Screw cuffing season—fall 2016 has been a time of breakups, a.k.a. “un-cuffing” season. Seemingly rock-solid celebrity couples went up in flames, including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, Jennifer Myer and Tobey Maguire (RIP, all). And what’s happening in Hollywood also seems to be happening IRL, with friends going through rocky periods and unexpected splits. Sure, you could argue that breakups happen year-round, and can’t be predicted by the time of year, but there’s a reason people started referring to fall and winter as cuffing season: Because it’s a damn great time to have a warm body to snuggle up with.
So WTF’s behind this weird reverse trend? I asked psychiatrist and relationship therapist Dion Metzger, MD, for her insights. “My theory is that some people want to cut partners loose before the holiday season starts,” she says. “They could have been super fun during the summer to go to the beach, catch an outdoor concert with, or just hang out. During the fall and winter months, things can get a little hairy if you’re with someone you’re not completely committed to. You have the issue of whether to bring them home for the holidays, New Year’s Eve, and then Valentines day. It’s four straight months where your commitment is put to the test, so it’s easier for some to just part ways before.” Ouch.
It seems that fall can be a good time to un-cuff for those who, even if they were formerly committed, don’t want to do the rounds of another holiday season with an S.O. Anita, 27, of New York City, is coping with a three-year relationship that ended in September. “Heading into the winter season un-cuffed, I’m feeling a mix of excitement and sadness,” she says. “My ex and I spent the past three holiday seasons together, so my memories of him are tied up with the holiday season—plus, we started dating in the fall, so the real ‘honeymoon’ period of our relationship fell during the winter, with lots of Netflix dates, snuggling while it snowed outside, Baileys and hot chocolate. I’m worried that I’ll feel lonely in the face of the cold.” She’s not alone—breakups are never fun, but add to that the falling of leaves and dropping of temperatures, and that can exacerbate the blues. Here’s what Metzger suggests for healthy ways to cope.
Make Plans—Especially With Single Friends.
This is the moment to text all your unattached friends and make plans. “Meet them at happy hours, fun dinners, or go out dancing. This is the time to embrace the fun of being single.” And if you find yourself feeling especially sad at night alone in bed—a common sentiment, says Metzger—ask a friend if you can plan a throwback sleepover. “Sleeping at a friend’s house for a night works and there’s nothing wrong with a little company.” Generally, the importance of staying busy and active can’t be overstated. In order to avoid the impulse to binge eat and drink, Anita says she tries to stick to a healthy routine. “Going to the gym is important, it helps me keep my energy up and feel healthy,” she says. “I’ve been spending time with friends, going to movies and dinner, as well as spending lots of time alone, which is good, so I can focus on myself and think about what I want for my future.”
Avoid Obnoxiously Romantic Situations.
To the last point about seeking out your single friends, also take care to avoid being the third wheel on any hangs with happy couple friends. “It can depressing, especially when you walk back to your car alone and they go home to snuggle,” says Metzger. Um, yeah. Also, Netflix marathons can be a nice distraction at times—especially when it’s too frigid to go outside—but be mindful of which shows and movies you watch. “Avoid romantic movies. Rom coms are OK because they often are about single women and laughing is therapeutic,” says Metzger. “However, avoid romantic classics like ‘The Notebook’ because they’ll just remind you how not in love you are.” The same goes for movies about breakups. I remember seeing ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’ in theaters shortly after ending a four-year relationship and wailing. Not helpful.
Date Around—But Don’t Aggressively Rebound.
Getting on swiping apps or going out with new romantic interests isn’t a bad idea, just be careful not to re-cuff yourself up before you’re ready, says Metzger. “Just be sure not to jump too deep, too quickly,” she says. “If you’re OK with casual sex or just having some company without the possibility of this being your next husband, go for it. If you’re too vulnerable and can predict you’re going to be a clinger after the first date, wait a little while before jumping back into the pool.” Smart. Anita seems to be on the same page. “I’ve had a couple rebounds and I’m out there on Tinder, but I haven’t gone on any real dates yet,” she says. “Who knows, maybe others’ fear of being un-cuffed this winter will push them to reach out more, be more approachable, and maybe it’ll be easier for me to meet someone! Still, I’m not going to force it, since this feels like the first phase of the recovery period which, for me, is all about indulgence and immersing myself in the sad reality. The only way to get out of it is to really get into it, feel every inch of the sadness, and then move forward.