Any seasoned singleton knows that you can't brave the world of dating without becoming fluent in the lingo. Whether that's knowing how to bounce back from ghosting, spotting beige flags, or dealing with the intensity of love bombing.
But as the nights get colder and the cost of living crisis sees prices soar, there's a worrying new dating trend that you need to be on the lookout for: winter coating. Not to be mistaken with the seasonal outerwear you have in your wardrobe, this dating trend will not leave you feeling warm in the long run.
What Is Winter Coating?
Winter coating is specifically when former flames get back in contact with the hopes of riding out the winter together. And the chance to potentially use your heating, water, and wifi is just an added incentive for 2022. So like an old winter coat, you'll be fit for purpose one minute and then shoved back in the wardrobe as soon as the trees start to blossom.
Maria Sullivan, Dating Expert and Vice President of Dating.com, tells POPSUGAR, "During the winter months, it is not uncommon for singles to try to land a partner to spend the season with. Reverting back to past relationships is an easy way to ensure that you won't be spending the holidays or the cold winter nights alone, which is something that many people try to avoid each year."
In fact, dating app Inner Circle found that over half of singles surveyed had an ex reach out to them to reconcile. And with over 40 percent of UK singles now dating less due to rising costs, they predict that the risk of exes crawling out of the woodwork to winter coat is only set to rise.
Winter Coating vs. Cuffing Season
You're likely to be familiar with the term Cuffing Season; when people seek out a partner for the colder months then split come spring. While winter coating might sound similar, there are notable differences.
Cuffing season, in general, can work out if both of those in the romantic relationship are on the same page. Essentially, if both know the casual romance is more of a short-term, winter dalliance. It could also be a new fling, struck up from flirtations throughout the summer.
The difference with Winter Coating is that there are previous feelings and emotions involved. The boundaries of a short-term, winter romance were not previously set, and the history adds to the confusion.
How to Know if Someone Is Winter Coating You
It might not be obvious at first but consider the time of year that your ex reaches out to you. If there's a chill in the air, soggy leaves on the ground, and an abundance of Michael Bublé on the radio, you may need to be wary.
While the season of festive rom-com films might lead you to believe an admirer will be coming to your door with A3 cards to tell you how they're really feeling (just us?), not every relationship is as earnest as the movies, as George tells POPSUGAR.
He wasn't initially suspicious when a former flame first reached out last November, but he was left hurt when the calls and texts dried up by January. "We were together for two years and hadn't spoken in over a year. She broke up with me but I wasn't really thinking of her when she reached out to me around mid November last year," George, 31, says. "I felt in a good place. At first, it was just asking how I was but soon it was more sentimental, reminiscing on old times and eventually, we agreed to meet up."
"[T]he whole situation left me feeling used, confused, and heartbroken all over again."
Their catch ups became more regular as Christmas loomed and they began dating again. "She even brought me to our mutual friends' NYE event. I was really happy and thought our relationship was back on track, but a few weeks into January she stopped returning my calls and texts, only replying sporadically here and there. The frequency of our dates died down, and when we were together she was aloof and distant. I confronted my ex about it and at first, she got defensive and denied it, we had an argument and then I didn't hear from her for over a month. Eventually she apologised to me but the whole situation left me feeling used, confused, and heartbroken all over again. We don't speak anymore."
A similar pattern happened for 29-year-old Emma. Her former university boyfriend reached out to her just as the second lockdown began in November 2020, despite having not spoken in years. "I first met him at uni but we broke up a year after graduating because we were both going in two very different directions, moving to different places, and on a very different path. The distance was the nail in the coffin for us so we broke up," Emma explains.
"Out of the blue, he randomly messaged me on Instagram at the beginning of the second lockdown in 2020 after several years of barely speaking. He'd actually moved to London, where I was based, and wanted to reconnect. Due to lockdown there wasn't anything really going on, so one thing led to another as we both lived alone and we went back to our old ways of watching movies together. It was just really easy and natural."
But after a few weeks, phone calls became more sporadic, texts less frequent, and plans kept falling apart. The frustration was a wake up call. "I deleted his number. It took me a while to realise I'd been wintercoated. There were a few warning signs before, but I was too smitten to see them clearly."
How to Put a Stop to Winter Coating
Sullivan says that winter coating can be avoided if you stop looking back through rose-tinted glasses. "If an ex is reaching out with interest in making plans – whether the end goal is just to hook up or if it's getting back together - the first thing you should do is think back to the reason you broke up," she advises. "Over time, people often forget the negative aspects of past relationships that caused them to come to an end in the first place."
Another piece of advice is to not answer their call or message straight away. "Allow yourself time to think the situation over – that can prevent hasty decision making now that you might regret later, and gives you time to truly think about if seeing your ex is a smart decision," Sullivan says.
Communication is key, so ask outright what they want from being back in contact. Set the boundaries early on and make sure you're on the same page. "While going back to an ex or past relationship might seem like the easier route to take during this cold time of the year, it is much more beneficial in the long term to focus on making new, more meaningful connections that will better serve you in the long run," Sullivan says. So if you're suspicious of someone winter coating you, pause and take stock for a moment. You are not a winter coat, you're the whole wardrobe.