Beware, your toxic ex may be 'winter coating' you this season. What does that mean?

It's that time of the year: "cuffing season."

As the temperature drops and the holidays roll in, the search for a temporary cuddle buddy begins. But this season, relationship experts are warning about another toxic, seasonal dating trend on the rise.

It's called "winter coating" and has more than 300,000 views on TikTok. The trend involves rekindling a relationship with an ex or old flame during the winter only to discard them, like a parka, in the spring. Oftentimes, it's to escape loneliness and get through the cold, dark months.

"We get lazy in the winter, and it's comfortable to have somebody right here with you without having to go hunting for someone new," says Susan Winter, a relationship expert based in New York. It doesn't help that single people feel pressure from family members and friends to be partnered at holiday gatherings.

Reaching out to an ex is a popular, often convenient option, but experts warn it can be hurtful and damaging.

"People break up for very strong reasons, and if those reasons haven't been addressed or corrected, you'll be walking back into the same emotional chaos that you left," Winter says.

When is texting your ex a good idea?: Relationship experts weigh in

What is 'winter coating?'

Winter coating is not a new phenomenon, but it's especially tempting this year, experts say.

"With the current state of inflation and the economy, people are going on less dates," says Elizabeth Fedrick, licensed professional counselor and founder of Evolve Counseling and Behavioral Health Services.

"They're not meeting as many new people because of these price increases, so it's much easier to find someone you've already established a connection with and say, 'Want to come over?' versus feeling like you have to be formal and go on a first date."

Unlike with "hoovering," a manipulation tactic from narcissists, exes who winter coat are typically not ill-intentioned. But in comparison with someone who has truly changed and wants a worthwhile relationship, a winter coater "won't qualify why they're back."

"They'll seduce you and pay attention to you without addressing the breakup, because they don't want to deal with having been responsible," Winter says. "They just want what they need for that time period, and as a result you'll see them being reluctant to talk about the past, of why you broke up or how it affected you."

'Hoovering': Narcissists often try to win back their exes with this tactic.

Other common signs to look out for include "love bombing," contacting you out of the blue, fixating on physical intimacy over an emotional connection and avoiding conversations about the past or future.

"They put very little effort toward the emotional needs of their partner, and as a result they're typically disconnected or aloof," Fedrick says. "You have to ask yourself: 'Are they actually putting effort toward the relationship? Toward what went wrong the first time?'"

Winter coating can 'feel manipulative.' Here's how to avoid the heartbreak

Winter coating seems relatively harmless, but this seasonal romance and nostalgia can be hurtful. If you're not on the same page about the relationship, experts warn, it can lead to another round of heartbreak.

"It can feel manipulative, and it can feel confusing," Fedrick says, especially for those who are looking through rose-tinted glasses. That's why she suggests an honest conversation beforehand about your intentions – as well as what went wrong the first time and what has changed since.

"Be vigilant as to why this is happening," Winter advises. "Is it temporary or do I really see a change in their behavior? Is there an honest apology? Have they taken responsibility for their part of the actions? Are they really getting back together with me?"

Communication is key, so Winter suggests setting boundaries and says, "Don't be afraid to be direct and ask, 'Are you winter coating me?'"

What is 'hardballing'? How to 'date with intention'

What is 'pocketing'? Why your partner won't publicly celebrate your relationship.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winter Coating: The toxic dating trend of cuffing season. What is it?