What is Cuffing Season?
As we bid adieu to Summer, the pressure of going into the holiday season single might start getting to us... (statistically, a lot of us), which is when Cuffing Season begins! But what exactly is it and why do so many of us go for the post-summer shack-up? Sexual health and wellness writer Amanda Chatel breaks down the reason for the season.
If there's anything to take from the last few years it's that when it comes to dating behavior, everything has a label now. Enter cuffing season. As much as the word "cuffing" might have you conjuring up delicious images of being cuffed to your bed by your partner, cuffing season is actually a time in the year when single people decide to "cuff" themselves to someone else to get through the dark and cold winter months, as well as the holidays.
According to Merriam-Webster, the first use of the term for this seasonal dating trend dates back to 2011 when college newspapers across the U.S. started using it to explain that temporary person some people keep around during the fall-into-winter months.
When is Cuffing Season?
Although there's no hard beginning or ending for cuffing season, it usually starts in October and wraps up around Valentine's Day. Which means by early November 2023, we'll definitely be well into it, and by early March 2024, those who are cuffed will be uncuffing or have already been uncuffed for a couple of weeks.
Pros & Cons of Cuffing Season
If you go into the cuffing season with the right mindset, the pros can outnumber the cons. But if your mind isn't 100% in the game and you don't have a plan, then the cons can take over. Don't let this happen to you.
You get a sex buddy: When it comes to the right mindset in regards to cuffing season, it's all about knowing that this is a temporary situation. Of course, things can change, but we'll get to that. With shorter and colder days people prefer to stay inside, so having a cuffed person lets you do that and enjoy the bliss of physical and sexual contact.
It can make the holiday season bearable: It doesn't matter if your family is plucked from a Normal Rockwell painting or is as dysfunctional as a family can get, being single during the holidays is ripe with personal questions and probing. When you partake in cuffing season, you get to tell nosey Aunt Nelly that you actually are seeing someone. If your temporary lover is cool with it, you can bring them to a holiday gathering to prove to everyone who is obsessed with your love life that, yes, the someone you're seeing isn't imaginary.
It's great practice: If you've been out of the dating game for a while, cuffing season can be your intro back into it. It's fun, low-commitment, and, as long as you don't let yourself catch a case of the feels, it's relaxed and pressure-free too. It's a good way to tip your toe back into the waters of dating.
It's self-love: While there will always be those who get a bit judgy about cuffing season because of its temporary nature, if you're at the helm, that's all that matters. Pleasure is a form of self-love, as is enjoying yourself in the company of someone else, even if that person is temporary. In fact, anything we do for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being is self-love. So, if you flourish with someone and feel good about it, that's you loving yourself. Kudos!
It can get complicated: Although it should go without saying that when you spend a lot of time with someone and sleep with them, one or both people can start to feel things that they didn't expect they would. Suddenly, your pressure-free cuddle-fest is now being questioned. Are these feelings real? Will they pass? Am I in love? Is this what intimacy really is but I've just never experienced it before? With one feeling, the floodgates can be opened and then you're drowning in questions — which leads to having serious talks and maybe some jealousy too.
An Ethical Guide to Cuffing Season for Beginners
If you're new to cuffing season, there are things to take into consideration so it's as ethical as possible. As much as emotions can throw this form of seasonal dating into a tailspin, so can avoiding honesty about the cuffing season.
What are your intentions for cuffing season?
Before you even think about treading waters, you want to nail down your intentions. Is this strictly temporary fun? Are you hoping to take your cuffed human beyond cuffing season and into too-legit-to-quit territory? Also, if your intentions are XYZ and your fellow cuffer is in a completely different stratosphere, how will you handle that?
Even if you can't answer these questions definitively at the beginning of the season, you should at least have a plan as to how you will navigate the circumstances as they arise. That's why keeping the lines of communication open is essential.
How to find a seasonal partner.
Although there's no dating app that caters specifically to cuffing season, there are apps that acknowledge that it's a thing. For example, Bumble has covered the topic and how to figure out if the person you're seeing is just looking to cuff (hint: they only want to stay indoors) or for something else (hint: they actually want to leave the comfort of the couch).
Some apps allow users to choose short-term or casual relationships. So, if you're swiping through your preferred dating app, you'll find others who are just in it for the now and the immediate future. Also, as much as finding a short-term partner sans dating apps might be an anomaly for some, social media and sites like EventBrite are all over it. It's just a matter of seeing what's available in your area. Fun fact: You're not alone in pursuit of a cuffing season partner.
How to be clear about what you're seeking.
First and foremost, whatever your intentions are for cuffing season, you need to clearly communicate them to whomever you think might make for a good fellow cuffer. As mentioned above, you may not have it all figured out right away, but you should share that with the person you want to cuff. Perhaps, you can steer the cuffing ship together.
Cuffing Tips to Consider
As much as cuffing is exciting and should be low-effort, you want to be mindful of what you're doing every step of the way.
How to handle family holidays.
Although you're not required to bring your cuffing season partner to any holiday events to meet your family or friends, if you do, you want to have a strategy in place. Beforehand, let your partner know how you two will tackle the situation together, including agreeing upon how they'll be introduced. Because family members can be the worst about these things, give them a heads up that this isn't exactly your soulmate, so they can avoid probing questions. You don't need nosey Aunt Nelly asking when you'll be getting married and having kiddos. Talk about awkward.
Be smart when making plans.
While people in serious long-term relationships have the luxury of making plans well into the future, when it comes to cuffing season partners, it's important to keep everything in the near future. Planning to see a movie that comes out mid-December or see an art exhibit that opens in early January is reasonable. What isn't reasonable is planning a weekend away to someplace warm in late February.
Every relationship requires boundaries. We set boundaries to protect ourselves and expect everyone in our lives to respect them. With a cuffing season partner you want to make your boundaries are clear before anything physical even starts. State what's OK for you sexually and emotionally. Will there be lost of spooning or just lots of sex? Will you talk about your feelings, fears, concerns, and share secrets or will there be a rule where the talk is kept casual? When things come to an end, will you stay in touch or part ways? If it's the latter, is it OK to still follow each other on Instagram?
These questions may feel like you're overthinking the situation, but having boundaries from the get-go is going to save you — both of you — a lot of hassle and possible heartache. It can't be stated enough that what you feel in October about your cuffing partner, maybe worlds away of what you feel about them in February. This reality should never be far from your mind.
Be respectful when you end it.
Whatever you do, don't ghost them if things don't go as planned. Be better than that. Ghosting is for cowards who don't respect the people around them and the time that was shared. Don't be one of those people. When it's time to say goodbye, do so kindly and mindfully.
What to Do After Cuffing Season?
Because all good things eventually come to an end (that's the thing with seasonal trysts!), you want to make sure that you both do right by each other when the season is over. Ideally, no one should feel hurt, used, or blindsided. It should be amicable and drama-free — no matter which path you choose to take.
If you want to continue the relationship:
If you two decide you have something great and want to evolve past cuffing season, then congratulations! You took a convenient hookup situation and found something deeper. As you probably already know, trying to find someone we want to explore a relationship with and who wants to explore one with us isn't always easy.
As you would with any relationship, now's your chance to talk about what direction you want to take things, how you'll change your terms and boundaries, and maybe even plan for the weekend away to someplace warm in March.
If you want to be single:
If you decide enough is enough and you want to spend time with others or numero uno, then congratulations! You had a successful cuffing season, had some cuddles, lots of sex, and watched every serial killer documentary on Netflix, and now you have a new friend (or acquaintance, depending on how close you want to keep them).
It's at this point that you should share what you want for your future. If your cuffing season buddy has other ideas, at least give them the respect of hearing them out. Everyone deserves that. But just remember that even if they lay out a great theory as to why you two should continue seeing each other, you're not under any obligation to continue things. Thank them and move on, move forward, and into Spring 2024 with zero regrets.