A Therapist Explains the Problem With 'Orange Peel Theory' Boyfriend Tests

Tricking your partner with fruit is not a reliable way to vibe check your relationship. But it is a good way to get views!
A TikTok user doing the orange peel challenge with her boyfriend
Photo: Background via Getty Images, screenshot via TikTok user @shelbyywilfong 

Why are women asking their male partners to peel their oranges?

Welcome to the “orange peel theory”: the idea that asking your partner to perform the small task of peeling an orange is one way to test their appreciation and love. You could peel it for yourself, of course, but it’s sticky, it gets stuck under your acrylics, it’s messy, etc – so your boyfriend peeling it for you without a strop is a demonstration of how much he cares. If he says “no” or “do it yourself”, consider breaking up with him – at least, that’s the advice you hear on TikTok.


By far the most viral version of this trend sees a girl called Shelby asking her boyfriend to peel her orange, only to be told “she’s not that special” and that he’s trying to “build her up as a female” by telling her to peel it herself. While that may be initially shocking, one look at her channel shows that almost all her videos feature the couple having a suspiciously well-lit albeit toxic argument, in which the camera is always perfectly aligned. With nearly 80,000 followers, this seems like a pretty reliable way to build an online following. Scripted skits? Who is to say!

The orange peel theory is the latest in a long line of so-called “boyfriend tests” running rampant on social media. Some of them are obvious piss takes, like asking your partner if they would date other people if you ever broke up. (At this point, many boyfriends are filmed visibly panicking at the question, before mumbling something about doing it “after some time”. The “correct” answer, of course, is that you won’t break up!)

Others are a bit more insidious, or at the very least, weird. The ketchup challenge involves squeezing ketchup onto a work surface at random and asking your partner to clean it up. Not to be bratty – obviously – but to demonstrate men’s “weaponised incompetence” at such a simple task. They’ve never had to do it, you know, so they don’t know how slimy and evasive it is, right girls?! Feminism!


But making a mess on purpose and asking your boyfriend to deal with it makes you a dick, right? Asking if they would please peel you an orange, sure – but putting on a whiny baby voice to do it? I’m sorry to say this is the behaviour of a toddler, girls.

“Relationship tests are not really fair because they don’t take into account context, the situation, personality, or another persons intentions and motivations,” says sex and relationships psychologist Charisse Cooke.

She does see one potential use for them, though. “They can be useful if we tend to minimise issues in our partnerships, and be in denial about some of the problematic aspects of our relationships. By doing a test, it can draw attention to attitudes or behaviours in a relationship that are not healthy or loving.”

I understand wanting to get a vibe check on your partner, but there is surely a way of doing this without also being a dick to them in the process. Why leave it up to TikTok to tell you whether or not you’re in a healthy relationship?

For those blessed with “green flag boyfriends”, it’s also a way of claiming bragging rights. There are plenty of likes to be had by showing the world how great your boyfriend is. With couple cringe at an all-time high, having a cute, caring partner is sooo hot right now. It’s the new internet flex!


The flip side of these relationship tests – trusting your partner, having an honest conversation with them about making more of an effort, or asking them how they honestly feel about you – is obviously not nearly as fun as trying to trip them up for views. 

“The best way to create a caring partnership is to ask your partner for what you need,” Cooke points out. “I think we want our partners to read our minds or ‘just know’ what we want.

“But we’re always learning in relationships, and we can teach our partners how we like to be loved and what is most meaningful to us. This is the best way to develop an open-hearted, reciprocal relationship. Start making requests and asking for things in your relationship, rather than testing them.” 

Maybe in 2024, we can leave behind trusting random people on the internet to tell us when to break up with our partner. Or maybe try actually talking to them, instead of tricking them with pieces of fruit.