Relationships

Cuffing in the time of Covid

Ah, good old cuffing season. That time of the year when the freedom loving singles of summer suddenly find themselves longing for a relationship to get them through the cold winter months.

For those who are unfamiliar with the (distinctly millennial) dating term, cuffing refers to becoming romantically attached to someone. This might not sound like an inherently bad thing, but when you consider the fact that the word is shorthand for handcuffing, it’s not so great either.


At its core, this would imply that being in a relationship (or, being cuffed) is akin to being imprisoned. Cuffing Season, then, refers to a period of time (usually between October and February) when people are more likely to be cuffed, a sociological phenomenon that happens as people attempt to avoid holiday loneliness.

Essentially, it can be explained like this:

  1. Someone (let’s call them the cuffer) typically avoids monogamy and long term partnership, choosing instead to bounce around and have no-strings attached fun in the dating pool.
  2. As October/November rolls around, the pool starts to clear out a bit. The cuffer knows that by December, the pool will clear out even more.
  3. So, now, the cuffer will seek out a romantic partner to cuff with so that they are not alone. Almost like a relational hibernation.
  4. Come spring, the cuffer can shed their metaphorical anchor (along with the pounds they packed on over the holidays) and swim unencumbered once more.

Sometimes, both the cuffer and the cuffee understand that this is a short-term relationship. Other times, one person is oblivious to the fact that they’re being cuffed (is non-consensual cuffing a thing?) and ends up getting hurt (yep, you guessed it, I’ve been that person). And, sometimes, the cuffer themselves is unaware that they’re subconsciously cuffing.

Nevertheless, just like Christmas, Cuffing Season comes around every year.

But, like so many other things it changed, Covid-19 has had a strong impact on dating and relationships. According to many studies, there has been a spike in breakups due to the pandemic. I’ll admit, this surprised me. Perhaps I was just being naive (or perhaps it was because I was single at the time), but I’d have thought a global pandemic would make people cherish their partners more not less.

With quarantine-periods, increased unemployment rates, unprecedented virtual learning, and forced home schooling, this year saw a great deal of stress. There was a major upheaval of our daily lives. It would seem like having someone there to navigate it with you would be a source of comfort. Thus, I figured that people would be more likely to appreciate their relationship, that they would realize how many of their fights were based on unimportant issues, that they would love each other with renewed rigor. Alas, that’s not what happened.

So, what does Cuffing Season look like this year? Based on the uptick in breakups and the diminished ability to actually go on dates safely, you might think that cuffing season would be canceled this year, but surprisingly, that’s not the case. In fact, it’s the opposite.

People are more likely to seek romantic relationships right now and what’s more, they’re not just pursuing a seasonal fling. Dating apps always tend to see a surge in activity during the fall and winter months and this year is no different. What is different this year, though, is how singles are using the apps. Instead of looking for a short term relationship to carry them through until they’re ready to de-hibernate, people are seeking connection and long-term compatibility.

Maybe the pandemic has in fact forced people to take a closer look at their own values and desires. The question is: will it last.

When the vaccines are out and readily available. When life returns to normal. When we no longer have to worry about everything we’ve worried about this year. What then?

Will these covid-born relationships flourish or will they flounder?

Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And be sure to follow me on social media to stay up to date on all my latest.

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