What is cuffing season? Plus other winter dating trends explained
'Cuffing season' is a relationship trend we see in colder months where couples cosy up in the short-term
While we now hear of it every autumn and winter, this fleeting form of romance isn't for everyone
The new dating sub-trend 'winter coating' is also on the rise, with 52% of singles contacted by an ex looking to temporarily reconnect
Here, experts debunk all the latest relationship lingo you need to know this festive period
Cuffing season is well and truly upon us. Whether that brings you excitement, despair or just makes you cringe, the phrase is now flung around every autumn and winter without fail.
And now we're even seeing sub-trends start to emerge – heard of 'winter coating', anyone?
So, with us all coupling up, making cosy plans for the festive season and staying in more, let's find out what the relationship trend is and why it's so appealing right now.
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What is cuffing season?
With cuffing season, the clue is very much in the name. "Cuffing is literally slang for handcuffs," explains Lisa Spitz, counsellor and psychotherapist.
"When you 'cuff' yourself to someone, you join yourselves together and in dating 'cuffing' has been associated with short-term partnerships that develop during the winter months until spring time."
The key here appears to be 'short-term', with people typically choosing to settle down for the period of time it suits them for. "Autumn and winter is a time of colder weather, wearing more clothes, staying home more and hibernating and who wouldn’t like someone to do that with?" says Spitz.
And with us needing more of a boost than in summer, she adds, "Biologically speaking, oxytocin is created through cuddling and sex."
Pros and cons of cuffing season
As with most dating trends, there are highs and lows, so it's about weighing up what's right for you.
The obvious benefit, Spitz emphasises is: "Regular sex – as well as companionship within the home and having someone who cares about you on some level (hopefully)."
But, it's always wise to be careful, and clear about your own intentions. "The only negative I can see is if there is a lack of communication and honesty," Spitz points out. "If you intend for this to be short-term only, please be respectful and communicate that. Regular check-ins are needed to ensure that you are on the same page.
"Feelings change for the better or worse – just be honest."
So these types of relationships don't need to be avoided entirely? "Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with short-term relationships with intent (both in summer and winter) if both parties are on the same page and want the same thing," says Spitz, reiterating the need to be truthful with both yourself and whoever you're seeing.
"The problem arises when one party is not honest (either wanting more or less) and fails to communicate that to their partner. I believe in treating people like an adult – tell them the truth and allow them to decide if that’s what they actually want."
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Can cuffing season relationships be long-term?
Whether 'cuffing season' itself is just a made up term or not, the pattern in human behaviour is clear. "I think that we all crave connections," says Spitz, adding that this is especially present after numerous lockdowns and the current global and fiscal insecurity many share at the moment.
But, she points out, "Some of us are looking for more meaningful connections than others."
While cuffing season relationships are initially thought to be short-term, it is possible for a future to develop too.
"Relationships change because people change – what was meant to be short-term becomes long and what was meant to be long becomes short," says Spitz.
Does cuffing season create extra pressure?
The festive period especially can be a tricky time for single people, not necessarily because of how they truly feel, but often because there's pressure to share it with someone, when they might otherwise be content.
"I think society is built around the expectation of the ‘happy couple’. We talk about a set of unspoken rules by which various events have to happen and our expectations and assumptions are made accordingly," explains Spitz.
"Single people are under pressure not to be single as if this can’t be a choice (although obviously it's not for everyone). We want our friends to mirror our experiences and reality and perhaps we are uncomfortable about their 'singledom' as it affects our 'coupledom'."
So, remember what you really want before you feel the need to try and 'cuff' to someone. "If you're happy single – you’re happy single surely?!" suggests Spitz.
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What is winter coating?
Now we've unpicked cuffing season, it seems a new sub-trend has emerged within it, which might be slightly more toxic. Re-cuffing to your ex.
The name itself refers to digging out an old familiar winter coat, before ditching it again in the spring – but of course, with a person.
More than half of singles (52%) say they've been contacted by a former flame looking to rekindle a romance, with winter being the season people are most likely to get back in touch, according to global dating app Inner Circle.
And the current climate, amid the energy and cost of living crisis, is very much playing a part too, based on the research of 1,157 ‘actively dating’ UK singles.
With as many as 41% of singles cutting back on dating, this cuffing season people are opting to return to past flings to help save on costs, with less pressure for new experiences and the expense of early stages of dating, instead getting straight to the 'comfortable' bit. But, unsurprisingly, research shows it's unlikely to work out (71%).
So much so, experts have even warned against it.
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"Winter coating takes toxic cuffing season behaviour to a new level – and unless you’re 100% on the same page as the other person, it has to stop," says Crystal Cansdale, resident dating expert at Inner Circle.
“If someone is winter coating you, it might feel exciting to hear from them again. They’ll be steady and dependable through the winter and it might seem like they’ve changed. But when the first sign of spring comes around, history will repeat itself and they’ll disappear into thin air."
And on the costs going up and people cutting back on dates, she acknowledges the appeal, "Winter coating offers the comfort of staying inside, watching Netflix and not actually dating, with someone you’ve already established this dynamic with."
So if you do find yourself in a winter coating situation, Cansdale advises having an upfront chat and talking about your intentions, taking your time (particularly with someone you've dated before), and not getting comfortable too soon (so you don't find yourself back in that old-married-couple territory after just a few weeks), and seeing if they're in it for the right reasons.
If you're sick of cuffing season, perhaps you're embracing 'nuffing season' without realising, a term coined last November by dating app Badoo.
It found that while more than half of people felt more pressure to date during this period (52%), less than a third actually wanted to settle down (31%).
Some 75% were also keen to say goodbye to the concept of getting cuffed quickly and instead date without the pressure to turn it into a relationship, craving a more relaxed approach.
"Cuffing Season can be problematic because, as our findings reveal, single people feel immense pressure to get into a relationship, and are even willing to settle as a result," said Natasha Briefel at the time, brand marketing director at Badoo, advocating for nuffing season instead, and echoing Spitz's comments on societal expectations.
"If you’re feeling the pressure, take a step back and remember that dating should be about enjoying yourself, the journey and seeing where things naturally go, without the added weight of feeling like you have to find a more serious relationship.
"After all, this isn’t a natural way to date; what’s important is to go about your dating life as you truly want and ignore any pressure that surrounds you.”
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Other winter dating trends that have popped up over the years include 'scrooging', which, according to the Urban Dictionary, is when someone breaks up with their significant other just before the holidays, sometimes to help save money, based on the cold-hearted Ebenezer from A Christmas Carol.
While things are undeniably expensive at the moment, it might be worth talking to your partner about how you can save on costs, before jumping to dump them as the solution. Unless you want to, of course.
There's also 'snowmaning', which could help to explain a more premature end to cuffing season, used to describe when winter flings fizzle out by as soon as the New Year.
Just as the snowman melts, so does your relationship, rather harshly.
Again, this one's inspired by one of our other favourite Christmas films, The Snowman, with the snowman thawing and leaving the boy with only memories.
Which dating trend do you most relate to? Or are you doing things your own way?