What is cuffing season?
Cuffing season is the time of year when, according to Urban Dictionary, "People who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves along with the rest of the world desiring to be 'cuffed' or tied down by a serious relationship." If you’re still wondering why it’s called cuffing, it’s a derivative of “handcuffing,” because you’re basically shackling yourself to another person for a season. (And they say romance is dead.)
According to Christie Kederian, EdD, LMFT, a psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in the psychology of relationships, one of the biggest reasons that singles partake in cuffing season is because they feel pressure and desire to have someone to spend the holidays with. “It can be difficult to be single at family gatherings and feel alone when we are bombarded with Christmas Hallmark movies and everyone being in love,” she says. “Cuffing season acts as a lifeline to help singles get through the holidays into Valentine's Day.”
“Cuffing season acts as a lifeline to help singles get through the holidays into Valentine's Day.” —Christie Kederian, EdD, LMFT
That brings up another question: Can cuffing season partnerships turn into long-term relationships? Well, it depends. “Although rare, cuffing can turn into a relationship if people are connecting and emotionally available to explore a deeper commitment,” Dr. Kederian says. “If they are remaining unattached and disconnected, or if the person doesn't fit the other's values and preferences, then the relationship doesn't have a great chance of surviving because it's not built off of a strong or mutual foundation.”
What if you don’t want to be a cuff?
While some singles may be perfectly content having a snuggle buddy for a season and then parting ways once the warmer weather rolls around, those that are looking for a long-term relationship may not be thrilled to be used as a “cuff.” If you’re in the latter boat, Dr. Kederian says some signs that you may be being used as a cuff can include someone only wanting to only spend time together doing activities or attending holiday events, but not taking an interest in getting to know you in a deeper way.
The same goes if the relationship is purely physical, Dr. Kederian says, and lacks deep conversations about the future. The person is probably not looking for something serious. Another red flag, Dr. Kederian adds is if the other person recently left a relationship, which shows they may be struggling to get through the holidays alone.
If you suspect that you’re acting as someone’s cuff (or vice versa) and you don’t want to be, honesty is the best policy, both with yourself about your own needs and with the other person. “Try to be honest with yourself and with the other person about whether this connection has the opportunity to grow or if it's just casual and short-term,” Dr. Kederian says. “It's good dating karma to avoid giving someone the impression that something is what it isn't.”
Still, spending the cuffing season single, for some, may not be ideal. With that in mind, Dr. Kederian says it’s important to acknowledge your loneliness first and foremost, and then focus on filling your time in other ways that make you feel surrounded by love such as spending time with friends and family.
Furthermore, to avoid accidentally partaking in cuffing season, Dr. Kederian advises not jumping into an exclusive relationship right away. In other words, keep your options open. To do so, plan your dates and outings around casual and fun activities, rather than romantic rendezvous or holidays events and friends and family gatherings just for the sake of having a date.
The official cuffing season schedule
All that said, for some singles, having a cuff for a season may be just what they’re looking for, and that’s totally cool. Dr. Kederian says its important thing is to ensure you’re going about it in a healthy way and that requires both people being on the same page. “You must be really clear with your communication,” she says. “Also, if your feelings start to shift or you want something more than just hanging out, it's important to express that and be honest with yourself and the other person.”
Before you get worried about having missed the cuffing season window, rest assured—you have time. The hosts of the Save The Date Show podcast, crafted a cuffing season schedule in 2018 to keep you on track for finding a special someone to bunker down within time for holiday shenanigans: While the warmer months were all about fielding season (i.e. playing the field), October is all about weighing your more-serious options and keeping your swiping finger nice and toned. The ramp up to Thanksgiving is when you want to be testing out your final lineup. And according to this schedule, cuffing season doesn't officially start until December, just as the holidays kick into full force, they say.
So you've got a bit of time before it's you subject your fingers to swiping-induced cramps, which means plenty of time to fire up your fave dating app or up the BDE-ante in your profile. And if you don't want to give in to the pressure to partner up this winter? Well, don't! It's okay if you're not into dating for sport, and it's also totally possible to be single and happy (even during cuffing season).
With reporting from Gabrielle Kassel
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