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Orbiting: the new dating trend taking over from ghosting

by eharmony Editorial Team - February 7, 2018

Orbiting is the trend that takes ghosting to the next level. We investigate what it is and why it might be the most destructive disposable dating term yet.

Orbiting: what does it mean?

No, it’s nothing to do with astronomy. Orbiting is yet another dating term to add to the growing list that also includes cushioning, zombieing, and breadcrumbing. Coined by Anna Iovine, the Man Repeller writer defined orbiting as being ‘close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.’ In other words, these are the exes that stay in your orbit but remain just out of reach.

It’s a trend that could only exist in the social media era. Orbiters are typically also ghosts; they never respond to your calls or texts but continue to pop up on your social media feed. You might find them haunting your Instagram stories, liking your Facebook posts, or retweeting your carefully-chosen memes.

Why do people orbit?

There are several reasons why someone might be orbiting you. They may regret ghosting you and be looking out for an opportunity to re-enter your life. Or they might want to keep their options open and don’t mind if they’re sending mixed signals. Narcissistic types may enjoy the power they feel from maintaining a digital foothold in your life. And it can be a mistake; Instagram stories that have run into one another automatically, or an awkward accidental tap on the ‘like’ button.

Being in someone’s orbit

Whatever the reason behind it, orbiting can be extremely destabilising. It appears passive, but even though they’re not texting or calling you, orbiting exes can pop in and out of your life whenever they want. Even if you’re completely over them – or your relationship never even got off the ground – you’ll likely feel a twinge every time their name appears on your phone. It’s inevitable.

I’ve been stuck in a few of my exes’ orbits and, no matter what was going on in my love life, it still hurt to see men who had actively rejected me interacting with my social media channels. I’ll also admit that sometimes I found it flattering too. I could choose to pretend that these men were all acting out of regret rather than the more likely fact that they were just bored or enjoyed feeling like they knew what I was up to.

And it was always confusing. When a casual fling started popping up on my Instagram again – after almost a year of silence – I quick found myself falling into a thought-spiral. Why didn’t it work out between us? Could it have been something serious if I’d tried harder? Did we still share a spark? A week later, he disappeared again. No messages. No indication of why he’d circled back to my profile. The hurt was fleeting (we truly weren’t right for each other) but it did feel like he’d rejected me all over again. Even my digital life had been deemed lacking!

How to react to orbiting

If you’re in the orbit of people that don’t hold any emotional weight in your life anymore, then you could argue it’s harmless. Your stories, tweets and posts are intended to be public after all. It might even be nice seeing a familiar name pop up every now and again. A welcome dose of nostalgia. However, if orbiting is affecting your emotions, or changing the way you use social media, the best thing to do is cut it off completely. Reach for the block button and don’t look back. I know that’s sometimes easier said than done. It’s hard to let go of that ego boost or to say goodbye to a past relationship for good. But remember, if your ex really regretted their actions and wanted to make amends, they’d do more than lurk on your Facebook page. Don’t take them seriously unless they call, message, or attempt to arrange a meet up in person. In the end, I decided to start blocking the culprits when I become aware of the impact their orbiting was having on me. It had started to dictate what I posed and where, and increasingly, the idea that exes I had no desire to see or speak to again were still watching my life unfold felt invasive and a little disturbing. Deciding to block them felt liberating and today, I wouldn’t hesitate. If someone doesn’t want to stay in my life, they don’t deserve to stay in my orbit either.

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