Cobwebbing or winter coating: It’s time to pick your dating poison this cuffing season

By Malavika Pradeep

Published Nov 3, 2022 at 11:11 AM

Reading time: 5 minutes

It’s finally November 2022. While Starbucks has already announced its Christmas menu and Mariah Carey is officially defrosting in the Backrooms as we speak, we’re in the midst of a high-stakes time in the dating world. Every cuffing season essentially offers two plans of action: to either shack and cosy up with someone, or ride solo. In case you do end up looking for a boo on dating apps, the ground rule is that the partnership has to last just long enough to pass the colder months of the year.

In 2022 however, alongside the acknowledgement of red, green, pink, and beige flags, comes two brand new love poison of choice: cobwebbing and winter coating. Let me explain, before you swipe right on someone and text them, “Hey, the weather outside is frightful but your warm body looks so delightful…”

What is cobwebbing?

Coined by women-first dating app Bumble, cobwebbing is a dating trend that involves dusting off the “cobwebs” (read: old flames) so you can start fresh with someone new. As explained by Bumble’s sex and relationship expert Dr Caroline West, “Holding on to past relationships, whether that be phone numbers, messages, or even an old t-shirt, can hold you back when it comes to dating as you’re not mentally focused on the present.”

Therefore, by actively cobwebbing your past, “you can then move forward feeling more empowered, confident, and open to meeting someone new.”

Following the conception of the term, single people all across the world took it as a sign to finally cobweb the heck out of their exes before Halloween. But moving on is easier said than done. Regardless of how long and intense your past relationships might have been, there’s always that emotional post-breakup phase where literally everything under the sun reminds you of your old flame.

Since we can’t really Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-way out of this situation just yet, it should be noted that the more time you spend ruminating about your past, the deeper of a cobweb you’re trapping yourself into, and the harder it will get to eventually break free.

How to successfully cobweb your past relationships

If you believe you’re neck-deep in the cobwebs spun around your exes, know that it is exactly in times like these that you deserve a good emotional cleansing. So, if you’ve made the decision to finally let go, here’s some advice to guide you through the process:

1. Allow yourself to grieve

In an interview with Stylist, relationship coach Deb Morgan shared that it’s important to acknowledge the fact that, no matter how long the relationship lasted or how it ended, it’s absolutely fine to give yourself space to grieve. “You devoted an awful lot of time and energy to the ex, it’s okay to grieve. Even if ending it was your decision, it is important to grieve the ending of it,” she said.

“Once upon a time this was the ‘perfect’ relationship for you, until it wasn’t. Grieving the past, and what might have been in the future, is a healthy way to gain closure on the relationship and move on. You don’t want the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ to get in the way of you moving into your new life.”

Additionally, while it’s okay to talk about the things you once did with your ex, avoid using them as a measure to compare the experiences you’re about to have with your new boo.

2. Visualise the future

Next step includes the reevaluation of your goals. What are you looking for in a new partner? What kind of relationship do you want with them exactly? And what are some of the comfortable ways in which you think you can nail all of these goals?

“Allow your mind to progress from being stuck in the past to thinking about what comes next,” Rachel MacLynn, founder of matchmaking website MacLynn, told Stylist. “This process should leave you feeling empowered.”

3. Stick to your decision

Now onto the hardest part of the process. Once you’ve given yourself space to grieve and examined your presence in the dating sphere, it’s tempting to give it all up and spiral back into the past. Remember: your assignment is to evolve beyond your old flame and not dissolve into them once again.

“If we have an open mindset, and remember that these changes are our choice, and that we grow through change and experience, the could-haves soon fade away,” Morgan advised.

“We always have options and choices, and we will always spend some time hankering after the perceived familiarity of what might have been, but when our choices are made for the right reasons, and executed in the right way, those ‘could haves’ and ‘might have beens’ become fleeting murmurs.”

Now, what exactly is winter coating?

As first noted by experts at dating app Inner Circle, winter coating happens when people get back in touch with previous partners in order to land themselves an easy seasonal mate for the winter months. When the cold weather kicks in, winter coaters try to hit things off again with their exes. But as soon as the snow thaws away in spring, they’re kicked to the curb and left in the backup ditch.

The so-called dating trend is kind of like when you dust your familiar and comfortable winter coats out of the attic—only to shove them back deeper than before when the temperature rises.

In a September 2022 survey conducted by Inner Circle, 52 per cent of around 1,150 UK singles said that they’ve been contacted by an ex who wanted to rekindle their connection. Meanwhile, 71 per cent admitted it didn’t work out. Additionally, the app found that 41 per cent of the participants are dating less due to the cost of living crisis.

“This year, with the pressure of costs going up and people cutting back on dates, there’s the added risk of singles going back to old flings in the same way they dig out their old winter coat for the season,” Inner Circle’s dating expert Crystal Cansdale said in a press release. “Winter coating offers the comfort of staying inside, watching Netflix and not actually dating, with someone you’ve already established this dynamic with.”

While it does have a few arguable perks, winter coating harbours the entire possibility of your past repeating itself—making it the archnemesis of cobwebbing altogether. “Winter coating takes toxic cuffing season behaviour to a new level,” Cansdale said, “and unless you’re 100 per cent on the same page as the other person, it has to stop.”

What to do if you find yourself getting winter coated

Before entertaining that sus “Hey, how have you been?” text from your ex this winter, here is some advice that can save you from tumbling head-first into one of the most toxic realms of the cuffing season.

“If someone is winter coating you, it might feel exciting to hear from them again,” Cansdale explained in terms of the warning signs. “They’ll be steady and dependable through the winter and it might seem like they’ve changed. But when the first sign of spring comes around, history will repeat itself and they’ll disappear into thin air”

So, if you feel like you’re getting coated into a situational relationship with your ex, the first step is to have an upfront chat with them and set clear boundaries. If your goals don’t align with theirs, have the uncomfortable conversation and get out of dodge before it evolves into a painful one later. Also, remember to take things slow. You don’t need to rush into a rekindled relationship with someone from your past just so that you can skip the groundwork—because chances are that you’d want out just as quickly.

Cansdale also warned against getting too comfortable too soon, especially if you’ve been in that territory with your ex before. At the end of the day, make sure the effort put into the relationship is mutual.

Winter is coming, so brace yourself for some winter coaters too for the years that will follow—unless you’d like to witness it all self-destruct post-cuffing season, that is.

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