Hibernation is a survival strategy designed to conserve energy when conditions are harsh. When an animal hibernates, their body temperature lowers along with their breathing and metabolic rate. Animals aren’t the only ones who choose to hibernate in the winter. When the Christmas carols are on a constant loop in malls and the Starbucks cups turn from white to red, this signals a different impulse in the human world: the urge to settle in with a significant other for winter. It’s undeniable that as the temperature drops, the desire to cuddle increases. When this happens, many singles in the Northern Hemisphere seek the convenience and comfort of a “hibernation relationship.”

The hibernation relationship occurs when a couple gets together for the winter, often spending copious amounts of time inside together “nesting” and “denning,” only to break up in the springtime once cabin fever hits and the romance fizzles. Whereas animals will instinctively choose to hibernate to ward off the potential threat of cold and starvation, humans use hibernation relationships to protect ourselves from loneliness and having to go to our office holiday parties alone.

The weather outside is frightful which is why hibernating is delightful:
Miranda* understands the appeal of the hibernation relationship. She says that the approaching holidays always increase her desire to hook up with someone for the winter. “It’s hard enough being single and lonely during the rest of the year. When the holidays hit and winter starts approaching, it makes it that much more difficult. I’m a sucker for the romantic notion of the holidays: having someone to walk hand in hand with through the snow, opening presents together and snuggling by the fireplace. During this time of year, it’s just comforting to have someone there to do some of these things with.”

More on the hibernating relationship on the next page…

HibernationRelationshipEdit.jpgIf you think the hibernation relationship is a new concept drummed up by trendy, urban, daters, think again – this kind of winter hook-up strategy is actually most common in Northern communities where singles are readily able to reap the benefits that this kind of relationship provides. Annie*, who spent two years living in a small community in Northern British Columbia, says that the hibernation relationship was synonymous with the onset of winter. She recounts how most of the single people in her social circle would
seek out a new partner in late fall. The couple would stay together throughout the winter, often breaking up in the spring as soon as the weather warmed up. She adds: “It makes sense. The winter here is so cold; trying to go out to meet people is just unappealing. Besides, it’s a small town – your dating opportunities are already limited. If it’s not working out by spring you can re-evaluate your options.”

What to look for in a hibernation relationship:

The hibernation relationship is basically the antithesis of the “summer fling.” What we look for in a partner for a winter hook-up is often quite different than what we seek during the summertime. Whereas in the warmer months we might find ourselves attracted to exciting, active types with chiseled bodies, the ideal hibernation partner is more of a predictable homebody; loyal to both you and your sofa, who has more of a soft, cuddle friendly physique.

When looking for the perfect hibernation partner, keep in mind that hibernation is a time when calories are stored for the winter. Whether you enjoy a vegan raw diet or delight in eating your local Thai take-out place’s spicy basil noodles by the boxful, it’s important that your hibernation partner also share your culinary tastes. In nature, true hibernation is often punctuated by sporadic euthermic interruptions designed to restore typical body temperature. Therefore, when seeking a hibernation relationship it’s also very important you find someone with a similar sexual appetite. Good sex is a great way to spend a snow day or a quiet evening when there is nothing lined up on the DVR.

Are you a friend with seasonal benefits? Find out on the next page…

HibernationRelationshipEdit.jpgFriends with seasonal benefits:
The main perk of the hibernation relationship is that it reduces the overall anxiety associated with the idea of spending long, snowy Saturday nights alone and provides a built in date for holiday parties. If you can survive in hibernation mode until February 14th, there’s the guarantee that while everyone else is scrambling to get the last reservation at the latest “it” bistro, you’ll both be securely nested under a Snuggie built for two, eating baked brie with a spoon, enjoying all five seasons of The Wire.

Hibernation relationships, like the act of hibernation itself inevitably come with an expiration date. This is because a true hibernation relationship is built on comfort and convenience, not necessarily long term compatibility. Last winter, Kristy* found herself in a hibernation relationship. She says that once things got a little “too comfortable,” her winter romance took a nosedive. “We just started to get a little gross together, for lack of a better term. We were spending every weekend together, staying in all the time and eating like gluttons. By the time spring rolled around we’d not only worn out the relationship, we’d both also gained 15 lbs.” However, Kristy says she does not regret her foray into hibernation relationship territory adding: “We’re still good friends. We had fun while it lasted. Hibernation relationships aren’t ideal but they work in the moment.”

Have you ever dabbled in a hibernation relationship? Good or bad idea?

*Names have been changed

Read more:
The best winter date ideas
Why it’s good to be single over the holidays
How dating against your type can result in a relationship