Montrealers share their 'cuffing season' success stories

On the day Hannah Norish met Peter Liddle, she had deleted the dating apps — Bumble and Tinder — from her phone.

It was late October 2018, and she felt like the days of casual dating were disappearing, along with the warmth.

"It's just not as fun," Norish said.

She decided to go out on the town with a few friends one night with a specific goal: she wanted a more serious relationship, not just another Tinder date or quick fling.

Norish and Liddle locked eyes for the first time on the dance floor at Club Soda that night, at a Halloween party with cheesy '90s pop playing in the background.

"I remember turning to my left, and seeing this tall guy. And he had a really nice beard," she said.

Norish gave him her phone number — the wrong number, by accident. But Liddle wasn't deterred. He found her on Facebook and asked her out.

"The conversation was just really easy. He's just a really easy person to talk to, and I felt like we got along really well," said Norish.

By Valentine's Day, they were smitten. They're still together today.

Norish and Liddle found each other right at the beginning of the time of year that, in recent years, has become known as "cuffing season."

What is 'cuffing season'?

The term cuffing season (think cuff as in handcuffs, as in attaching yourself to someone) started popping up online around 2011.

Collins Dictionary defines it as "the period of autumn and winter, when single people are considered likely to seek settled relationships rather than engage in casual affairs."

Earlier this week, Merriam-Webster made the term one of the words it's watching, pointing out that while the act of seeking out casual romantic relationships isn't new, "cuffing season might be original in ascribing that desire to the weather."

But while the term has made its way into popular culture and is on the radar of the people who control certain dictionaries, it's unclear whether there is a scientific basis to it.

Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who also serves as the scientific advisor for the dating website Match.com, said it is possible.

As the nights become longer, our brains pump out more melatonin — a hormone which makes us feel sluggish, sleepy or lazy, said Fisher.

"People are probably more inclined to just cuddle in front of the fire than to go racing around in the summer looking for a lot of partners."

But there are other reasons people want to couple up at this time of year. For example: a calendar full of social commitments.

Thanksgiving. Office holiday parties. Christmas. Valentine's Day. Some may want to find a partner so they aren't alone when holidays and events roll around. 

Some people go into cuffing season with the intention of breaking up with their significant other when the summer rolls around again — but some decide they are in it for the long haul.

Liddle said it wasn't just cuffing season that brought him and Norish together. 

"But it was good that it was winter. Maybe it gave us a push in the right direction to stick together." 

The comfort of online dating

While Norish deleted dating apps to find a partner, other Montrealers turn to those same apps to find their sweetheart for the winter.

Wendy Tran was feeling alone in the winter 2018 and wanted to find someone to help battle that loneliness without having to go outside.

Jennifer Yoon/CBC

"I don't really get that in the summer at all because I go outside and I do activities… but in the winter, I'm discouraged from going outside. I don't want to gear up, I don't want to trudge through the snow to get to a bar," said Tran.

Internet dating, she said, is more reassuring than meeting someone in real life and having to watch for signs that it's OK to move forward.

"It's instantaneous. You know the other person likes you because they liked you [on the app] — that's how you guys match up," said Tran.

Tran turned to Tinder and soon found Nicolas Martin. His bio read: "I'm pretty nerdy. Video games, board games, etc. I'm cuddly, sensitive, lazy and loving."

Tran went on a few dates with him, and the conversation — about politics, philosophy, art — kept her coming back.

Describing him two years after they met for the first time, Tran still gets giddy. The attraction has endured.

"He's the best, I love him so much."