Does Your Relationship Pass The 'Orange Peel Theory' Test?

Here is what the new TikTok trend is all about -- and what it might say about your own partner.
TikToks on "the orange peel theory" have gone viral on the social media platform in recent weeks. Experts say the concept can say a lot about your relationship.
Janina Steinmetz via Getty Images
TikToks on "the orange peel theory" have gone viral on the social media platform in recent weeks. Experts say the concept can say a lot about your relationship.

A new thesis regarding relationships has gained popularity all over TikTok in recent weeks.

Dubbed the “orange peel theory,” the idea involves the ability to understand your partner and their feelings; it’s based on their tendency to perform simple tasks for you whether asked to do them or not ― like peeling an orange.

Videos have surfaced all over the social media platform with folks urging their partners to peel oranges for them or, more generally, requesting help with something you’re easily able to do yourself.

“The orange peel theory focuses on the idea that small acts of service are not just about the action itself but about what it represents in the relationship,” said Kate Truitt, a board-certified psychologist and applied neuroscientist. “They signal care, love and commitment, and the repetition of the act enhances the overall health and happiness of the relationship. These gestures, often simple and seemingly mundane, are in fact pivotal in nurturing a loving, supportive and enduring partnership.”

Georgina Sturmer, a registered counselor at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, said that the trend is really a commentary on “the nuts and bolts of a relationship.”

In fact, many on TikTok have come to celebrate ― or negatively comment on ― romantic relationships based on observations made with the orange peel theory in mind.

Does your significant other peel an orange for you without you having to ask because he or she knows how much the smell of the skin bothers you, for example? Or does he or she complain about your “constant asking” when you do request a favor?

“The idea is that we are all subconsciously seeking signals from our partner to reassure us of their affection,” Sturmer said. “Signals that show us that they have an intimate knowledge of our likes and dislikes, and that they are prepared to go out of their way to make us happy.”

Why Acts Of Service Are Hallmarks Of A Good Relationship

According to Truitt, “regular, positive interactions are fundamental in creating a sense of security, trust and emotional bonding.”

That is all to say: Consistent acts of affection will not only prove that your partner cares for you, but they will also allow you to feel comfortable enough to explore the relationship further and, perhaps, deepen your connection. By demonstrating his or her appreciation for you through seemingly meaningless efforts, your partner will subconsciously give you the green light to feel even more secure in your relationship.

Truitt explained that kind gestures help build a positive emotional atmosphere that then “triggers the release of vital neurotransmitters like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin.” These chemicals have been shown to reinforce positive feelings and, therefore, emotional connections.

In addition to providing an immediate sense of satisfaction and joy, these acts of kindness work to bolster the “foundations” of a relationship and one’s own sense of self, according to Truitt.

“This might sound obvious, but many of us carry around an inner critic that tells us that we are undeserving of kindness,” she said. “So when our partner offers a kind word, gesture or action, this strengthens the relationship between us, and it also boosts our own confidence and self-esteem.”

Some may contend that sporadic grand gestures may prove one’s love in their own way, perhaps even more than constant, small-scale actions — but the therapists don’t necessarily agree with that.

“Popular culture celebrates the grand gesture, like a proposal at the top of the Empire State Building, a dramatic race through an airport departure lounge,” Sturmer said. “These can be wonderful statements, but, in our everyday existence, the consistent caring interactions tell us that someone cares.”

Simple acts of service, like ordering their favorite dish at a restaurant, can really show your partner you care.
Janina Steinmetz via Getty Images
Simple acts of service, like ordering their favorite dish at a restaurant, can really show your partner you care.

Examples Of The Orange Peel Theory

Although the orange peel theory is clearly based on a specific action, the concept refers to a larger category of behaviors: everyday acts of tenderness that may not catch your attention immediately but, when put together, offer a pretty clear picture of your relationship status.

Examples of these quotidian efforts, according to Sturmer, include “cleaning dirty boots after a walk outside, collecting your partner at the bus station when it’s raining, refilling the gas in the family car when it’s running low.”

The key, according to the expert, is that the simple gesture goes unannounced and perhaps isn’t directly requested.

“It’s not accompanied with fanfare or an explicit requirement to show your appreciation,” she said.

Other examples may include ordering your partner’s favorite menu item from a restaurant before they can even ask, doing the dishes or bringing the mail in.

Truitt takes it a step further than the actionable aspect of the conversation, mentioning how certain behavioral dispositions fall under the scope of the theory, like active listening, expressions of appreciations, small feats of affection (“holding hands, hugs or a thoughtful note”), support during stress, quality time, consistent check-ins and celebrating successes.

How Can I Bring The Orange Peel Theory Up To My Partner?

It’s important to note that everyone has a different way of showing their appreciation and affection. However, if there is one thing that the orange peel theory has proved, it’s that small, consistent acts of kindness certainly help deliver the message that you care about someone. So how can you make sure that your partner knows this?

According to Truitt, there are a few ways. To start, lead by example.

“Often the best way to encourage behavior is to model it yourself,” she said. “Engage in small acts of kindness towards your partner regularly, which could range from a thoughtful note to a warm embrace, demonstrating the kind of affection and care you value.”

Communication is a big part of the subject as well, but, according to Truitt, it’s important to understand that the goal of any conversation is to enhance the relationship, not to “criticize your partner.”

You should therefore choose the right time and setting to bring the conversation up, focus on the positive aspects of your connection while also being specific about your desires. You might have to “clearly express what small gestures” you’re talking about, Truitt explained. Being direct is always the best course of action.

Don’t forget to also ask your partner’s take on it, Sturmer said. In addition to role-modeling the behavior, she suggested talking about what’s stopping your partner from fulfilling your needs.

“Maybe they’re assuming that you might find him or her doing things for you patronizing,” she said. “They’re worried about annoying you.” The solution? Direct communication.

One more tip: To ease into the conversation, Sturmer said, you might actually want to show your partner the various viral videos. “It gives you a chance to chat about it without making it feel personal.”