It's Cuffing Season, Baby. Wait, What Exactly Is That?

As the weather turns cooler, daters tend to pair up. Here's what you need to know about cuffing season.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
Expertise Erin has been a tech reporter for almost 10 years. Her reporting has taken her from the Johnson Space Center to San Diego Comic-Con's famous Hall H. Credentials
  • She has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
Erin Carson
3 min read

Singles are looking to pair up for the colder months.

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Traditionally, fall brings crisp leaves, woolly sweaters and the usual blitz from the pumpkin spice industrial complex. 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. 

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. 

When is cuffing season?

Cuffing season is usually pinned to the fall and winter, typically starting in October and running through Valentine's Day. For 2022, OkCupid looked at its data and is predicting a later start, on Nov. 6. The dating platform is anticipating the biggest spikes in matching happening between Halloween and Thanksgiving, with a 25% jump in matches at the peak.

Wait, is cuffing season real?

Yep. Dating apps confirm they see an uptick around the beginning of fall. Data from OkCupid prepandemic showed a modest boost in daters who said they were looking for a relationship "for the rest of [their] life" as the seasons changed. In 2021, daters sent the most messages on Bumble between October and early November, a Bumble representative said via email.

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.

OK, what's some good advice for cuffing season?

There are a few pieces of advice to consider during cuffing season, according to Shan Boodram, Bumble's sex and relationships expert. For one, focus less on just trying to lock down a significant other as the end goal. Instead, think about finding someone who makes you feel whichever way is important to you, whether it's safe, celebrated, attractive or the like.

Boodram also encourages daters to use data to their advantage. Often, dating apps like Bumble offer insights into how people use their platforms -- like, for instance, what times of day are best for swiping around. 

"How can I very methodically approach online dating so it doesn't have to be a massive investment of time ... to make it a sustainable part of [my] life?" Boodram said. Along those lines, concentrating on set times to log on to your apps can keep you from swiping all day, which in turn can help combat burnout

Cuffing season can also be an opportunity to revisit your profile and freshen it up. You can reevaluate your bio, photos, prompts you've answered, and badges you've selected to designate interests and priorities.

"Refreshing your dating profile [is] not dissimilar from redoing your resume," Boodram said. It lets you think about your goals and make sure the way you're portraying yourself lines up with what you're looking for. 

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.