When the winter blues creep in, it can be nice to have someone to comfort you. But unlike cuffing season where some people enter new relationships in the fall and winter months, other people might rekindle relationships from their past.
Called “winter coating,” this dating trend is when someone reaches out to an old flame during the winter months — just like how you reach to the back of your closet for an old winter coat that may no longer suit you.
“Winter coating is when you go back to that old, standby guy who you dated. Remember the one? The one you were like, ‘Oh God, alright, it’s wintertime, I’ll just call him.’ You want to be cozy with someone you know so you just go back to that old shoe,” Hoda Kotb said on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna.
The problem: Revisiting someone from your past puts the brakes on your long-term dating goals. We went straight to relationship and dating experts to get their insight on the trend, along with telltale signs to look out for and what to do if you end up being “winter coated.”
What is winter coating?
Terri DiMatteo, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in couples counseling, says winter coating is a specific phenomenon in which a former partner reaches out to reconnect for a single season — the cold winter months — only to part ways when the snow thaws and the flowers bloom.
“During winter I’ve noticed that people tend to come out of the woodwork because of loneliness and the holidays are right around the corner,” Thalia Ouimet, a matchmaker and dating coach, tells TODAY.com. “Families tend to ask a lot of questions like ‘Do you have a boyfriend’ or ‘Do you have a girlfriend, ‘ so people tend to get really stressed about not having a partner and will reach out to an ex-flame to try to rekindle things before the holidays.”
But, as Ouimet has learned from her clients, winter coating seems to be situational — and, well, geographical. For example, she’s found that trend hasn’t quite taken off in warmer climates like it has in cities like Chicago or New York where winters are more brutal.
Signs of winter coating
Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you — even if it’s obvious to everyone else. Experts share ways to determine if you’re being winter coated.
They’ve ghosted you in the past
If they left you high and dry in the past, then question why they’d be reaching out to you now. “If someone from your past reaches out to you and they typically have ghosted you before, like they would never check in on you and it’s out of nowhere I would make sure you are alert of what their intentions are,” Ouimet says.
They only show up when the weather gets cold
If they’re back as soon as temperatures take a nosedive, then listen very carefully to what they have to say.
“Are they talking about the loneliness of the holidays? The extra expenses? Or that they find the winter months depressing,” DiMatteo says. “There may be clues that they are reaching out for reasons other than genuinely wanting to reconnect with you.”
The relationship moves quickly
Although you have history with this person, if the relationship is moving too fast it may show their intentions aren’t aligned with yours. Ouimet says it’s important to be open and honest about what you want out of the relationship. Remember: If they truly care about you, then they will take things slow.
The dangers of winter coating
While winter coating may offer short-term satisfaction, DiMatteo warns that it can leave you feeling manipulated and used.
“Your ex is not genuinely trying to reconcile with you. Instead, they are taking advantage of your openness and receptivity,” DiMatto says. “If you suspect that your ex may be winter coating you — and you are genuinely interested in reconnecting — don’t agree to have them move in, share expenses or spend the holidays together.”
Although it may seem like a means to an end, Ouimet says it’s important to remember that once the weather warms, you may be faced with another breakup. “That’s not fun, nor is it healthy for you,” Ouimet adds.
What’s more, winter coating can hinder you from meeting the person that might be right for you.
“If you’re distracted and out of the dating market, it actually prevents you from being with the person you are meant to be with in this life,” Ouimet says.
What to do if you’re being winter coated
So, what now? Really, it’s up to you. Our recommendation: Take advice straight from the experts to determine your next steps.
Remember why you ended the relationship in the first place
Ouimet’s biggest piece of advice for people experiencing winter coating is to consider why things ended the first time around.
“If someone is in the past for a reason and things didn’t work out, what is the point of rekindling things,” Ouimet says. “There’s so many great partners out there ready for commitment and ready for a fresh start.”
Think of your situation like a burning house. “If you’re in a relationship and it’s toxic, or it’s just not working out for whatever reason, and you escaped the house and you guys broke up and you were finally getting your head above water, what is the point of running back into a burning house when you got out safe,” she asks.
Listen to your gut
Because nobody knows you like you do.
“The biggest thing I tell my clients all the time is practicing self-discernment, which means you use that gut feeling,” Ouimet says. “If you feel like someone’s off, even if it’s arbitrary, there’s no facts or anything like that, your gut feels somethings not right. Listen to that feeling because it will guide you to the best decision.”
Stay alert and practice self-awareness
While, yes, you can get your fill from somebody else, use this time to invest in hobbies and other relationships that bring you joy.
“You can get love from everyone, your friends, your family and as you give yourself that love from all of your different friends and that kind of helps you get through those months of loneliness,” Ouimet says. “Therefore, you’re not making a bad short-term decision that will affect you for the long run.”
Understand their intentions
At the start of any relationship, it’s important to make sure you’re both on the same page. The same rules apply here.
“If they are sincere and genuine in their intention to renew a relationship with you, they will agree to go slow, focus on you, and work to repair and rebuild your relationship,” DiMatteo says.