Breadcrumbing is the act of romantically leading someone on without any clear plans to pursue the relationship. At times, people’s interested yet non-committal behaviors may leave you bewildered about the direction in which your connection is heading.
In this article, I’ll talk about three strategies you can employ to protect yourself against this unhealthy relationship tactic.
#1. Identify the warning signs early
According to research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health typical signs of breadcrumbing include:
- Feigning enthusiasm to meet up but never seriously following through with the plans by pinning down exact dates or coming up with new dates in case of rain checks
- Talking about shared interests to show a sense of connection
- Dropping small bits of texts, often in the form of sharing memes or social media posts, to maintain semblance of a relationship without expending too much time and effort
- Sending small bits of communication and disappearing temporarily without any explanation to sow a sense of falsehood that something serious is on the horizon
- Texting based on convenience
- Indicating an interest in hooking up but not spending non-physical time together
Similar to the manipulation tactic of ‘gaslighting,’ breadcrumbing can blur your sense of reality and make you doubt your own and the other person’s perspective. This leads to the next point:
#2. Be direct. Call them out.
Once you catch on that someone is breadcrumbing you, call them out on what they are doing. Pointing it out to them can accomplish the following goals:
- It shows that you are aware of what is happening and that you are not gullible to manipulative tactics
- It sends the breadcrumber a clear signal that you have the ability to stand up for yourself
- It also gives the breadcrumber the opportunity to be authentic and to share any personal concerns that might be getting in the way of them approaching the relationship in an upstanding fashion
After you have pointed it out, let the other person know how their communication pattern is affecting you. One way to effectively communicate your feelings to a breadcrumber is to say something like:
“I feel frustrated and start to spiral when I don’t hear from you for several days, especially when I know that you’ve read my messages. I understand that we all have hard days and life can get really complicated, but I’m looking for someone who can stay in touch on a regular basis and is willing to have open communication.”
#3. Communicate your expectations and relationship goals
After communicating to them the emotional toll that their inconsistent behavior is taking on you, consider expressing your expectations for the relationship.
Here is one way to initiate this conversation:
“I sense that what you are looking for may be quite different from my expectations. I am looking for something serious and long-term. I would like to work on building a stable relationship. How about you?”
It is also important to keep in mind that people’s needs change over time. It is possible that they intended to pursue a relationship when you first met, but things have since changed. They may be hesitant to bring it up or may just be unsure of how to do it.
However, if the person continues to breadcrumb by making false promises and not following through with their plans, here is what you might consider:
#4. Remember your worth and know when it’s time to move on
If you’re feeling breadcrumbed, remind yourself of your worth and what you are here for. You, like everyone else, deserve to have a healthy, secure relationship.
If the person is unwilling to change, re-evaluate your relationship. Do not feel pressured to respond to superficial texts as it may only reinforce their bad behavior.
Instead, consider moving on. Your needs are valid. Honor them and don’t hold yourself back from a new dating experience. Who knows where it might take you?
Lastly, don’t let the experience affect your mental health. Episodes of emotional manipulation can lead to a cycle of rumination and self-blame. It is important to remind yourself you did the best you could given the circumstances. Take steps towards your own healing and growth and don’t be afraid to talk to a mental health expert who can offer an unbiased perspective on the situation.