What is cuffing season? Meaning of relationship trend explained by behavioural experts and when it is

This is a term you may have heard single people discussing during the autumn and winter season

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There’s so many terms out there used to explain different types of relationships and how people treat those they have romantic connections with - from polyamory to ghosting. One of the most talked about terms at the moment is cuffing, and you may have heard single people discussing settling down for cuffing season.

While spring flings can be fun, it’s not hot 24/7 in every part of the world, leaving those who live in cold temperatures feeling a little lonely. Having a cuffing partner could be the cure for those winter blues.

But, do you know what the term means? NationalWorld has spoken to three experts to answer all your questions about cuffing season, including just what it is, when it is, what benefit people get from it, and what problems could arise from it. Here’s what you need to know.

What is cuffing season, and when is it?

Cuffing season refers to the time of year when people enter in to short-term relationships to keep themselves warm - physically and emotionally - during the winter season cuffing is slang for handcuffs, so cuffing season relates to attaching yourself to a person for a short period of time.

Cuffing season typically begins in October in the UK, when temperatures begin to drop, and lasts until March or April, when the temperatures begin to increase again. Wherever you live in the world, a relationship formed during cuffing season is timed from when the clocks go back to when they go forward.

Lisa Spitz, a counsellor and psychotherapist, said: “Autumn/ winter is a time of colder weather, staying home more and hibernating and who wouldn’t like someone to do that with? We all crave connections and some of us are looking for more meaningful connections than others. People are looking for connections, especially after numerous lockdowns and the current global and fiscal insecurity.”

Relationship psychotherapist Dipti Tait said that in the UK, an alternative name for a cuffing partner is a ‘Christmas companion’ as people often look for a person to keep them company during the festive season which comes during the colder months.

What benefits do people get from cuffing season?

There are some benefits to coupling up with someone just for a few weeks or months, according to the experts. Spitz said people who get in to these shorter relationships can look forward to physical intimacy to keep them warm during the colder months. She added: “The positives of cuffing season are regular sex. Hopefully you’ll get companionship within the home and have someone that cares about you on some level too. Fundamentally in my opinion there is nothing wrong with short-term relationships with intent if both parties are on the same page and want the same thing.”

Tait said these brief connections can also improve people’s moods: “This concept feels as if it’s new, but it’s really not. There are lots of short-term relationships going on all the time - think of first date addicts, the holiday fling, the summer romance, one night stands and even friends with benefits. The difference with the cuffing season is that it is a planned relationship for one purpose and that is to get through the winter with a companion to prevent loneliness, low mood, isolation and depression, and to have fun and be curious with a like-minded and uncomplicated free-spirit.

“Getting together with somebody new over the cuffing season is exciting. Because the relationship is brand new as well as temporary, it will usually be dynamic, experimental and full of fun, kind of like the honeymoon period in any new relationship, and this gives us a huge dopamine buzz.”

Some couples are together just for a short time during cuffing season.Some couples are together just for a short time during cuffing season.
Some couples are together just for a short time during cuffing season.

Psychologist Angela Karanja also believes that forming a new relationship during the colder and darker months of the year could help improve people’s well-being too. She said: “We can say that these cuffing relationships help with the release of endorphins and serotonin the hormones responsible for happiness, mood balance and a general sense of wellbeing which is helpful because, during the cold weather, people hardly go outside, there’s no sunshine, there’s no motivation to go out and meet other people. The cuffing relationship can be a way of providing this sense of wellbeing albeit short-term.”

What are some of the problems that can arise during cuffing season?

Some issues could occur through only having short-term relationships, especially if the two people involved don’t communicate effectively, according to the experts. Spitz said: “The negatives I can see is if there could be a lack of communication and honesty.  If you intend for this to be short-term only, be respectful and communicate that.  The problem arises when one party is not honest, either wanting more or less, and fails to communicate that to their partner.”

“Regular check-ins are needed to ensure that you are both on the same page, feelings change for the better or worse - just be honest. I believe in treating people like an adult - tell them the truth and allow them to decide if that’s what they actually want”, she added.

Tait agreed. She said: “The problem is that the heart isn’t a logical organ. It’s an emotional organ and if it gets too invested in the relationship and is reluctant to let the relationship go, there will be a cuffing boundary compromise and someone will get very heartbroken. At the outset, the cuffing system must be an agreement on both sides, and it only works well when the cuffs come off at the designated time or on the date agreed and both people walk away, as agreed, without a drama.”

Karanja believes that people could also fall in to a long-term relationship that isn’t fulfilling because they don’t know how to let their cuffing partner go without causing pain.

Couple sitting in restaurant at dinner and taking selfie (chika_milan - stock.adobe.com)Couple sitting in restaurant at dinner and taking selfie (chika_milan - stock.adobe.com)
Couple sitting in restaurant at dinner and taking selfie (chika_milan - stock.adobe.com)

She said: “The other option is you end up settling because you don’t want to hurt the other, but you are not satisfied. These are the relationships that are very dissatisfying because after the need is satisfied you have nothing in common and just go through the bland motions.”

Could a relationship formed during cuffing season become a long-term one?

In one word, yes. Tait says she has worked with couples who have formed lasting relationships after originally thinking they were only connected for a season - but the key is that both partners must be on the same page.

She said: “It’s a little bit like a temporary job that gets made permanent. There are lots of occasions that the two people who were happy to cuff temporarily ended up cuffed for life - either getting married or having kids together. I once helped a couple come to terms with their relationship going from ‘cuff to up the duff’ and, as far as I know, they are still together and now have two more children.

“It’s important to remember though that hoping that this happens to you is a huge risk. This method of looking for a life partner is certainly not advisable. It’s advisable to begin all relationships with as much honesty and transparency about your intentions and emotional availability as you can. This way, there is good communication and boundaries from the outset, and that makes for a happy and healthy partnership, for the time you are together.”