To most of us, the holidays mean round-the-clock Mariah Carey, spiced beer and cider, and trying not to say anything stupid at the office party.

In the relationship world, the holidays are also the epicenter of a fascinating relationship phenomenon: Cuffing Season. A chart from the Huffington Post explains:

The thinking is as simple as the seasons. When it’s warm out, we see more skin, get flirtatious, and are enticed to play the field. When it’s cold, we bundle up, avoid the chill, and shack up for a long winter’s relationship–or handcuffing. Ergo, cuffing season.

This intuitively makes as much sense as gravity and warm puppies, but, incredibly, we have data to back it up. A researcher evaluated Facebook updates and found that posted breakups peaked before the holidays and after Valentine’s Day — but in between, people were far more likely to stay in relationships.

Not sure why people are sharing breakups on Facebook, but the data is helpful

Other fun facts: Mondays are the top dump days–and Christmas Day itself is the least-prominent dump day. Nothing beats the gift of no agony.

The takeaway: the holidays are loaded with emotional┬álandmines. We all want to wake up on Christmas morning in a house with at least one other person in it who likes us, but we’re also stepping back from the day-to-day and wading closer to family, which has us rethinking what we really want in our personal lives. And if we do decide to┬áride out our relationship through the holidays, we face the evil chill of January, the brutality of February, and the icy freeze of a flowerless Valentine’s Day daring us to attempt it solo.

Easy decision: many of us overlook growing chasms and lug a patchwork relationship along all in the spirit of the season. Cuff up!

It’s fascinating–but what does it mean for our User Manual?

Well, we can acknowledge that the holidays are a unique time, loaded with memories and traditions, not to mention unresolved issues about family and past relationships. And boatloads of alcohol. Reference your partner’s User Manual more than ever, especially during emotional moments.

And we may well want to add holiday addendums to our User Manual that help avoid seasonal triggers and help our partner understand subtle expectations. Specific directions like “spend Christmas Eve with my parents” or “never play Little Drummer Boy”–a real rule from my past!–can help immensely. And since this spate of instructions is holiday-specific, there’s a good chance we left them out from our general User Manual.

Happy holidays — and cuffing season!

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