9 Signs Of Breadcrumbing + How To Deal With Someone Who Does It

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With all the terms used to describe modern dating, no one would blame you if you felt a little confused about what it all means, how you know if it’s happening to you, and how to deal with it.

Much as you might be a bit baffled by these terms, they’re really handy for putting your finger on a lot of the problems people experience when dating.

They sum up things that are becoming an epidemic in the world of modern dating.

Chances are they’ve either happened to you, or you’ve been guilty of doing them, but you haven’t had a term to describe them.

This article will focus on breadcrumbing: a dating tactic that’s used an awful lot these days since the advent of dating apps and websites.

Speak to a certified relationship counselor about this issue. Why? Because they have the training and experience to help you figure out what to do when a guy or girl is breadcrumbing you. You may want to try speaking to someone via RelationshipHero.com for practical advice that is tailored to your exact circumstances.

What Is Breadcrumbing?

Breadcrumbing is when you lead someone on romantically through social media or texting.

Think Hansel and Gretel being tempted onwards to their doom by the witch.

It basically means they’re stringing you along, but with the help of modern technology.

The breadcrumbs are the messages you send in order to keep someone interested in you, even if you don’t actually like them or have any romantic interest in them.

Some people might breadcrumb deliberately to keep you hanging on, but most people aren’t entirely conscious of their behavior.

They stick their head in the sand and convince themselves they’re not doing anything wrong.

But whether people who breadcrumb are conscious of it or not, it’s still an emotionally manipulative dating tactic…

…and one that can cause a lot of hurt to the person who’s being led on, with no hope of a relationship actually materializing.

Signs Of Breadcrumbing

If you’re still unsure as to what breadcrumbing is or think it could be happening to you, here are some of the telltale signs that you’re being led on.

1. They blow hot and cold.

They don’t message you consistently.

You might be in contact a lot for a few days, and then a week or even longer can go by before they respond to you again.

They have an uncanny knack of messaging you just when you’ve finally started to forget about them and move on, meaning you go right back to square one.

2. Their messages are ambiguous.

They’re always noncommittal and don’t like to get specific.

They suggest you see each other ‘soon,’ but avoid making any set plans.

They always manage to phrase things in a way that gives you hope without committing themselves to anything.

3. There’s no substance to your communication.

You might have deeper conversations now and again, but their messages are normally fairly shallow and generic.

They don’t make any genuine effort to get to know you.

4. They throw breadcrumbs at you through different channels.

They don’t respond to your Whatsapp, but then they like your Instagram post, or you see they’ve watched your story.

That keeps them on your radar and prevents you from moving on or forgetting about them.

5. They don’t make you feel good about yourself.

When you get a message from them, it might make your heart race and give you that feeling of excitement, but it doesn’t make your heart glow.

Even if you feel good when they are actually texting you, that soon wears off and is replaced by worry about if you’ll hear from them again.

They only compliment you to get what they want from you, but don’t actually do anything to boost your self-esteem.

Talk to one of the experienced relationship experts from Relationship Hero if you think this person is breadcrumbing you and it’s making you feel bad about yourself.

6. They booty call you.

They might not spell it out, but if they’re texting you late at night rather than making proper plans with you, then they’re only after one thing.

They might even text you just to ‘see how you are’ without the intention of hooking up, but making sure that you’re lying awake at night thinking about them.

7. They make you feel like it’s your fault.

Although the problem is entirely theirs, it feels like it’s down to you.

Whenever they pick you up and drop you again, you can’t figure out what you did wrong, but it’s a big knock to your self-confidence.

8. They can’t commit to a date, let alone you.

They message you and vaguely suggest meeting up, but avoid making plans.

If you ask them what’s going on between you, they dodge the question or say they don’t want to put a label on things.

Whilst it’s perfectly valid not to put a label on things, if it’s combined with all the other behavior on this list, they probably just don’t want to commit to you.

9. They’re only interested in sex.

If, when you do manage to see them, things quickly get physical between you, that’s a bad sign.

If they avoid meeting you during the day or when there’s no chance of going back to your place afterwards, and you want more than that, then you need to be honest with yourself.

Examples Of Breadcrumbing

So what does breadcrumbing actually look like? Well, here are a few examples of it in action:

The “WYD?” message – they ask what you are doing, though they might not really care. It puts all the emphasis on you, though, so they don’t have to put too much effort in.

The “I saw this and thought of you” message – perhaps they send a photo of something you have in common, or something related to a date you once went on. They might even send you a trailer for a new movie or series that they think you might like.

The GIF message – it’s a lazy way to engage you because whilst it may be fun or interesting, it doesn’t exactly lead anywhere.

The emoji message – whether it’s a flirty kiss or wink emoji or something more mundane, it’s much ado about nothing.

The like – if you have connected on a social network of any kind, they may react to your posts or videos. It just keeps them in your mind.

The comment – one step up from the like is a brief comment that doesn’t really say much but reminds you of them.

The “We should totally meet up soon” text that is followed by non-committal phrases to ensure that you don’t actually meet up.

The key thing that links all these examples together is that there is never any follow-through. Conversations will normally be kept brief. They start shallow and rarely get any deeper.

What’s more, you’ll see these after long periods with no contact whatsoever. And they will probably be followed by a long period of no contact too.

7 Reasons Why People Breadcrumb

Now that you know what breadcrumbing is, your next question is probably going to be: “Why do they do it?”

The psychology of breadcrumbing isn’t a singular thing. There are various reasons why a person might consciously or unconsciously breadcrumb a date.

These reasons are:

1. They don’t want to commit or are afraid of commitment.

Perhaps this person isn’t sure that they want to commit to you. The might like you, but they have doubts about whether you’re right for each other in the long term.

But rather than just tell you as much and allow you both to move on, they continue to string you along on the off chance that they don’t meet someone they like more.

Of course, they might really like you but have genuine commitment issues that they aren’t yet able to overcome. They would happily get into a relationship with you if they weren’t so afraid of what that might mean for them.

But they don’t want to lose you from their life either. They hope that maybe, one day, they’ll overcome their issues and you’ll still be there waiting for them. So they keep up the communication to maintain their presence in your life.

2. They don’t want to invest too much time or energy.

Dating in itself is a commitment – of time, of physical energy, of emotional energy, of your mental attention.

A person may breadcrumb you in order to keep that investment as small as possible whilst leaving the door open to seeing you, sleeping with you, or one day committing to you.

Or they may simply want you to do all the legwork. They want you to chase them. They want you to organize every date (even if they make excuses as to why they can’t make it most of the time). Essentially, they want you to make things easy for them.

3. They aren’t prioritizing a relationship or even dating.

It might be that this person isn’t looking for anything serious right now. They have other priorities in life such as their career, health, social life, or dreams.

They might like a flirt now and then or to occasionally go on a date or two, but they aren’t pushing things too much when they do.

They see any connection they make purely as a bonus; an addition to their life that they would gladly welcome but aren’t going to chase.

4. They are dating multiple people.

Breadcrumbing is a way for someone to keep their options open when they are dating multiple people.

Perhaps they like a certain date more than others and are pursuing that person in the hope of getting into relationship. But until that is the case and things are made official, they don’t want to risk burning the romance bridge with you or any of the other people they are seeing.

After all, there are no guarantees in love. The person they like may not like them back, or enough to want a relationship, at least. So the breadcrumber thinks why not keep a few other doors open in case this one shuts?

5. They use interactions to boost their self-esteem.

Most people like to get some attention from others. It’s nice to feel wanted, to feel interesting, to feel like someone cares enough to communicate with you.

So when a person throws a few breadcrumbs down for you to follow, they are receiving a much needed boost to their self-esteem every time you reply.

They might not even be aware of this. They might do it whenever they feel a little down about themselves because their brain gives them a nice chemical pick-me-up when they connect with you, even if the interaction is brief.

All of a sudden they feel a little more worthy and a little more positive about who they are and what they have to offer others. After all, you wouldn’t respond if you didn’t like them.

6. They don’t like to feel alone, but were.

People like to feel as though they belong. They don’t want to feel lonely. And social interactions with others can help them in both regards.

So whenever they feel a bit down and alone, they might send out a few messages to various people in the hope that they’ll get some replies and feel like they have someone in their life at that precise moment in time.

It gives their mind something to think about when they are otherwise by themselves, thus avoiding the feeling of isolation that they would otherwise be focusing on.

7. They have a scarcity mindset.

Some people use breadcrumbing to ‘collect’ other people. They believe that more friends, more potential dates, more connections in general is always better. They may not even care how deep those relationships are, just so long as they are there.

They do this because they come from a place of lack, of scarcity. They worry that they don’t have enough of anything – in this case people that they can text or talk to every so often.

They might have precisely zero romantic interest in you, but they want to cling on to the sporadic communication you have because it calms their otherwise anxious mind.

How To Respond To Breadcrumbing

First off, if you’ve realized you’ve got a breadcrumber on your hands, well done for being honest with yourself.

It can be difficult to accept situations like these, but doing so and deciding to take matters into your own hands means you won’t waste any more of your time on someone who isn’t worthy of you.

Here are a few tactics for dealing with someone who’s stringing you along.

1. Suggest a date.

Suggest a date at a specific time and place, like coffee on Sunday afternoon.

Breadcrumbers are often keen to just keep things virtual so that they can get an ego boost when they need one and know you’re there if they want you.

If that’s all they want, they won’t accept your invite and should realize that you’re not content to let them control the situation.

2. Change the way you reply.

If you normally just follow their lead, then it’s time to mix things up a bit.

If they text you at night, turn off your phone and text them the next day suggesting you meet up.

Figure out exactly where they want the limits of the relationship to be, like just keeping it to late-night casual hookups.

That means you can push those limits and get clear on whether they’re willing to make any changes, or if it’s the end of the road.

3. If they cancel on you, let them know it’s not okay.

If they repeatedly make plans and then cancel them at the last minute with a lame excuse, let them know you’re not just going to take it lying down.

If they’ve said they’ve got a cold for the fourth time, let them know you’ve noticed, and see how they respond.

Make it clear that the ball is in their court in future, and don’t hang around waiting for them to call. Get on with your life and make other plans.

4. Accept it for what it is.

If things between you are just physical and you’re really and truly okay with that, then that’s brilliant.

Let them come to you and enjoy the time you spend with them. Adjust your expectations and have fun with it.

5. Tell them how it is.

Directly ask them why they always cancel plans, never manage to make them in the first place, text you at 3am, or refuse to put a ‘label’ on things.

This might mean you have to take a deep breath and be brave, but it definitely won’t be what they’re expecting.

It might even lead to an honest conversation about their behavior, and save you a lot of wasted time and heartache.

6. Say goodbye.

If you find that the way you’re being treated is taking its toll on you and making you anxious or question your self-worth, it’s time to say goodbye.

Let them know the reason why you’re cutting things off with them and be firm about it.

Once you’ve made the decision, stick to it, and turn your attention to loving yourself, and making space in your life for the relationship you deserve.

Still not sure what to do about someone who is breadcrumbing you? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out.

Breadcrumbing In A Relationship Or Marriage

The term breadcrumbing is mainly used in the context of dating, but it can apply to established relationships and even marriages, too, though it has a slightly different meaning.

The concept is the same – it’s all to do with giving someone the bare minimum to keep them happy.

But rather than electronic messages, the breadcrumbs are made up of small pieces of affection or attention that keep the partner feeling like the relationship is still just about worth continuing with.

Then, if the breadcrumber feels they need to reinforce the bond in their partner’s mind, they might go all out and become romantic and emotionally available for a short while.

This is especially true if the partner makes it clear that they are not happy with how things are. The breadcrumber ups their game for just long enough to convince the partner that the relationship is going to get better.

Of course, it doesn’t last forever. Once the partner seems content, the breadcrumbs start all over again.

This is a tactic often used by narcissists who might occasionally throw their victims the proverbial bone of ‘love’ and affection in between periods of abuse and manipulation. This confuses the victim enough to keep them coming back despite the awful treatment they endure.

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About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.