Mindpath Health’s Kiana Shelton, LCSW discusses ‘cuffing season’ and how to safely participate. See highlights below or read the full article with sources here. 

woman and man in karmic relationship, laughing together on couch and floor in living room

The leaves are falling, and the grass is awaiting its first blanket of snow. For many singles, this means one thing: “Cuffing season” has officially begun. 

There’s no one way to cuff, but it often starts as a short-term commitment. 

“Cuffing season falls in the category of ‘situationship,'” Kiana Shelton, a licensed clinical social worker and women’s health expert with Mindpath Health, told TODAY. For some people, it’s a serious relationship. For others, it’s merely someone to come over when you want company on cold winter nights.  

People tend to have mixed feelings towards the whole concept of cuffing season in the first place. “Some view cuffing season as just another attempt to market products that capitalize on consumer need and insecurity, while others see it as a genuine opportunity to build meaningful relationships with other like-minded individuals,” Katy Clark, lead matchmaker at Cinqe Matchmaking, said. 

When is cuffing season? 

When exactly is cuffing season? It starts in the mid to late fall and extends through winter. In other words, if there’s a chill in the air or snow on the ground, it’s cuffing season. 

Why cuffing season exists

We can trace the popularity of cuffing season to a number of things, but it mainly comes down to loneliness. It’s the thread that weaves through the primary causes of cuffing season: poor mental health and family expectations.  

Mental health

Across the United States, about 5% of people experience seasonal depression each year, according to reports by Mental Health America. The winter months can be mentally taxing due to a lack of sunlight or the desire to venture out into the cold. 

A 2019 study from Dating.com found that 60% of participants who experienced loneliness in the fall and winter used dating apps as a quick fix.  

Family expectations

If you celebrate holidays during the winter months, being alone can bring another source of worry to any stressful family gatherings. 

Having someone to take home with you, even if you’re not in a serious relationship, can take a load off and give you someone to steal you away when your relative starts meddling with your love life — or lack thereof. 

In some cases, you may not see your family at all during the holidays because of distance or cut ties. A partner can reduce loneliness or sadness that you may otherwise experience, suggests Lurie. This companionship can be especially beneficial if your friends are away for the holidays.  

Tips for a successful cuffing season

If you plan to embrace cuffing season, you’re far from alone. The same Dating.com study found user activity increased by 30% from November to February, compared to the rest of the year.  

That said, there is nothing wrong with intentionally entering a short-term relationship — as long as you’re straightforward with the other person. Trouble arises when each person enters the relationship with different goals but doesn’t share them, according to Shelton. 

This open communication isn’t a one-time thing at the start of your relationship. As time goes on, one person may find themselves not wanting to end the relationship as soon as the flowers start to bloom come spring. Lurie stresses the importance of continually checking in and creating a safe space for communication during your time together.  

With that in mind, checking in with yourself is equally important. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. What does cuffing season mean for you? 
  2. Are you scared to broach the idea of continuing your relationship for fear of rejection? 
  3. Are you going along with extending it because you don’t want to hurt the other person? 

If you’re the one being cuffed, these questions can help you determine what you want the relationship to look like throughout the next few months. “Think about boundaries, especially physical boundaries, so that the level of intimacy that you engage in is something you feel comfortable with,” Shelton said. 

It’s OK to skip cuffing season altogether

There’s no obligation to enter a relationship simply because those around you are. 

At the end of the day, your “why” for trying to enter a relationship is crucial. Yes, if you’re on the same page, a short-term partner can be great for forgoing loneliness over the winter months. However, if you’re truly unhappy, depressed or experiencing intense mood changes, Alderson recommends seeking professional help and working to make long-term changes to help you feel better year-round. 

Kiana Shelton, LCSW

Katy, TX

Kiana has over 12 years of experience working with adults. Using person-centered and trauma-informed modalities, Kiana helps patients navigate major life transitions, including birth, adoption, grief, and loss. In addition, she also provides gender-affirming mental health care to those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Following Maya Angelou’s quote: “Still I rise,” Kiana uses this as a reminder ... Read Full Bio »

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