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How To Tell If A Seasonal Romance Is Serious Or Not? A Social Psychology Podcast Episode.

how to tell if a seasonal romance is serious or not a social psychology podcast episode

This episode will go out to the world in Christmas Week 2022, and since I’m a romance writer in addition to a few other genres, I thought it would be really fun to look at an extremely light-hearted topic this week on the podcast. Because I would like to think that some listeners of the podcast would be spending it with their boyfriends, girlfriends and other partners this holiday season. And other listeners might be engaging in a holiday romance, so this does beg the question, how do you know if a seasonal romance is real or not? And that’s what we’ll focus on in today’s social psychology podcast episode. This really is going to be a lot of fun.

Note: as always nothing on the podcast is ever any sort of professional, relationships or official advice.

Today’s episode has been sponsored by Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Friendships, Romantic Relationships and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.

What’s “Winter Coating”?

Before researching this topic I had never heard of the term “winter coating” before and this is where former couples rekindle their relationship over the holiday season and discard it like a winter coat when the spring (if that) arrives because this is the time when new dating opportunities arise. This “winter coating” is probably a short-term dating strategy used throughout the year for couples but it is just more on show during the holiday season. As well as what I personally find surprising is that there’s research on the topic showing men and women tend to value different types of traits depending on their own personal relational readiness and intentions.

The Christmas Crush Research

Some of this research includes Mehmet Mehmetoglu and Ilmari Maattanen (2022) because these two researchers studied the types of traits that both men and women value in short-term relationships. The researchers also acknowledged that prior research has found that women are more selective in general, but both sexes are more selective in choosing long-term partners compared to short-term ones.

As a result, the researchers studied 1,000 people and their results showed that men were more selective regarding a person’s physical appearance and women were more selective in all other areas of partner preference. For example, valuing, dominance, kindness, intellect as well as understanding.

However, Mehmetoglu and Maattanen found that a person’s relational intentions mattered as well, because they found that people who were looking for a short-term relationship had a higher preference for physical appearance, sociability and humour. This I think makes perfect sense around the holiday season because there tends to be a lot of parties, social events and work-dos so it only makes sense for a person to pick a short-term partner that’s sociable, they can show off to their friends and families and can give a good impression of them, or at least their tastes in partners.

Yet when it came to people who were looking for a long-term partner, these people valued other things more highly than physical appearance, sociability and humour. Since these people showed a higher selectivity in most other areas of partner preference. For instance, kindness, reliability, understanding, domestic and cultivated and how similar they were to each other.

Another surprising finding of the research is that the researchers found there was no interaction effect between mating strategy and sex. Meaning that the differences between long-term and short-term partner seekers and what types of mate preferences they valued wasn’t based on sex.

In other words, they found no difference between how men and women decide between partners. As well as it shows that when it comes to short-term relationships both men and women value the same traits.

How To Spot A Short-Timer?

As nice as I think it would be that we could read the minds of our suitors, what we can do is interpret their behaviour so you can know if you’re being “winter coated”, and we can learn how to stop ourselves falling for it.

Firstly, one of the signs to watch is the changing of seasons since you were ever contacted by a previous love interest, then naturally you would want to review your time with them through a rose-coloured lens. This isn’t the best idea. Since it would be best to put on your “reading glasses” (to use a terrible analogy) and remind yourself why you or them broke up in the first place. Due to people change, including you, and a past romance might not fit the person you are anymore and it might not be right for you at this stage of your life.

Secondly, timing definitely matters because if an ex texts you during the summer and apparently misses the two of you spending time together walking on beaches, then in all fairness this person is more likely to miss you than, let’s say, someone who texts you in the winter months when all they want is your company to some parties.

Thirdly, old flames save money, I’m not exactly sure where this reason fits in the whole warning sign or protecting yourself bit, but old relationships save you money compared to sparking new ones. And I suppose this is because with new relationships you tend to go out to dinner at neutral locations, you buy each other gifts and more. Yet when an old flame wants to get back together with you to only cut costs then this should be a massive no-no. Since so-called “dates” will consist of invitations to watch a movie on the sofa and order a takeaway, and you might start to wonder if you’re being used or not. As this person could be sending signs to you that they aren’t willing to spend money at all on you in a meaningful way.

And this is even more true when your so-called “date” wants to spend time with you to keep warm and low their own heating bill. I was very shocked to learn people actually did that.

Finally, and this links to what I said earlier about showing you off as a new date, but definitely be mindful that there is a chance a new or old partner might want to take you to a party as a mere accessory to improve their appearance. Basically this would make you worth no more than a nice designer watch or handbag, it certainly doesn’t make you seem special, even though you are.

Social Psychology Conclusion

We started this podcast episode by looking at the great question of how to tell if a seasonal romance is serious or not? And I really feel like we know the answer by now because if you suspect that an ex’s sudden interest in you is seasonal-related then maybe you shouldn’t waste your time on them because you really are just being “winter coated”. And you never know that might free you up to meet an authentic love interest that sees you for who you truly are. A bright, intelligent, amazing person that is far more than a mere winter coat.

I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.

If you want to learn more, please check out:

Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Friendships, Romantic Relationships and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.

Have a great day.

Social Psychology References

Mehmetoglu, Mehmet, and Ilmari Määttänen. 2020. “Norwegian Men and Women Value Similar Mate Traits in Short-Term Relationships.” Evolutionary Psychology 18 (4). doi:10.1177/1474704920979623.

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