How Your Relationship Changes in the Fall

The autumn is a time for transition, as the weather becomes cooler and cooler and, of course, the foliage becomes gorgeous, changing from shades of green to bold colors of crimson and gold. The truth is that, per research, our relationships are also known to experience an evolution—and it can be as romantic and vibrant as the leaves.

The season is known to encourage a closeness between couples, for a variety of reasons, including the advent of family-oriented holidays, like Thanksgiving. What was once a period of “back to school” has become a period of “back to the grind” as we return to our careers after the summer. This results in a “realness” in terms of the evolution of our relationships, explains Dr. Jenn Mann, a Los Angeles–based psychotherapist, lead consultant on VH1’s  “Couples Therapy with Dr. Jenn,” and author of the new book, The Relationship Fix: Dr. Jenn’s 6-Step Guide to Improving Communication, Connection, and Intimacy.

Here, we ask Dr. Jenn—the expert when it comes to navigating the ebbs/flows of coupledom—about the ways we can expect our relationships to grow, starting in September:

The season for cuddling (and more cuddling)

There are studies (including this one, from the Journal of Consumer Research) that show that, when you’re cold, you seek “psychological” warmth, which is a result of cuddling. (Because you needed the study to convince you.) There’s a closeness that happens when the weather is colder, and it couldn’t be better for old/new relationships. The chance to have a conversation (like, really have a conversation) is awesome, as are chances to share in activities that welcome closeness, like playing a game of Scrabble.

“The weather starts to cool off, so it’s more cuddly weather, and it’s more of a time to cuddle up by the fireplace and sit and have long talks,” Dr. Jenn says. “It’s an opportunity to do more ‘cozy’ activities.”

There’s a ‘realness’ to your relationship

Relationships that started in the spring/summer are more exciting: they exist in a world punctuated by excursions, with chances for vacations. But in the fall, there’s a “realness” that occurs. This is a season that presents a chance to understand the highs and lows of interacting with your partner. It’s a time for realization as you return to your routines, a time when you can explore the depth of your relationship.  

“One of the positive things about the fall is that, in the summer, it is sort of ‘fantasy island’ time,” Dr. Jenn says. “We’re going on vacations, we’re going for walks on the beach, and we’re laying out by the pool. We’re doing these more ‘fantasy island’ activities. It’s kind of like The Bachelor, where they go on all those vacations. But, when fall hits, it moves our relationship into reality in a really positive way. We don’t know if a relationship can work until we try it in ‘real life.’ If you have kids, you’re taking them to school and dealing with all those pressures. You’re busy working. It’s more real life.”

It’s ‘meet the parents’ time

This season is rich with family-oriented occasions, including Thanksgiving as well as Christmas and Hannukah, and it’s important to understand your partner’s parents and their relationship with them. Often, meeting the parents is a chance to sense the possible future. Yes, there can be a fear of receiving their blessing, but this is as much about your experience as theirs. How does your partner’s family and their traditions, etc. match with yours? Take advantage—this is an opportunity to connect.

“It’s always a big step to do that first step with the holidays and get to meet the family,” Dr. Jenn says. “It’s something that really helps move a relationship forward.”

Romance is in the air 

The fewer hours of sunshine that defines the season are great for sunset and post-sunset bonding. Sink into the romance of the darker evenings with activities that are one-on-one, like dinners, and embrace the sexiness of the season!

“The sun going down earlier, which makes for some nice, early sunsets and romantic dinner,” she says. “Nighttime is much sexier than daytime. The sun going down and it makes for some romantic, candlelit dinners, because you can’t light the candles when the sun’s still out.”

Halloween can be a ‘DTR’ moment

Shakespeare once said, “To be [in a couples costume], or not to be [in a couples costume]—that is the question.” Halloween can be a “DTR” moment, meaning that it can assist with “defining the relationship.” Have you had the opportunity to chat about being exclusive? Well, here’s your opportunity. Because nothing says “couple” like a couples costume. Plus, what’s wrong with the sexiness of dressing up?

Dr. Jenn says, “A lot of couples have a lot of sexy fun when it comes to Halloween by getting to try on different personas and sometimes getting to bring them into the bedroom, and that can be really fun. Dressing up together can bond couples instead of doing your own separate thing. A lot of people have the guts to dress up as something for halloween that they wouldn’t always: the sexy nurse, the chambermaid, Superman, and the sexy cop.”

Elizabeth Quinn Brown is a writer based in the East Village who accessorizes her (pilates) spandex with wedges. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.