Pumpkin spice lattes are being served. Fleece pajamas and furry blankets are being pulled from the closet. The cold weather is approaching. Soon it will be too cold to do anything but lay-up, eat vegetarian chili (with cornbread) and Netflix and Chill (NAC) well into the night. You know what that means? Yes, cuffing season is upon us.
Cuffing is a seasonal arrangement whereby two people agree to stave off the lonely feelings often associated with cold weather by engaging in activities ranging from simply keeping each other company to cuddling to sex. While cuffing season can sometimes be the beginning of a long-term relationship, by definition, it’s short-term and usually ends before Valentine’s Day.
Because cuffing is a temporary relationship that involves spending quite a bit of time alone cuddled up with someone, it can come with emotional risk. The cuddle hormone, oxytocin, all but guarantees feelings of attachment which can be intensified if the relationship is sexual. ‘Catching feelings’ is one reason many people avoid cuffing season altogether. But, feelings are a beautiful, completely natural part of a healthy life. And although feelings can be managed, they cannot necessarily be avoided if we want to experience the fullness of life.
Cuffing season also comes with some great rewards. Fall and Winter can be a particularly difficult for people who don’t have the means to travel home to friends and family during school breaks. Also, longer nights and shorter days means getting less mood-boosting serotonin and Vitamin D triggered by the sun and fewer opportunities to enjoy the calming effects of getting out in nature. Having a cuff during these months can provide a welcome reprieve. In a society where we often limit physical touch to the confines of long-term committed relationships, cuffing season equips us with the immune-boosting and stress-reducing benefits of consensual physical touch without having to shell out big bucks for a cuddlist…and yes, that’s a thing.
Here are a few tips that can help you maximize the benefits and engage in a healthy, intentional cuff this season:
- Choose wisely. At the very least, you will probably be spending time with this person for a few months. So, chose a person you like being around or a person you genuinely want to get to know better. Ideally, your cuff will share your taste in movies (for NAC), food, and leisure activities. This makes for fewer disputes over how to spend your time together.
- Establish guardrails. Remember, you are taking an emotional risk by engaging in a cuff. So, establishing boundaries is essential. Early on, decide:
- How many days/nights per week you will see each other
- Rules for engaging with each other on social media
- Rules for engaging with each other at school or in other public spaces
- Whether to end the cuff (and when) or to be open to something more long-term
- What activities you are open to engaging in during cuffing season (i.e. NAC with a home cooked meal, cuddling and sleeping over, sex, etc.).
- Take care of yourself and each other. If you and your cuff decide you’re open to sex, honest conversation about sexual history, pleasure, and boundaries can go a long way toward maintaining a healthy cuff and a healthy sex life after cuffing season ends. Use an effective birth control method if you want to avoid pregnancy. Although condoms go a long way to prevent STDs, even skin-to-skin contact can transmit HPV or herpes. So, protect yourself and your partner by communicating honestly about boundaries and getting tested often. Like any relationship, a cuff is better when it ends without unwanted pregnancies or diseases. And remember, cuffing season is supposed to bring good feelings and healthy companionship so violence or disrespect are great reasons to automatically terminate the cuff.
- Be willing to cut ties. Like any relationship, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. The beauty of cuffing season is that it’s not meant to be a life-long commitment in the first place. So, if you decide that it’s just not working out, a few weeks in, it’s okay to walk away. If either of you wants to explore something more long-term with someone else, it’s okay to walk away. If you just don’t feel like being bothered, it’s okay walk away. As with any relationship, you want to end it gracefully. But, it is okay to end it guilt-free.
So, what have been your experiences with cuffing season? Drop a comment below if you are an experienced cuff-er and have some wisdom or other helpful hints to add. Until next time, happy cuffing!