orange peel

What Is the Orange Peel Theory?

Well, in clinical literature, there is no mention of the orange peel theory. But my understanding from what is depicted in social media is that this is about how much you can entrust your partner in regard to a seemingly simple task. Let’s say you really enjoy eating oranges, but absolutely hate peeling them. If you ask your partner to peel an orange for you, their reaction can be telling. It’s not so much about if they can peel the orange for you. But are they responding with a healthy dose of empathy, effort to be helpful, and loving but in a balanced way? Versus a more dismissive response. How the partner responds can potentially be a barometer for how the relationship stands and it’s not about the orange getting peeled at all. However, as a licensed professional in behavioral health, it should be interpreted with caution as this is only one sample point and it should be taken in context. Here at New Frontiers Psychiatry & TMS we try to work with our clients to help them see that it is more about the patterns and what is consistently seen in the relationship versus a single test or observation.


How Can You Measure A Healthy Relationship?

I like to look at the longitudinal pattern of relationships. There is a saying that goes: the best “I’m sorry” gift is changed behavior. When the question is brought up of grand gestures, it immediately made me think of make-up gestures, expressing apology. While grand gestures can be very appreciated, memorable, and special, consistency is key. Do the parties both feel validated? Is their dynamic a healthy meeting of the middle? Healthy give and take. Empathy, love, and demonstrated an ongoing commitment to be helpful to each other but also with respect for each other’s boundaries and appropriate expectations.


Practice Kindness and Empathy

Kindness is important to demonstrate in a relationship. When kindness is shown, it indicates there is empathy. That the parties are thinking of each other and how their actions can affect each other. If someone has a bad day, the other person acknowledges it, validates it and is emotionally available to comfort that person. A healthy dose of empathy helps us be mindful of how we can affect others and to be considerate. And we don’t even have to do anything monumental! It can be just acknowledging someone’s struggle, being a listening ear, even our non-verbal communication and open facial expressions can speak volumes and be very therapeutic to the other person. When we help the other person, it helps that individual recharge a little and be in a better spot to reciprocate our care for them. Fostering that balance is a good starting point and foundation for a fulfilling relationship.

Acts of kindness that can make a relationship satisfying and fulfilling for both parties often have to do with the sentiment behind the act itself and often has little to do with the size of the act. For example, one partner can prefer to have the home (especially the kitchen area) cleaner than another partner who may be more lax and less bothered. Let’s say two people have been together for years and know each other well. If you know that a cluttered kitchen area and unstocked fridge is a pet peeve of your partner you may make extra efforts to clean up after yourself in the kitchen a bit more. Let’s say your partner really likes to snack on salads and eggs. Let’s say this partner had a really high pressure work week with long hours. Now let’s go back to the kitchen and groceries. If you are in charge of groceries, an effective ‘orange peeling’ if you will is making sure there’s some salad material and eggs in the fridge and the dishes are in the dishwasher without having to be prompted by your partner. Now, if the kitchen was sloppy and not stocked because you assumed your partner is plenty capable of cleaning it themselves and getting the food, that may be true but it could feel invalidating and leave the partner feeling as though you are not thinking of them. Again, this is only a single data point and context is just as important. If there are other ways you show acts of kindness, it can also be just as good! As long as both of you are on the same page and speak the same love language. Bear in mind; what may be an effective act of kindness that you’d be happy to receive, may not feel to same to your partner. So good communication and healthy expectations are a prerequisite too!

Take Time To Talk

It’s never a bad idea to have open talks with your partner about you two as a couple! Feel free to talk about things that are going well. But also things you’d like to…I’ll use the word “enhance.” The most effective discussions tend to happen when both parties are in a decent mood, in a low-pressure and relaxed setting. It’s not a bad idea to set specific measurable goals. For example, you two are relaxing on a weekend dinner at home. Let’s say Mondays are a tough day for you due to a long work day, you’d like to relax right after and have some food easily available to either eat or be ready to heat and you like to come home to a nice clean kitchen and living area. You can say “Hey honey, I was thinking, I really want to decompress better after my Mondays, what do you think we can do to keep the dining area and kitchen clean and ready and have dinner on the ready? Can you help me out with this and how do you wanna divide and conquer?”

How To Use The Orange Peel Theory Appropriately in Your Relationship

Following the orange peel theory yourself in a relationship can be tricky! But we must bear in mind, end of the day we are not mind readers. So there is nothing wrong with asking your partner how you can help them feel supported and comfortable and with specific examples! For myself, if there are some things I do or do not do that I know my partner does not like, I first ask myself if I even want to change my behavior. I’ll give a personal example. My husband wishes I dressed up more. I don’t dress terribly, but I’m not as “dressy” as he’d prefer. My answer is, I really don’t feel like changing how I’d dress. But I can make a goal to wear something nice a couple of times a month, which he appreciates. If my spouse does not look happy about something, I will directly ask him and try to create a safe feeling atmosphere to discuss it constructively and hopefully with an outcome of a specific and concrete goal to help the situation as well! For example “Hey, I noticed you looked bothered lately. I hope you feel that you can bring it up to me, whatever is going on.” I remember one incident that he was not sure how to handle when our son had a stint of refusing to go to his martial arts lessons (my spouse is the primary person responsible for taking our son to the lessons) and this evolved into us investigating together what was deterring him and helping our son overcome those barriers. It turned out our son had some social anxiety and it was a great opportunity for me to use my behavioral health expertise to help him gradually overcome it!


Get Help With Your Relationship From A Professional Therapist Near You

Relationships are one of the most rewarding elements that exist in this life but they also come with their own unique challenges. If you are struggling with your relationship with your partner we invite you to contact the team here at New Frontiers Psychiatry & TMS. We have many qualified relationship counselors on our staff who would be happy to speak with you and your partner about how to navigate the challenges that you might be facing in your relationship. Contact our office about setting up an initial consultation today!

Author: Dr. Hong Yin 

Dr. Hong Yin clinical psychiatrist in Milwaukee and founder of new frontiers psychiatry and TMS, leading authority on TMS treatments in Wisconsin

Hong Yin, MD, has been a practicing medical professional for the Milwaukee community since 2012. She understands that your health and wellness concerns extend beyond routine medical care. She’s a highly trained, board-certified psychiatrist who provides an array of comprehensive services and procedures to help people overcome mental health problems.