Cuffing Season Was the Reason I Got In My First Relationship, and It Was a Total Disaster
There’s just something about winter that brings out the romantic in all of us. If summer is your most fun, flirty cousin, then winter is your wholesome best friend, who cooks you soup and drinks red wine with you by an open fire.
It’s very human to start feeling the feels in winter; wanting someone to come home to at the end of a big work day, instead of going out and flirting with bartenders. This annual shift in the thinking of many single people is called ‘cuffing season’.
Cuffing season refers to a period of time when single people begin looking for short-term partnerships to pass the colder months of the year. The use of the word cuff is in reference to handcuffs because the idea is that it’s a time when you figuratively handcuff yourself to someone.
Cuffing season led me into my first relationship and yes, as you already know by reading the headline of this piece, it was a total disaster. It wasn’t all cuffing season’s fault, though, I’m not sure I would’ve rushed into a relationship so fast if it wasn’t for the fast approaching cold nights and my desire to be serenaded (literally, he sang to me) beside bonfires at his beach house, rather than drinking wine alone and watching rom coms.
We met at the end of summer 2014, and although it felt like love at first sight to me (my stomach went into literal knots when he first looked at me, and every time since), it’s hard to how much of that love was encouraged by my strong desire for comfort.
As I put my party dresses and persona away, after a summer of flirting with rich men in houses more luxurious than I ever dreamed of for myself, after many martinis and midnight hook ups, I began to transition back into my winter self. Winter Laura is wildly different from summer Laura. I’m both the girl who will stay out all night drinking margs, dancing to nostalgic tunes and watching the sunrise, and the girl who cooks bolognese in an array of favourite cardigans, a glass of red in hand and a jazz record on. The latter is winter me.
In the winter of 2014, I was 19 and had never been in love but desperately wanted to be. I think that’s why, on that fateful Sunday morning, one of the coldest mornings of the year so far, when he walked into the kitchen and looked into my eyes, I decided that I wanted to cuddle him and never let go.
We were friends for a few months before we became lovers. Despite his vague long-term relationship with someone overseas, before I knew it, I was relying on him for body warmth, mental stability and a sense of calm. I’d never wanted to stay in so much. Just to hang out in oversized jumpers and fluffy socks, listening to him play guitar, cooking and drinking wine together and going on group trips to his beach house (which was surprisingly at its most beautiful in winter), complete with a bonfire and many fluffy blanket-filled movie nights. It was pure cuffing season bliss for me. Until it wasn’t.
Poetically, as winter started to fade, so did our relationship. The yearning we felt to be held and comforted started to become less apparent, and the cracks in our relationship started to show. It was a really eye-opening experience for me. I never knew — or had experienced — how much power the seasons had over our internal desires.
The combination of me really craving a love story, matched with the fact that it was Cuffing season, made me even more naive than I already was as an inexperienced 19-year-old in love. I pushed aside the fact that he wasn’t honest about being in a relationship with someone else the whole time. I allowed him to treat me as second best; never quite committing, never communicating openly with me; never showing up until the last minute, when I’d already lost my mind but convinced myself that him turning up was a sign that he’d stay.
Our relationship had moments of beauty; moments that in my memory still, feel like raw, deep and undoubtedly love. But if I’m being honest with myself, those moments were few and far between in comparison to the darkness. The crippling anxiety that rippled throughout our entire relationship was like a ball balancing on the edge of a cliff, just one soft tap and it would be lost forever. I felt as though I was holding on with all my might, giving everything to someone who was choosing not to see me. Who didn’t care if I feel, and definitely wouldn’t be there to catch me.
I felt anxious mostly because there was another girl that existed in his mind and in his DMs, on the other side of the world. He’d only ever brought her up once, on the first day I met him, referencing her as someone he was “seeing overseas”. Once we started sleeping together, he never mentioned her name, but I could feel her presence in him. He was never able to be fully present with me. His mind was often elsewhere, I assumed either thinking about her, or feeling guilty about not telling me. Even still, messages from her would pop up sometimes, and I’d pretend not to see them. “Happy birthday baby,” one read, a message I’d seen when he asked me to check his messages for something different. “I love you forever. Can’t wait until we can be together”. I wish I hadn’t clicked on it, but I couldn’t help myself. He’d replied with a simple “❤” which I used to my advantage, telling myself that his response didn’t equal her eagerness. The idea that he was being as vague with her as he was with me was comforting.
It was the end of November when he left for good. One moment he was in my bed and the next, he was on a flight back to the girl before me. I hadn’t had the nerve to talk to him about her; that I knew she existed. I was so afraid of losing him to the guilt of being dishonest, certain that he would choose her over me, that I chose to suffer in silence; something I would never do again. We kissed goodbye and I remember feeling sad, but not heartbroken. I’d been preparing for this moment for our entire relationship. To my surprise, there was an overwhelming sense of calmness. I’d just experienced my first ever romance-filled winter. I’d never been so fulfilled throughout the cold months with actual romantic and sexual love before, and I hadn’t even been aware of how much I’d craved it.
Sure it wasn’t perfect; some would even say it was a bit of a disaster, but I look back on it with fondness for my willingness to give everything and for the experience of first love I was able to have. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t in a relationship for years after this one, but I did make sure to always have a snuggle buddy for winter.
Regardless of where you are in your life or what your relationship status is, there really is nothing that beats curling up on the couch with someone, the rain beating down on the roof, the fire on and a red wine in hand. It’s that kind of flushed-cheek contentedness that makes you feel like, in that very moment, nothing could ever be better than this.