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What Is Cuffing Season?

By Danielle Kam

There’s something about the colder weather that makes people want to couple up and settle down—so much so that the phenomenon even has its own name: cuffing season. While cuffing season has been around for a while, that doesn’t make it any less confusing. What exactly is cuffing season? When does it start? And what else should you be aware of? Here’s what you need to know about cuffing season and some advice for navigating it. 

What is cuffing season?

The term cuffing comes from ‘handcuffing,’ because you’re securing yourself to someone else and trying to find a partner for a few months. “Cuffing season is a period of time in which singles may proactively try to tie down or ‘cuff’ a partner to initiate a more serious, intimate relationship,” says therapist Sara Stein. While some people may be looking for long-term commitment, cuffing season usually consists of shorter-term relationships. Since this time is filled with travel, holidays, work parties, family, and friends, first dates may feel like less of a priority and the ease of a consistent partner can sound much more appealing.

When is cuffing season?

“Cuffing season generally extends from late fall or early winter until the early spring season,” says Stein. It starts roughly after Halloween, goes straight through Thanksgiving and the holidays, and ends after Valentine’s Day. These are all, not coincidentally, occasions that feel easier to navigate with a partner by your side and during the colder months when daters are less likely to be out and about meeting new people.

How can I tell if someone is trying to ‘cuff’ me?

It can be hard to decipher someone’s dating intentions but, when it comes to cuffing, dating coach Benjamin Daly recommends looking out for three signs in particular. “The first sign is the time of year in which they reach out,” he says. “The second is that they only want to spend time with you indoors. And finally, the third sign is if they tell you that they only want something short-term or they have no intention of committing to a long-term relationship.” 

In addition to those three things, you might also want to pay attention to how quickly the person is moving. Online dating expert Julie Spira says that when someone is trying to ‘cuff’ you, “they’ll be very anxious about scheduling multiple dates quickly and will want to define the relationship within weeks instead of months.” 

What are some good things to keep in mind if I’m going to ‘cuff’? 

While cuffing can feel fun and generally low-stakes, Daly suggests paying attention to how you’re feeling with the other person. “Attachment can grow quickly,” he says. Sometimes, a short-term ‘cuff’ may blossom into something more, or it could end in heartbreak if you and your partner aren’t aligned. 

To try to avoid a ‘cuff’ ending in pain, communication and transparency are key. Spira recommends putting what you’re looking for front and center in your profile, or having an honest conversation early on. This way, potential matches will know what you want right from the start, which can help to minimize any hurt down the line. 

Do I have to ‘cuff’ just because it’s cuffing season?

Definitely not. If you’re enjoying being single and going on dates, that’s great! If you’re looking for someone to share your time with, that’s great, too. You may feel the urge to ‘cuff’ because it may seem like that’s what other people are doing, but you should always follow what feels best for you. 

“Just because cuffing season is here doesn’t mean that you need to settle,” says Stein. “Know your worth and be confident.” After all, cuffing is about companionship, and you can find that in a lot of other ways, like spending more time with friends and family or focusing on activities that bring you joy. Plus, no matter the season, your perfect match could be just a few swipes away.