Attention! Cuffing season — where someone who tends to thrive being single finds themselves in a serious relationship during the colder months — is officially underway! If you have been single for a while or recently gone through a breakup, now is the perfect time to collect yourself and revisit your intentions in dating. Cuffing season motivates us to do some much needed self-reflection and evaluate where we stand emotionally. Are you ready for a new relationship? Do you need more time to nurture your own self-love practices? The natural shift in seasons is the perfect reason to check-in with yourself and the potential partners around you to evaluate where everyone is at.
If you are unsure or feeling confused about where you stand, have no fear: I am here to help you navigate through each phase of locking down your potential partner. The beginning and middle of summer are for being wild and free, but there is nothing like the end of summer to set the tone for a romantic fall. Everyone is still looking at each other with rose-tinted lenses and open hearts. Let’s breakdown what the cuffing season schedule looks like so we can begin to map out the rest of the year. (Schedule subject to change based on feelings.)
SCOUTING: August 1-31
With summer scouting over, it is a good time to reflect on your romantic endeavors over the last month. There is a fiery energy that inhabits August. It is like a romantic game of musical chairs — everyone is frenzied, looking for someone to land on. Now is also the time people are surveying the scene for last minute flings. Nothing says “goodbye summer” like a hot and heavy hookup while the weather is still nice. Keep your eyes peeled for anyone that reveals themselves at this time!
DRAFTING: September 1-30
What is drafting? A draft is a process used in sports to allocate certain players to teams. Similarly, in dating, teams in the beginning stages are vulnerable to switching up on a dime. Post-frenzy of the scouting season has everyone trying to identify who they will be spending the rest of the year with. Say you have hung out casually a couple times. Suddenly, a new person appears that you are also attracted to and seem to have more in common with. Congratulations! You have just been drafted. Drafting is an essential part of cuffing season because it exercises the autonomy we all have in choosing a partner. Plus, the timing of it is sweet because if you are drafted by a new player, the initial person you were with still has opportunity to draft a new partner.
TRYOUTS: October 1-31
Let’s get into it! Tryouts is hands-down the most exhilarating part of cuffing season. This phase is all about testing the waters to see if the person you claimed has what it takes to lock it down. Here each partner is evaluating one another’s values, goals and characteristics to see if their compatibility aligns. Tryouts is a great time to start putting down the blocks in building a foundation for a real relationship. Remember to take things slow. There is no reason to rush when there are three more phases until the championship game. This means: no oversharing, no jumping into bed right away (unless absolutely necessary), and no expectations about the future. You are not on the team yet so just show up and do your best.
PRESEASON: November 1-30
You made it on the team but you are not officially playing yet. I call this the “situationship” phase. A situationship is when you are seeing someone casually without defining the relationship; you are not exactly sure what it is. Usually here we see couples going out together, introducing each other to their friends, and seeing how they fit into the other’s lives. This is the more serious courtship phase that is the precursor to a committed relationship. Preseason is the beta testing of dating. We have all the technology and now we are seeing if it runs correctly. This is where intent becomes a huge factor. Are you willing to risk emotional vulnerability in return for a trusting, loving partnership?
CUFFING SEASON: December 1-January 15
You did it! You are officially coupled up. You put in the work and it has paid off enormously. Do not get lazy yet! Just because you got the title does not mean you have secured your lover for good. Letting it all hang out now will give you a one-way ticket back to singledom. You worked for it and now you have to work to keep it. Who said having a relationship was easy? Especially with the holidays around the corner, it is important you keep your head on straight during this phase. Christmas and New Years are monumental days that trigger a lot of emotion in people. Now is the time to be empathetic and approach situations with a loving attitude. A full heart and compassionate understanding will earn you big points with your new boo.
PLAYOFFS: January 16-February 13
The obstacles of dating are no match for you. You are a true warrior of love! Playoffs is the last leg of your journey before you are undeniably cuffed, lock and key, old faithful, whatever you want to call it. While you have made it through the holidays, there is still one more phase to prove you are committed to each other for real. If everything seems to be going smoothly, I would say you have nothing to worry about. However, if you or your partner is skittish about solidifying or professing your love for each other, Valentine’s Day can be a huge stressor. This is a blessing and a curse in the sense it will bring out both of your true colors. Is this turning into something more serious? Or was it a short-lived romance? Either way, it is important to respect the journey and honor what is best for each person moving forward.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: February 14
Congratulations! You survived cuffing season and are on your way to a serious romantic relationship. Continuing to grow in love is to respect one another and allow each person the opportunity to exist as an individual (solely) and in the partnership (together). You cannot control your partner and your partner cannot control you. Autonomy is essential in any healthy relationship to avoid codependency and the birth of negative patterns. Remember all the tools that led you here. Healthy communication is now a primary factor of the relationship. Use it to get through the difficult moments that will naturally arise. This phase is a valuable opportunity to evaluate where each person is in the relationship and discuss where you want it to go in the future. Sharing this vision with a partner ensures clarity in that you are both on the same page in what each person hopes to get out of the relationship. Now that you have won the championship game, get out there and celebrate with your team! Make memories together and cherish one another. Bask in all your intimate glory with a rendezvous or two. Have fun!
Shelby Sells is a sexologist, writer, photographer, and cinematographer based in NYC. Her work is centered around the intersection of love, sex and relationships. She aims to liberate sexual prowess through these mediums and educate her audience through emotional intelligence and awareness. She is finishing her degree in psychology with a human sexuality focus.
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