There’s a person in your bed, and they’re either there because they’re the real deal or because you’ve succumbed to the wintertime need for a relationship.  Here’s how to tell which it is.

We’re all whores for warmth. We’d adopt seven dogs, buy a $200 dollar electric blanket, or settle for a mediocre relationship if it meant never being cold again. Fall ushers in more than just pumpkin flavored condoms, ski season, and 10 extra pounds of hibernation weight. It’s also cuffing season – the time of the year when we start to mysteriously make more of a one night stand, hungrily prowl the recesses of our Tinder matches, or call the former hook up who had a nice post-sex puke all over the bathroom. All this so we can adhere to the innate human drive to couple up for the wintertime.

So how do you know if this newfound love is the real deal or you’re just cuffing for survival’s sake? Here are a few ways.

The “Good morning” vs.  the “Wanna have a good night?” text

If your wintertime cuff is sending you cutsie ‘thinking of you’ messages throughout the day, when the sun in shining in full force, it may be more than a cold weather love affair. We’ve probably all woken up more than a few times to a 'good morning' text from our most recent one night stand, who literally just left our bed for their grown up job, while we're left to bask in the warm covers of minimum wagedness — that’s a sign of something legit. Are these the A.M. words that pave the way to a real flesh and blood relationship? They very well could be.
However, if he or she is texting you in the late hours of the evening after bourbon-fueled bonfires asking you to “get over here now for sum good good lovin’” you’re probably safe and secure in the seasonal coupling category. Dick/tit pics also denote the lack of severity in the relationship. As does no follow up text after each sexual encounter. The communication is short, sweet, and to the point. You both have one job to do, let’s get ‘er done. 

Holiday behaviors

If you don’t want to go it alone at your Aunt Mary’s Thanksgiving/ Christmas/ Kwanza/ Festivus dinner, you could totally ask your cuff to join as a litmus test for cuff-fuckery. You’ll have to introduce them as your significant other because saying ‘this is my winter time fuck buddy’ doesn’t make good table talk, and their reaction to that should tell you all you need to know about whether your not your relationship is based on real feelies or body head. If they commit to the bit and run with it, there’s a good sign you’re definitely the fast track to a long-term sentence.

Christmas gifts are also a sly-ass way to tell if you’re being loved up or cuffed. If you’re in a real relationship, chances are you’ll exchange gifts. Even a pair of socks, a beer bottle opener or some brownies that say “Sup with that dick” in sprinkles will do; it’s just a sign that you’re important enough to be thought about in a gift sense and that your relationship isn’t an excuse to have a New Year’s kiss pre-planned out.

On the other hand, if Jesus’ birthday comes and goes and all you got was an out-of-focus SMS portrait of their urethra on your smartphone … it’s a surefire signal that one or both of you is just trying to weather the snowstorm. And since their shitty space-heater hardly heats up three cubic molecules of their room, you’d better get over there stat so they don’t freeze to death.

Exchange of information

If your cuff has asked for your Netflix/HBO Go account you can bet this bad boy/girl is sizing up to be the real deal. See, we don’t just part with that information that easily. We don’t give it up for anyone with a “Fargo” fetish. Maybe the HBO go, since it’s probably our roommate’s parent’s dentist’s account anyways but … Netflix is sacred.

But Netflix only allows two viewers at a time. Don’t give this lightly to someone who will disappear with the first snowmelt. Cherish it, hand it over like it’s a promise ring of a shared future together, symbolic of a lasting partnership, not just a pairing for survival’s sake.

Groceries vs. takeout

If we partake in a one-night Chinese eatery together, order post sex pizza, or grab a breakfast burrito on the way to our respective jobs, it’s probably just a wintertime fling. We both acknowledge the casualness of cheap take-out and appreciate that it represents this new relationship – its Styrofoam containers and waxed cup things
scream impermanence.

Now, if we’ve grocery shopped together, oh man, that’s like Married Life 101. Spending combined dough on nice meats, fine cheeses, ice cream, beautiful produce and a large salami is the same thing as renewing your wedding vows after 40 years of happy matrimony.

We’re not leaving all that behind but it’s usually deemed impolite to take things back out of the fridge to bring home with us. We’ll be back, for some sex and some Greek yogurt with granola.

The Costanza ‘leave behind’

If we keep finding little tidbits left behind from last night’s lovemaking fest, a random sock here, a set of house keys there, we can rest assured we will see this person again. It’s definitely not just a cuff if he or she is bringing anything living over to the apartment – a cat, a succulent garden, new friends. This ‘nesting’ process combines two previously separate lives into one shared existence. When 2becum1.

If our cuff exits on the heels of the rising sun, leaving no trace that he or she was ever there, we could probably file this relationship as a simple cuff. He or she likes the fact that they never HAVE to return, unless it’s by choice and after 10 p.m. and all of your roommates have gone to bed. They don’t want to become a fixture. They’re here for the warmth, the orgasms, and the addictive feeling of being a little less alone.

It gets cold here in Colorado and it’s really nice to have a human space heater that gives decent go-downs. If it turns into love, then so be it. Next winter, you won’t have to look as hard. And if it was just a cuff, then at least you got laid a bunch while it was snowing. That’s something to write in your prison memoir.