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An essential guide to cuffing season

Emily Gulla

From Cosmopolitan

The clocks have gone back, the air outside is colder and suddenly it's starting to go dark at 2pm (okay, maybe not quite). Yep, we're on our way to winter. And when it comes to relationships, that can only mean one thing: it's cuffing season! Getting "cuffed", i.e. making your relationship exclusive or official, can happen any time of year, but winter is the season where becomes all the more common.

So, if you've been enjoying your free and single Hot Girl Summer and are suddenly feeling the urge to get into a relationship as winter approaches, it could be "cuffing season" that's responsible for all of this confusion. After ghosting, benching, breadcrumbing, negging and even zombieing, it's one more in a long line of dating trends you need to know about.

Here's an explainer on everything you need to know, plus Cosmopolitan readers share their own cuffing season stories...

What is cuffing season?

"Cuffing season happens during the autumn and winter months, where individuals have a strong desire to be in a monogamous relationship," says Dr Lori Brotto, a psychologist specialising in sexuality and a contributing expert to Coral.

People who are normally happy to be single may "suddenly find themselves longing to be in a relationship," says psychotherapist and sex and relationships expert Lucy Beresford.

Cuffing season is generally thought to start in October and end in March (crucially encompassing Valentine's Day), as people get into short relationships (or want to get into them) for the cold winter months before becoming single again for summer.

Photo credit: Pekic - Getty Images

Why do people want to be in relationships more during the winter?

"Whether it’s the nights drawing in, the Christmas and New Year parties, or the cold weather, winter can make us feel lonely, bored or left out, it sets our minds thinking about turning someone we were fooling around with over summer into an actual, you know, ‘partner'," says Lucy.

"Plus, when the grotty weather forces you indoors, it’s nice to know you have a reliable partner with whom you can cook tasty suppers, snuggle on the sofa or have great sex," she continues.

Dr Brotto adds that cuffing season could also be a result of not wanting to appear alone at so many festive celebrations. "It's more about the aesthetics of having someone on your arm rather than truly valuing that relationship."

Is there any science behind cuffing season?

"Because the winter days in the northern hemisphere are shorter and colder, we are often less physically active and therefore more prone to restlessness. This can make us very active in finding a romantic partner or turning a fling into something more permanent (for a while)," says Lucy.

"Perhaps there is an evolutionary reason given that in winter months, food was scarce and people had to work together to survive, so those who were with others had a survival advantage," Dr Brotto speculates.

She adds, "We also know that mood and depression can be seasonal, so it may be that higher rates of depression and people feeling lonely is triggering a longing for being in a relationship."

How can you tell if someone just wants to be with you for cuffing season or if they actually want something long-term?

Lucy says tell-tale signs someone is just after a winter relationship could be that they've "appeared from nowhere and already things are moving extremely fast, or you’ve known each other casually, and now suddenly you seem to be their 'One'."

She adds that they may "take you to tons of parties but never socialise with you there, preferring to chat to others but then snog you on the way home. Or they may make future plans with you – but not beyond Valentine’s Day."

How can you prevent any confusion/make it clear what you both want?

Lucy recommends having "The Chat about what you both want from your relationship" by the third date. "Ask yourself if you really, really, really like this person – or are you, too, guilty of hooking up just so you have someone to invite home for Christmas to get your parents off your back?"

Photo credit: wundervisuals - Getty Images

"The same communication skills that factor in at any other time of the year to determine if someone’s intentions are genuine or not are needed at this time," says Dr Brotto. "Communication is key, but also actions sometimes speak louder than words. How does the person behave when they are not with you? How do they talk about you with their friends?" she adds.

Cosmopolitan readers share their "cuffing season" stories

1."I always find myself wanting a boyfriend more as winter comes around. Maybe it's because I've had my fun in the summer and been on loads of girls' holidays, and then by winter I'm bored of being single and just want somebody stable to see after finishing work. Who has time for going on tonnes of dates when the temperature is Baltic outside?" - Francesca, 23*

2."I used to say that all I wanted was a relationship during winter, as watching films, cooking, going to watch the fireworks, Christmas parties etc can all feel so lonely on your own, and seem like romantic things to do.

"But then I realised if you have a good group of friends you can do all that stuff with them! Also, you don't have to go through a messy breakup when winter's over and you want a Hot Girl Summer. You can just spend summer or winter with a few good friends and that's all you need in my opinion." - Phoebe, 20

3."For me, cuffing season isn't just confined to the winter. I did it the other way around because I wanted a summer boyfriend! I dated a guy at the beginning of June and dumped him as soon as it hit October 31. It was half conscious - I knew I was going to break up with him before November." - Plum Lea, 22

4."I can't say I've ever actively decided to get a boyfriend during the winter, but both of my relationships did start in October. I think maybe it's the most natural time to start a relationship." - Melissa, 21*

*Names have been changed.

Lucy Beresford is a psychotherapist, sex and relationships expert, TEDx speaker and author of Happy Relationships at home, work and play. Follow Lucy on Instagram and Twitter.

Dr Lori Brotto is a professor at the University of British Columbia and author of 'Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire'.

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