Don Cole, a therapist and clinical coordinator at the Gottman Institute, a research group in Seattle that offers methods to help couples strengthen their relationships, says that he found the theory “endearing,” except for one part: putting your partner to the test. “That seems negative and inappropriate because the whole idea in successful marriages is we don’t want to set them up to fail,” he says.
If you want your orange peeled, just ask for it – but don’t play games or let the peeling become a referendum on the health of your relationship. Instead of testing partners to see if they will make you a latte in the morning, for example, you should instead say, “I love when you make me a latte in the morning,” Cole explains.
This is known as a bid, which, according to the Gottman Institute, can be small or big verbal or nonverbal requests to connect and might take the form of a subtle expression, a question or a physical touch. Concepts like the orange peel theory shouldn’t be thought of as litmus tests, Cole says, but can be powerful predictors of the outcome of a relationship.
“Couples develop these things over time, most of the time without even thinking about them,” he adds. “We just fall into these patterns.”
However, without communicating one’s needs, it can be hard to feel as if your “oranges are being peeled” properly. Amanda Graus, a freelance content creator and graphic designer living in Denver, shared on TikTok a disappointing realisation: “I’m always the one to peel everyone’s oranges, but I’ve always had to peel mine on my own.”
“My ex-husband is a wonderful guy, and he peeled my oranges but not in the way they needed to be peeled,” she says in a phone interview.
In a relationship that followed, Graus, 39, says that her ex-boyfriend was the complete opposite of her husband. She would take him on trips, buy him “cute little gifts” and even helped pay for his law school education. She would also bring him coffee at work and write him letters and hide them in his bag so that when he went to class, he would have something to smile at. But he wouldn’t reciprocate.
She is currently in therapy, she says, and instead of focusing on dating, she’s working on prioritising her own needs.
“I never thought I deserved anything,” she says, adding that, for her, oranges now represent focusing not on other people’s desires but her own.
The New York Times
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