Cuffing Season and Mental Health

What to Know Before Getting Cuffed

As the summer comes to an end, the dawn of fall is in the air. When the leaves turn from bright orange to a crinkly brown, and every person nearby is adorned with turtlenecks and scarves, that is the signal of the new season. Although, this season is not just about the chilly weather; this is the beginning of cuffing season. 

Cuffing season is the socially manufactured time of year where the lonely people of the world choose a mate to call their own on a strict schedule from October to March. This term first came into existence on November 5th, 2011 by the popular, zany website, Urban Dictionary. A user on Urban Dictionary describes it as “When it is winter and you are single and ready to mingle.” Cuffing has been thought of like a dating phenomenon where people ease out of their busy summers and decide to settle for a warm and cuddle-filled winter with a partner- however, this relationship has a shelf life and that is a standard these individuals know before getting cuffed.

At the root of cuffing is loneliness. It lurks in the background of the fantastical, charming idea of a cuff. The real reason why so many college students are taking out their phones at the beginning of fall and swiping right is because of the detrimental emotional and social transition after moving from home to live on their own in college. 

“Cuffing season starts right around now and it’s so that you can have a boo for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and usually goes till like Valentine’s Day, but it’s solely just for people to, like, get cuffed – to be with someone,” Katelyn Cannon, a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College explains. Cannon has dabbled in dating ever since moving to the city from Utah, using mostly Tinder, as well as Hinge and Bumble to find dates. However, she deduces that the issue behind cuffing is that, “The city is so big that I am not even meeting people that I think are attractive or have the traits that I would want to date in somebody- it’s just people.” 

For college students, it is even more difficult to adjust to the fall season because of the detachment of moving away from home for the school year. Seasonal depression is living underneath the seemingly exciting season of pumpkins, hot chocolate, warm food, and the scent of pine. According to a 2013 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, google searches over 5 years have been linked to seasonal shifts; typically, these shifts occur in the winter as the “keyword searches related to sex and mating behaviors” increase. It is because of the cold weather that people are naturally influenced to seek a mate. Particularly, in social environments, people want to have someone to relate to and feel comfortable around in moments of waning and waxing loneliness. 

Cuffing can even be dangerous for those who are not immune to dealing with living on their own for the first time and learning how to take care of themselves. Insecurities are at an all-time high during a student’s freshman year of college and dating might only exploit that trait. Cannon highlights that “College can be lonely” because of the “freshman mentality where they’re out of the house for the first time and they feel lonely so they want that person, but it can lead to unhealthy habits.” In these times, there might not be anyone who has the student’s best interests at heart, so the idea of cuffing can be romanticized to deal with sadness or loneliness. 

In another study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, psychologists found after testing a group of 689 students, that during the transition from high school to college, there are detectable “social, structural, and behavioral changes.” They found that 32.4% of the students tested were moderately lonely and 3.2% were found severely lonely. The mental health effects of transitioning to college are immense, but adding a short term relationship on top of that would be an emotional breakdown in itself. 

“The idea that you need to be with somebody is very negative for mental health,” Cannon explains. It has become a societal norm to cuff because social media platforms and dating apps use the winter as an advertising ground for young people to get out and date. Alain Breton, at first year at MMC, comments how “For the time being [cuffing is healthy], but in the long run, no, because you are wasting your time and your youth, so to speak, on temporary experiences.” When someone goes into cuffing, they might not realize that they will be breaking their own hearts in the aftermath of short term dating. 

Although, cuffing is not all bad for some college students because it is often very overwhelming to live in a new environment, balance a job, go to school, while also figuring out what path to take in life. Breton considers that “It’s just a lot going on and sometimes people can’t handle that and a relationship on top of that, so they just want comfort during the months of loneliness.” By dating a person whose sole purpose is to comfort, it can actually ease the stress of some students. But for others who “love love” as Cannon puts it, she “can’t just go and try to hit on people or seek them out” because she believes that some things only happen for a reason. 

Dating culture in society has shifted from the idea of courting to swiping on dating apps and going on casual dates that usually do not lead to long term relationships. Cuffing allows people to “Embrace the fact that you can go on dates and meet new people and not expect to be swept off your feet at the end of the night,” as Breton describes it as. The goal for cuffing is to have someone to do holiday-related activities with, as well as having a person that acts as an emotional brace. Plus, this style of dating might lead to a healthy long term relationship because it initiates from a goal, as opposed to casual dating. 

Morelia Robles, another first year at MMC, explains that “It doesn’t always have to be a romantic connection,” and that there are healthy alternatives to succumbing to cuffing. “I know they (college advisors) say a lot during freshman year to just get involved by finding your community,” she recognizes, so it might be just as simple as “joining a club or going on a Facebook group and trying to find people with the same interests.” 

Instead of staying glued to your phone through the season of lights and joy, finding a person or a group of people with similar interests to spend time with might save a soul from breaking their own heart this cuffing season.