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Cuffing Season: A 2021 Survival Guide With All The Dating Trends You Need To Know

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Every year, as “hot girl summer” comes to a close and the temperatures steadily drop, many singles inevitably begin their hunt for a hibernation companion. And why shouldn’t they? It’s only natural to want a date for all those holiday parties — someone to Netflix and DoorDash with during the chillier months. How else are you going to keep that nosy aunt from asking — yet again — why you still haven’t found someone yet as your family gathers around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Indeed, cuffing season 2021 is upon us, but it’s hit quite a roadblock this year: the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a little harder to secure a cuddling partner amidst neverending concerns about masks and booster shots. After all, how can you know it’s safe to hook up with someone new, let alone have them back to your apartment or enjoy that first kiss? Some say cuffing season is dead — but I say it’s still very much on. Singles are just making some key adjustments in order to find love in the COVID era.

So, how has the pandemic affected cuffing season? What can you expect in the dating world moving into 2022? Here’s what to know.


One-night stands are out — commitment is in

Good news for all those looking for something serious: recent research has shown that most singles are so over fleeting superficial encounters. They’re looking for meaningful connections that are built to last.

In a recent OkCupid survey, a quarter of men and 29% of women surveyed by OkCupid said they are now looking for something steady rather than a situation with no string attached. Meanwhile, a 2021 Kinsey/Lovehoney survey of 2,000 Americans revealed that 71% of people are more interested in long-term relationships now compared to before the pandemic started, and 52% are less interested in casual sex. Not only that, but 68% of respondents said they’re less likely to cheat, 64% are less interested in having more than one partner at a time, and 44% feel commitment is more important than before.

Match’s 2021 Singles in America study yielded similar findings: 53% of daters are now “prioritizing their search for a relationship more than before the pandemic.” Additionally, 58% of respondents have shifted toward “intentional dating,” and 69% of users are being more honest with their potential partners. To boot, a Hinge Labs study found that 31% of users are less likely to swipe with the main intention of finding a quick hookup.

All of this makes sense when you think about it. Quarantine gave people an opportunity to get real with themselves about their needs and priorities, and with ever-present safety and health concerns, people have been forced to be more careful in their sex lives. Gone are the days when it was easy to meet up with someone, have a one-night romp, and never see them again. Nowadays, there’s talk of vaccination status, and sometimes COVID testing before and after dates. Having multiple partners means more potential exposure to the virus, so naturally, many singles are more eager to fast-track their relationships and keep things “exclusive.”

Not only that, but COVID put things into perspective for a lot of singles: many of them suddenly realized that they didn’t just want a warm body to mess around with, they wanted someone who could emotionally support them through scary times (like, say, a worldwide pandemic).

A whopping 61% of participants in a 2021 Medium survey said they would be more likely to cuff with someone this winter, compared to 48% in 2020. Clearly, cuffing season is alive and well. But rather than looking for a temporary hookup partner, it seems many are searching for someone they can continue dating well into the spring and summer months (and beyond).

The FODA is real.

Dating is already anxiety-inducing. But dating during a pandemic? That’s a whole different ballgame. That explains the new phenomenon “FODA” or fear of dating again. According to a recent study from Hinge, 44% of daters are struggling with a phobia of getting back out there. Specifically, many daters reported having concerns about how to socially interact with other singles after spending a lot of time isolated in quarantine. In other words, singles are feeling a little bit rusty. In some cases, their fears surrounding COVID are also fueling their fear.

Match’s 2021 Singles In America study also reported that 38% of singles are “nervous about their social skills when it comes to dating again in real life.”

It makes sense. While lots of singles took adapted to pandemic dating, using technology like Zoom and FaceTime to schedule virtual dates, the reality is that meeting up IRL is a totally different experience. Questions like, “who will pay the tab?” “Will they try to kiss me at the end of the night?” and “Should I take my mask off?” weren’t even on the table for much of 2020 into 2021. Now, as vaccination rates rise and singles slowly but surely attempt to regain some sense of normalcy in their dating lives, they’re being faced with all kinds of new possibilities. Some singles may find they are apprehensive about approaching people and lack the self-assurance they had before. Others may struggle to identify when someone’s hitting on them, or let anxiety about the physical aspects of dating kill the vibe.

Needless to say, these fears are not unfounded — they’re totally understandable. Still, singles will need to face them (at their own pace and comfort level, of course) in order to find fulfillment in their love lives.


Sex is being delayed.

It should come as no surprise that singles are far less eager to jump into bed with someone right off the bat.

A recent study from Hinge Labs found that 33% of people are waiting longer than usual to have sex with new partners. And according to a recent Bumble survey, more than 40% of singles have changed their approach to sex in 2021, with 14% adding more steps to screen potential sexual partners, and 30% deciding COVID vaccination is a must before getting frisky.

Some are pushing off physical intimacy out of COVID-related concerns, but others doing so with the hope of solidifying an emotional bond with their dates first (rather than a physical one).

And when people are having sex, they’re taking more precautions. A staggering 42% of respondents to the Kinsey/Lovehoney survey say they’re more likely to ask potential partners about their physical health before consenting to sex, and 51% report they are more likely to use a condom than they were before the pandemic.

The bottom line? Cuffing season is far from dead, but it does look quite a bit different this winter. But maybe that’s for the best. It’s clear that singles know what they want, and they’re willing to wait for it. They’re also far less likely to waste time on meaningless, surface-level connections just to quell the loneliness. So, if you’re tired of the dead-end dates that you’re getting off your apps, stop swiping and seek out a professional matchmaker. I work with a vast pool of high-quality singles who are all looking for one thing: a lasting relationship. And by working with me, you’re more likely to find someone that you’re not only compatible with, but who’s also invested in the same level of commitment as you.

And when it comes to physical intimacy, many singles are approaching that aspect with careful consideration — which, let’s be honest, is a good thing. Sure, some daters are experiencing some trepidation about putting themselves out there again. But working with a professional dating coach like myself can help. If you’re struggling with FODA, I can help you not only regain the confidence you need to wow your date, but also the valuable dating skills to back it up.