I can feel it in the air. The nights are cooler, the leaves have changed colors, shop windows have traded in their beach balls for twinkle lights, and on every window sill, you’re sure to find a scented candle named after a cookie flavor. That’s right. It’s cuffing season — a time to give thanks, be merry, and lock in your plus-one for every holiday party you get invited to for the next three months. You did it! You found the one, but will your cuffing-season flame burn out before St. Patrick’s Day? Can a cuffing-season relationship actually last?
I have my doubts. You see, the thing about this time of year is that everyone and their mother have well exceeded the normal levels of happiness any human being should achieve. Personally, I blame sensory overload: the change in the weather, the warm and welcoming aromas that waft into your path (read: smack you in the face) on every street corner, the constant hum of cheerful jingles in every TV or radio commercial, and the financial ego boost you get when you find out about the holiday bonus. It’s too much. No one person can handle all of this at once and that’s why you go out looking for a partner — that and the fact that you’re about to start all the new fall shows on Netflix, and you’d rather someone be there in case your body shuts down from inactivity. At least, that’s my take on the situation.
Dating expert Thomas Edwards gives a more formal definition. "Cuffing season has always been seen as the time of year when single people search for someone whom they claim as a temporary significant other with no intention of making the relationship a long-term one," he says.
If you’ve never heard this term before, don’t panic. You probably just didn’t realize there was an actual name for this epidemic, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t loosely been living your dating life accordingly.
Allow me to demonstrate. The summer months are to casual, fleeting, one-night-standers what the fall and winter months are to PDA-loving, holiday-card sending couples dressed in matching, ugly Christmas sweaters. You’ve learned from your past (read: two months ago). You’re older now. Wiser. Surely, you are capable of having a meaningful, romantic relationship with another human being. And, well, you need to bring someone home for Thanksgiving because the last time you showed up alone, your great-aunts staged an intervention.
Your family isn’t the only reason you’re feeling especially lonely during this time of the year either. Relationship coach Jonathan Bennett says that cuffing season is actually brought on by a combination of social pressures and biological changes. “Testosterone levels in men actually peak around October or November, but levels remain elevated throughout the winter. This leads to a heightened sex drive, so it makes biological sense that men would want to find a partner during cuffing season."
But, wait, there's more. Those Hallmark Channel Christmas movies will have an impact too, Bennett says. "Finding love at Christmas is a common theme in movies, music, and other media. The cultural expectation is to settle down in a [semi-]serious relationship and take advantage of 'cuddle weather.'"
Still, relationships that start during cuffing season are often temporary, as Edwards explains. Cuffing season relies heavily on the fact that, during the holidays, “social activity is low when it comes to potential romantic encounters. It’s just easier to have someone consistently available during that time.” He adds that, once the holidays are over, this problem seems to go away with it.
Edwards advises that a good way to make sure you and your partner are on the same page about the future of the relationship is to clearly state your intentions early on. Let them know — and ask them — if you’re open to a long-term relationship that extends into the following year. There is no law that says your once-seasonal relationship is destined for failure.
"At the end of the day, a quality relationship is what most people want, and cuffing season can be a time when one can surprisingly show up," Edwards explains.
If you’re living your best cuffing-season life and you’re worried about the future of the relationship, try to find the best way to bring this up with your partner. Be clear about your feelings and where you see things going in a few months. "You could catch feelings and be hurt if your partner prefers to be single when the weather warms up. The best way to avoid heartache for yourself or the other person is to be upfront about your intentions," Bennett says.
The important thing is to remember that cuffing season doesn’t mean you have to be in a relationship, and being in a relationship right now doesn’t mean you have to be in one in late February. Be honest with yourself and with your partner.
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