What is Cuffing Season? Winter Dating, Explained

There’s something about winter that makes us want to get cozy, and not do it alone. This feeling is so widespread that a dating trend has emerged. Every year, at exactly this time, singles search for a partner and hold on tight. Until spring, that is…

What is this strange dating phenomenon? It’s called cuffing season. But when is cuffing season and what does “cuffed” mean?

Here’s everything you need to know about this form of seasonal dating, how to navigate it, and how to figure out if you have indeed been “cuffed”.

Two pairs of feet in winter socks with fireplace

What is cuffing season?

“Cuffing season” is the time of year when lots of short-term relationships happen. The weather gets cooler, the days get shorter, and single people search for partners to help them through the cold and lonely seasons.

What is cuffing season? Cuffing season is like a cozier, more intimate, and slightly longer version of a spring fling. It’s a period of time in which people try to lock lovers into intimate and romantic relationships - before returning to casual sex and dating during summer.

When is cuffing season?

Cuffing season usually begins in late fall and ends in spring, around April. When is cuffing season in terms of major events? It tends to carry people through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the major seasonal holidays and ends sometime after Valentine’s day (conveniently).

Why is it called cuffing season?

And what does “cuffed” mean?

It’s called cuffing season because it refers to a dating pattern at a particular time of year (hence the word season). The word cuffing refers to handcuffs. Why? Because you are “locking yourself” emotionally to someone else for this duration.

Purple fluffy handcuffs on red background

What’s the point of cuffing season?

It might seem selfish, but there actually lots of rational reasons why so many people settle down at this time of year.

What is cuffing season all about? For starters, there’s the desire for companionship, coziness, regular sex, and having someone who cares about you during a difficult time of year. Even if they don’t last forever, relationships that happen during cuffing season can be emotionally comforting, calming, and soothing for everyone involved.

There are biological reasons, too. Winter sadness is a real thing. With less sun, shorter and colder days, more rain, fewer social events, and less connection with nature comes a drop in serotonin and worsening mental health.

It’s natural to crave the feel-good hormones created by emotional connection, cuddling, and sex.

On top of this, the colder months have social pressures that can make singledom a challenge. We’ve seen enough romantic movies to know that the holiday season is designed for couples.

Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Valentine’s day are pushed on us as a time to be in love. And if you’re not? There’s no space for you.

Couple cuddling and laughing in bed

These unfair expectations about the extra romance of winter months help make cuffing season the widespread phenomenon that it is.

Is cuffing season a good idea? Is it fair?

If settling down just for the colder months has been communicated and works for both of you, that’s great.

What is cuffing season, what does cuffed mean, and is it okay to take part? Ethical problems pop up if one person isn’t clear about their intentions or gives the other person hope for a future that doesn’t exist, as this leads to hurt feelings and using people.

When is cuffing season? It’s during the colder months - but that doesn’t mean your cuffing relationship has to end there. People don’t always enter relationships knowing exactly what they want or where it could go.

Sometimes relationships end quickly, sometimes they last a long time - we can’t always control how our feelings change.

Laughing couple outside in autumn background

It’s okay to enter a relationship during cuffing season not knowing how long you want it to last, as long as that’s clearly communicated, too.

How can I tell if I’ve been cuffed?

Not sure if you’ve been cuffed?

Did they slide into your DMs in the fall or purposefully put off dating you until the summer was over? Were they surprisingly intense once you did start dating, and did they move your relationship along and start doing intimate activities a bit too quickly?

Is it an ex-partner trying to reconnect out of the blue? (This actually has a name: winter coating.)

Are you talking about future plans past spring? Have they told you they do or don’t want a long-term relationship? Have they described having this kind of relationship pattern before?

You can think about all these things and trust your gut, but the best way to know if you’ve been cuffed is simple: ask them!

Two mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows in bed

Cuffing season might sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to cozy up and settle down for the wintry seasons, go for it - just be honest about your feelings and intentions.

And remember there are other ways to get those necessary happy hormones during cold months: friends, family, cuddle buddies, hobbies, hot chocolates, vibrators…