Every year as the leaves begin to fall, the weather gets brisk, and you find yourself trading in your swimsuits for faux-fur coats, you know it’s the beginning of cuffing season. It’s the period from October to March when people desire to be “cuffed up” with someone—and no, not in the Christian Grey type of way.
“Cuffing season is when people start to want to be tied down in a serious relationship,” says licensed clinical psychologist Dara Bushman, PsyD. “The cold weather and lack of outdoors and sunshine causes singles to become lonely and desperate.”
And rightfully so. With holidays right around the corner and plenty of aunts and uncles harassing you with questions on why you’re still single, it’s easy to fall into this trap of cuffing to temporarily take away your single blues.
“People tend to feel more lonely during these months and have higher levels of testosterone, driving people to cuff up. In the winter, days are shorter and colder—with less outside activity. Feelings of isolation and boredom start to set in,” says Bushman.
So what happens if maybe, randomly, in the midst of cuffing season, you genuinely find someone you like? Perhaps you can even see it extending beyond the month of March? How can you be so sure you’re not being cuffed?
Here are seven identifiers that your relationship is probably not in it for the long haul—or at least after March, that is—and you’re definitely being used as a cuff.
- There’s a sense of urgency to meet. Let’s be honest, non-cuffers are vetting out dating-app matches for weeks before they decide to meet up IRL. But during cuffing season, people don’t have time to waste and they’re trying to get a drink stat.
- They are making holiday plans as a couple on the first few dates. Meeting the whole fam is yuuuge. You wouldn’t share that experience with just anyone—unless there’s a reason you need to appear “taken” at a family gathering to avoid a certain aunt who always tries to set you up.
- They make plans with you regularly but nothing in the spring or beyond March. The summer months are when singleness suddenly becomes sexy again, peeps.
- They want to watch movies, stay in, and cuddle…but nothing else. You may think, hey, this is super cute and romantic, but nah. They’re literally just trying to get warm, girl.
- All their friends are also in relationships. It’s hard being the single one in a group of everybody having an S.O., you know? This could make them want to DTR faster without thinking things through.
- All of a sudden, they’re leaving their toothbrush and sweatshirt over at your place after the first few dates. This is for convenience. Remember, they’re not trying to go out anywhere.
- The friend you’ve had for years suddenly confesses their undying love for you. This is probs #FakeNews, and they’re falling into the trap of cuffing too.
So if you find that the person you’re with fits the mold in one of these many key identifiers, here’s how you can prevent a cuffing sitch if you want an actual relationship: “Be direct and talk to them about your intentions so they know you’re looking for something serious,” says Bushman. While situationships are fun and all, communication and honesty is low-key the sexiest thing people can do.
But also, know this: Women don’t always want relationships by the end of it either.
There tends to be a huge stigma against women when it comes to cuffing season. It’s assumed that they’re always catching feelings, whereas men always want to keep things casual. “If there’s, like, a grain of truth to that, it’s only a grain," says relationship therapist Stephanie Mintz. In fact, in one study, 65 percent of women and 45 percent of men reported wishing their hookup would become a committed relationship.
So going into cuffing season presuming that a female partner will *definitely* fall in love and be a pain to break up with is insulting and sexist. At the same time, counting on men to always be detached about sex makes it way harder for guys to open up about their real feelings or admit they changed their minds and suddenly want something serious too.
In short, having any preconceived notions about how you will both react to your situation encourages dishonesty, which is the last thing you want in a cuffing sitch.