The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and all the folks who "weren't ready for a relationship" in the summertime are posting adorable couple pics under twinkly lights. It's not you, it's cuffing season. Maybe.
I took a break from scrolling through cute and not-at-all-self-indulgent couple photos (were they my own? I won't tell) to chat with Jennifer Hollinshead, founder and clinical director of Peak Resilience Therapy. Peak Resilience is a local counselling practise that specializes in intersectional feminist therapy. To Hollinshead, that means "looking at an individual's mental health from a holistic perspective, while also taking into account the society and the world we live in, and how that might be impacting someone’s mental health." It makes perfect sense (because unless you're the giant spider that made the mistake of being in my bedroom yesterday, you don't experience life in a vacuum). It's a complicated world we live in, and sure, I might be stressed about my relationship, but I'm also stressed about climate change, being renovicted, and the movie Cats. All pieces of the 2020 pie.
Hollinshead can't say she's noticed a trend of her clients getting into more relationships during the wintertime than during the warmer months—"but that being said, we haven't taken any specific data on it," she notes. "However, there is a lot of pressure to couple up during the winter season."
She points out that that wintertime coincides with holidaytime, and that connection seems a little less like a choice and more like a mandate at this time of year. There's holiday parties. There's get-togethers with friends and family. There's Christmas cards with picture-perfect kids. And what may be behind our weird but super real winter vortex of togetherness? Surprise, surprise: even the patriarchy doesn't take a holiday.
"We live in a very pro-natal society," says Hollinshead. She reveals that the pressure to date, get married, have a kid, and have another kid has lessened slightly over recent years, but not much. "It leaves single people feeling like they’re missing something, or like they don’t fit in, which then can contribute to loneliness and isolation," she says.
There's other theories that can explain why your mediocre summer fling might look a lot hotter come wintertime. There's the evolutionary theory that humans have evolved to survive better if we are coupled up during the winter months, which could explain why we start looking for someone to share a cave with once temperatures drop. We also might feel more isolated due to the colder weather, and make more of an effort to reach out to counterbalance that feeling.
Whatever the reason, the pressure to "cuff" yourself to someone else is significantly higher for—you guessed it—women. "Feelings of loneliness and feelings of isolation are, of course, universal," says Hollinshead, "but the pressure and the societal expectations are a lot different between people who identify as female and people who identify as male." Our society's tendency to slut-shame women and champion men for sleeping around unfortunately didn't die with our tendency to say things like "groovy" and "Macaulay Culkin is so cute!"
It's normal to feel the cold burn of cuffing season. If you're feeling lonely, isolated, or just want a cool pro to talk to, check out Peak Resilience or other therapists. And feel free to show this webpost to anyone who thinks your relationship status is more important than your happiness. Take that, Grandma.