You know the feeling; we’ve all been there. Pretty much every Seinfeld episode is based on this principle. One minute you’re seemingly infatuated with the person you’re dating, then they do something (completely normal to them), and BOOM, the Ick Factor. The rose-coloured glasses come off, and you are immediately repulsed by this person, cringing at the thought of them touching you. 

So, what is behind this ‘Ick’ factor, and is it undermining your chances at real love?

In that initial infatuation phase, when we first meet someone we’re attracted to, we instantly put them on a pedestal. We envision our lives with this seemingly ‘perfect’ person, forgetting that they are just a human as we are. 

The ‘Ick’ Factor is really your subconscious coming out to flag incompatibilities between you and someone else. For example, someone else might not care if their new beau burps after a big meal, but you might think it’s disgusting.

According to celebrity dating coach and relationship expert James Preece, when someone experiences the ‘Ick’ Factor, it can appear as “a gut feeling that you can’t ignore”, even if you cannot logically wrap your head around your feelings. “Maybe they did or said something that repulsed you – or it can be a sudden realisation that you’ve been ignoring some major red flags,” he explains.

There are some theories that this is a self-defence mechanism to protect against relationship failure, fear of commitment, fear of intimacy, or rejection sensitivity. “Sometimes we have these thoughts purely as a way of protecting ourselves from getting too involved emotionally,” Preece says. “If it’s just a small thing that you can overlook, then do so. However, it’s often best to trust our gut instinct as we can’t fool ourselves into ignoring larger problems.”

Humans are innately driven to seek proximity and security, so if we feel threatened, we look for ways to distance ourselves out of a need for self-protection. But, unfortunately, it could be your way of engaging in self-sabotage which undermines your chance of a successful intimate relationship. 

Of course, the ‘Ick’ factor isn’t always just triggered by tiny things. Instead, it could be red flag behaviours like trying to control you, being rude to wait-staff or even constantly talking over you. 

So what can you do about it?