Winter is setting in, bringing thoughts of cosying up with a warm blanket, a good book, and a hot cup of coffee. But the chilly season brings with it the risk of catching not just flu or cough, but also 'cuffing' for some.
Yes, you read that right.
In 2017, "cuffing season" was shortlisted by Collins Dictionary for its word of the year – and it could be said that this was the first time the word gained global attention. The dictionary defined 'cuffing season' as "the period of autumn and winter when single people are considered likely to seek settled relationships rather than engage in casual affairs."
Data from shows that search interest for the term has climbed steadily from 2013, with notable spikes occurring in late October and early November each year.
Doesn’t the change in season influencing our need for a partner sound bizarre? So, is cuffing season REALLY a real phenomenon? Or is it just another attention-grabbing, cute idea to attract clicks?
FIT spoke to experts to find out.
Understanding the Science Behind Cuffing Season
According to a US-based psychologist and published researcher Tanya Percy Vasunia, cuffing stems from a few things.
She said, "When it gets colder, our bodies react according to the temperature change outside and the lack of sunlight. It results in us seeking out other human beings."
Vasunia explains that this phenomenon can be understood from three angles/perspectives:
An evolutionary standpoint
A psychological viewpoint
A biological outlook
"Biologically, when it gets dark or colder, serotonin decreases in the brain, leading to low mood. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is linked to this. Seeking companionship and affection helps alleviate this low mood. This is also why sex and physical touch boost serotonin and create a post-sex high."Tanya Percy Vasunia
Festive & Wedding Season Triggers Cuffing in India
Psychologically speaking, individuals often seek solace and companionship when they experience increased isolation, particularly in the colder months when they tend to spend more time indoors – a trend common in the west. In India though, it could be more connected to the wedding and festive season.
"In India, there's a particular cultural connotation of this phenomenon during the wedding season," says Vasunia.
"There is a lot of romance and social activity, making it more enjoyable to be with someone. It can feel lonely to attend many functions without a significant other, especially when others are celebrating their relationships. During these times, seeking companionship and support is a natural response."Tanya Percy Vasunia to FIT
Radhika Mohta, a matchmaker and relationship coach, explained that the cuffing season is driven by the festive atmosphere, the desire for warmth and togetherness during the holidays, and the avoidance of loneliness.
People seek companionship, even if it's short-term, to combat this.
She further explained, “When it comes to dating strategies during cuffing season, we often see it portrayed in movies. People may challenge each other to secure a date for upcoming Valentine's Day, Christmas, or a group trip."
"Sometimes, individuals make pacts to support each other until they find more permanent partners, ensuring that things don't get awkward or questioned by others. That's the essence of it."Radhika Mohta
How to Identify Cuffing-Related Behaviour?
Radhika explains three key behaviours to watch for during "cuffing season" are:
Love bombing: Love bombing is when someone showers you with affection and approval rapidly, aiming to please and win you over swiftly. They may agree with your every plan, trying to sweep you off your feet with excessive affection.
Hasty future planning: Another warning sign is when a person rushes into making big future plans very early in the relationship. For instance, they might express a desire to marry you after just a few dates, even if you're still getting to know each other. Soon after getting to know you a bit, they also tend to speak the same language as yours, mirroring your desires and can thus be manipulative.
Narcissistic behavior: A third concerning behavior is when someone attempts to undermine you, which can be a narcissistic trait. They may belittle you, disregard your feelings, or make hurtful comments to manipulate you into chasing them. This behaviour can be rooted in different attachment styles, particularly when an avoidant person tries to push the anxious person away, creating a dynamic of pursuit and anxiety.
"This push-pull technique is often taught by pickup artists as a way to create attraction. It's essential to recognize such behavior and not mistake it for genuine chemistry, as it can be unhealthy and emotionally draining."Radhika Mohta, Relationship Expert
Is Cuffing Season a 'Healthy' Behaviour?
According to Vasunia, how healthy the behaviour is depends on the individual. Cuffing is more like seeking a companion during a particular season and then seeing if it works or not, akin to a situationship.
"The arrangement can offer support, but emotional safety and clear communication about terms and expectations are crucial for a healthy experience," the expert added.
Tanya advises being cautious about dating during this time. “You should consider whether it's the environment influencing your desire for a relationship or if you're genuinely ready. It's essential to communicate with your partner to ensure your intentions align and make decisions later based on how you feel.”Tanya Percy Vasunia to FIT
From a mental health perspective, it's crucial to be aware of what you truly seek in a relationship. If you're feeling lonely and seeking companionship, it's essential to understand your motivations and expectations, the experts add.
Your intentions when entering a relationship significantly influence its nature, whether it's short-term or long-term.
Another important aspect to consider is setting clear boundaries. Cuffing season is influenced by environmental changes, and it can lead to a faster-paced relationship. Rushing into long-term plans can lead to disappointments and unnecessary relationship baggage.
According to Vasunia, the healthiest mindset is to feel content with being single, regardless of external factors like the weather, wedding season, peer pressure, or others being in relationships. This self-assurance allows you to make wise and healthy choices for yourself.