What Is Cuffing Season? The Facts Behind the Meme

Brad Tiller

Feeling anxious about spending the cold winter months alone? Well, you’re not alone – many others share the fear. Cuffing season, the time of year people look for committed partners to be with (or “cuff”) to stave off the winter blues, is here. Read on to learn all about what cuffing season is and where it comes from, plus tips to finding the right partner to cuff with!

What is cuffing season?

Cuffing season describes the period of time between fall and the end of winter when people seek out more committed relationships to last until the spring — even for people who tend to not want to be tied down at other, warmer times of year.

The cuffing in cuffing season refers to being metaphorically handcuffed to your partner for the duration of cuffing season. But in a totally good way.

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, people are less likely to go out and nightlife dies down, making it more difficult to meet new partners. People spend more time at home during these dark, chilly months — meaning they’re more likely to feel lonely if they don’t have a partner to share that time with. Plus, holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day, filled with socializing and milestones for couples, present even more pressure to pair up.

If you’ve ever seen cuffing season being mentioned on social media, it’s likely you’ve seen some variant of the cuffing season schedule, presenting a (hopefully exaggerated) timeline of finding and assessing your cuffing season partner:

Image of a meme showing the Cuffing Season Schedule. Scouting: August 1st to 31st. Drafting: September 1st to 30th. Tryouts: October 1st to 31st. Preseason: November 1st to 30th. Cuffing season: December 1st to January 15th. Playoffs: January 16th to February 13th. Championship game: February 14th. This schedule is subject to changed based upon feelings.
The viral "cuffing season schedule" that's been spreading around social media for years.

A cuffing season relationship isn’t necessarily intended to last forever, but to simply last through the season itself, so that you always have someone to enjoy cuddling, going out, chilling out, and of course, having sex with. Of course, if the relationship is going well, it can keep going long after cuffing season ends.

Where did the term “cuffing season” come from?

Many sources point to an Urban Dictionary definition posted in 2011 as the origin of the term, but the word experts at Merriam-Webster claim that it first showed up in print in college newspapers in 2011, with the term cuff originating in African American vernacular before that. Google Trends shows search traffic as far back as 2004, so who really knows the truth? (Seriously, if you do — please tell me.) The term has steadily become more common over time, and is now more widely used than ever.

Google Trends graph for "cuffing season", showing the term is growing more popular over time.

Rapper Fabolous released his popular track Cuffin’ Season (warning: explicit lyrics) in 2013, which likely helped push the term into the mainstream. More recently at the end of 2022, singer SZA blew up the term’s popularity after going viral with Big Boy, a skit song created for Saturday Night Live with lyrics that get to the core of what cuffing season is all about:

It’s cuffing season
And now we’ve got a reason to get a big boy
I need a big boy
Give me a big boy (Big, b-big, b-big, big boy)

Search the term cuffing season on TikTok, Instagram or X (formerly Twitter) and you’ll find countless posts from those longing for a “big boy” of their very own this cuffing season.

Is cuffing season real?

Cuffing season is ultimately a meme, an idea that’s spread through culture and has only grown in popularity over time. It’s as real as people believe it to be, and the virality of the term proves people believe it to be very real.

Science supports the idea that people would desire committed relationships more in the long winter months. Research shows that during the winter months, many people experience lowered serotonin, the chemical in our brain that regulates our mood and essentially makes us feel good. Being in a relationship and spending time with a partner could help offset the loss of natural serotonin. Another study showed that men experience higher testosterone levels through fall and winter, which could drive them to desire companionship and sex more.

There’s also data that points to people being more likely to establish relationships in the fall and end them in the spring. According to Facebook’s Data Science team, Facebook users were more likely to set their relationship status to a paired status, such as In a Relationship or Engaged from September to April, which perfectly lines up with the cuffing season schedule.

Science and stats aside, it makes sense that people would want to couple up during the time of year when loneliness can strike the hardest and when the pressure to have someone to share moments with is at its highest.

Tips for cuffing up

  • Decide if you really need a relationship. Maybe you’re totally OK with spending cuffing season single, and not having to align your life with someone else’s all winter long. Resist the pressure to pair up just to keep up appearances socially; instead, think about what your ideal winter season would look like, and work towards it!
  • Start looking early. Decided you really want to find a partner to commit to this season? Start looking now! The sooner you cuff with someone, the sooner you can start enjoying your time with them.
  • Consider people you’ve clicked with before. Your cuffing season partner doesn’t need to be somebody entirely new to you. If there’s someone you’ve enjoyed being with before that could be open to more, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and see if the spark’s still there.
  • Don’t drag things out if you’re not feeling it. What could be worse than spending cuffing season alone? Spending it with someone who you’re not really into. Don’t get too caught up in “making it through the season” – if it doesn’t feel right, just respectfully move on.
  • Be real about what you want. Let your partners know that you’re looking for more than a quick fling so that you don’t end up disappointed if they have different expectations. On the flip side, don’t lead someone on into thinking you want something super serious if you’re planning to cut things off in the spring. As with all relationships, communication is key!