What is Cuffing Season? 4 Things You Need to Know About Seasonal Relationships
Does the cold weather really drive people to start new relationships? It turns out, it does, and there’s a term for it: cuffing.
The term "cuffing" is based on the idea of someone getting "handcuffed" or tied down to a romantic partner during the winter. When the weather starts to get colder, people decide to enter relationships, even if commitment isn’t their thing. Relationship experts explain that “cuffing season” usually starts around the fall and ends when the weather warms up again, around spring.
The phrase “cuffing season” was first defined on the crowdsourced website Urban Dictionary in 2010, where it was said to be “the time of year when people are looking to be in a relationship.” It began mostly as a joke, but as more evidence began to support its validity, the term caught on like wildfire.
For many, it’s no fun to be single during the winter! The cold keeps people hunkered down at home, which leads to a lack of socialization and a lot of lonely nights for single people. Not to mention, shorter days can increase feelings of depression, leading to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
So, to quell those feelings of loneliness, people turn to cuffing. It is a way to put a temporary end to singledom during the emotionally-charged holiday season. When the temperatures drop, people crave cuddling under blankets, drinking hot chocolate, and enjoying the warmth of another human being. Of course, relationships that stem from cuffing season aren’t typically long-term material and fizzle out in the summer months.
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Let’s take a closer look at the top four things you need to know about cuffing:
1. Why Do People Start Relationships During Cuffing Season?
Cuffing up is a short-term solution to combating isolation during the winter, especially during the holidays. There is research that suggests people tend to feel more lonely when the weather is cold. Moreover, no one likes to be alone when the holiday season hits. Because of this, people rush into relationships they have no business being in.
Most interestingly, research has also found that people are more inclined to watch romantic movies when it’s cold outside. If that’s the case, then sitting alone on your couch watching The Notebook during a snowstorm will definitely motivate you to couple up. The external pressure from family members who insist on talking about your dating life over Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t help, either.
Of course, another reason for cuffing boils down to biology. We’re human — we want to feel warm and loved both emotionally and physically. There is actually a term for our desire for human contact, known as “skin hunger.” While it might sound like a phrase coined by Hannibal Lecter, “skin hunger” actually describes the extent to which we crave sensual touch. As our bodies start to prepare for the cold, we are more drawn to cuddling than usual.
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2. The Signs of Cuffing
If you find yourself starting a new relationship in the winter months, you might be wondering if you’ve been “cuffed up.” Here are some signs your relationship probably won’t make it to the warmer months:
- You make a lot of plans for the holiday season, but they don’t extend beyond that
- Your relationship is mainly physical and lacks a deeper connection
- They contact you out of the blue days before a holiday event (because they don’t want to go alone)
- They send a lot of mixed signals
- You don’t go on a lot of dates (if any)
- There may be periods when you don’t hear from your partner (aka, ghosting)
- Your partner seems emotionally unavailable or detached
- You find yourself questioning your partner’s commitment
- Your partner has a pattern of temporary relationships during the winter
If you feel uncertain about your future together and there’s no commitment to any plans after the cold months, you’re likely in a cuffed relationship. Your partner will do the bare minimum to keep you happy, and when that happens, it’s not hard to miss.
3. Tips for Cuffing Season
If you’re cuffed up during the winter season, here’s what you should keep in mind to prevent hurt feelings and heartache:
Be Completely Honest
When a relationship is formed during cuffing season, it’s all too common for one person to be more invested than the other. Whether you’re the cuffer or the one being cuffed, your partner should know exactly where you stand when it comes to the relationship.
If you are only looking for a temporary relationship, you should be as up front as possible about it. Be honest about what you’re looking for and what your expectations are. If you are the one that wants things to be more long-term, don’t assume that your partner will change their mind when the winter is over.
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The both of you need to be completely transparent and on the same page to avoid one or both of you from getting hurt. Talk about whether your relationship has the potential to grow or if short-term is the only option.
Set Healthy Boundaries
If you start to realize you’re in a cuffing situation and you’re not okay with it, it’s important to speak up. You shouldn’t brush off any red flags in hopes that the relationship will turn out differently. (It’s a quick route to heartache!)
Observe and be honest with yourself about what is actually happening, not what you want to happen. Healthy boundaries are essential, and if you’re in a relationship that makes you uncomfortable, you need to rework the terms. Speak up to your partner and discuss what your expectations are and whether they can be met and respected.
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Keep Your Options Open
If you don’t want to become a cuff for someone, the best way to avoid it is to keep your options open. If you jump into an exclusive relationship too quickly during cuffing season, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself single again once the first sign of spring hits.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with casual dating! It’s a great way to figure out what you’re looking for in a partner while helping you grow as an individual.
Find Other Ways to Spend Your Time
If you are feeling extra lonely during the cold months, there are other options for helping yourself that don’t involve a short-term relationship. Lean on friends and family, find a new hobby, and practice some self-care.
You can always turn to a therapist as well, who can help you work through your emotions and address your feelings of loneliness.
Appreciate Cuffing for What It Is
If you are both looking for a cuffed relationship and are on the same page about where you stand, then enjoy it for what it is! It can be an enjoyable few months if there isn’t any pressure to make the relationship something it’s not.
That said, if you start to fall for the person, it’s probably best to evaluate whether it’s worth continuing.
4. How Do You Know Your Relationship Will Survive After Cuffing Season?
It’s important to keep in mind that just because you started a relationship in the colder months, does not mean you’re cuffed up! If you’re connecting on an intimate, emotional level, making plans for the future, and going on plenty of dates, your relationship has a good chance at sticking around in the summer months.
Some other signs you and your partner are not just cuffing up for the winter include:
- You're excited to introduce them to friends and family
- You talk about dreams and long-term goals
- You share the same morals and values
- You can see yourself marrying them
- You feel like they truly respect you
- They prioritize your needs, not just their own
- They put a lot of effort into the relationship
Of course, one of the best ways to determine whether your relationship is in it for the long run is to talk about it. Communication is key!
If you find yourself longing for physical contact during the winter months, you are certainly not alone. Cuffing has become the norm for so many people who refuse to go through the holidays in isolation.
If you think cuffing is the solution for your winter blues, remember to be completely open about your needs, set and maintain healthy boundaries, and respect your partner if they decide a temporary relationship isn’t what they want.
The desire to cuff (or be cuffed) is a totally natural response to loneliness, and while it has the potential to work, it’s still important to create a respectful and honest relationship — even if it is just for the winter.
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