What Is Cuffing Season? How To Know If You're Falling In Love — Or If The Season Has You Fooled

Photo: Getty
couple holding hands and walking during cuffing season
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Every year, as the weather turns cold, something inside of us changes, too. You pull on your cozy sweaters and start noticing how cute everyone looks in their scarves, thus kicking off cuffing season for single people.

The smell of pumpkin spice wafts from cafes and flannel appears in shop windows because they know what we want: to spend the fall and winter months cozy, surrounded by comfy things and snuggled up to someone so we won't be alone for the winter holidays.

What is cuffing season?

The term "cuffing season" refers to that magical time of year when the air gets cold and crisp and unsuspecting singles everywhere are seized by an overwhelming urge to settle down with someone like a pair of the fluffiest lovebirds you ever did see.

The theory behind it all is that when the weather gets chilly, even people who typically prefer a life without commitments become eager to form close relationships.

If we were going to be all caught up on semantics, the phrase should be properly written as 'cuffing season, Cuffing is shorthand for handcuffing, as in, when you cuff someone, you've locked them away from the rest of the world in relationship prison, where the two of you can take part in some prolonged indoor activity.

Cuffing season lasts from October to February — getting us from Halloween and Thanksgiving through the December holidays and then Valentine's Day without having to look for a date.

And while some say cuffing season is a phenomenon that causes people who are lonely and desperate to settle for relationships that are otherwise below their standards, not everyone agrees.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Nadine Macaluso told us cuffing is a great way to practice self-care, noting that it's natural for human beings to crave connection, bonding and love.

RELATED: Cuffing Season 2020: Will You Be Skipping Or Loving It During The Pandemic?

Sure, knowing the holidays are creeping up can inspire desperation, but it could also help you lower some of those defensive walls you've built around yourself that stand in the way of finding lasting love. In that way, cuffing season can be a great.

Even if you think this term is silly, I bet it's something you've either experienced or observed, even if you didn't know there was an official name for it.

With all of that in mind, let's look at what cuffing season really means for your love life, whether it can hurt your chances of finding true love in the long run, and talk about how to cuff successfully.

Should you cuff this fall and winter?

The term first appeared on Urban Dictionary as early as 2010, began gaining traction on Twitter in 2013, and was solidifed in popular culture with the release of the song "Cuffin' Season" by rapper Fabolous on Christmas Day of that same year.

But having internet and social media-based origins don't make cuffing a bad thing to do!

"In all relationships," says Dr. Mcaluso, "it's smart to set healthy boundaries and clear communication is critical — you are both agreeing to cuddle up now without any future expectations."

If you feel like you're about to become yet another colder months cuffing victim, consider your motivation and whether you might be healthier on your own.

That said, couples counselor Mary Kay Cocharo notes that while there is a chance cuffing may bring you comfort and fun, you could also end up heartbroken.

"I would rather see individuals cultivate self-care and self-enjoyment to get through the holiday season," she says.

What makes a cuffed relationship different?

I think the best way to explain what makes cuffing different from your typical relationship can be summed up in one word: intentions.

When you enter into a typical, non-cuffed relationship with someone who calls you their girlfriend or boyfriend, the two of you hope and expect you will grow together in your relationship over time.

Cuffing each other might mean an increased level of commitment between partners, but it by no means indicates either person has the intention of the relationship getting serious or lasting past the end of cuffing season.

That doesn't mean relationships based on cuffing aren't a bad thing — as long as you're both on the same page about where you're headed.

Photo: Getty

Cuffing isn't the same as dating, nor is it like hooking up. Dating is sort of like auditioning someone to be your future partner, and hooking up is, well, you know — short-term enjoyment without commitment.

Cuffing is something between those two. It's a relationship, just short-term.

To help you out, we have a few tips on how to cuff in a productive, ethical manner.

How To Cuff

1. Use dating apps to find a cuffing partner.

Yes, you can join OKCupid, Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and/or Match to find someone to cuff with.

In your profile, be sure to state clearly that you're looking for someone to hang out with, snuggle with, watch Netflix with, and maybe even kiss on New Year's Eve so potential matches know what you're looking for.

You can even write "I'm looking for someone to chill with for cuffing season" and see what happens!

Be sure to post a photo of you living your best hygge life to attract just the right cozy partner.

RELATED: How To Write A Dating Profile For Cuffing Season

2. Find a willing friend with benefits (FWB) to cuddle up with.

Most of us have that one friend we can lean on, hug tighter and longer than we do our other friends. You may even have already considered kissing yours. Sounds like the perfect cuffing season FWB!

Photo: Getty

Invite them over to binge a season of some new show and propose taking your friendship up a notch. Just be sure to explain what you're expecting and for how long.

Keep it no- or low-pressure and tell them that your friendship can remain exactly the same if they're not into your plan (and then follow through with that, no weirdness, please!).

Keep the lines of communication open throughout cuffing season, talking about any changed expectations for the future as they arise so no one gets hurt.

3. Ask friends to set you up.

Tell your friends and sympathetic family members about your desire to find a cuffing season mate and ask them to keep an eye out for you.

Set-ups can be hard because when things get awkward we tend to blame the people who introduced us. Don't do that.

Be respectful to anyone you're set up with, even if they're not right for you. You are under no obligation to hook up or even snuggle with them, but you do need to be kind (as long as they're kind to you).

4. Be honest.

No matter how you meet your cuffing season snuggle partner, you need to be honest about what you want.

Photo: Getty

Tell your potential partner what you want: cozy hookups, casual wintertime dating, or a relationship that could potentially develop into something more.

Then ask what they want to make sure you're on the same page.

RELATED: 10 Reasons To Ignore Cuffing Season And Stay Single This Fall

People who pair up during this time of year can be a lot like pigeons under a highway during the snowiest months. It doesn't really matter if they like each other, as long as they're next to another warm body and can agree to do what it takes to keep each other warm until ice thaws.

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This worries Cocharo, who says, "I suppose you could fall in love while cuffing and live happily ever after, but it could end with you feeling depressed and more lonely than ever."

That said, it's not impossible for a relationship born during cuffing season to withstand the test of time.

6 Signs Your Cuffing Season Relationship Will Last Beyond The Thaw

1. Your values match.

Cuffing season relationships often feature mismatched or odd couple pairs. He's a goth nihilist, you're a perky New England WASP. She's a big drinker, you're sober.

These things may seem unimportant when you're snuggling up to watch Netflix while the snow falls, but if you're hoping for a future together, your values might be too different.

That doesn't make either of you bad people or wrong — it just means this relationship may not be slated for the long-term.

If you find yourselves checking the same boxes as far as values go, this cuffing fling might be a relationship that lasts the test of time.

2. You want the same things.

Are you both looking to commit, long-term? Do you want to have kids and a house in the suburbs some day? Do you both imagine living a frolicking urban artist's life?

It doesn't matter when you meet or how — if you want the same things and are compatible, this could be more than just another cuff.

3. You don't usually get lonely during the wintertime.

If you're usually the type who enjoys being alone during the winter holidays, you probably aren't being drawn to your partner due to the cuffing instinct.

Photo: Getty

The only thing you need to figure out is whether your new partner is like you or if they are only looking for someone to keep them warm and coupled up for now.

4. Your eye isn't wandering.

During the summer months, it's easy to be tempted by the lovely bare shoulders and exposed collarbones of passersby. Maybe that's why so many cuffing relationships end when sweaters go back in the drawer.

But that doesn't mean we are never tempted in the wintertime. If your relationship is purely based on convenience, your eye will likely wander to even the most padded and fleeced-up shoulders and bums.

5. You can see yourself with them for years.

If your fantasy future with your partner isn't just about having someone to kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve, you might be in luck. Can you see trips to the beach, picnics with friends, and maybe even a long trip through Europe together someday?

As long as your cuffing partner feels the same, this might be the real thing. Congrats!

6. You've said "I love you" to one another.

If you went into your cuffing relationship intending to be casual but found yourselves saying "I love you" (and not while you're hot-and-heavy), you might actually be headed for something truly fulfilling and long-term.

Remember that, no matter what, the time you spend together during cuffing season can be wonderful.

One of the best things about cuffing season is that, at least in theory, this time shall have an end.

That first beautiful flush of warmth during spring will release you both to go your separate ways and you will once again be free to let your proverbial single freak flags fly!

At least, until next fall.

RELATED: How Your Zodiac Sign Survives Cuffing Season (+ Your Perfect Match)

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She's the Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.