What Does Orbiting Mean In A Relationship?

If there's a special place in hell for people who don't help each other, there must be many dungeons in the abode of the damned for those who ghost someone. Per Psychology Today, ghosting — a buzzword that initially became mainstream alongside the growth of online dating — is when someone you've been seeing suddenly and for no apparent reason stops communicating with you. Ghosting can be found in both online and offline dating, leaving the ghosted partner heartbroken, clueless about the status of the relationship, and in some cases desperate to make their S.O. come back. The reason for the increasing popularity of ghosting, as explained by psychiatrist Margaret Seide (via Verywell Mind), is that online daters are faced with so many choices. Thus, they can have a sow-the-oats mindset before making a commitment.

As traumatic as ghosting is, it's important to move on and banish the cruel culprit from your thoughts. However, getting over a ghosting experience isn't always easy, especially when the ghoster continues stalking you online and even brazenly interacting with your social content as if nothing has happened. That's right — while some flirty ghosts disappear, others keep coming back to haunt you. This post-ghosting occurrence is known as "orbiting," and if it sounds all too familiar, here are some insights into what it means for your relationship.

What is orbiting?

Coined by writer Anna Iovine of Man Repeller, "orbiting" is when a former suitor who ghosted you is still "keeping you in their orbit" by keeping tabs on your activities in cyberspace. For instance, they follow you on Instagram and Facebook, checking out your stories and even sending "haha" on your post. Orbiting is far more confusing than ghosting. You can't help but question the agenda of this person and wonder why they can't just have a real conversation with you instead of sneaking around. Well, that's what they want. As Iovine puts it, an orbiter likes it "close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk." 

Experiencing orbiting after a recent split, whether by means of ghosting or not, naturally makes people very confused. There's no easy way to explain the orbiting behavior. It might be a ghoster's way of following up on their victim, a coping mechanism for a lonely former partner, or a tool for an inquisitive ex to see how their former flame's doing. Usually, orbiters keep an eye out for their exes on social media because they like to hold on to "the fantasy of what could've been," explains relationship coach Arrezo Azimzadeh to Stylist. Because they don't want to invest energy into a relationship, orbiters avoid committing to one, she says. But if they find you cool and interesting, they keep you in their orbits so they can daydream about where your relationship might have gone.

How to deal with an orbiter

Regardless of the orbiter's motive, social media engagements can be interpreted as an expression of interest or even a desire to get back together, which makes it harder for the other party to move on. In this case, try not to confuse orbiting for signs of love. Some orbiters want to act all friendly because they think you're cool and attractive enough to be their backup mate. Others derive pleasure from rubbing salt into your wound and playing with your emotions. What you should do is to ignore them, says Aisle founder Able Joseph (via Hindustan Times). Once the orbiting has gone so far that it makes you uneasy, let them know bluntly that you're not interested. You may also want to consider taking some time off social media and focusing your energy on other activities.

If you're the person who started off the split, relationship coach Wendy Walsh recommends muting your ex's timeline and avoiding engaging with their posts (via Men's Health). If you find it too difficult to break your orbiting habit, you might need to take the draconian step of blocking them on social media entirely. If you really care for everyone's emotional well-being, abide by breakup etiquette rules. After all, you're the one who walked out, so let go of orbiting and try not to stand in the way of your ex moving on.