Winter is coming. Do you know what this means? Cuff season is upon us. And if you follow #cuffingseason, you’ll learn that September is the drafting phase and October is the tryout phase.
It has nothing to do with sports. This time of year is all about dating.
“Cuff season is finding someone to date or exclusively date during the holidays and colder winter months,” says Samantha Burns, psychotherapist, dating coach and author of Done Dating: 7 Steps to Finding Your Person. “It’s a time when casual dating is shifting towards more exclusive, engaging dating. It’s about enjoying the warmth of a hug Dude Instead of venturing out into the cold to meet potential dating guys,” she says.
There is no hard scientific data on the dating trend, some outlets have attempted to quantify it. In a survey by dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, about half of the singles surveyed said they think more about dating during cuff season, and 4 in 10 say they are more likely to use dating apps during this time. According to data analytics company YouGov, a fifth of respondents said they would date someone in the winter to avoid being lonely. (This survey focused on bondage being a deliberate short-term affair, but of course these relationships can last longer.)
While the term might sound light-hearted and funny, the urge to get attached 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 buzz around like dragonflies. In winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, it’s cold and dark and it can feel very lonely,” she says. “There’s this evolutionary urge to connect with other people that’s often unconscious.”
Not to mention, no matter where you live, the holidays – with all their family events and parties – are upon us. Just looking at the decorations in the stores can inspire you to seek a connection, says Bobby. That’s especially true if you want to shut up your ever-critical aunt at the Thanksgiving table. (Yes! I found someone!) And if one of your goals this year was to find a partner, now is your deadline — and that might make you even more excited to be out there.
No matter what your motivation is, it is valid and useful. “Finding the right person takes a lot of energy and effort,” says Bobby. Cuff season can give you that extra boost you need.
Handcuffing, while it can be seasonally motivated, isn’t always a passing affair. For some, that’s the case: you want one person to be your plus for the holidays. “The relationship could fizzle out next spring, but you could also really fall in love and have a long-lasting relationship,” says Burns.
This time of year is also an opportunity to meet people on a deeper level. “It always takes a long time to really get to know someone,” says Bobby. “Socializing and developing a relationship during a quieter time of year is to your advantage as it can help you get to know someone on a more meaningful level.”
For example, just cuddling as a couple or on the couch can set the stage for deeper conversations. At the very least, the one-on-one session will help you determine if you really enjoy spending time with this person and if their goals and values align with yours. And if you bring them to (or drive to) the family for the holidays? This is another way to deepen that connection and get a feel for whether this really fits or not. When spring comes, you’ll have plenty of time to know if you want to move on.
Whether winter is coming or it’s 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 the lines of communication to get to the same page. They might want a long-term commitment, but what if they want something casual? Hopefully they’re open to answering questions about where you both stand, but if they dodge the convo or shut them down, that’s your clue that they don’t take things as seriously as you do, she says. It is up to you to decide whether you agree to this. If you’re at a crossroads in your relationship and no longer want to be with the person you’re tied up with, then it’s important to be clear and break up (no ghosting).
Open: It is not just The bachelor franchise that has a hallmark of getting vulnerable. In fact, when trying to find your person during cuff season, Burns suggests having meaningful, vulnerable conversations during the first few dates. These include big questions like having children (and raising them!), what your political beliefs are, what you want out of life, and more. This serves a dual purpose: “Not only does this allow you to create a deeper emotional intimacy and connection,” says Burns, “but it also makes sure you’re not wasting your time with someone who’s just there for a season, or who don’t want the same.”
Work on yourself: Before cuffing season begins, it’s a great time to do the inner work that can help attract the right partner and build healthy relationships, says Bobby. “Becoming clear about who you are, your values, and your relationship patterns is personal growth work that can help you make good decisions.”