Couples have been “cuffing” since the days of Adam and Eve, and the phenomenon in New York is heating up as the temperatures start to drop.
As the days get shorter and the nights get chillier, you may start to see new couples cropping up in your friend group. If you’re a single New Yorker and suddenly feel the need to settle down, you might be falling victim to cuffing season.
According to Shan Boodram, sex and relationships expert at the popular dating app Bumble, “cuffing season” refers to a period of time during the colder months of the year when people seek out a romantic partner, therefore “cuffing” themselves to someone for a relationship.
“The idea is that as the weather gets colder and the days become shorter, people tend to desire companionship and intimacy more than during the warmer months,” said Boodram.
Gen Xers and millennials may have coined the term “cuffing,” but Boodram says the phenomenon of cuffing season dates back many millennia to the more primitive hunter/gatherer era; in an effort for survival, couples would form in the winter and births occurring in the late summer/early fall, when resources were more plentiful, therefore increasing survival rates of children.
In modern-day society, Boodram says there really isn’t a need for this pattern anymore — yet, like other instinctual behaviors, remain prevalent today.
Technology keeps instinct alive
But the internet may be to blame for its continued presence in our lives, according to Boodram.
“I think social media played a big part in how cuffing season became mainstream. Many people found the viral concept of looking for companionship and comfort during the winter months relatable, whether that was due to the desire for a partner to share holiday festivities with or simply a reaction to the weather,” said Boodram. “The motivations behind ‘cuffing season’ have long been a common human experience – but Bumble’s data actually shows that we’re seeing a shift away from this narrative.”
According to a recent survey from Bumble, 49% of respondents in the United States said that they don’t participate in cuffing season and believe that the narrative around the season is outdated. Boodram says that cuffing season was compounded by the pandemic because more people were already staying inside, so it made more sense to stick with one person during the shutdowns.
Bumble data also noted that more than 1 in 3 (38%) of respondents in the U.S. said that cuffing season doesn’t exist where they live because they rarely have a winter.
“There is no “right” season or timeline when it comes to finding romantic partners. When we pigeonhole ourselves into a narrative like cuffing season, we find ourselves in relationships born out of convenience or pressure, not mutual desire for a strong, meaningful relationship,” said Boodram.
Finding seamless relationships
Though the concept of cuffing season existed well before the age of online dating, apps like Bumble have made the concept prevalent in the social lives of singles across the country. Boodram says that Bumble (and other dating apps) are designed to make finding a relationship as seamless as possible.
“I have noticed a meaningful shift toward prioritizing positive intentionality – people are looking for kind connections that enrich their lives and are less interested in settling for something other than what they’re looking for – whether that’s during the holidays or otherwise,” said Boodram. “People are not just finding (and staying in) relationships for the sake of it anymore and are therefore taking advantage of all of the avenues – especially dating apps – at their disposal to find what is best for them.”
Boodram also noted that while Bumble allows people to state their intentions right on their profile, it’s important to check in with your partner to make sure you are still on the same page.
“These things can change, so check in with your partner – and yourself – to see how these intentions are shifting, especially with the notion of cuffing season underlying the burgeoning relationship,” said Boodram. “Having open and honest communication about your dating intentions early on sets you up for success and can help you avoid getting hurt later.”
So singles, where does that leave you?
Whether or not you buy into the “culture” of cuffing season, Boodram says there’s no reason to let the pressure of the season (either from yourself or others) go to your head.
“If you don’t find a partner during this time while others in your life do, the truth is that it doesn’t matter! What’s yours will come when it does and you have to remember that your timeline and dating journey is completely separate from that of those around you,” said Boodram. “Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to entering a relationship – you need to find the “size” that fits your unique partnership with another individual. Maybe what has worked with other partners in the past won’t work with a new one and not only is that normal, it’s actually better that you work together to see what type of relationship and progression works best for the combination of your two personalities. And if you don’t make any new romantic connections this cuffing season – or even find yourself wanting to do so, that’s perfectly fine.”