Defined by Urban Dictionary as a time when "people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves, along with the rest of the world, desiring to be 'cuffed,' or tied down by a serious relationship," the millennial-coined "cuffing season" has officially commenced with the arrival of the holidays.
While a conveniently timed significant other might seem like a harmless if not great idea, how does it actually affect your physical and psychological health?
The science behind cuffing season.
While there is no hard science to back up cuffing season specifically, there are enough studies that hint at why it happens. For example, a 2012 study found that cold weather leads to a greater need for social and psychological warmth, and the science-backed fact that strong interpersonal relationships lead to greater life satisfaction certainly makes coupling up seem appealing during darker months, a time when people are typically more depressed.
“Psychologically, we are...primed to seek mates in the winter," psychiatrist Scott Carroll told Medical Daily. "We also associate the winter holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) with family and partners, so we feel particularly lonely then, on top of our evolutionary drive to seek connection in the winter."
Romance as the antidote to darkness—and the holidays.
Relationship expert Jillian Turecki cites the fact that winter is the "season of sleep" as an explanation for why we're so desperate to settle down as it gets colder. "Winter is the time of sleep. It's a slow-down time, a reflective time. It's dark. It's cold, which is more conducive to sleep—literally and metaphorically," she says. "But the extended darkness can affect our hormones, like melatonin and serotonin. Effectively, we become more tired and prone to depression or lethargy. Romance is an antidote to that—it warms and lightens us up, giving life back to our sleepy cells."
Another thing having a partner helps with? Holiday celebrations. "For many people, the holidays conjure up feelings of loneliness, strengthening our desire for companionship. We want someone to be by our side at family dinners or at holiday parties. Someone to snuggle and watch Netflix with and sleep in with on the weekends."
What to watch out for.
While cuffing season sounds nice in theory, Sameera Sullivan, founder of Lasting Connections, cautions against mistaking a cuddle buddy for real love. "Make sure you're with someone you actually enjoy being with and you're not just wasting time," she says. "Feelings develop over time, but if you see that there are no feelings there and you don’t enjoy them, then there is no reason to settle down and commit."
While Turecki says this desire to couple up is a normal response, it's not necessarily healthy. "I never think it's a good idea to date someone out of boredom, loneliness, or convenience," she says. "We've all done it, but it never ends well—either someone gets hurt, or the relationship ends up being so subpar that it's a waste of energy. Some better ideas would be to plan a girls' trip or a boys' trip, join a book club, read those books you've been meaning to get to, work on spiritual and emotional development, and stay open to whatever possibilities may come your way."
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