Signs of Breadcrumbing and What to Do About It

With text and online dating technology, familiar behaviors sometimes acquire new names or a new understanding.

You may have heard the term “breadcrumbing” while online dating. Breadcrumbing is nothing new, and modern dating technology makes it easier for people who breadcrumb to do what they do.

What Is Breadcrumbing? 

Breadcrumbing is when someone you meet online for potential dating gives you just enough time and attention to keep you interested and keep you under the assumption that they are interested.

Breadcrumbing is giving crumbs to someone who wants more. With just enough flirtation or communication, the person looking for a deeper connection assumes the other is at least somewhat interested.

The signals are confusing, because breadcrumbing is all about inconsistency in responses, occasional bursts of affection and potential, and making and breaking plans. The person being breadcrumbed has difficulty translating the mixed signals they are receiving.

On the one hand, it appears as if the person is interested in them, some of the time. On the other, the breadcrumber is impossible to nail down for a date or conversation where the possible relationship could be discussed.

Read: 5 Online Dating Turn Offs for Women

Man breadcrumbing a woman at the bar.

Why Do People Breadcrumb? 

There are many reasons for breadcrumbing. To some extent, we may all engage in breadcrumbing at some point in our life, when we’re not sure of what we want, or feel in need of some attention.

Most of us don’t want to lead someone on and will back off to figure things out on our own. Breadcrumbing is toying with someone’s emotions, after all. 

But there are those who enjoy playing with people’s minds. Breadcrumbing can range from careless to selfish to pathological behavior. It’s all about manipulating others for your own personal gain.

It Feels Good to Flirt 

Most of us enjoy flirting and the attention it can bring. Breadcrumbers may enjoy flirtation a little too much. They don’t want to enter into a commitment or relationship, but they do want the high of being desired and desirable.

Read: How to Flirt Online

They Have Low Esteem and Seek Validation 

For some, breadcrumbing is a way to be validated as attractive and powerful. A breadcrumber may have low self-esteem and experience the attention and lusty sizzle as validation.

Read: How to Build Online Dating Confidence

Attachment or Commitment Fears

Breadcrumbing is a classic move among those who are afraid or incapable of attachment of commitment. They lead others to believe they are interested in going forward in dating, but have no actual plans to make a commitment or form an attachment.

If it seems like breadcrumbers are less interested in you than you are in them—bingo. That’s because no matter how attracted they may be to someone, they don’t really want to get involved.

Read: Commitment vs. Containment: An Important Distinction

They Aren’t Actually Available 

Some folks who are adept at breadcrumbing are playing their manipulation games for fun, but they aren’t even available. People who are married or in a relationship but who want more may enjoy the flirtation and attention they can derive on the side.

They May Be a Narcissist

The hallmark inconsistency and inability to commit that define a breadcrumber are also key traits of narcissist personalities. 

Narcissists don’t care about anyone but themselves. They get off on winding others up and down, manipulating them, and toying with their affections. 

Woman being breadcrumbed by a guy at the library.

5 Signs Someone Might Be Breadcrumbing You 

1. Inconsistency

The breadcrumber won’t be pinned down. You want to set up a date because you’re free on Friday. They want you to sacrifice your Friday while they keep their own options open in case something better comes around. If you routinely can’t get a response to simple questions or clear communication, beware.

2. Impulsive and Lusty Plans

Once in a while they make sudden, spur of the moment plans with you, usually sex. 

3. Mr. Mysterioso

Breadcrumbers don’t like to make themselves vulnerable. They don’t share much about their life. 

4. Observe What They Do, Not What They Say

People skilled at breadcrumbing say all the right things. But keep your eye on their actions. Do their actions match their promises and proclamations?

5. They’re Just Not That Into You

If you feel as if you’re a lot more interested in them than they are in you, you may be right. Breadcrumbers are really just interested in themselves, even if they are good at hiding it.

How to Respond when Being Breadcrumbed 

1. Confront or Call out the Breadcrumber 

It’s okay to make it clear that you need real boundaries and real plans. You’ve been reasonably flexible, and now it’s time to point out that you work and have other responsibilities and need to spend your free time wisely. Ask for clearcut intentions and plans.

2. Have a Discussion about Where Things Stand 

It can be tricky to have an honest, frank discussion with a breadcrumber. They’ll try to delay it or make you guilty for needing stability and certainty. But insist on the conversation. Stop making excessive exceptions and being too flexible. You have been, and now you need a real discussion.

3. Nail Down Plans if You Can

Start being unavailable if you think you’re being breadcrumbed. When they cancel Friday’s plans and suggest “maybe Sunday,” accept the cancellation and tell them you’re busy Sunday and will call them next week.

Someone who is simply careless with time management or has a complicated schedule will soon figure out they need to be reliable or concrete. The breadcrumber will whine.

4. Ignore Them and Move On 

Don’t ask why or try to figure things out. Breadcrumbing has everything to do with them, not with you. You are simply a prop. Looking for a rational explanation where there is none is crazymaking, and that’s the whole idea. If you have been reasonably accommodating and they haven’t, time to move on.

Read: How to Move On from Heartbreak

Have you experienced breadcrumbing while online dating? Please share!

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