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Mental Health Relationships

Ghosting Has a Cruel New Dating Counterpart, “Orbiting”

My phone was utterly lost in all the chaos on my wedding day.

The following day when I found it, there were numerous messages of congratulations. What made me stop in my tracks for a moment was the Instagram message from an ex-boyfriend from college, Brian, whom I hadn’t spoken with in over a decade.

“Happy wedding day!”

First off, I honestly wasn’t even aware that my ex was still following me. However, it was even odder that this was the message he had chosen to send of all days.

Yet he wasn’t the first. When I posted our wedding photos, there were likes from random dates, several hookups back in the day, and people I hadn’t spoken with in years.

A new term emerged several years ago for this strange dating behavior… orbiting.

However, there are specific reasons why this can damage mental health and affect how people navigate their romantic relationships.

It allows toxic people to remain part of your life without effort.

Katie giggled as she read the message on her phone.

“Matt is so funny.”

“Matt?” I answered, confused. “I thought that he ghosted you after several dates?”

Katie shook her head. “He is busy at work; he likes almost all my posts and comments on my stories; I just know we will be going on another date soon!”

Matt never asked Katie on another date, but for months, she responded to his messages, allowing him access to her life and thoughts and keeping her hanging on a thread without giving her anything real. Katie even turned down other interested prospects because she was hanging on to the hope that Matt would come back around.

It gives the “orbited” individual false hope that the relationship could be salvaged.

A few years ago, I went on one of the best first dates of my life with a young man named Tanner. We immediately hit it off and began casually dating. After a couple of months, he dumped me without warning and said he wasn’t ready to be with someone long-term. Tanner had been divorced and married very young, and it made sense, but I was devastated.

A week or so after I was dumped, my friend and I went out, and I posted a picture on social media. Tanner immediately liked it and sent a message that I looked amazing. My heart leaped up in my throat, and I thought there might still be a chance.

The reality is that Tanner was making a quick comment. After that, he watched my stories and, a few months later, sent flirty messages, but I realized that it didn’t mean anything. For my mental sanity, I blocked Tanner and never spoke with him again.

Does anyone need to tolerate this type of behavior?

Absolutely not.

You have no obligation to keep anyone in your life, especially someone that wants to keep you as an option in the future.

Honestly, I had forgotten entirely about several people who liked my photos. There is no reason for me to be friends with them or for them to look at my life, so I deleted them.

Social media certainly hasn’t made dating any more straightforward. Now, people are available at the press of a button, and finding someone who wants a real long-term connection is not easy.

This reality means protecting your life and space is more important than ever. Mute them or block them. Privacy is hard to come by these days, and you are not obligated to open the doors of your life to anyone, past or present.

Carrie Wynn



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