Winter is coming. Do you know what that means? Cuffing season is upon us. And if you happen to follow #cuffingseason, you’ll learn that September is “Drafting” and October is the “Tryout” phase.
It has nothing to do with sports. It’s all about dating during this time of year.
“Cuffing season is the search for someone to shack up with or exclusively date during the holidays and colder winter months,” says Samantha Burns, a psychotherapist and dating coach and author of Done with Dating: 7 Steps to Finding Your Person. “It’s a time when casual dating shifts to more exclusive, committed dating. It’s about enjoying the warmth of a cuddle buddy instead of venturing out into the cold to meet up with potential dating duds,” she says.
There isn’t hard scientific data on the dating trend, some outlets have attempted to quantify it. In one survey by the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, about half of singles surveyed said they think more about dating during cuffing season, and 4 in 10 say they’re more likely to use dating apps during this time. One-fifth of survey respondents said they’d date someone in the winter to avoid being lonely, according to data analytics firm YouGov. (This survey focused on cuffing being a conscious short-term fling, but of course these relationships can last longer.)
While the term might sound lighthearted and fun, the drive to get cuffed is based on a deep, natural human need, says psychologist Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, host of the Love, Happiness & Success podcast. “In the summer, people are flittering around like dragonflies. In the winter, at least in the Northern hemisphere, it’s cold and dark, and it can feel very lonely,” she says. “There’s this evolutionary pull to connect with other humans, which is often subconscious.”
Not to mention, no matter where you live, the holidays – with all their family events and parties – are looming. Simply seeing the decorations out in stores can prime you to seek connection, Bobby says. That’s especially true if you want to be able to shut down your always-critical aunt at the Thanksgiving table. (Yes! I have found someone!) And if one of your goals this year was to find a partner, now you’re on a deadline – and that might make you even more enthusiastic to get out there.
No matter what your motivation, it’s valid and useful. “Finding the right person requires a lot of energy and effort,” Bobby says. Cuffing season can give you that extra push you need.
How Long Can Cuffing Last?
Cuffing, while it may be seasonally motivated, isn’t always a temporary fling. For some, that’s the case: You want a person to be your plus one for the holidays. “The relationship could fizzle out come spring, but you could also genuinely fall in love and create a long-lasting relationship,” Burns says.
There’s also an opportunity to get to know people on a deeper level during this time of year. “It always takes a long time to really get to know someone,” Bobby says. “To connect and develop a relationship during a quieter time of year is to your advantage, since it can help you get to know someone on a more meaningful level.”
Ordering in just the two of you or cuddling on the couch, for instance, may set the stage for deeper conversations. At the very least, being one-on-one helps you determine if you really enjoy spending time with this person and if their goals and values are in line with yours. And if you bring them around the family for the holidays (or you go to theirs)? That’s another way to deepen that connection and get a sense on if this is a true fit or not. By the time spring comes around, you’ve had enough time to know if you’d like to continue.
Whether winter is coming or it’s smack dab in the middle of summer, it’s important to keep a few things in mind for a healthy partnership.
Communicate: Don’t know your new partner’s intentions with the relationship? Burns urges you to open up the lines of communication to get on the same page. You may want a long-term commitment, but what if they want something casual? Hopefully, they’re open to answering questions about where you two stand, but if they dodge or shut down the convo, that’s your indication that they’re not taking things as seriously as you are, she says. It will be up to you to decide if you’re OK with that. Similarly, if you’re at relationship crossroads and don’t want to be with the person you’re cuffed with any longer, then it’s important to be clear and break up (no ghosting).
Open up: It’s not just The Bachelor franchise that has a trademark on getting vulnerable. In fact, if you are trying to find Your Person during cuffing season, Burns suggests having meaningful, vulnerable conversations during the first few dates. That includes big questions, such as having kids (and raising them!), what your political beliefs are, what you want out of life, and much more. This has a dual purpose: “This is how you can not only create deeper emotional intimacy and form connection,” Burns says, “but also make sure you’re not wasting your time with someone who will only be around for one season, or who doesn’t want the same things.”
Work on yourself: Before cuffing season kicks off, it’s a great time to do the inner work that can help foster attracting the right partner and building healthy relationships, Bobby says. “Getting clear about who you are and your values and gaining self-awareness about your patterns in relationships is personal growth work that can help you make good decisions.”