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What is Cuffing Season? How to Know If Your Relationship is Temporary

Is your relationship just for cuffing season, or will it last beyond the winter?

Ahh, cuffing season. Also known as winter. Also known as that time of year when you watch men and women alike flock into mediocre relationships just because it’s cold out. Not to be the Heat Miser here, but we’re a little skeptical about the long-term viability of these so-called cuffing season couples.

But, there is some science to back the feminine urge to lock someone down when the weather changes. According to BU Today, seasonal affectiveness disorder (SAD) affects upwards of 10 million Americans every year. And women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with it. So if you’re feeling that lonely itch as the weather turns frosty, know that you’re not… alone.

In our humble opinion, cuffing season is a modern-day plague. On second thought, we’re dealing with enough of those. Let’s call it a modern-day dating disaster. Almost as much of a disaster as those new Hinge voice prompts. So let’s get into what it is.
Cuffing Season - Couple

What is Cuffing Season?

Thanks for asking, lonely internet stranger. Cuffing season is the time of year when the leaves die slow, painful deaths and lonely hearts everywhere enter into temporary relationships with people who may or may not meet their standards normally.

Think of cuffing season as the opposite of hot girl summer. When people get lonely and the weather turns cold, dark things happen, and it’s not just the sun going down way too early. Including reuniting with your ex, or deciding to see that guy from Bumble about twelve times more than you really wanted to.

Basically, a lot of people don’t like to be single during the holidays and want a warm body to curl up next to every night when they escape from the snow. Or, if you’re anything like us, as they watch the snow from inside and don’t leave their houses for about three months.

The catch is that most of the time, at least one of the people in this relationship don’t see it lasting long-term, and view their cuffing season partner as more of a heated blanket than an actual girlfriend or boyfriend. Our advice? An actual heated blanket costs like $20. And doesn’t steal… itself.
Cuffing Season - Couple on a date

When is Cuffing Season?

Cuffing season is during the coldest months of the year. If you live in Hawaii and you’re like, ‘what is cold?’, it equates to about mid-October to mid-February. Also, what are you doing here, Hawaiian queen? Enjoy your year-round hot girl summer and leave cuffing season to us sad East Coast girlies.

Typically, you can expect cuffing season to kick off around Halloween and wrap up by Valentine’s Day.
Cuffing Season - winter

How Do I Know If I’m Being ‘Cuffed’?

Oh, sweet child of summer. We get it. The winter months are rough for single folks. If you’re not sure if you’re being ‘cuffed,’ or if the person you’re seeing actually envisions a real relationship with you that spans into the sacred season of summer, read on.

1. They won’t make plans with you past January 31st.

They are super excited to spend a lot of time with you this winter, but conversations about the future stop right before Valentine’s Day. Of course, V-day is a romantic holiday and if they aren’t serious about you, they are probably trying to dip out before getting roped into any plans around then.

If you’ve mentioned the idea of traveling together as a couple for your birthday in March, and they keep brushing you off, it’s possible that they aren’t looking at your fling as a long-term thing.
Cuffing Season - holding hands winter

2. It gets physical quickly, and stays that way.

Cuffing season relationships aren’t just about sex – they’re about intimacy of any degree – but sex is usually a pretty big part of it.

Are you spending tons of time in bed together, but conversations are few and far between? That’s probably an indication that they don’t want to develop emotional intimacy with you because they don’t see the relationship progressing. This is especially true if you’ve tried initiating deeper conversations and have been verbally cock-blocked. Give it a try if you’re not sure.

3. They have ghosted you.

Nothing is worse than being ghosted. It’s the act of never talking to someone again after seeing them once, or even a handful of times. We consider it the immature version of breaking up.

If your cuff-buddy has ghosted you once, twice, or many times, first of all, get out of that situation, girl! You deserve someone who at least has the decency to text you back.

This could include them not responding to your text  (or worse – dating app message) for days on end, planning a date and flaking, bailing on plans repeatedly, standing you up, or any combination of those. Here’s the best dating advice we can give: if they wanted to, they would. Translation: if they were serious about a relationship with you, they would answer your texts. At the very minimum.
Cuffing Season - holding hands winter

4. They have never been in a long-term relationship.

Let’s define a long-term relationship as one that lasts longer than six months. If they’re a serial dater and have a history of being a committment-phobe, you’re probably not going to be the person who changes them. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But, in this case, bad news is the truth, and you deserve to hear it.

We know, we know, people change, don’t judge, blah blah blah. The exception only proves the rule. And in all likelihood, they aren’t going to fall madly in love with you.

5. They don’t introduce you to their friends.

Maybe you’ve tried to invite yourself to a few group hangs and he’s given you a lukewarm response, followed by not inviting you to the gathering when it comes up. If he (or she) won’t tell their friends about you, it is highly probable that they don’t see a future with you.
Cuffing Season - Couple

3 Cuffing Season Rules to Follow

Okay, so we covered what cuffing season is, when it happens, and the signs that you’re being cuffed. But the trend isn’t all bad, especially if you’re on the same page as your cuff-buddy (we should really trademark that).

Maybe you’re the only single friend right now, but you’d love to have someone to hang out with while all your friends hole up with their partners in the winter months. There is nothing wrong with that! Just follow these simple rules to make it out of cuffing season alive, with your heart intact.

1. Establish boundaries.

The first and most important cuffing season rule is to set clear boundaries with your cuff-buddy™ (jk). Yes, it’s awkward to be like ‘hey, I wanna snuggle you until the new year, but I don’t want to see you ever again after that.’ But you gotta do what you gotta do!

You don’t want to lead someone on as much as you don’t want to be led on. Protect your feelings and theirs by being honest and upfront about what you’re looking for, and what you’re not looking for.

2. Be honest if your feelings change.

Communication is seriously underrated in modern dating. If you start off a cuffing season relationship and realize halfway through winter that you’re catching real *feels*, be upfront about it. If they feel the same way, great! If not, you’re better off knowing sooner than later, once you’re in too deep and your heart has way more to lose.

3. Know when to call it quits.

Cuffing season is kind of like friends with benefits in that you can’t keep using each other forever. I mean, you can… but you shouldn’t. Know when the party’s over and it’s time to call it a day with your cuff-buddy. The whole point is that it’s a temporary thing, so if you find yourself in April and you’re still hooking up, re-evaluate what’s going on.

If feelings have changed, see rule #2. But if they haven’t, it might be time to move on to bigger and better things (and people) who you actually see a future with.

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By Laura Davis

Laura was born at the beach in New Jersey, but she'd be the first to tell you her childhood was nothing like Jersey Shore. Sadly. When she's not writing, you can find her reading on her beloved Kindle, listening to true crime podcasts, or looking up adoptable cats.

Outside of her 9-5 as a writer, Laura is the owner of Looks by Laura, an online thrifted clothing boutique. She's the co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast and lifestyle website about navigating that challenging space between adolescence and adulthood. And she makes a mean eggplant parm.

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