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Love Syncs: In the dating world, it’s cuffing season

Singles are looking to pair up for the colder months.


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Traditionally, fall brings crisp leaves, woolly sweaters, and pumpkin in every ingestible form possible. In the dating world, it also marks the beginning of cuffing season. Cuffing season is like musical chairs, except the last one without a partner when the music stops has to explain to their nosy aunt over the holidays why they’re still single.

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Unlike the summer, when more daters seem to be interested in keeping their relationships casual, cuffing season is when they pair up and hunker down, like bears with access to Netflix and DoorDash. 

Here’s a full rundown on cuffing season. 

What is cuffing season?

Cuffing season starts around October and runs through Valentine’s Day. It’s a time when daters look for a steady relationship — a reliable partner for the cold weather. 

Wait, is cuffing season real?

Yep. Dating apps confirm they see an uptick around the beginning of fall. Data from OkCupid in 2019 showed a modest boost in daters who said they were looking for a relationship “for the rest of [their] life” as the seasons changed. A Bumble representative said via email that the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s in particular is a major season for online dating. 

“Last year, our internal research showed us that more than half of the singles on Bumble wanted to prioritize finding a partner in time for the holidays,” they said. 

Where did the phrase come from?

Merriam-Webster dug into the origins of the phrase and found the earliest references to cuffing season in print coming from college newspapers in 2011. The dictionary also attributed the term cuffing as coming from the Black community online prior to 2011, and also noted the 2013 song Cuffin Season by rapper Fabolous. As for the cuffing part, Merriam-Webster also noted it’s a reference to handcuffs.

Has the pandemic changed cuffing season?

It would be weird if it hadn’t, right? On a broader level, dating apps have reported users getting more serious about their dating intentions since the pandemic started. A quarter of men and 29% of women surveyed by OkCupid said they’d changed their minds and are now looking for something steady, versus a no-strings-attached situation. Bumble found its users noticed about a 40% decline in ghosting over the pandemic. 

As for cuffing season in 2021, it’s unclear what to expect just yet. Last year, pre-vaccine, OkCupid actually found fewer of its daters looking for a long-term relationship, but said they expect this year to look more like pre-pandemic times. 

Dating app Hinge published a video guide to cuffing season in October, featuring US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy giving daters advice on how to navigate dating during the pandemic. That includes having open conversations about risk, possible exposure, vaccinations, mask practices and more. Communication with partners is more important than ever, he said. 

“We don’t have to give up on dating or relationships,” Murthy said, “We have tools for how to make dating safer during the pandemic.”

OK, how do I get in on cuffing season?

Love Syncs can’t play wingwoman for you, but if you’re interested in refreshing your dating app profile, here are some guides, including how to write your bio, pick out photos and even how to ask your date if they’ve been vaccinated. Plus, an answer to the age-old question: Why are there so many guys holding fish in their profiles?

CNET’s Love Syncs is an advice column focusing on online dating. If you’ve got a question about finding love via app, send it to erin.carson@cnet.com for consideration. 

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