My friend Jemma and I decided long ago via WhatsApp message that autumn is the only truly sexy season. “Summer is too sweaty for sex,” she said. “In spring, you get sabotaged by pollen – too sneezy,” I said. “And winter is obviously too cold to get naked.” Therefore, empirically, autumn is the sauciest of the months: cool enough to encourage physical proximity, warm enough still to get your kit off. It is also, if you’re wise, about the time you knuckle down and find someone worth spending the cold months with – because your chances of finding someone new diminish as people head indoors and stay there 'til March. That’s just smart planning.
As it turns out, we were right – and the phenomenon even has a name. October, when amber leaves crunch under your feet and jacket weather sets in, is called “cuffing season”. It is, technically speaking, the sudden-onset desire to get into a relationship for the colder months; to snuggle and nuzzle and spoon as the temperature dips.
The word comes from “handcuffing” – the urge to handcuff yourself to another human being, to become attached, to get into a relationship. It’s a powerful phenomenon, cuffing season, and it affects even the commitment-resistant among us. Who wants to be alone at home in front of the telly, after all, when you could recruit someone with whom to share body heat? Who wants to go to bed lonely, with a hot water bottle for comfort? Who wants to brave it and venture out in the wind and the cold to the pub, on their own? In the olden days, people collected wood and food supplies to get them through the winter; now, we hunt and gather spooning partners for the important evolutionary purpose of Netflix and chill through the cold, dark months.
Cuffing season was officially recognised, and the term coined, in 2011, if we’re to go by that hallowed internet resource called Urban Dictionary. Until now, it’s been something of an urban myth – something we suspected about humanity but could not confirm, not with any certainty.
But a new survey of 1,500 people, conducted by dating company EliteSingles, has just proven that it is, indeed, a real thing. According to the survey, a whopping 70% of people are more inclined to look for a long-term partner during the colder months. That’s interesting, when you consider how long rom-coms have spent making summer out to be the season for love – maybe the hot months are more for flings, whereas the cold inspires a little more commitment. It remains unclear whether people couple up for winter and then part ways to thaw out in the summer sun and find something more casual – I suspect some relationships are purely for cuffing season and that’s OK, so long as all parties are aware of the unspoken snuggle contract.
There’s yet more proof that cuffing season exists: 38% of the Brits who spoke to EliteSingles volunteered that they were more personally motivated to look for love in autumn. That’s compared to 32% in summer (strappy summer dresses and the general migration outside into the sun are persuasive romantic motivators, too), 17% in spring and 13% in winter (by which time, you’ve ideally already found someone to nuzzle). Nearly half the people surveyed (46%) nominated autumn as the most romantic season, probably dreaming of things like walking hand-in-hand through orange-dappled parks, knuckling down for a serious Netflix marathon, making dinner together with the heating cranked right up and hibernating through the notoriously difficult-to-socialise months of the year. That’s compared to 17% of people who said spring, 19% summer and 14% winter. 60% agreed that the cooler months – during the official cuffing season – are more romantic than the warmer ones.
There’s a serious trend towards cold-weather slothfulness, too, which is of course conducive to snuggling – of both the innocent and the sexy variety. Sixty-one percent of these people said that the best thing about autumn dating is staying in on cold, grey, stormy nights together… And that’s why it’s so important to lock down a partner at the beginning of cuffing season – because then everyone couples up and snuggles down at home, making it harder to meet new people for the purposes of sex/cuddle/love/intimacy time.
If you’re in a panic about it right now – it is the beginning of cuffing season, after all – EliteSingles relationship psychologist Zoe Coetzee has a bit of cuffing advice: “As the temperatures drop, people tend to seek comfort indoors. Autumn means more free time to start looking online, but it’s also important to keep your spirits up by getting out of the house. In autumn, a good way to still get out there and meet people is to take up a new indoor hobby. Try something like a painting or a cooking class – creativity boosts your energy and is a magnet for like-minded singles.”
And if you’re not into organised fun like that, Tinder and Bumble are efficient ways to recruit a cuffing buddy, without having to leave the house. Once you’ve secured your cuffing season partner, you can go on all sorts of sweet autumnal dates. Seventy-one percent of Brits surveyed said the ultimate cold-weather date is a stroll through idyllic country scenery, in the bracing cold, followed by a cosy lunch at the pub. Which is objectively one of the loveliest activities you can engage in with another person, especially in the UK. Otherwise, 70% of cuffing couples are sitting by the fireplace with a bottle of wine and a blanket, successfully achieving peak cosiness. Sounds ideal – in fact, that’s my weekend plans sorted.
Cuffing season is here, and it’s a real thing. Good luck, and happy snuggling.