Why Winter Is "Cuffing Season"

This increasing popular term says something telling about relationship ideals.

Posted Dec 26, 2019

It's a strange-sounding trend: the idea of "cuffing season." But as a term, it has skyrocketed in usage over the past few years. Cuffing season originates from the idea of tying yourself to another individual-- partnering off rather than playing the field. As the concept makes inroads in popular culture, it turns out there may be something to it psychologically-- but more research is needed.

As Winter sets in, days grow darker and nights go colder. Add to that the holiday season, with increased gatherings and family time, and the pressures to couple up may increase. (You've seen that disapproving look on your grandmother's face for years now, when she asks when you're ever going to get married. And often, it helps to have a date to make your office holiday party less excruciating.) You also may feel more acutely lonely if you are single during the holidays, especially given the cultural messages that bombard us about togetherness, commitment, love (and jewelry!) It seems to make intuitive sense that this all puts people in a hibernating mood. And what used to feel fun and adventurous during the summer-- meeting many people, going on the town with multiple dates one after the other-- is no longer as possible or as appealing as settling down on the couch to snuggle consistently with one special someone when it gets cold.

So, is there truly a push to pair off and stay put more in the Winter months? First, let's talk about birth rates. It does appear to be true that babies are most likely to be conceived in the late Fall and Winter, as mid-to-late Summer birthdays are the most common. This could indicate that for already committed couples, they are either having more sex or planning more settling down with increased ideas of starting their families. That alone doesn't tell us much about people out there looking for relationships, however, though it is certainly one type of commitment.

In terms of the commitment to settle down in the first place, some evidence indicates that there may be something to cuffing season. Facebook has released data about what people purport as their relationship status, and it does indicate that the Winter months-- and especially the seemingly made-for-couplehood holidays of Christmas Eve and Valentine's Day-- are more likely to reflect people changing their relationship status to "in a relationship" rather than indicating that they have become single, compared to other months. It's important to understand, though, that what people put on Facebook as their relationship status is not necessarily the objective truth, and might reflect cultural demands more than reality. Maybe they finally feel the need to state that they are in a relationship despite having been in one for months-- or maybe they feel the need to make one up (or not let people know that they have broken up.)

Thus, already committed people may be more likely to conceive a child during the Winter months. And Facebook statuses could actually be adding to the pressures of cuffing season, which-- until we see further research that really gets at people's internal motivations for getting into relationships given the season-- is as of yet more of an idea than a concrete principle.

Still, the concept is an intriguing one. Do you feel pressure to couple up during the Winter? Let me know in the comments!