The Student
Cuffing season and polyamory: shaking up relationship perceptions
by Miri Hartley, 30/11/18

For those who are unaware, the term ‘cuffing season’ denotes the rise of the number of relationships during the winter season. Apparently, some aspect of Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day seem to actively discourage singledom. Maybe it is the horrifying moment when belting out Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ when you realise that you do not happen to have a ‘You’. Maybe it is watching your friends exchange a magical midnight kiss on New Year’s Eve. Maybe it is walking past endless Valentine’s Day cards for the first fortnight of February. Or maybe it is the fear of having to endure these moments; these moments that serve as a reminder of our relationship status that will preemptively motivate people to seek out a romantic partner with more enthusiasm than usual.  

But is it actually a phenomenon, or an urban myth? There is no official data about the trends in relationship formation patterns across the annum. Since Urban Dictionary spawned the term in 2011, it has been accepted into the dating vernacular but seems only to validate itself through anecdotal evidence. Yet it is for this reason that it must contain some grain of truth, somewhere, somehow. Potentially, holiday melancholy is a symptom of our biological roots. A study suggested that, as women wear more clothes in the winter, ‘unflattering’ body shapes- i.e. not perfect hourglass physiques- become concealed and then men become more attracted to these women. But for the sake of maintaining faith in humanity, this explanation cannot be taken too seriously. Perhaps there is something beyond the superficial in dating culture, something deep and emotional that attracts people to one another in the winter months.

But is it necessary to ‘cuff’ ourselves to another person to warm the soul? Feeling pressured to do anything is surely bad, and the benefits of remaining single stretch far beyond not having to buy an extra Christmas present. Or perhaps the issue should be approached from a different angle; does it take more than one romantic relationship to counteract our blues?

Polyamory has produced some highly bewildering statistics. For such a straightforward concept –  a relationship with more than one person – there is a wealth of conflicting evidence about how many people are polyamorous, how many people have been polyamorous and how many people reject the concept.  Presumably, the people in the last group are leading themselves down an awkward philosophical path; is the concept of love such that extending it to more than one romantic person produces more of it, or does it dilute it? Most people would argue that it is irrelevant; intimacy and attachment are to be encouraged in most cases, and therefore it is not for the monogamous to raise their eyebrows. Eyebrow-raising seems to be primarily what’s happening, since in 2016 the American public decided that polyamory, as a concept, had a 16 per cent approval rating (though amusingly higher than the approval rating for any GOP candidate). So, polyamory is better than the Republican candidates. What does that mean?

It means there are many lessons to be learned from both polyamory and cuffing season. In times of both societal and individual uncertainty, we should make choices about our relationships wisely, accepting that there will be social influences in some of our decisions. Neither polyamory nor seeking a relationship in the winter is any more valuable than any other kind of relationship, so really it’s down to the individual.  Happy relationshipping, everybody.

Image: Mugdha Sujyot via