What Is Breadcrumbing In Dating? Tell-Tale Signs And How To Handle It

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What Is Breadcrumbing In Dating?

In this world of high-speed communications, many complications arise in our dating lives. One of the more subtle of these is a game of emotional misdirection that has earned itself the name “breadcrumbing.”

It is difficult to know for certain the intentions behind the words of the people with whom we communicate digitally. Breadcrumbers capitalize on this uncertainty, keeping their hearts hidden to exert control over a developing relationship.

So how do you know if someone you’re interested in is breadcrumbing you?

What Is Breadcrumbing?

Put simply, breadcrumbing is a way of leading someone on. A person who is breadcrumbing you will try to make you feel like they are into you without actually expressing or acting on that illusion.

Breadcrumbing Examples: Are You Being Breadcrumbed?

Are You Being Breadcrumbed

This strategy expresses itself in a variety of vaguenesses, allowing the crumber to pretend to want you without giving you what you need. Let’s look at a few examples of breadcrumbing behavior.

The Trail Of Crumbs

Is the person you’re talking to only acknowledging you with tiny, low-effort messages? This is a way of indicating that they’re paying attention to you but doesn’t necessitate any actual interest or investment in your life.

It can be hard to resist following the path of tasty morsels laid out for you, hoping that soon you’ll get a full plate. Someone who is breadcrumbing you will only give you what attention they think you need to stay fixated on them, with no intention of ever stepping it up.

Dodging Around

Often a crumber will move deftly between different communication platforms to avoid keeping up an extended conversation. As soon as you start to get into the real good stuff in one chatbox, they’ll draw a blank and then contact you later through a different channel.

This allows them to keep acting like they care about you without sharing any of their personal story with you. If they’re good at it, you’ll be too excited that they’re still talking to you to bring up their dodgy behavior.

Won’t Make/Commit To Plans

Breadcrumbers act excited about the opportunity to hang out with you but don’t make an effort to follow through. You say “Let’s get together,” they say “Yeah, totally!” you say “How’s next Thursday?” and they’ll forget you asked.

Or maybe they’ll agree to spend some time with you, but something always comes up and they have to cancel. They may make it seem like they want you, but they refuse to treat you like a priority.


Sometimes they’ll drop you larger crumbs. You’ll see short periods of high-intensity or high-frequency contact, followed by longer stretches where they completely ignore you.

It might seem like you’re getting on splendidly, but then they disappear and avoid your questions. Just when you think they might have decided to ghost you and you start to move on, they pop back in and remind you of their existence.

If you’re actually interested in this person, it can be hard to feel anything but relief that they’ve not forgotten you. Then they do it all over again. This cycle of making you wonder what they’re thinking and then bombing you with attention to drown your curiosity is peak breadcrumbing.

Focus On Physicality

Some crumbers do actually want to meet up, but only to hook up. They’ll balk at any opportunity for you to get to know each other, but they’ll come right over if they know it’s going down – and of course, hightail it when it’s all said and done.

If the dirty is the only thing you do when you’re together, take note. 

Breadcrumbing Psychology: Why Do They Do It?

Breadcrumbing: Why Do They Do It?

It is rather interesting that anyone would bother to put on such a show for someone they apparently don’t even care about. Fortunately, the reasons why someone would engage in breadcrumbing are relatively straightforward.

They Don’t Know What They Want

It’s likely that your crumber does have an actual interest in you but isn’t at a point in their life where they’re ready to invest in it. Staying vague about their intentions allows them to dabble in a relationship with you while keeping their escape route open.

Someone like this is not mature enough to take the steps necessary to create a lasting connection with you. Perhaps they know this and are hoping you won’t notice – or perhaps they really are trying to have a relationship with you but don’t know how.

Maintaining Control

Breadcrumbing is, at its core, a manipulation tactic. Some people who crumb (most, I’d like to believe) are not aware that they are being manipulative, but others know full well and are doing it on purpose: They want you to think they are interested in you without needing to act on that feigned interest.

This keeps you under their control as a tool or a toy. They might be stringing you along as a backup in case their current serious endeavor falls through, or they might just enjoy using your emotions to control you. 

It’s All They Have

A more likely breadcrumbing scenario than an abusive mastermind is a person who simply has nothing but crumbs available to share.

Many people today are emotionally starved and don’t have experience in forming healthy relationships. They pass out what little scraps they have whenever they can, hoping that someone will come along who wants to help them turn those scraps into meals.

While this kind of person is not evil, it is still unwise to dive into a serious relationship with them before assessing their behavior.

How To Respond To Breadcrumbing

Having established that our love interest is only leaving us a trail of crumbs to follow, we can now deal with the developing toxicity in our burgeoning relationship.

The woman notices the guy's breadcrumbing and confronts him.
The woman notices the guy’s breadcrumbing and confronts him.

Don’t Eat The Crumbs

As difficult as it may be at first, the best thing to do when you notice your crush is breadcrumbing you is to refuse to keep up with it. Picking up every little thing they put down encourages them to keep dropping only crumbs.

You deserve someone who will cut you a whole slice instead of leaving you only the bits they can’t be bothered with – you deserve to be a priority and to have your interest and effort reciprocated. In a romantic context, without reciprocation, there’s no point in giving.

Ask For That Slice

If you don’t like the way they’re treating you, giving you false hope, and failing to deliver, bring it up!

Having a chance to assess and change their behavior may be just what your potential partner needs to actualize their potential.

On the other hand, someone who is not ready to change will retreat from your confrontation into more vague platitudes and tricks.

Be Specific

You can strangle the vagueness that constricts your dating opportunities by having direct conversations and creating definite plans.

“Maybe” is the language of a person who will give you nothing but crumbs. If you back them into a corner where their only options are “yes” or “no,” you’ll find out what they really want from you.

Uncertainty in dating creates both the breadcrumbing behavior and the environment in which it thrives. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, or if you’re content with not knowing what you’re getting, then you may end up following that breadcrumb trail indefinitely.

How to deal with breadcrumbing so you can either turn things around or walk away with your head held high.

Conclusion: Know What You Want

We can combat the tendency to remain in the empty comfort of Maybe, in ourselves and in potential partners, by knowing and expressing our needs.

Take some time to ask yourself what it is you’re really looking for. Then, ask the same of the person you’re interested in. If you can find some common ground and move through the fear of making definitive decisions, then you may have a future together to look forward to after all.

And if you still can’t get a straight answer, then you can set yourself free.

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Over the years, Stephanie has had her fair share of dating experiences. While some turned out great, others weren't so great. She believes that relationships are meant to be fun, exciting, and full of laughter. She wants to help men and women become confident, attractive, and successful in their romantic relationships.