Dating: how to navigate the pressure of ‘cuffing season’ as a single woman

Dating: how to navigate the pressure of ‘cuffing season’ as a single woman

As the winter nights close in on us, so too does the pressure to couple up for ‘cuffing season’. Stylist investigates the dating phenomenon.

It’s a routine many of us know well by now. The nights draw in, the evenings get cosier. The adorable festive date ideas start doing the rounds and keeping warm leaps to the top of our list of desires. All of these signs make it clear that a new season is just around the corner.

No, not winter: cuffing season.

Usually beginning in October and lasting until just after Valentine’s Day, cuffing season refers to a period of time where single people begin looking for short-term partnerships to pass the colder months of the year.

According to research by dating app Badoo, over half of singles claim they feel the pressure to date more during cuffing season and 45% would settle for somebody they’re not 100% sure of.

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47% cite pressure from friends and family as a driver, and 44% admit to not wanting to be single come February. Similarly, 44% blame the FOMO of all their friends coupling up and 46% don’t like being single over Christmas.

“With Christmas just around the corner, cuffing season is the time of year where traditionally there’s a huge pressure to couple up,” agrees dating coach Hayley Quinn. “Research from Match shows over half of singles have experienced ‘single shaming’ since the start of the pandemic, and this may be felt most acutely at this time of year. While single shaming affects everyone, women/ non-binary people may feel extra pressure to avoid running the gauntlet of, ‘So have you met anyone yet?’ questions over party season.”

Stylist asked women how they really feel about navigating cuffing season, and this is what they said. 

“The pressure is bizarre”

“I generally find cuffing season bizarre. I am generally very happy being single and I don’t understand where this pressure comes from.

“I like being on my own and also find that relationships require a lot of effort. As someone running their business, my time is precious and the thought of wasting it worries me more than being alone. Your happiness is solely on you to achieve; if your happiness relies on other people, that’s an issue.”.

Emma, 35, from London

“I start second-guessing myself when it comes to dating”

“Every year when winter kicks in I am reminded that I am single – friends start to spend their Sundays with their significant others cosied up in the pub; family start asking if I’m bringing anyone home for Christmas; and my swiping on Badoo goes through the roof as the pressure sets in. The fact that there’s even a name for this time of year – cuffing season – doesn’t make things any easier. The heightened pressure in the dating world makes it tricky to know how I actually feel about someone, I find myself really second-guessing my gut feel, which is never good. What I actually want is to just date as normal and see where things go, as I would any other time of year.”

Ella, 29 from Newcastle

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Cuffing season puts pressure on single people to couple up before winter
Cuffing season puts pressure on single people to couple up before winter

“It’s perfectly normal”

“I think cuffing season is just the name we use for the combination of SAD and family-oriented events like Christmas, Halloween and Bonfire Night making us feel both nostalgic and consider our loneliness. That’s all perfectly normal, but as a single person I’m just not bothered by it enough.”

Emilie, 20s, London

“I just want to enjoy myself”

“I’ll admit, I’ve never really felt bothered by cuffing season, but that might just be because all of my friends are single – I think that makes things easier. Either way, I’m all for just enjoying myself when dating, whatever month of the year. I have some friends who are bothered, but I don’t understand why; I think everyone should just forget about cuffing season and the romantic idealism of finding someone to snuggle up with by a log fire. When it comes to dating, I think the most important thing is just to be honest with yourself about how you want to date.”

Jade, 23, from London

How to cope with the pressure of cuffing season

“If you’re feeling pressure to couple up, there are a few things you can do to feel even more secure in your single status,” says Quinn. “First of all, remember more people are single than ever before. In fact this year, having only just escaped lockdown, more people than ever before are ignoring cuffing season in favour of being able to enjoy single life again. If you do find people asking you to justify why you haven’t met someone yet, remember they don’t usually mean this to be offensive. Asking you intrusive questions about your love life can often come from a misplaced sense of trying to show interest in your life, so avoid allowing these comments to get to you.”

“Hold on to the fact as well that being single is a choice that says positive things about your self esteem. We don’t all want the same things, and even if you do ultimately want to be in a relationship, then the success of that isn’t judged by how quickly you reach that destination.”

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