A new TikTok trend is proving fruitful for some relationships — both figuratively and literally.
Many people on the video-sharing app believe that true love can be found in something as simple as a peeled orange. A viral TikTok trend known as the “orange peel theory” is now going viral, with its hashtag garnering over 35 million views as of publication.
What is “orange peel theory”?
In a recent video, TikToker @neanotmia explained the theory as the ability to discern how much you can trust your partner by seeing how they react to you asking them to do a small task you could easily do yourself — like peeling an orange.
“As I understand it, the orange peel theory is pretty much how it sounds. You may really enjoy eating an orange, but some people find peeling the orange to be an unpleasant task,” says @neanotmia.
“It might not literally be about peeling the orange,” the TikToker adds. “More so, they’re asking you for a small favor to see your reaction to see if later they can ask you for bigger favors.”
TikToker Anna Birmingham (@annabhamm) explains the theory further by outlining its meaning, then presenting illustrative examples.
“Let’s say that for whatever reason, I hate peeling oranges, but I really like oranges. I ask my partner, ‘Hey babe, do you mind peeling this orange for me?’” Birmingham explains. “And they can either respond with, ‘Of course, love. Not a problem at all,’ or they can say, ‘No, you are perfectly capable of peeling an orange yourself.’”
Birmingham asserts that it’s not about the task itself — it’s about the other person’s willingness to perform small acts of service.
“I’m sure we’ve all been in that relationship where we feel like we’re having to practically beg on our hands and knees for someone to just get us flowers or pick up dinner for us on the way home when they know we’ve had a bad day,” Birmingham continues. “In that situation, it was never about the frickin’ flowers. It’s the acknowledgement and the feeling of being taken care of and cherished.”
The theory’s likely origin is from a TikTok posted Nov. 4 by @things.i.cant.sen which has garnered a whopping 15 million views. The slideshow contains screenshots of a conversation between two exes who hadn’t spoken in a while.
“i miss when you would peel my oranges for me in the morning,” says a person named Charlotte, to which a person called Em asks if they learned how to do it themselves yet.
“no, i still get juice all over and stab my nails too deep,” Charlotte responds.
“you’ll figure it out someday,” Em replies (heartbreakingly, according to the comments section).
Unlike old flames Charlotte and Em, there are many folks sharing examples of the people in their lives who would peel oranges for them. TikToker and baker Jenna (@jennaskates) recently shared the considerate thing her chef boyfriend did that brought her to tears: He surprised her with egg whites.
“Just the other night when I was prepping buttercream, I was telling him how I hated separating the whites from the yolks,” Jenna wrote in the video that has garnered more than 21 million views. "This man took time to pre-separate the egg whites from the yolks for me.”
Even though Jenna didn’t specifically use the #OrangePeelTheory hashtag on their video, many commenters said it was a perfect example of the theory.
“next time I see someone asking what the orange peel theory is I’m tagging them in this,” one person commented.
In another video, TikToker @nicole.222320 shares something her beau does for her that she believes is an illustration of the “orange peel theory.”
“My orange peel theory is that sometimes I wake up with stomachaches at 3 AM and my boyfriend will always stand up and heat up water for our hot water bottle,” the TikTok user wrote. “Then he will lay beside me and massage my belly until I fall asleep again. It doesn’t matter if he has to work the next day or if tell him it’s alright and he doesn’t have to do it. He always does anyways.”
What does a relationship expert say about the “orange peel theory”?
“I think it kind of speaks to our culture and how much we expect from our partners — and how sometimes it’s just not even realistic,” Rebecca Coopersmith, a licensed clinical social worker and certified sexuality educator at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, tells TODAY.com.
Under these videos, there are tons of commenters that bemoan the lack of orange peelers in their lives. Some people even post about whether or not their relationships should continue.
Coopersmith says that while it’s a sign of a good relationship if a partner does whatever they can reasonably do to help you meet your wants and needs, it’s not the only criteria for labeling a relationship as good or bad.
“I think when we look to partners to mind read, we’re getting down a slippery slope of interdependence,” she says. “It’s important for each person to understand for themselves why they think that’s such a big deal in their relationship.”
Coopersmith says that looking at one small facet of a relationship in isolation — in a TikTok clip or whether or not your significant other peels your orange — reveals nothing about the relationship as a whole. With TikTok, that’s especially fraught, as folks have the potential to compare their entire love life to a few seconds.
“It’s really important to consider all the details: the good and the bad. You may very well have a great relationship,” Coopersmith says. “I think it’s dangerous for anything, if you just look at a small detail without looking at the big picture.”