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Taylor Swift’s ‘ick face,’ Travis Kelce and when going public causes more harm than good

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Did Taylor Swift get “the ick”? Are she and Travis Kelce really happy? What did she whisper to him after that one game?


Questions like these and more have swirled throughout Swift and Kelce’s relationship − yet the pair haven’t let the speculation deter them from flaunting their love publicly. Their romance has involved concert shout-outs, jumbotron-sized football cheers and plenty of PDA, with seemingly little regard for how many people are watching or what they may think.

Experts say Swift and Kelce’s romance and fans’ reaction to it highlight the burdens that can arise when a relationship becomes public, whether the people involved are famous or not.

“When people start analyzing every micro-expression of the couple, it’s because they are looking for data,” says Sara Nasserzadeh, the author of the book “Love by Design: 6 Ingredients to Build a Lifetime of Love.” “They’re collecting to complete their stories in their own mind.

Swift’s dating life has long been the topic of scrutiny and public speculation − so, in that regard, the buzz around her relationship with Kelce is nothing new.

What stands out to fans this time, however, is the freedom with which Swift and Kelce show their relationship for the world to see. It seems a stark contrast to Swift’s previous relationship with actor Joe Alwyn, which lasted six years and seldom saw the two at crowded places together, let alone making public comments about each other or their relationship.

Mental health experts say keeping a relationship private or making it public is a decision every couple has to make together. Each path has its benefits, but each also has its challenges.

One burden of the public route is it gives people outside the relationship the opportunity to read into signals about the health of the relationship − regardless of if these signals are real or imagined. For instance, after the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory, Kelce scream-sang “Viva Las Vegas” into a microphone. The camera flashed to Swift’s expression, and many fans were certain she felt “the ick,” or a sudden feeling of repulsion, toward Kelce.

“We call this kind of body language micro-expressions,” says Gary Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist “What we’re seeing are snapshots in time. We’re seeing a couple in a given moment, but we don’t really know what’s really the baseline of their relationship when they’re not in front of a camera or a microphone. What is the tone of their relationship? What is the quality of their relationship? What is the nature of their love? And so I think we really run the risk of analyzing to the point where our analysis can become pretty easily flawed.”

We can’t stop watching:Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce pack on the PDA.

Going public with a relationship has pros and cons
Public scrutiny on a relationship is going to have different effects on different people. Those who are more naturally extroverted may not mind the spotlight as much as those who are more introverted.

Being in a public relationship also lends itself more easily to public support. You can celebrate milestones online and receive affirmation from those may not know you deeply, but champion you all the same.

“Your fans can enjoy watching your journey as a couple and celebrate your happiness, and you get to celebrate your love openly,” Brown says.

Of course, however, going public with anything, especially a romance, comes with the risk of trolls and detractors. This doesn’t just go for famous people. Everyday people who hard-launch a relationship on social media or share a mushy post about their significant other should brace themselves for unwanted comments and intrusive questions from everyone including disapproving relatives, envious exes and judgmental acquaintances.

These comments can take a toll on one’s mental health, exacerbating issues like anxiety and depression; so, if you’re going to date publicly, you need to prepare for them.

“Anytime that we’re exposed to unneeded criticism I think can impact self-esteem and confidence,” says Stephanie Sarkis, a psychotherapist and author of “Healing from Toxic Relationships: 10 Essential Steps to Recover from Gaslighting, Narcissism, and Emotional Abuse.” “Your relationship is really nobody’s business but you and one person.”

Sarkis adds there are important things a couples should consider when deciding to make a romance public or keep it under wraps. They need to communicate and make sure they’re on the same page about how public they’d like the relationship to be. This is essential for famous and non-famous people alike.

“You have to make sure it’s mutual and that you’ve agreed to the terms of relationship,” Sarkis says. “There needs to be parameters on what’s going to be discussed. Is sex life going to be discussed? Are our conversations you’ve had going to be discussed? What’s the level of comfort of disclosure of each partner?”

Don’t feel rushed into going pubic either. It can be healthy for a couple to keep their romance just between them for a while before sharing it with others.

Also, always remember what anyone says about your relationship often has more to do with them than it does you.

“It’s important to understand that if you’re posting online, people are probably going to post things you don’t want to read, and that it’s rarely personal,” Sarkis says. “It’s about that person, their projections, rather than you.”

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