Playing Cupid: How the weather can impact online dating
Dating trends vary throughout the year. A licensed psychotherapist and a Bumble representative give us the scoop on how the weather affects those dating trends online.
Weather provides the backdrop for many things, and that includes dating behaviors.
From cuffing season to summer flings to mood swings, feelings of love and lust can be ignited – or extinguished – by the weather.
Weather and mood
"Weather really has a big impact on mood," said Michelle Miller, a licensed psychotherapist at Manhattan Wellness in New York City.
According to Miller, sunny days provide vitamin D that can help boost energy levels, making people more inclined to venture outdoors. On the flipside, rainy or snowy weather can lead to a drop in mood and energy, making people less inclined to go out.
"That's where the dating part becomes a little bit tricky because, in those moments and during those times, people want to be indoors, want to be cuddled up, want to be comfy," Miller said. "But, there is still that desire for most humans to be with someone else."
Time of the season for loving
Spikes in dating occur at different times of the year, according to Miller, and each involves different intentions in dating.
She noted that the fall and winter months are associated with a couple of factors that make singles more inclined to find that special someone.
One of those factors is the holidays. Miller said a huge fear of loneliness surrounds holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine's Day. Because of this, many people try to find companionship prior to those holiday events.
That fear of being alone is exacerbated by a second factor: the cold weather.
According to Miller, the cold leads people to stay inside more and be less active. Less activity means less likelihood of meeting new people, thereby worsening fears of loneliness and the desire to find companionship during the winter months.
The darker and shorter days of fall and winter also play a role, specifically in terms of making people feel depressed.
"Seasonal affective disorder comes in during those months as well," Miller added. "So, people also aren't inclined to go out, they're not as high energy, and I think it does play a role in how people feel in the dating space."
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This seasonal spike in dating can also be seen in some online dating apps.
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According to a Bumble representative, the highest number of messages on Bumble were exchanged between October and early November in 2021 as singles all over the world headed into the start of a major "online dating season" or widely known as cuffing season.
"Cuffing," a term derived from "handcuffs," involves finding a partner during the fall and winter seasons.
According to Miller, cuffing is a big generalization, but it typically involves a consistent, committal relationship to ensure companionship during a time of year when people are less inclined to go out.
"It gives us security that we're not going to be alone," she said.
According to a Bumble representative, cuffing season also continues following Dating Sunday, the first Sunday of the new year and the busiest day for online dating each year.
Miller said this is due to a combination of people seeking a restart, finding a renewed mindset and creating resolutions for the new year.
Also, New Year’s Day is very close to Valentine’s Day.
"One holiday that people definitely don't want to be alone for is Valentine's Day because of the pressure surrounding romance and dating and all that comes with that time," Miller said.
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Social media plays a significant role in this, she added, since many people show vast parts of their life and their relationships online, particularly during the holiday season.
"That just fuels that caution, that desire for people who are not in a relationship to be in one," she said. In fact, she noted that some relationships born out of cuffing season may evolve into something more long-term.
But for others, cuffing season relationships are fleeting. As the warmer months of spring and summer arrive, many "cuffers" tend to depart.
Spring and summer flings
In contrast to the colder months, the warmer months often see people out more and enjoying the longer days.
"People are more active, our social schedules are a lot busier and we will see a lot more people who are active in dating," Miller said. In fact, people are not just going to depend on one other person for their social activity, as they now have many more people who are out and about and who they can be around.
Having more opportunities to socialize generally leads to a pattern of less commitment in relationships during the warmer months, according to Miller.
"The fear of loneliness that we would see in the winter changes a little bit during the summertime," she said. "So, there's not as much of a push to find a person for that companionship."
Matters of the heart
By knowing how much the weather and the seasons can influence mood and behaviors, people can begin to take measures to take care of themselves.
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For example, Miller advises that those who are particularly susceptible to seasonal affective disorder can find ways to prepare for the short, dark days of winter by using a light therapy. This treatment involves sitting in front of a light box, which is about 20 times more powerful than most lights in a home.
While light box therapy may bring relief, Miller still recommends spending time outside, even if the weather is cold.
"There is science behind the benefit of getting outside in all types of weather," she said.
Another example of taking preventative measures involves matters of the heart.
Miller cautioned against "perpetual cuffers," who are persistently in relationship during the winter months but then tend to be single in the summer months.
"When we learn about someone's relationship history and we can start to see that pattern, it can kind of be a red flag at that point," she said.
While this may be a general pattern, Miller said it’s still important to be aware of it and how the seasons and the weather may play a role.