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Does it seem like everyone is getting into relationships these days? You may be witnessing the social phenomenon referred to as “cuffing season.”  SHEC is here to answer questions you never thought to ask.

What in the world is cuffing season?

“Cuffing” describes the supposed biological urge to find romantic or sexual partners (or both) when the autumn season commences. The intention is to “cuff” a companion to stay with throughout the upcoming winter months.

Is it real?

On its face, the theory does seem reasonable — as days get shorter and leaves begin to fall, the autumn season can put a damper on the fun and carelessness of summertime. Some may feel lonely on increasingly dark nights and seek the company of a special someone. Why wouldn’t we seek out the company and closeness of others with the impending frigidity of a Canadian winter? In fact, a study in the journal Emotion published in 2011 purported that humans associated colder temperatures with increased loneliness and solitude. Nonetheless, cuffing season remains to be verified as a real, scientifically based theory.

What biological reasons can explain the phenomenon of cuffing season?

It can likely be explained from an evolutionary perspective. Since the term “cuffing season” does not sound very scientific, and no research has been done on the subject, I can only invent an argument to explain it. For example, it would surely be advantageous for a primate to share body heat with a partner in the cold fall and winter months.

Those are interesting physiological theories. Are there any possible strategic explanations?

Yes, certainly. A relationship may facilitate the acquisition of resources, mainly food that the couple can share. Also, going on romantic dates might mitigate the effects of the oncoming Seasonal Affective Disorder that results from the bad weather.

But really, how healthy are relationships, with two people drawn together by the cold?

I would not jump to the conclusion that these relationships are necessarily unhealthy. Every relationship has a unique starting point or a trigger, some more romantic and perhaps warmer than others. However, to the individuals who are feeling the desire for some warm romantic cuddles, I would proceed with caution. Be honest — first to yourself and then to your potential cuff mate — about what you want out of this relationship. Perhaps a good test to see if you’ve fallen into the cuffing trap is to ask yourself if you would want the same relationship in the summer. Once successfully cuffed, make sure to check in with your partner every so often to ensure everyone is still on the same blanket, especially as the days get warmer. A last word of advice for those feeling colder and lonelier as the days get longer and darker: friends can offer some lovely cuddling benefits too, without the risk of heartbreak!

Photo Credit: Arno Burgi/Getty Images

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