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How to Keep Cuffing Season Fun and Stress-Free, Even During a Pandemic

by Hannah Orenstein, Senior Dating Editor, Elite Daily

Just like apple cider and sweater weather, cuffing season is a time-honored tradition during fall and winter. As the temperatures drop, it’s tempting to pour more effort into dating in order to find someone warm to snuggle with throughout the colder months. Of course, this year, meeting up for a drink at a cute wine bar and ending a first date with a kiss are riskier than ever before.

That said, you might be feeling even more desire than usual to meet someone special — lockdown can breed loneliness. Luckily, experts agree there are plenty of ways to keep cuffing season fun and stress-free, even during the COVID pandemic, without compromising your health.First up? “Get really clear on your own boundaries and limits in terms of dating and physical intimacy during a pandemic,” says Emmy Crouter, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker. “It’s better to know your own limits prior to actually being on a date and then feeling uncertain as to how to proceed.”

Do your research so you can feel comfortable making informed decisions about your love life. Are you OK getting drinks at an outdoor bar without masks? Would you want to get tested and quarantine separately for two weeks before hooking up? The more confident you are in your own boundaries, the easier it’ll be to express them to your matches and dates. 

To ease nerves that may pop up in the hours preceding a date, carve out time to relax and get in the mood. “Go for a walk, phone a friend, and give yourself plenty of time to get ready,” Crouter suggests. 

If your mind is still racing, try grounding yourself with a mini-meditation. Cherlyn Chong, breakup and dating specialist at Steps to Happyness, recommends the 5-4-3-2-1 senses technique; you can practice this while en route to your date. “Spot five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.”

If you’re still feeling worried about getting sick or transmitting the virus to others, Chong suggests mentally reviewing all the health precautions you take on a regular basis. Seeing anyone outside your household does inherently come with a level of risk, but it’s up to you to figure out which risks you’re comfortable taking, and to do your part to keep yourself and others safe.  

While talking about masks and trading testing histories might seem like a bummer at first, those conversations can actually go a long way toward helping you find someone you’ll actually enjoy watching The Bachelorette and making hot toddies with all cuffing season long.

“Working together around how to approach dating and physical contact during a pandemic is actually really good practice in negotiating needs right now,” Crouter points out. “While it is an extra burden right now, you’re actually utilizing an important relational skill.” Translation? Keep your chin up for one or two tough convos now, and you might wind up having your most satisfying cuffing season ever. 

For the record, if you’re excited to scope out a cold-weather cuff, more power to you. But if it feels like a drag this year, there’s nothing wrong with toning down your search. Experts agree that pursuing a relationship shouldn’t come at the expense of your mental health and your other relationships.

“Keep busy and focus on keeping in touch with friends and family,” Chong says. “If we can replace the loneliness with good vibes from other people, we won’t feel like we need to be partnered up.” That way, any cold-weather flings and romances will feel like an added bonus — not the sole item on your seasonal bucket list. 

No matter what happens this cuffing season, resist the temptation to settle for someone only to fight off loneliness. As Crouter says, “Coupling up during the fall may be appealing, but it’s important to remember that you may be better off alone versus stuck in quarantine with the wrong match.”

However your dating life looks, it’s important to treat yourself with kindness and empathy. “Set tiny goals and reward yourself regardless of the outcome,” Chong says. “If you manage to get someone to ask you out, it’s a win. If you manage to get through the date, it’s a win.” This is why I typically meet my Bumble matches for drinks near my favorite pizza place. I never lose!