How to Navigate 'Cuffing Season' During a Pandemic
The seasonal dating trend is getting a bit more complicated this year.
Along with 'Netflix and chill', 'cuffing season' — or the rush to find someone to settle down with over the cold fall and winter months — has become a common millennial dating term or the past few years.
But what is cuffing season exactly? “During the fall and winter months 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," reads an Urban Dictionary definition dating back to 2011. "The cold weather and prolonged indoor activity causes singles to become lonely and desperate to be cuffed.”
While the cold weather-urge to settle down isn't based in biology, it's more about the psychological impact that can kick in in October and last through March. Cold weather months (in non-COVID years) tend to bring holiday parties and family gatherings that can make being single feel harder — especially if everyone around you is coupled up. (The Christmas engagement posts on Instagram and Valentine's Day ads certainly don't help.)
Plus, one recent study found that you are more likely to feel lonely if you are physically cold. "In colder ambient environments...people report greater loneliness, and they pursue both physical warmth and social affiliation," the study authors wrote. So, it makes sense that people feel the urge to couple up when the fall weather kicks in.
As for how cuffing season is changing this year due to the pandemic, well, the isolation that many people feel, especially if sheltering in place alone, can make you want to share your shelter... and a whole lot more.
Some advice for cuffing season this year? While there's nothing wrong with a temporary fling (as long as you're doing so with safety precautions in mind, of course), don't let your loneliness and isolation lead you to make sub-par choices for yourself. Make sure that you keep your standards as high as they would be if we were not in a pandemic — especially if you're looking for a relationship that lasts longer than a season. Even if you anticipate getting that dreaded question, “are you dating anyone?” at your Zoom Thanksgiving dinner, I repeat: Do not let the pressure get to you.
Make sure that you pre-screen potential dates on the phone and on video chat before taking a risk to meet them in person. Make sure that you ask questions about how your date is handling the pandemic, if they have had any symptoms recently, and if they have been tested for the virus. First dates can be nerve-racking enough without having to worry about the virus aerosoling across the outdoor table.
You also want to be crystal clear about what you are looking for and communicate the type of relationship that you are wanting with your potential date. If you're looking for something beyond a typical 'cuffing season' temporary fling, say so! This will help you to avoid dates that are just looking for a hook up.
Even if you're truly looking for a seasonal relationship that ends by spring, ask lots of questions. After all, this is someone who could be sheltering in place with you for many months to come. You really want to make sure that you have the same values, sense of humor, and ideas about fun.
The virus has forced many singles to slow down the dating process, especially physical touch. That is not a bad thing. That forces you to get to know someone and gives you the opportunity to screen them well, before letting your hormones harm your judgment.