Above photo: Getty Images
It's late November, which means temperatures have dropped 20 degrees since summer's end, you're shopping for sweaters instead of shorts and you find yourself buried under covers for an extra 10 minutes in the morning because it's just too damn cold to get out of bed.
Yes, many new habits come with the advent of winter, but nothing is perhaps more controversial than cuffing. The hunt for a cuddle buddy when the sun sets before 5pm is a phenomenon rooted in evolutionary history; humans crave the body warmth that counters the wind chill.
Basically, it works like this: You take a peek out your window and choose to stay inside the comfort of your box-size apartment instead of head out to socialize at the local pub. Oh, but because you're single (and not ready to mingle because #winter), how else are you supposed to find that cuddle buddy to get you through this dubious fifth season?
So you partake in a search for a partner—someone with whom you can snuggle, Netflix and chill, share noodle soup, etc. Said person calls frequently, takes you out to dinner, introduces you to their friends. But come springtime, you notice they've stopped using emojis in their texts. They've called to reschedule plans at least twice and suddenly ghost when you say you'll be coming over the following night. And so marks the end of cuffing season.
While the cuffs don't necessarily have a removal date, they do come with a mutual understanding that the setup is temporary. Oftentimes this means tackling the friends-with-benefits conversation before taking a step toward the bedroom. "It's fine to have a winter relationship, as long as you're not leading someone on when you know you have no interest in it progressing beyond that point," says Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of the book He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s A Good Thing).
Aside from the obvious short-term advantages, cuffing season may actually help those who've grown weary of emotionless hookup culture. After all, this is 2016, and while we're accustomed to casual connections that create gray areas of missing labels and unestablished boundaries, it gets old fast.
Plus, with all the holiday parties and under-mistletoe kissing, there's reasonable social pressure to not be the only one at family gatherings without a date, lest Nana dub your relationship status #foreveralone. And it's also got something to do with human nature. According to dating app Hinge, men are 15 percent more likely to be looking for a relationship in the winter than in other seasons, while women are 5 percent more open to a committed relationship. (By comparison, in spring and summer, men are 11 percent less likely to be looking for one, and women 5 percent.)
Like every relationship, the key to surviving cuffing season is communication. If you're not really interested in this person and just looking to pass time during the colder months, make sure he or she feels the same way to avoid hurt feelings. But if you're beginning to entertain thoughts of a longer-term relationship, be honest with yourself first.
"The big question people should ask themselves when they start dating someone new: Is my life generally more fun, fulfilling, better with this person around? Does this person bring out my best?" Syrtash says. If your answer to both questions is a resounding yes, then go forth and good luck, soon-to-be-former cuff. You have our blessing.