Dating

Dating: what does “cuffing season” really mean in the time of Covid-19?

Has the pandemic forced single women to readdress their thoughts on “cuffing season”? One writer investigates.

I’ve always rejected the idea of so-called “cuffing season”. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, it means it’s the time of year when people jump into relationships so that they have someone to snuggle up with through winter.

While I can readily admit that the colder months are sometimes a bit shit for single people, I’d never settle for a relationship I didn’t fully believe in just so that I had someone to Netflix and Chill with on a cold, dark night. 

Sure, I’ve had my wobbly moments – especially as my coupled-up friends tend to hibernate at this time of year. Ultimately, though, I’ve always remained pretty happy with a quieter and calmer pace of life throughout autumn and winter.

But things are a little bit different this year.  

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Lockdown forced me to reassess the single status that I’ve held for pretty much most of my 31 years on this planet. I decided it was time to prioritise my romantic life, so I dated more, opened my heart and had fun. Somehow, I’ve had more dates in the last few months than I had every other summer before that. 

But with the changing weather, darker days and 10pm curfew – the summer of love is over. So what the hell happens next? While I maintain that I’m not going to settle for anything less than I would have before, I must admit that I’m quite sad and scared about going through the winter months of this pandemic romantically alone.

Perhaps, actually, it would be nice to have someone to form a bubble with – even if they’re not perfect. 

My colleague Chloe, who has had a similar experience to me in this pandemic, echoes these thoughts: “The idea cuffing season has always made me roll my eyes. However, contemplating heading into lockdown 2.0 without the cheer of sunshine and no longer living with my best friend makes me kind of see the point of cuffing. 

“Do I want someone to move in with me to fully embrace another lockdown together? Not particularly. But we’ve seen single-shaming from government policy and harsher judgments from society towards those who are ‘casually’ dating new people.

“With that in mind, I am feeling more open to the idea of exclusivity with someone, at least so they can come over to keep me company and bring some joy with less worry of infecting each other and being criticised by others.”

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When I put these thoughts to the good people of Twitter, it became clear that we’re not the only ones readdressing our thoughts towards cuffing season this year.

“I’m like the most single person ever, never had a long term relationship and I’m 31,” Lucy tells me over DM. “I actually love being single and am never actively on the hunt. But this is the first year ever that I’m considering ‘taking part’ in cuffing season.

“It just feels like a good year to have a boyfriend at Christmas, considering I might not be able to see many other people. I don’t know if I’ll actually go through with it though!”

A man and a woman
Cuffing season: the pandemic is forcing single people to reassess their relationship status.

“Dating apps are well and truly popping off,” Joy tells me in another DM. “I got more matches on Hinge than work emails last Friday. The desperation and fear of being single in another lockdown is rife in London. With pulling in the club a thing of the past, I’ve gone from one dating app date last year to five in the last two months. 

“Honestly, all the messaging has felt like a part-time job, and the conversion rate is not high. All so I can have someone to keep me warm in the winter and cut down on the heating bill.”

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We only need to look at the latest dating app stats to prove what’s going on here. 

Inner Circle saw a 72.6% rise in new members joining the app in September compared to the same month in 2019. A third (33%) of singles even said they’re now open to meeting someone who’s not ‘their type on paper’. Badoo also revealed that 70% of its daters are concerned the second wave of coronavirus will have a notable impact on their dating preferences, with almost half admitting they are now more eager to find a partner than they were before lockdown. And recent Bumble UK research found that more than half (51%) of people who use the app think that, as we get closer to winter, finding a partner is more important.

Dating and relationships expert, Sami Wunder, believes that cuffing season is accentuated by the “human desire for love and companionship in winter”.     

She suggests that “the long quarantine and isolation period we’ve experienced this year has made many singles come face to face with their loneliness. This means the desire for ‘someone to snuggle with’ will be heightened this winter”. She says that, due to the pandemic, there could be more cases of ‘cuffing’ coupling up, to escape the intense sense of loneliness that quarantine has caused.

She also proffers that most single people “wouldn’t want to expose themselves to multiple dating options at this point, which may increase the likelihood of entering a casual situationship ‘just for now’ as opposed to holding out for the right person”. 

"Cuffing season is accentuated by the 'human desire for love and companionship in winter,'" according to dating expert Sami Wunder.

So, what advice does Sami have for any single people worried about cuffing season in 2020?

“One of the ways cuffing season can be navigated is by being honest,” she says. “Make it clear what you’re looking for, tell your partner if you’re looking for something serious or not. If you’re not sure what you want long term, tell them honestly that you want to see where things take you.”

She adds: “Another way to approach things would be not to over attach yourself. Have the sensibility to understand that your relationship may have been quick and rushed – it may be good for now but it doesn’t necessarily have meaning for the future.

“But if you are serious about your partner, take your time getting attached to them. It’s one thing to get into a quick relationship, and another thing to really build a deep sense of trust and knowing with your partner.”

And if you do end up spending cuffing season alone again, take my advice and binge Anna Kendrick’s Love Life. It’s the perfect reminder that you are not alone and everything, in the end, is gonna be alright.

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