Cuffing season has officially arrived – but does it always satisfy our needs?

Written by Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

Winter has always been a time associated with partnership, connection and love – but why exactly is this? Lauren Geall investigates…

Love it or hate it, it comes around every year. As soon as the last heady days of summer come to a close and those dark nights start to draw in, singletons across the country brace themselves for the arrival of cuffing season – the time of year when people seek out a romantic interest to get them through the winter months.

While the term ‘cuffing season’ hasn’t been around all that long – according to Insider, it originated on Urban Dictionary sometime around 2011 – the sudden sense of yearning it describes goes back further. Think about it: from those cheesy Hallmark films to the sense of longing that underpins almost every Christmas song (we’re looking at you, Mariah Carey), winter has always been a time associated with partnership, connection and love. But why exactly is this?

According to psychotherapist Roxy Rhodes, the answer could lie in the impact this time of year has on our mental wellbeing. “During the cold, darker months, most people socialise less and spend more time, especially evenings, at home,” she says.

“Short daylight hours can also intensify feelings of loneliness, and the holiday season can be extra tough if you’re already feeling isolated. All of these are reasons why we crave connection during the later months of the year.”

Dipti Tait, a relationship psychotherapist, also believes that the excitement of getting involved in a new relationship during a time of year typically associated with dark, dreary conditions can also make the act of cuffing seem more appealing.

“Getting together with somebody new over cuffing season feels exciting because the relationship is brand new as well as temporary,” she says.

“This will make the relationship dynamic experimental and full of fun – kind of like the honeymoon period in any new relationship – and this gives us a huge dopamine buzz and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.” 

If you relate to most of the above, you’re not alone. Cuffing isn’t some random term made up without any basis – it’s a behaviour that many of us partake in at this time of year. In fact, according to recent research from the dating app Badoo, over half of singles claim they feel the pressure to date more during cuffing season – with 46% of those surveyed saying they date more at this time of year because they don’t like the idea of being single at Christmas.

Of course, as great as the prospect of shacking up with someone for the autumn and winter months may seem, it doesn’t always go as planned – especially if you end up getting more emotionally involved than you initially thought you would. So, how can you satisfy this need for connection if you don’t fancy playing the cuffing game?

If you’re feeling in the mood to make new connections, Tait recommends volunteering or starting a new hobby. Not only will it give you the opportunity to meet new people, but it’ll also get you out of your house at a time of year when that can feel challenging. This might involve joining a new sports club (if you can face the wind and rain) or signing up for a language class. 

“Shared collaborative activities also give us a new skill, habit or sense of achievement as well as offering a nice way to connect with others, and that always feels very reassuring,” Tait adds. Starting a new hobby is also beneficial for your mental health, helping to alleviate any symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) you might be experiencing.

Rhodes agrees, adding that you don’t always need to meet new people in order to feel more connected at this time of year. “Social connection has more to do with your subjective feeling of connection than the number of friends you have,” she says. “How you feel about the people that you surround yourself with is everything – so start there. Do the people in your life bring you joy? Are they easy to be friends with and low-drama? Pick and choose carefully who you spend your time with.”

In this way, while you may feel the pressure to get out and date more during cuffing season, it might not always be the best way to find what you’re looking for. As Rhodes suggests, connection is about quality, not quantity – so why not try investing some time into your pre-existing friendships rather than finding something new?

If one thing’s certain, it’s that there’s a lot of pressure to build relationships at this time of year, and how you respond to it is totally up to you. Just remember that snagging a partner isn’t the be-all and end-all, no matter what Mariah Carey might tell you.

Images: Getty

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