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10/16/2018 15:58 EDT | Updated 10/16/2018 21:06 EDT

How Not To Be A D*ck During Cuffing Season

Just because it's a short-term relationship doesn't mean you shouldn't be a decent human being.

Yeah, yeah, we get it, it's autumn and you're so happy and romantic together.
skynesher via Getty Images
Yeah, yeah, we get it, it's autumn and you're so happy and romantic together.

The days are getting shorter, the air is getting colder, and pumpkin spice is currently being sprinkled on everything under the rapidly setting sun. Cuffing season is clearly upon us.

In case you don't know, "cuffing season" is the phenomenon of people settling into relationships because casual dating becomes too much work once it gets properly cold out. According to Urban Dictionary, the translation tool that keeps us all young, the term originates from the word "handcuff" — that is, shackling yourself to someone. Cool.

Here's your quick reminder that you don't have to be in a relationship to be happy, and that being alone can be incredibly restorative and freeing. That being said, it's a natural human instinct to want to connect with people, and if cuffing is what you want to do, then you probably want to figure out how to do it without being a dick. Let's do this.

1. Be upfront about what you want

For many people, cuffing season implies "settling," since it's more about wanting someone to date than wanting to date one particular person. But it doesn't have to be that way, says Samantha Burns, self-proclaimed millennial dating expert, and author of "Breaking Up and Bouncing Back."

"Cuffing season gets a bad rap because, from the outset, it may seem manipulative or malicious," she told HuffPost Canada. "But as long as you're not intentionally misleading someone, then there's no harm in dating casually, or spending time with someone even when you don't see a future with them. If you're both on the same page, you can have fun."

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2. Stay open-minded

It's great to know what you want, but be open to the possibility that that might evolve. You might be surprised how much you like settling down with one person — even if the person you're with isn't the one.

"I think cuffing season is helpful because it causes people with the 'grass is greener' mentality — who typically get addicted to swiping or who are perpetually looking for the next best thing — to actually focus on one person," Burns says.

"Even if you start off cuffing season with the mindset that this is temporary, you may be pleasantly surprised by the emotional intimacy that blossoms, and the loving feelings that develop... The reality is that you can fall in love any time of year."

3. Be honest with yourself

There will likely come a point when you start wondering if the relationship is going to survive past mid-winter. There's no wrong answer — if you just want someone to bring with you to holiday parties or to kiss on New Year's Eve, fine. But it's in your interest to figure it out.

Burns recommends asking yourself questions like:

  • Am I making this person a priority in my busy life?
  • Am I excited to introduce this person to my friends and family?
  • Do I enjoy spending time together even when sex is off the table?

4. If you choose to end things, make a compassionate exit

Just because it was always a temporary relationship to you, doesn't mean you shouldn't act like a decent person.

"The best breakups don't happen out of the blue. You've taken time to talk to your partner about your reservations or dissatisfaction, and even put in the effort to try to work through your issues," Burns says. "If you just don't see it working, or it's fizzled out, be up front and tell them your feelings have changed and at this point you think it's best to go your separate ways."

In other words: if you want to break up with someone, take the time to actually break up with them for real. No ghosting! No "breadcrumbing"! Just be a decent person, please!!!!

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Essentially, cuffing season isn't all that different from any other kind of dating. Sure, it can be a hellscape out there, but for every few thousand monsters you meet, there will be a few decent people, too. If you can treat people you're dating as well as people you don't want to date anymore with respect, you've a) distinguished yourself from the vast majority and b) put some good dating karma into the world. So go out there and cuff in good faith.

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