If Netflix and chill were reserved for a season, it would be winter, so it’s no wonder why this time of year is referred to as “Cuffing Season.” With the weather dropping, urges to cuddle up on the couch are high, social gatherings are in full swing, and mistletoes are hanging in every doorway. And with all that in mind, singles start to feel more pressure to be paired up—pressure they put on themselves or pressure they receive from family when they are the only single cousin at the big kid table.
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Whether you want to be in a relationship, absolutely do not, or are open to anything, cuffing season has a way of making even the happiest of singles think about dating. So how do you find out what you really want and navigate this season in a way that is right for you without giving in to the cuffing season pressure? We tapped experts to find out:
First, what exactly is cuffing season?
As explained by Certified Dating & Relationship Expert Callisto Adams, “cuffing season is the time of the year (early autumn to late winter) when a lot of people find themselves feeling the need to romantically connect with someone else.” This is the season when singles start looking for partners to help pass the time during colder months, avoid seasonal loneliness, and have someone to spend the holidays with. Being “cuffed” is joked about in pop culture as it is seen as a sort of abrupt yet temporary dynamic. This makes dating in this season difficult for those who are actually seeking a long-term relationship but is good news for casual daters and happily single individuals.
How to navigate cuffing season
Singles everywhere feel the pressure this time of year—whether they want to be in a relationship or not—so our advice for getting through it, along with the advice from dating and relationship experts, starts by looking inward to find out what you really want and not what society (or friends and family) might be pressuring you to want during this season. Ahead, we’re breaking down exactly how to navigate the season confidently, no matter your preferred relationship status:
1. Get clear about what you really want
First, you need to ask yourself if being in a relationship is what you really want right now or if you’re just thinking about it more because of cuffing season. “Try to picture your life if you were exploring a relationship, casually dating, or embracing being single this season. Experience the different thoughts and emotions that come up from you in those imagined scenarios and let them be your internal GPS in your decision making,” says Alexis B. Kaufman, an individual, couples, and family therapist. Ask yourself questions like, “is a relationship something I need at the moment?” or “why am I craving someone else’s company?” to get really clear and honest with yourself, Adams also recommends.
2. Prioritize time with yourself
You have heard it before, but we’ll say it again: You have to fill up your cup first. Kaufman says “spending time on your own doing things that bring you happiness can change your views on being alone and make you see that not having someone with you may not just be something that’s tolerable, but possibly even enjoyable.” So if you are experiencing loneliness this season and are eager to find a partner, look inward. And if you aren’t? Do the same. Spending time with yourself can increase your confidence and happiness, and ultimately, will make you a better partner in the future.
3. Have fun with it
With everyone out and about (and back in town) more often this time of year due to the holidays, there is so much to do and so many people to meet and see. Be open to doing new things and embracing seasonal activities like ice skating, skiing, walking through holiday markets, and more. These are fun, low-pressure date ideas to get to know someone or regular good ol’ fashion fun things to do with a few friends if you’re not dating. The stakes to meet someone and hit it off are only as high as you set them. Maybe you will and maybe you won’t, and that’s OK!
4. Prepare for family pressure during the holidays
How many holiday rom-coms have you seen where two friends act like they are dating just so they can avoid questions from their families? As much as we love the trope, nagging from family can be annoying AF. Kate MacLean, Dating Expert at Plenty of Fish, shares that “a recent survey found that 45 percent of singles say their family asks about their dating life at holiday gatherings.” If your family gets pushy during this time of the year, “consider their good intentions,” says Adams, and respond accordingly:
- If dating is a sensitive topic, MacLean recommends politely changing the topic by saying “No, I’m not seeing anyone. How are things with you?”
- If you are happy being single or you are indifferent, Adams recommends saying “I’m very happy at the moment actually. However, I do appreciate your concerns and I understand that we have different opinions on this topic. And that’s okay.”
5. Don’t settle
Do you know what could make you feel even more alone than actually being alone? Being with the wrong person. Really get to know who you are dating and decide if they are the right person for you, not just a person for right now. “Remind yourself that you’re eager to get into a meaningful relationship with someone you value as a partner, not just any relationship with any person,” says Kaufman, who also recommends having “clarity on the things you’re looking for in a romantic partner,” to keep you from settling.
6. Remember that cuffing season ends
Depending on how you experience cuffing season, there are a few ways to navigate the end of it. First, if you don’t care to get into a relationship OR you do want to get into a relationship but don’t meet anyone that is right for you, this is good news! You can go about your regular dating or non-dating life sans the pressure. And if you are in a relationship by spring, Adams recommends you make sure your relationship lasts well beyond cuffing season by doing the following: “see them as they are instead of just a partner who’s there with you to keep out the cold, maintain open and honest communication, and show affection and love to one another whenever you can.”