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Why You Might Feel the Urge to Settle Down This Fall: Cuffing Season Explained

It’s that time of year again – the leaves are starting to change color, pumpkin spice is in the air, and the cold weather is peeking around the corner. The season of beach days, shorts, and hot weather is over, and it’s time to head inside and snuggle up by the fireplace. And as the weather gets colder, more people long for a warm hand to hold during the cold and dark months of fall and winter.

That’s right: cuffing season is in the air. For those who aren’t aware, cuffing season is the time of year when single people begin looking for committed partnerships to get them through the colder months. During this time of year, more people crave the intimacy of a committed relationship over a purely physical connection to ride out the colder and darker months. The term ‘cuffing’ refers to handcuffs, which might sound strange, but it’s really about wanting to be tied or connected to another person. Cuffing season typically begins in October and lasts until around March, when the weather warms up.

4 Reasons Why We Seek Partners More in Autumn & Winter

Why exactly is cuffing season so prominent during this time of year? Here are four factors that explain why you might feel the urge to settle down with someone this fall and winter.

1. More Time Indoors Means Less Socializing

As it gets cooler, it becomes less enjoyable to be outside. This means less socializing, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic when outdoor gatherings are considered a safer way to spend time with loved ones. In general, though, people tend to spend more time indoors alone during the colder months, stirring up feelings of loneliness and isolation. One survey found that 35% of participants were more likely to avoid socializing in the winter than in the summer. Spending more time alone makes it natural to long for a significant other to cuddle up with.

2. We Seek Comfort When It's Cold and Dark Outside

Believe it or not, there is a scientific basis behind the phenomenon known as cuffing season. Many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression during the colder months, which is a type of depression that is triggered by the change in seasons. SAD is estimated to affect about 10 million Americans, which means that 1 in 30 Americans experience seasonal depression.

The changing weather and reduced daylight hours means that we are getting less exposure to both sunlight and vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, which is a hormone associated with boosting mood levels. One study found that serotonin transporter levels were higher during the fall/winter than in spring/summer. Serotonin transporters remove serotonin, so there is more serotonin removal during the colder months, which is most likely related to there being less sunlight. Therefore, it makes sense why most of us search for extra comfort during the cold and dark months of fall and winter.

If you are looking for a committed relationship during the colder months, you are likely longing for the warm and fuzzy feelings that come with close connection, intimate touch, and romance.

Research shows that physical touch is greatly beneficial for human health as it increases oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin levels, which are known as the ‘feel good’ hormones. Being touched by a significant other can give a great sense of comfort and connection that can be missing in the cold months. Since we tend to socialize less in the fall and winter, we may even experience skin hunger. Desiring a close connection to a significant other is a deeply instinctual response to this aspect of winter and fall.

3. The Holidays Bring on Social Pressure to Pair Up

Fall and winter usher in the holiday season, which means it’s that time of the year where we all spend a lot more time with family. For many of us, it’s great to connect with family during holiday traditions, but it can also be a time where the social pressure to be in a relationship feels more potent. Constant questions from family members about who you are dating or if there’s anyone special in your life can feel daunting, especially if you are single and wanting a relationship. There may be some social comparison going on, especially of other family members or friends your age are getting into committed relationships.

In a study focused on cuffing season, a question asked: “Why do people have dates for the holidays?” and the results showed that over a third (35%) got dates to holiday gatherings because their family pressured them, and another third (30%) did so because they were embarrassed to be single. Looking at these results, it’s safe to say that social pressure is a big motivator for people to participate in cuffing season.

4. Romance Makes the Colder Months Easier to Bear

While spending more time alone and inside, it sounds awfully comforting to snuggle up with a special someone. We all know the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes along with attraction and romance, but did you know the science behind it? Romantic feelings and attachment produce oxytocin, which is also known as the love hormone.

Touching and spending time with a romantic partner can also produce serotonin, boosting your mood and calming you down. This is why spending time with a significant other feels so good. During the colder months when we are socializing less and spending more time inside, a relationship may end up being our main source of connection and warmth.

Lay the Foundation for a Strong Relationship with These Core Principles

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to couple up, and it makes perfect sense why you would crave a romantic connection at this time of year. If you do wish to build a serious romantic connection with another, here are some tips on laying a solid foundation in a relationship.

Be Present

Whether you are just getting to know someone or are in an established relationship, remaining present in your actions and words while spending time together is the best way to form a closer connection. Being present can help you remember important things about your partner, like their favorite food, place, or film. Getting to know each other from a space of presence and full attention will bring you closer. When spending time with a special someone, putting all your focus on each other and not indulging in distractions like your phone or tv is the best way to begin to build a solid foundation. Try setting aside time each day to spend time with each other without any distractions.

Communicate Through Love Languages

Learning each other’s love languages is a huge part of establishing a solid and fulfilling relationship. Communicating to your partner through their preferred love language, such as acts of service or physical touch, ensures that you will meet each other's needs in the relationship. Learn more about love languages: 10 ways to put more love out into the world. 

Vulnerability is Key

Opening up and sharing ourselves with another person is what makes a close relationship so special. Vulnerability develops trust and connection between two partners. Don’t be afraid to open up to your partner, and let them know that you want them to open up to you too. A big part of being vulnerable is being honest about what you want from your partner. Openly talking about what you want your relationship to look like romantically and sexually is a great way to build a solid foundation and get on the same page with your partner. Check out this article on How to Ask for What You Want.


Cuffing season is here, and there is nothing wrong with longing for a partner to spend the cold months and holidays with. With the cold weather settling in, maybe you feel that it’s time to snuggle up with a special someone. If not, of course it’s totally possible to be single and happy during the cold months and enjoy other great aspects of the holiday season.