LEAVES are crunching under foot, the nights are drawing in – and all over Britain, singletons are looking for love.
That's because it's the beginning of 'cuffing season', the time of year when people want to be tied down or "cuffed" with a romantic partner before the cold winter months set in – and this year's season is predicted to be more intense than ever.
The theory goes that people have had an unusually large amount of time to reflect on what they want from dating during lockdown, and will be better placed to go after it now.
Sure enough, global users on dating app Hinge have sent a whopping 30 per cent more messages than earlier in the year.
But experts say bad dating habits could hold people back from finding love.
“There are a series of challenges that people encounter in their love lives that seem to consistently plague people until they’re able to break that bad habit," says Logan Ury, Hinge's Director of Relationship Science.
“A common one is either chasing after someone who’s not interested in you or trying to get back together with an ex. That’s a pattern that someone could have for many years – maybe even decades.
“When I really see progress with people is when they’re able to take that main bad habit that’s holding them back and they’re able to break it."
From getting over pickiness to coming across as needy, here are the worst dating habits you should avoid when looking for love – and how you can get into successful habits this cuffing season.
Don't get 'addicted to the chase'
Although 69 per cent of Hinge users say they've been thinking more about who they are really looking for, it only takes one destructive pattern of behaviour to stop them getting where they want to be.
And one of the most common is pursuing people who just aren't interested in you.
“Sometimes people get addicted to the chase and they’re very excited by the pursuit of someone," Logan says, who also works as a dating coach.
“What I advise people is: You should both be putting in effort. You should both be making the other person a priority.
“Don’t make somebody a priority who only makes you an option.”
But equally lethal is being way too selective yourself.
"One of the most common things I see is that people are too picky," Logan says.
“They have unrealistic expectations, both of what a relationship can be and of the other person."
Put in the effort – but avoid 'ghosters'
Coupled with pickiness is a widespread misapprehension about just how much effort goes into making a serious relationship work.
“People also make the mistake of expecting love to be effortless and they think: ‘I’m going to meet my soulmate and it will be so easy, and if I have to put in effort it must be wrong’," Logan says.
“That’s incorrect. Relationships require a lot of work, and they require both people to put in effort.
“If it feels like work, then you’re doing it correctly.”
We know from our ghosting research that most people would rather be outright rejected than ghosted
Some other bad habits include coming across as too needy on a date by asking people straight away if they're ready to get married and have kids.
Or worse still, not putting enough effort into the burgeoning relationship once you've started speaking to someone.
“People who refuse to commit to a specific date, people who keep chatting on the app but don’t want to transition to a video date or a socially-distanced date, in general being flaky… It’s something that people find really unattractive," Logan says.
"The same thing goes for ghosting. That leaves people feeling like they’re in an ambiguous place and really lost.
“We know from our ghosting research that most people would rather be outright rejected than ghosted.”
Get a pal to diagnose your bad habits
Despite the same problems cropping up repeatedly, Logan says there are effective ways to change your behaviour.
Throughout the pandemic, 45 per cent of Hinge users say they've developed new healthy dating habits – and there's no reason you can't too.
"What I recommend people do is they diagnose their bad dating habits," Logan says.
“By yourself or with a friend, just go through some of your past relationships or past flings and say: ‘Why did this end? What was the issue?’
“Start to look for a pattern. Oftentimes, patterns will emerge such as: ‘I didn’t give this person a chance,’ or: ‘As soon as they did this one small thing, I was too judgemental of them and I left’.”
Once you know what the problem is, it's much easier to avoid the behaviour in future.
And research in habit-formation shows that it's easier to break a bad habit if you replace it with a healthy one.
What is cuffing season?
Cuffing season is the period between autumn and spring when singletons look for people to spend the cold winter months with.
It's typically thought that people are looking for a more stable relationship throughout the freeze rather than dating.
"They want to find someone to snuggle up with," Logan explains.
The name refers to wanting to be tied down or "handcuffed" to someone on a more serious basis.
It's thought that shorter days and less outdoor activity leads people to spend less time socialising, and more time feeling lonely.
Studies have also shown that male testosterone levels spike in October and November, which could explain increased desire to seek a sexual partner.
Similarly, serotonin can sometimes drop in winter too, leading to a lower mood – which can be raised by a new romance.
It could also be that some singletons are daunted by the idea of spending holidays like Christmas and New Year's Eve not in a relationship.
“If your issue is that you judge people too quickly, set a goal that you’re going to go on at least two dates with people and get to know them more," Logan says.
“Or if your issue is that you fear rejection and you don’t open yourself up to people, next time on the date, make sure that you’re more vulnerable, and you actually give someone a chance.”
Perfect time to get 'cuffed'… and embrace video dates
Although there are fears we could be facing the prospect of a second national lockdown in the coming weeks, now is still a good time to date.
Socially-distanced meet-ups are still permitted in most places, and video or phone calls are a great way to connect with someone new.
“Habit-formation is really challenging, but now during the pandemic when everything is really up in the air, this is actually a great time to do that habit change," Logan says.
“I’ve been really impressed with the creativity and resilience of daters.
“We’ve definitely found that Hinge users are not willing to put their love lives on hold in 2020.
“We saw a 30 per cent increase in messages among users in March compared to January and February.
“And we also saw a 17 per cent increase in dates (both in-person and video dates) in August, compared with August of last year.
“If anyone’s wondering if dating’s on hold during the pandemic, the answer is no!”
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