Deepwater fold and thrust belts (DWFTBs) occur in a large number of active and passive continental margins, and their occurrence play an important role in controlling the structural configuration and stratigraphic evolution of margins. Although DWFTBs that are located on passive margins are a coupled system, in which updip extension is linked to downdip contraction, many studies have established a significant imbalance between these two domains in favor of net extensional strain. We have sequentially restored a series of parallel sections from the Orange Basin, South Africa, to quantify the amount of extension and contraction along a single collapse system. We found there to be a constant shortfall in the amount of contraction relative to extension in these features, which allowed us to quantify the lateral compaction of the margin as 5%. We also established a temporal model for the development and growth of thin shale detachment gravity collapse structures on passive margins. This model had implications not only for the kinematic and geometric evolution of these systems but also on the geomechanical process involved, in particular the accommodation of strain through compactional processes rather than discrete faulting.