It’s officially cuffing season: The time of year when singles start coupling up, in the hopes of finding a partner to keep them company through the cruel winter months. But this year, cuffing season and the COVID-19 pandemic converge — and the pressure is on to lock down a quarantine boo before the cold weather (and possibly a second viral wave) is upon us.
At the beginning of the pandemic, folks were sticking to virtual dates. But as spring turned into summer and the intense paranoia around catching COVID-19 started to wear off, people began making a major shift towards social distancing dates, such as walks or picnics, says Damona Hoffman, a dating coach and the host of the Dates & Mates podcast. Now, with winter coming, those in-person rendezvous are going to be tougher to swing. And, Hoffman says, she's noticed people cramming in as many dates as possible, searching for someone they’re willing to hitch their wagon to — at least until spring.
Personally, I get it. After a brutal first 10 months of 2020, I’m ready to jump head-first into the arms of a cuddle buddy. But Hoffman suggested a modicum of caution. Think about whether you really like the person you're thinking of cuffing, or if you're just doing it because you don't want to quarantine alone, she suggests.
If it's the latter, are you willing to put up with a person you feel "meh" about for months just so you have someone to screw and watch Love Actually with? If the answer is a whole-hearted yes, go for it! Just make sure your eyes are wide open, and your ground rules are set.
“It's imperative that you are upfront about your dating expectations,” Hoffman says. “Yes, there are people who are just looking for COVID cuffing season hookups and there is nothing wrong with that — skin hunger is getting intense and we all need to get our needs met. But we don't want to hurt someone else's feelings or crush someone else's dreams in the process.” That’s why it may be smart to state what you’re looking for up front, and to check in if you have an inkling that your feelings (or your partner’s) are changing.
“If you have done your homework to figure out what you really want from a match right now and know the qualities that you're looking for, you can screen for that on any dating app,” Hoffman suggests.
As for safety, if you decide to bring a new sweetie into your life, you should have a conversation about their level of exposure, and set rules about seeing other people. That's not just because of STIs or jealousy, but because more contact with new partners means more risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.
And if you’re racing to find someone worthy of cuffing, don’t despair. You’re not alone, and you’ll find the right person when you’re supposed to. Yes, wading through bad dates sucks, especially now. But that’s no reason to lower your standards or settle for someone who’s not treating you right just because you’re afraid of a lonely winter in the pandemic. Don’t give up, Hoffman says.
“True connection develops slowly over time,” she asserts. “I think the one silver lining of the pandemic is that it's forcing us to slow down and be more mindful of the people we let into our lives.”