It’s officially that time of year when you’re watching The holiday on Sundays, huddled under a blanket on the sofa is not only acceptable, but mandatory. There’s a chill in the air, which means one thing: cufflink season is here. Your Instagram feed will soon be flooded with couples cozying up to holiday markets and holiday dinners together, it can feel like everyone but you has done the unthinkable and found someone to love.
What is cuffing season?
So what exactly is cufflink season? And is it a real thing or just a marketing slogan designed to make singles swoon while they lay under a blanket and watch The Gilmore Girls for the 10th time? If, like me, you live in the single, flirting, and (mostly) thriving camp, this time of year can feel either overwhelming or mentally taxing. Cuffing season usually begins in mid-October and ends after Valentine’s Day, as the term originally was invented in 2011 when it began to appear in college newspapers. The term comes from African American Vernacular English (AAVE), derived from the term “cuffed” which means you are dating someone. This was around the time it was introduced in the Jargon dictionarytoo.
Dating app Bumble told Mashable that this time of year sees an influx of users logging in and swiping to find a match. So if your dating app profile suddenly pops up, this could be the reason.
What’s behind this sudden surge of drag? That need to pair up and find a mate in the colder months is coming to our biology, also with a drop in serotonin levels, causing us to seek out a relationship. In the Northern Hemisphere, our days are getting shorter, our nights are longer and our temperatures are dropping. Historically, the colder seasons are when people will look for an extra mate or people to spend that time with, as the forces come in numbers to forage for food and get through the tough months.
3 types of situations to watch out for this cufflink season
The change of seasons can also trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for some people, a type of depression that people experience when the seasons change due to the colder and darker weather. This change in weather and temperature can affect how we feel, due to the fact that our serotonin and melatonin levels change. It’s serotonin “happy” chemical our body produces, so a lack of it can mean we feel lonelier and thus seek more company or physical touch from others. Researchers believe that this drop in serotonin can be connected why we go looking for a mate and why cuffing season has become commonplace in modern dating.
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While using dating and matchmaking apps there are becomes the most common method meeting someone doesn’t mean it got any easier. Aimar Draper is a dating coach and believes this time of year can put us at risk of settling for situations that don’t serve our true needs and desires.
“If you’re looking for something serious, don’t stray from this path,” says Draper. “It’s tempting to agree to just hook up with someone new for the sake of getting to know them, but if you know it’s not what you want long-term, then your emotional and mental capacity to deal with something random potentially it’s not quite there. “
Is seasonal affective disorder affecting your sex life? Here’s how to handle it.
Avoiding situations during cuffing season
If you’ve been in the dating world for the past few years, you’ll know all too well, either through lived experience or watching friends go through it, that it’s very easy to find yourself situation — whether that’s what you’re looking for or not. With the language of heartbreak more focused on that of people coming out of long-term relationships, the pain of the heartache after the situation is something that doesn’t get the validation it deserves.
In fact, almost 65 percent of singles surveyed by the dating app eHarmony admitted to being heartbroken by a short-term relationship or situation, with 56 percent saying their heartbreak was as or more painful than what they experienced after breaking up a longer, committed relationship.
How to move on after the situation is over
Draper believes it’s because we let things on our deal-breaker list fall away when we enter a dynamic that doesn’t have clear boundaries and expectations. “Sometimes if you go into a situation hoping it will turn into a commitment, you’re not really living your values,” she says. “I think having our needs and wants conflicting in a relationship creates a lot of shame for us, which is a difficult emotion to process and one that we’re reluctant to share honestly.”
Why do we look for a relationship during the cold months?
So why does this time of year cause us to seek out and form attachments that may not fully meet our emotional needs? “It’s ingrained in us to seek that human connection, but there’s also a lot of different societal pressures in the dating world now,” explains Draper. “I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on women, especially now, to assert their independence and claim that they don’t need anyone, and at the same time, there’s an equal pressure on them to conform to something casual and superficial.” Yet we are still shamed and judged for it.”
“It’s ingrained in us to seek that human connection, but in the dating world now, there’s also a lot of different societal pressures.”
Open communication and spending time with yourself, she says, is key to achieving a healthy and happy dynamic relationship. “Spend some time with yourself to understand and clarify what you expect from a relationship,” she says. “Unpacking that will naturally give you the boundaries you’ll need or want to achieve.”
Boundaries also go beyond what you expect from someone face-to-face. Setting digital boundaries is also key to forming a healthy relationship. Caitlin Begg is a sociologist interested in how our communication and digital lives affect our relationships.
“The way we communicate now is oversaturated and blurring the lines between real life and hyperreality,” she says. “Hypercommunication is the idea that the amount of redundant incoming and outgoing communications we consume affects our brains and social behavior. Which in turn also affects how we navigate our relationships.”
It’s time to reclaim singleness as a symbol of strength
Begg’s work led her to believe that the excessive way we connect now has flipped our dating graphs. “Take dating in the 60s, say. You had maybe a maximum of two channels of communication with someone – by phone or by letter,” she says. “Now there are so many different channels to do, so we’ve fallen into cycles of over-communication. This causes us to form attachments and ideas about a person before we even meet them, instead of getting to know them personally and then unraveling their digital communication pattern.”
Cuffing season, Begg believes, is a time of year when we collectively focus on expectations, thinking ahead to how the relationship we’re forming will end, rather than staying focused on the relationship with the individual.
“The way we talk to each other when it comes to dating has changed so much thanks to the advancement of technology,” she says. “We need to be careful how far we leave our online presence and perceptions intercessions for our relationships in real life. Don’t let the notification culture force you to project something personal that you’re still figuring out into the public realm just to be considered successful.”
Dating with intent
Cuffing season isn’t all about throws and hooking up at surface level, though. There is still an opportunity to find a partner who is looking for the same as you. dr Caroline WestBumble’s sex and relationship expert, believes the low tension and focus on fun of the season can lead to having a real relationship, no matter how long it lasts.
“If you’re dating intentionally, this time of year is a great opportunity to go out and meet new people without having to make it a long-term thing,” she says. “Even short-term relationships can be a satisfying and positive experience, so if you can, I’d recommend trying to see the breakup in a new light.”
While short-term relationships can be fun and serve a purpose, this time of year also brings with it a suddenly very busy social calendar. From family events to work Christmas parties, sometimes it’s actually hard to find time to meet up and catch up with a lot of people.
“The pressure to not be seen alone at these events can cause people to put themselves in situations just to avoid embarrassing themselves in front of their loved ones.”
“People can feel pressured at that time to have a plus one, and having a consistent partner — no matter how long they’ve been on the scene — can make them easier to navigate,” says West. “The pressure to not be seen alone at these events can cause people to put themselves in situations just to avoid embarrassing themselves in front of their loved ones.”
How to deal with a broken heart during the holidays
But being single doesn’t carry the same negative connotations that romcoms would have you believe. A recent Bumble survey revealed that many people are now adopting a “consciously single” mindset when it comes to dating, with over half (53 percent) realizing that being single after a breakup can be empowering.
Regardless of what your dating goals are at the moment, the most important thing to remember is that no one will see you as ‘less than’ if you go to the pub solo for holiday drinks. Your great-aunt at the family Christmas party only asks if you’ve met anyone because she’s curious about your life away from home, and your friends who are engaged and in love aren’t showing off, they’re just happy. So don’t let the green-eyed monster or the fear of being alone lead you down the path of abusive relationships and half-hearted intimacy with someone new for the sake of being chained.