting stupid stick figures on the wall for no reason. Romans who once thought gladiators were hot and masculine, most likely started looking at them in all their ridiculous and frankly unnecessary gear, thinking to themselves, “I hate the way your stupid sandals come up between your ugly toes… DON’T TOUCH ME.” And the Victorian era was definitely plagued with women who absolutely detested how their partners held their dumb tea cups, with their pinky fingers hanging out – all crooked and imperfect.
Catching The Ick can make you feel like a pretty ordinary person. You thought you loved someone for their sense of humour and strong values, and all of a sudden you can’t stand the way their hair sits in the morning.
But as with most universal experiences - The Ick serves a purpose.
Simply, it's not meant to be. Something isn't compatible. Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, argues that our intuition exists to be listened to. De Becker says our guts have as many brain cells as a dog. When we feel something within us, whether it be fear, a sense of unease, or The Ick, our gut is trying to tell us something.
We are the only animal that questions and interrogates our instincts. We reason, "perhaps this will pass," or, "I'm just being shallow," but often our guts are picking up signals that our brain hasn't, or can't, yet.
So much about relationships is drawn from instinct. It's normal to find some things about your partner irritating, like how they leave their wet towel on the bed, that new jumper they bought that at first you thought was a very funny joke, or how they pronounce the letter 'H'. But when you enter The Ick territory, you know you're on a downwards trajectory, and as hard as you try you can't claw yourself back out.
The Ick is your relationship's death sentence, and the most important thing to do is treat the partner with respect and kindness.
After all, it's not their fault the way they chew makes you want to stab them in the eye with a fork.
Blame it on The Ick.