Do long, dark winter nights make you wish you had someone to Netflix and chill with? Well, you aren’t alone.
As wintertime draws near and the temperature drops, “cuffing season” begins. Cuffing season is a phenomenon when people who normally delight in the single lifestyle or non-serious relationships finding themselves desiring to be tied down—or “cuffed”—by a serious relationship.
Similar to Valentine’s Day, there is something about the winter months that draws out people’s natural inclination to turn a casual romance into something more serious. That something may be humanity’s genetic history, according to author and psychotherapist Wendy Walsh.
Walsh explained that the desire to find a serious partner during the cold months is an excellent technique for survival in an interview with Maxim magazine on Nov. 8. In the days of cavemen, the winters made it harder to find food and resources. By aligning oneself closely with another individual, survival chances increased, according to Walsh.
Cuffing season also has an emotional benefit. The decreased light in winter months can cause “the winter blues”—a lowering in serotonin levels and an increase in melatonin levels. As a result, people start to feel more tired during the day.
Human connection in the nidst of winter can provide a boost to this fatigue. Hanging out with friends—and especially with a romantic partner—releases dopamine and serotonin, which can lift a person’s spirits.
There are, of course, drawbacks to cuffing season. One must wonder how serious these relationships are if they are formed not from mutual love, but from the desperate desire to have a partner.
It feels as though the goal is not to find another human whose values and wishes align with your own, but to find someone—anyone—who is willing to be “cuffed” to you for the winter. And then what? Many people terminate the cuffing relationship as warmer months roll around and things like spring break and summer vacations take priority.
How serious then was the relationship in the winter? The very terminology, “cuffing,” implies a negative connotation to the process. It is as if people are talking about buying the right bag—going through several stores and testing before making a purchase.
The process largely reduces relationships to just another winter accessory—something to be abandoned once the warmth of spring and summer return. Substantial relationships, however, are complex and emotional, thus much less easily discarded than a wool jacket.
That said, cuffing, for good reason, could bring an element of courtship back into the digital dating age. In many cases, cuffing season can be the extra push a relationship needs to move from casual to serious, providing benefits not only through the cold months, but also for the future seasons ahead.