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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Little Love Lessons: The relationship killer

The ick. The word has become commonplace in our vernacular. It’s similar to a liberal arts education – very versatile. It can attack anything: someone’s laugh, someone’s use of “lol”, and even someone’s music choice. We have all been culprits and victims of the ick at some point. Attraction turns into disgust with the flip of a switch. Sometimes the reasoning makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. Yet every time, the relationship dies. We use the ick synonymously with a relationship red flag. It’s our get out of jail free card. But in reality, the ick is simply a counterfeit copy and it’s our fault. 

When we first like someone, we paint a picture of perfection. They are more or less spotless in terms of red flags: partially because we don’t actually know them. We know what they look like and their very basic character traits, but we don’t know who they are underneath the outline we have given them. When we face this perfection, we face two certainties: we will be nervous and the honeymoon of perfection will wear off. 

We sometimes fail to separate our feelings from our fears. Losing interest is natural. Some people are demanding, annoying, and unavailable. In the same vein, being nervous about someone you just started seeing is normal.  Sadly, as studies have shown, we usually fail to separate these emotions. Instead, we missatribute them. Disgust with intrigue, fear with happiness, and nervousness with excitement. Our body understands heightened emotions, but not the exact emotion. We too easily mix up nervousness with losing interest. It’s a terrible emotional cocktail. 

Red flags are good. They allow us to foreshadow future problems in a relationship and prevent them from ever occurring. The alarm goes off when we notice that a person is rude to waitstaff, only texts us after 11 PM, or is reluctant to introduce us to their friends. Probably not someone we want to keep seeing. These are deeper rooted problems that reflect the person’s character. We have a firm understanding of what red flags are and what they mean in the larger scheme of the person’s character. 

The ick however usually tends to be more superficial. A person may sometimes smell bad or think that Colleen Hoover is better than Emily Henry. Both flaws, but not valid reasons to totally ghost them. These are surface level issues. We nitpick small and inconsequential things and we turn them into red flags. Why? This is the question we fail to ask.

When fear takes over, we self sabotage ourselves. What do we have to be fearful of? Commitment maybe. We start seeing them too often and we have this gut feeling that tells us to run. Emotional intimacy? We start running out of surface level topics to talk about and we don’t want to show them our true self. As we approach new situations, the subconscious battle begins: fight or flight. We all have places of comfort and places of fear. It’s easier to stay in comfort. Giving in opens the door to the ick. To combat comfort, we need to combat our ways of thinking. 

We need better ways to separate an ick from a red flag. Two steps: one inward and one outward. We state these icks without really understanding how important a certain trait is. The key is to solidify what is important to you. Make a list of what you value in a person and a relationship. It’s like a shopping list, because in reality – we are in a dating market. Maybe a good laugh is your most important value, making a weird laugh an acceptable red flag. Most likely it is not. What will make the top of most of our lists will be them being kind, insanely smart, or looking like Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – this may just be me. The list is important for your own organization, strengthening how you approach every person you talk to. Moreover, it lets you begin to detect what is a deal breaker in a relationship. If you begin to experience a superficial red flag, re-read your list and see if the person is actually falling to hit one of your values. Is it one of your top values or is it not even on the list? This is the first step to separating somebody’s flaws. By not asking yourself what you want, you are doing yourself a disservice. 

The easiest way to avoid new situations is to not do them. Whether this be a conscious or subconscious choice, we slowly begin to convince ourselves of ways to get out. So, while it may be the simplest solution, you need to sit with your discomfort. If you are experiencing the ick with someone, don’t run. Spend more time with them, whether that be one more date or study session. Come to a concrete conclusion about your feelings. None of us make good decisions under duress. When the nerves go away, you may realize that you were worrying about nothing. It’s one more date vs one lost relationship. You will regret your decision more if you misread the situation and your feelings rather than taking one more date to solidify them.

 We all have certain qualities that warrant red flags and icks. One of mine may be this column. Every flaw however, does not warrant a reason to leave. Dating is already hard enough. We have no need to make it any harder. The ick is a roadblock, one that is worth breaking through. Because, it’s possible that everything you want is right behind that fear. Whoever we are seeing will have flaws, that’s the beauty of a relationship. You like because and love despite. You like someone because of all their qualities. You love them despite some of their qualities.

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    Anonymous LoverFeb 18, 2023 at 10:56 am

    love this piece <3