Cuffing Season: What is it & Cuffing Season Schedule

Rita

Last Updated: May 13, 2024

Relationship Advice

Do you find yourself searching more actively for your special someone when the temperatures drop? You’re not alone! The phenomenon for this annual trend is called “cuffing season” and although the phrase was first documented in 2011, it might just hark back to our evolutionary biology!

In this article, we’ll talk about what cuffing season is and what you can expect when you link your metaphorical handcuffs to another single during the cooler months ahead.

Understanding Cuffing Season

The cuffing season can generally be broken down into distinct phases, playfully named after sports terms by relationship expert Beverly Andre. Here’s the play-by-play:

  • Scouting, in August. This is when it starts to become clear that summer is ending and it might be time to find someone new to ride out the colder months with. During this month, you might start to find yourself consciously or unconsciously “scouting” for new faces.
  • Drafting, in September. Drafting is when you’ll go from casually stealing glances to more actively chatting up new people who caught your eye during the scouting phase.
  • Tryouts, in October. Not everyone you meet during August and September will have what it takes to keep you warm during Cuffing Season! So, tryouts are a way for you to go on a few dates or get closer to individuals who you think might make the cut.
  • Pre-Season, in November. Alright, temperatures are really starting to drop now! We’re officially in pre-season and it’s time to get more serious about who you’ll be spending your ever-shortening days (and ever-lengthening nights!) with.
  • Official Cuffing Season, from December to January 15. Time to cozy up and get through the coldest and darkest time of year with someone special.
  • Playoffs, from January 16 to February 13. At this point, the goal of Cuffing Season has been accomplished: you found someone to hold during the coldest part of winter. Now the question is: does this person have what it takes to enter into a long-term relationship with you?
  • Championship Game on Valentine’s Day. So, they kept you warm during the holidays. Now, how do they treat you on the day of love?
  • Debate Spring Break, from February 15 to March 14th. During this time of year, you might be wondering whether to stay in your relationship or book your ticket for a single’s only Spring Break vacay.
  • Resign or Spring Break, from March 15-April 15. Are you Spring-Breaking with your special someone? Or is it time to throw in the towel?
  • And finally, the Cuffed or Uncuffed Finale, from April 16-July 31. Maybe you decided to stick with your VIP from last year’s Cuffing Season. Otherwise, you’ll be entering Hot Single Summer and resting up for another Cuffing Season at the start of August.

Cuffing Season Schedule Explained

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Early Phases

Let’s take a closer look at what happens in each phase of the Cuffing Season, starting with the early days of scouting through try-outs:

Scouting and drafting, from August to the end of September

Maybe you started off your summer by deleting the dating apps from your phone and living out your best single life. But, when autumn starts to loom, don’t be surprised if you start getting the itch to download the apps again. Studies show that traffic on dating sites like Bumble can increase by up to 52% in the lead-up to Cuffing Season. At the same time, you might start receiving more advertisements reminding you that, well, you’re single!

During this phase, feel free to get flirty! It’s all about staying open to the many possibilities the dating scene has to offer you right now. And don’t worry about getting too serious too quickly. This phase is your chance to chat with lots of different people and decide who best sparks your curiosity.

Tryouts, during October

The tryout phase is also your first, second, and third date phase. Your goal here is to spend some time getting to know someone without rushing into a relationship (after all, we’re still enjoying the last little bit of warm weather.) To lay the foundation of a healthy relationship, look for the following green flags:

  • They show genuine interest in getting to know you.
  • There’s an emotional connection in addition to a physical spark.
  • They are consistent, on time, and communicative.

Even if you’re actively dating someone during the tryout phase, don’t feel compelled to abandon the dating apps just yet! Until you’ve had a conversation about exclusivity, you can continue to see other people.

Peak to Conclusion

Depending on where you live, snow flurries may already be falling and you’re ready to take your new relationship to the next level. This is when Cuffing Season officially begins! Let’s take a closer look:

Cuffing Season, from November to mid-January

If you’re one of the 5% of Americans who experience seasonal depression, finding the right partner to cuddle you through the cuffing season may be a source of comfort and warmth. Even if you wouldn’t consider yourself clinically depressed, it’s still nice to have someone to talk to, hold, and watch movies with during the darker, more isolating months of winter, which can be mentally taxing even on otherwise healthy individuals.

Depending on how serious your relationship becomes, you may even bring this person to family holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's.

Playoffs, Championship Game, and Postseason Assessment

By the time the playoff phase of Cuffing Season has come around, you should have been able to see this partner in a variety of different contexts, moods, and social situations. And, with the days starting to get longer, it’s clear that spring is on the horizon!

During this phase, you’ll have an important decision to make: do you continue the relationship? Or, like many relationships that began at the beginning of Cuffing Season, will you end things about a month after Valentine’s Day?

One thing you’ll want to focus on during the playoffs to postseason months is the quality of your relationship. Did you notice that the two of you shared common goals and desires? Did you have healthy communication even during stressful moments? Or do you feel that the relationship has been rushed or reminiscent of past failed relationships?

Psychological and Biological Influences

As we mentioned, there may be biological or evolutionary reasons to explain the Cuffing Season phenomenon. But what exactly is going on with relationships during the cold winter months?

On the one hand, there's psychobiology. As temperatures drop and the days get shorter, we receive lower levels of Vitamin D from sunlight. This can affect both our serotonin and melatonin levels. The result can include an array of symptoms including lethargy, low mood, trouble sleeping, decreased focus, changes in appetite, and more. Not everyone is affected by the reduced exposure to sunlight, but those who are considered to have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.)

SAD can affect individuals differently, with some experiencing only mild symptoms and others needing clinical intervention. Regardless of diagnosis, many people feel a natural dip in mood and energy during winter and may seek out the excitement and comfort of a partner to make winter feel a little less gray. And, as it turns out, the relationships we seek out during winter aren’t just boredom-busters. Science shows that relaxing physical touch such as massage therapy releases serotonin in the brain! These kinds of findings legitimize the Cuffing Season phenomenon as a natural way for humans to stay mentally healthy during the harsher months of the year.

Evolutionary biology may have another explanation for cuffing season, as well. Scientists in this field theorize that in times of scarcity, isolation, and dangerously low temperatures, our ancient ancestors may have needed a partner for survival. Nowadays, we can buy space heaters and hearty soups, but our genes might still be telling us we need something more.

Cultural and Media Influence

Wondering if you’re outside of the norm for partaking in Cuffing Season? Absolutely not! This trend has become such a widespread phenomenon as to have become a joke on popular series like Saturday Night Live in 2022 and shared in memes all over the world. And, big name artists including SZA and Fabolous, have mentioned Cuffing Season in their songs about end-of-summer love. In regions that have four seasons, in other words, you’re bound to find people engaging in Cuffing Season behaviors.

Culturally, Cuffing Season also makes a lot of sense. Our biggest family holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, all take place during the prime Cuffing Season. These kinds of social holidays may make us feel more prone to wanting a special someone at our side. Plus, during this time of year, we’re bombarded with holiday-themed rom-coms and TV specials that are highly effective at plucking at our heartstrings. It makes sense that we would want to watch these emotional movies cuddled up with a love interest of our own!

That said, not all generations agree on whether Cuffing Season is worth the hype. A survey of generational attitudes towards this dating trend, for instance, found that almost half of Gen Zers consider the phenomenon to be nothing more than a cultural construct. These younger singles see themselves seeking out more serious relationships throughout the year, not only when winter starts to creep up.

Overall, how much you buy into Cuffing Season could depend on the kind of media you consume, your friend group, family pressures, or even your age. Because there’s a huge cultural component here, you can decide whether it appeals to you or not!

Practical Implications and Advice

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Now that we’ve covered what Cuffing Season is, and the reason why it has become so popular with so many singles, you can decide whether to participate this fall and winter! If you do want a cuffing love story of your own, here are a few final tips to make your season more successful, healthy, and comforting!

  • Don’t take it too seriously. If you put too much pressure on Cuffing Season, you may start to overlook potential red flags and incompatibilities. Especially during the early days of the season, keep your options wide open and make sure that the process is more fun than stressful.
  • Allow things to develop at a healthy pace. Winter is coming, but it’s not coming tomorrow! Speeding through the early stages of a relationship simply because you want to get to the cuddling part could lead you to commit to someone who isn’t a good match for you.
  • Communicate your desires and needs. Anytime you’re entering into a new relationship, communication is key. If you want someone to come over and watch Netflix twice a week without doing any of the other relationship-ey things, make that clear. Or, if you’re looking for someone to come home with you for the holidays, you’ll want to mention it early so that you don’t waste time on someone who wants something more casual.
  • Don’t ignore red flags. No matter your intentions for the Cuffing Season and postseason, you should never accept red flags. After all, even short-term relationships should make you feel comfortable and safe.
  • Continue with your normal wellness routine. One common mistake with Cuffing Season is to treat your new relationship as the be-all-end-all solution to your seasonal funk. Instead, you should continue doing the things that make you feel mentally healthy, such as exercising, meeting up with friends, and seeing your therapist.
  • Don’t stay cooped up for too long. To be sure, cold winter days are best spent curled up on the couch with your new bae. But, don’t fall into the trap of staying stagnant for too long. Eventually, you’ll need some time away from each other and some time out of the house! This way, you can continue to enjoy each other’s company during and maybe even after Cuffing Season.

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