As the weather cools down, people are heating up with the help of cuddling instead of grandma’s wool blanket. 

Jayde Atchison // Staff Writer

Emily Rose // Illustrator

Night envelops us with star-filled skies and a sliver of the moon by 5pm as we journey home from school or work. The Vancouver downpours and the occasional slush-fall often discourage social outings—too much effort is required to don our winter attire while still looking like a snack. Instead, the darkness permits us to indulge in our guilty pleasures—curling up on the couch with our favourite fleece blanket and a glass of merlot to binge the next Netflix series. While entangling ourselves alone in pillows, blankets and cozy sweaters, there is that feeling of something missing. After contemplating what that something is, we find ourselves downloading Bumble, because what would make these evenings even better? Someone to share them with.  

This desire to find an intimate connection during the colder months is often referred to as “cuffing season.” The term entered Urban Dictionary in 2017 and has been traipsing through the internet ever since. Cuffing season, which begins in early October and continues on through February, is the theory that single people have a desire to “handcuff” themselves to another person via a relationship during the colder, darker months. As the days grow shorter, we naturally want to spend them with a significant other. Cuddling is much more appealing when our heating may not be sufficient enough to feel true warmth.  

When Googling the term, there is a lot of flak about whether cuffing season is a true concept or just a made-up excuse to settle down. Dr. Douglas Alards-Tomalin, a psychology professor at Capilano University, believes that cuffing season is “largely anecdotal—but certainly not invalid by any means.”  

“Cuffing season probably gains more credibility by being something that people have personally experienced than if it were simply the result of some study,” he explained. Even though there may not be psychological evidence that supports the notion, many people find themselves shacking up during the frigid winter months.  

Nicole Haley, a Vancouver-based dating coach, acknowledges that come November her potential client list grows as people reach out to gain more insight into the world of dating. “I think people start to get anxious a little bit thinking ‘this should have happened by now—I don’t want to be single going into the new year,” suggested Haley.  

Inevitably, the holiday season can create pressure from family and friends—none of us want to be the only single person at the table. Having aunt Carol shout over the dinner table to ask why you aren’t seeing anyone is a huge bummer. It’s not only family either. If Hallmark has told us anything it’s that we’re supposed to have a special someone underneath the mistletoe, or at midnight when the ball drops. “People don’t want to have to deal with that unconscious feeling of not measuring up to other people’s expectations, so they bring somebody [to] alleviate that discomfort,” Haley explained. “However, when we approach it that way we are leading ourselves to more discomfort because that person may not be actually what we want, but we are just filling in the gap.” 

In North America, the rates of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) statistically peak in January. In fact, Blue Monday, which falls on January 20 in 2020—is deemed the most depressing day of the year. It may feel nice to cozy up with a captivating book for some, but for others the dark days bring a lack of motivation. The temptation to avoid this seasonal depression through finding love is terribly strong. If we fall in love, the winter months will be easier, right?  

According to Dr. Alards-Tomalin, a well-established and healthy relationship may be able to withstand the tests of winter. “People who report being in satisfactory relationships tend to [have] less cortisol [stress hormone] production, healthier immune systems, and experience less loneliness, particularly for happy couples that cohabit,” he explained. But, relying on a new partner to relieve seasonal depression or depression in general can be a detrimental beginning to any relationship. Leaning on someone in order to skip past underlying issues can only cause more stress and strain the parties involved.  

All serial first-daters will understand the frustration of dating around—first dates can seem forced, robotic and insincere. Most of us have the urge to leap into the comfortable part of a relationship, where things are easy. Of course, no couple experiences a perfect partnership, but once the weight of uncertainty is lifted, relationships take a sigh of relief. Dating may feel like a waste of time, but Nicole Haley says otherwise: “Dating is an opportunity to really get to know individuals and you’re also dating to grow,” she said. “You’re growing as an individual and each experience is an opportunity to learn something about yourself.”  

Both Dr. Alards-Tomalin and Haley believe participating in cuffing season can be a healthy way to start a relationship—if the intentions are sound. “We tend to do a lot better when we connect with people in meaningful and personally satisfying ways than we do when we feel isolated,” suggested Dr. Alards-Tomalin. “A healthy, satisfying relationship is a good thing to have in one’s life any time and all of the time if possible.” In other words: longing for someone to ease our loneliness for a few months is just fine if that is what both parties are agreeing to. However, there is a greater chance of settling. Love may be blind but so are lust and loneliness. “The intention may not be the best because we may be unconsciously settling or making adjustments because we just want someone in our lives,” explained Haley.  

Regardless of intentions, we are not always able to be honest with ourselves, nor be sure of our partners intentions. Disaster may be lurking around the corner in a break-up shaped costume (it probably looks a lot like an empty container of Haagen Dazs). While we imagine our new relationship may just be fleeting, an emotion that feels like love starts to sneak up on us. The relationship may not be perfect, but the craving for cuddles makes us want to work things out. We look past red flags and warning signs until time wears us down and we realize this is not our one true love (if they exist out of Disney movies). We struggle to find the courage to say those five magical words: “it’s not you, it’s me.”  

Whether we are as single as the socks coming out of our dryers or we are currently tied down, winter time can be the season to consider what lights us up, what is important to us, and where we want to be when the sun comes back for those three short months in Vancouver. Remember that someone else’s feelings are at stake, so if you are only in it for the season, do your partner a solid and don’t allude otherwise. Take each date (and there may be many) as a new step towards building the ultimate list of what you’re looking for—be it in yourself or in your eventual partner.  

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