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What’s The Difference Between An Ick And A Red Flag?

What’s The Difference Between An Ick And A Red Flag?

Disclaimer: We don’t hate Ryan Gosling.

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With new slang popping up practically every time you blink, we don’t hold it against you if you don’t know what an “ick” is. 

Urban Dictionary defines “ick” as “Something someone does that is an instant turn-off for you, making you instantly hate the idea of being with them romantically.” 

Icks aren’t a new phenomenon though, but it is experiencing a renaissance thanks to TikTok. If dating wasn’t already hard, icks are taking things up a notch.

Here’s a fun conversation starter on your next date: “What are your icks?”

A quick quiz around the office revealed some of ours:

“Men who chew with their mouths open”

“I get the ick when guys take selfies”

“When their whole personality is the gym”

“When they put one hand in their pocket when they talk”

“When they smell bad” 

“When their room is filthy”

“When they don’t finish their food”

“When they leave wet towels on the bed”

“I get the ick when men”


Okay, some of us need therapy, but there are some icks that can legit tick people off.

But, we also got some responses that made us raise our eyebrows, like:

When they try to validate their anger issues… “I’m like that because of my past trauma, bla, bla, bla…”

Which then got us thinking, where do we draw the line between an “ick” and a red flag?


When we say “icks”, we’re usually talking about the things people do that turn us off. But if we’re being honest, it’s not what they do that’s the problem, it’s why they’re doing it. 

Some icks are like symptoms of underlying conditions that require immediate attention. 

Some are just people being silly. 

In which case, having icks are actually a great way to determine what you’re willing to put up with. They’re kinda like precursors to red flags if you will.


This isn’t to say that every ick should be examined for deeper meanings. Not every guy that takes selfies is a possible narcissist and some people just love going to the gym. 

But it’s good to lay down some ground rules for what you think is acceptable in a relationship.

Principles > Preferences


A red flag is, or should be, when someone violates a principle that is personal to you. 

So if they cross your boundaries, make you feel deeply unsettled or uncomfortable, or if there’s a huge gap in the values that you both hold dear, then your internal alarms should go off.

Preferences are the things that you can agree to disagree on. These things, or “icks”, can make your skin crawl, but they’re no threat to your wellbeing. 

But, as much as it sucks, most of our principles and preferences are developed over time. Maturity and experience play a huge part in what we ultimately think is okay. 

This is why sometimes people overlook red flags, because it might not always trigger an instinctive response. It’s only when you look back you smack yourself and say, “I should have known.”


We also tend to ignore red flags because of something called the “confirmation bias”. Confirmation bias leads us to selectively seek evidence that supports our first impressions of the person while ignoring contradictory information. These biases stem from “motivated perception,” driven by our desire to believe in an idealised image of a potential partner.

Not only that, the glamorization of toxic behaviour in pop culture strongly influences what we think is normal, cute, or romantic. 

So, we might say that a man threatening to jump if you refuse to go on a date with him is a glaring red flag, but if Ryan Gosling does it in The Notebook, it’s one of the greatest love stories ever told.

“So, should I just never date again?”


If your partner leaves their wet towel on the bed and it drives you mad, tell them. If they hear you and are willing to work on it because they care about you, then, green flag. But if they just don’t care about how it affects you, then it’s a red flag. 

Some might say you’re overreacting, or you might even feel that you’re overreacting, but trust your gut – it’s not the wet towels, it’s how they responded to something that bothered you.


We also don’t mean to trivialise the fact that there are people who have actually gone through some pretty shitty things in life that’s made them to be the way they are. People are complex creatures, and these days we throw terms like “daddy issues” around so easily that we cheapen its meaning and downplay the damage it actually does to a person. 

So, yes, trauma is a great way of explaining a person’s red flags, but it doesn’t excuse them. No one should have to always walk on eggshells in a relationship. 

Ultimately, it’s your call.


It’s your job to guard your heart, but that doesn’t mean you need to build walls around it. Successful relationships don’t just happen, they require work. 

As Ryan Gosling famously said in The Notebook:

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”

Take it from him, he sure knows what he’s talking about. 

Also, don’t beat yourself up if you make a few mistakes along the way. Enjoy the dating process! Learn about each other as much as you can. 

But at the end of the day, it’s your life, so you get to call the shots. And if you can never get over the fact that they put one hand in their pocket when they talk, then maybe they’re just not the one for you. 


Like Ken (Ryan Gosling) said in Barbie: “To be honest, when I found out that the patriarchy wasn’t about horses, I lost interest, anyway.”

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