High end dating app The Inner Circle today reported that people are wary of dating as autumn and winter loom, for fear of becoming a ‘cuffing’ casualty. But what is cuffing, and how can you avoid it?
It sounds kinky, but cuffing is basically where someone single will couple up with another singleton for the colder months, and then move on again once the sun comes out. It’s all about having someone to snuggle up with over the colder months and share the long nights with. But once spring comes around, they head off again, leaving the other person out in the cold, feeling abandoned and cheated.
This is something that Linda, 56, knows only too well. She’s a cuffing casualty – learning to deal with having her trust betrayed and being left feeling abused and taken for granted.
LINDA MEETS DAVID
“I’d been on a dating website for a while, and if I’m honest, I was really struggling to find people who were good matches,” she confesses. “Loads of them had tons of baggage, or would do stuff like make contact, then drift off without following up. I got ghosted a fair bit.
“I also really had a rough time with a guy who tried to extract money from me. He kept hassling me and then got abusive when I said no. I reported him to the dating site, but I’d really thought I’d had enough, and was going to ditch the dating… and then I met David.”
“Something about him was really easy, right from the start. We got along really well, I didn’t feel any red flags.”
Linda had been ready to chuck it in after a string of false starts, but she says, “Something about him was really easy, right from the start. We got along really well, I didn’t feel any red flags.”
She ended up meeting him properly in September last year, and they clicked. She was thrilled – it felt like the start of something real and tangible.
“We met up and he was really keen,” she says. “We went on a few more dates, really nice things like dinner and the theatre. Went to see a comedy show, and he even took me to a Christmas fair in Amsterdam in December, but his favourite thing to do was to snuggle up in front of my lovely open fire and watch silly old films, which I loved too. I really thought I’d found someone I could be with long term. We used to just hang out together all the time, and order in Indian food or pizza. It was lovely.”
“When Christmas came around, I wasn’t sure what to do,” says Linda. “It’s about sharing time with loved ones, isn’t it? But someone I’d only met in September felt like someone quite new. Nobody tells you what the etiquette is around Christmas, so I ended up over-compensating because I felt awkward.
“I bought him a really expensive watch, and then felt it was an inappropriate gift – and in fact he only bought me a token present, so that was weird; I felt silly. But he was really sweet about it, and seemed genuinely pleased so I passed it off.
“…maybe that should have been a warning bell – after all, having nowhere to go on Christmas Day when you’re only 58 seems unusual.”
“We ended up not seeing each other on Christmas Day as I have family, but we got together in the days afterwards, and I felt bad because he’d been on his own. You don’t really know how to do Christmas with someone you haven’t been with for very long, do you? And maybe that should have been a warning bell – after all, having nowhere to go on Christmas Day when you’re only 58 seems unusual. But we settled into snuggling in front of the fire again, eating Christmas leftovers. I didn’t want to press him about it – it seemed unkind.”
Linda was excited about the year ahead. She and David spent a quiet night in on New Year’s Eve, ditching parties for the opportunity to relax over a meal and snuggle up in front of Jools Holland. She thought it was an idyllic start to the new year.
THEN THINGS CHANGED
It was just about the end of January that she noticed a difference. David seemed less keen to spend time together and cited work as the reason.
“He has a business that he’s been building for years so I just went with it,” says Linda. “He cancelled plans and basically used work as an excuse each time, saying how the end of the business year was coming and he needed to focus.
“I would go days not hearing back from him… He just disappeared, this man I’d been so close to, so intimate with.”
“What happened then is pretty much the same as ghosting, but it just took a bit longer. I would go days not hearing back from him, to the point I stopped getting in touch. And finally it just fizzled out. He just disappeared, this man I’d been so close to, so intimate with.”
Linda was bewildered. And angry. She’d truly believed that there was a future for her and David, so much so that she ended up going to his house and confronting him.
“He was quite cold to me,” she says sadly. “But at least he was honest, which is something. He said that the winter months often make him feel down, particularly Christmas as he doesn’t have any family, and that sharing that time with someone else makes him feel better. But once the ‘silly season’ is over, he finds the constraints of a relationship unbearable and can’t face being together any more.”
In the end Linda unhappily had to conceded defeat but felt baffled and betrayed. They’d got on so well and had rubbed along with very little difficulty. “It seems weird that he can’t just give himself up to that on an ongoing basis,” she says. “No wonder he’s alone”.
She identifies that it’s likely he’ll do the same again this season but says it won’t be her he’s returning to.
SCIENCE AND THE FACTS
The Inner Circle has identified that although many people are worried about cuffing, in the real world there’s a very small chance of it being real. Although their study found that 12% of people had experience of cuffing, only 5% of people say they prefer to settle down in the autumn and winter months. So if someone is keen on you in autumn or winter, chances are that they’re genuine.
There may be something to the science of autumn attraction though. A 2008 study from the University of Wroclaw in Poland showed that men found women’s bodies most attractive in the winter. And much less so in spring or summer.
Studies have also shown that testosterone production peaks around October and November.
As for women, there is no greater time for pressure and expectation to have a partner than Christmas – and so many feel obliged to have a ‘significant other’ to attend parties and family events with.
And finally – whilst this might sounds daft – women are far more likely to feel the cold than men. A 2015 study by Dutch scientists found that women are comfortable at a temperature 2.5C warmer than men. Could this be a contributory factor to the need to have someone to cuddle?!
HOW TO SPOT A CUFFING CULPRIT
A bit like your typical ghoster, there are signs.
- Is it autumn!? Most cuffers kick off in October.
- Things move really quickly – do you feel fast-tracked into a relationship with all the activities you’d do a year into it, rather than leisurely dating and getting to know each other?
- Do they have a varied relationship history with short liaisons/patches of singledom?
- Do you talk about firm plans for next year? If not, perhaps your partner isn’t thinking long term.
- Do they seem especially keen to spend time cosying up?
- Have you met any of their friends or family?
ADVICE FOR THE CUFFER
In all honesty, cuffing for the winter season isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se. After all, if you prefer your freedom, but the long dark nights are more fun with someone else, fair play. But just be honest with the other person.
Cuffing season can mean you charge full pelt into a relationship and skip straight to intimate activities you’d normally expect much later down the line, like having short breaks away, or spending loads of time together snuggled up.
If you’re a cuffer, be honest with the other person. Who knows, you might meet a fellow cuffer. We’ve yet to see a dating app or site dedicated to seasonal liaisons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come clean! Cuff, or don’t cuff. But don’t lie.