Dating is exhilarating and nerve-wracking, and weeding out who’s serious from the love bombers and catfishes is no easy feat. And it doesn’t help that some people are dishonest about their feelings and what they’re looking for, which is why the term ghosting is so commonly used to describe the magical disappearing act someone does out of the blue when they’re not interested. But today, a new term has emerged to define the act of stringing someone along: breadcrumbing. In the spirit of looking out for our girls, we are breaking down what breadcrumbing is, our best tips for spotting it, and some of the best ways you can avoid experiencing it in your dating life.
What is Breadcrumbing?
The term “breadcrumbing” refers to the act of sending out flirty signals over text, social media, or email without any true intention of commitment or follow-through. Among ghosting and not texting back, this is one of the most common ways daters are experiencing rejection right now. These “crumbs” are enough to keep your attention, but not enough to make you feel confident or reassured about where the relationship is going.
Unfortunately, you’ve likely come across a breadcrumber once or twice in your life. Breadcrumbers are non-commital and rarely (if ever) follow through with plans; everything’s always tentative with them, and they often leave you hanging. Someone who is breadcrumbing you may ignore your suggestions to meet or cancel plans at the last minute, ignore your texts but interact with you on social media, throw out potential date ideas but never follow through, or ignore you for long periods of time and reach out after you stop showing interest in them. So annoying, right?
How To Spot Breadcrumbing
We all know what it’s like to be busy and forgetful, and we’ve all been guilty of being flaky at one point or another. However, these are minor transgressions—with a breadcrumber, they’re a way of life. While no two people are the same, there are a few red flags all breadcrumbers possess, and knowing what to look for can make breadcrumbing easier to spot.
1. Pay attention to their behavior
Breadcrumbers are non-commital and inconsistent. They might make you feel like the center of their universe one day and dirt underneath their shoe the next. But actions speak louder than words, which is why it’s important to pay close attention to their behavior. Breadcrumbers are notoriously hot and cold and have a knack for continually disappearing out of the blue or whenever the convo gets serious before reappearing days or weeks later. Take note of any mood swings and behavioral changes they exhibit, and how often they seem to flip.
2. Take note of their interest level
Gauging someone’s interest level electronically may sound challenging, but rest assured: It’s easier than you think. Take note of how they respond whenever you suggest meeting up. Do they seem keen on the idea, or are they suddenly too busy to grab a coffee together? How they respond can be very telling. Likewise, using the same excuses over and over again as to why they can’t hang out might mean they’re not as invested as you are and aren’t interested in taking things further. If they’re “slammed at work” or “busy with family stuff” every single time you suggest meeting up, it might be time to stop asking.
3. Notice how they make you feel
Love is a complex emotion, but it shouldn’t be difficult, stressful, or confusing. Pay attention to how you feel after talking to them. Do you feel frustrated 99.99% of the time? Are you unable to make sense of them and their actions? Does talking to them make you even more confused about where you stand? These are usually major warning signs that something isn’t right.
How To Avoid Breadcrumbing
1. Call out their behavior
If you suspect someone’s breadcrumbing you, the first thing you should do is call them out on their behavior. This will open up the door for an important conversation you need to have and subtly let them know that their behavior isn’t going unnoticed and that their attempts to lead you on are futile. Likewise, it’ll also give them the opportunity to explain away any miscommunications or personal problems they’re currently dealing with.
The best way to go about this is to be honest, open, and kind. Don’t wait until you’re at your breaking point to have this conversation. Be upfront about what you’re looking for and honest about how their actions make you feel.
Examples of ways to start this conversation:
- “I understand our schedules are conflicting, but it’s important to me that we make time to meet up so we can pursue this relationship further. If that’s not something you’re interested in, let me know now so we can go our separate ways.”
- “You haven’t responded to my texts for a few days now despite having read them, which has been incredibly frustrating for me. I appreciate that you’re busy, but I’m looking for someone who can keep me in the loop and let me know when things come up.”
- “I’m getting the impression we’re on two different wavelengths at the moment. I’m looking for someone who’s in it for the long term and serious about settling down. What are you looking for?”
2. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries is one of the best ways to avoid getting caught up in a back-and-forth entanglement with a breadcrumber. Determine what you’re willing to put up with from a potential partner, and which behaviors you absolutely draw the line at. For example, you may be willing to pursue a relationship with someone who can only hang out every other weekend but unwilling to be with someone who disagrees with you politically. No matter what you decide, it’s important to stay firm in your boundaries—don’t bend them to meet the needs or behavior of others.
3. Try making definitive plans with them
Trying to make plans with a breadcrumber is equivalent to chasing someone in circles. Whether they suggest meeting up or it comes from you, try choosing a specific date, time, and place to meet. If they’re not trying to breadcrumb you, they’ll likely follow through with your suggestion or offer up other dates and times that work better for them. This shows that they’re committed to the relationship and want to take things a step further.
In contrast, a breadcrumber will likely avoid committing to the meeting, cancel at the last minute, or throw out some lame excuse as to why they can’t make it. If this happens, take this as your sign to move on. Be sure to let them know you’re moving on by saying something along the lines of: “Your life seems pretty busy at the moment, so I’ll let you reach out to me when you have the time to take things a step further.” This will leave the ball in their court, and give you the freedom to move on and live as you wish.
4. Recognize and respect your needs and worth
Breadcrumbers have a knack for making others feel like there’s something wrong with them, but that is absolutely not the case. I promise, there is nothing wrong with you, and being true to yourself and your needs is going to save you a lot of heartache in the long run. If they’re not offering what you’re looking for, call it quits and move on. It may be hard, and chances are they’ll dangle hopes and promises in front of your face to try to get you to stay, but it’ll be the best thing for you. Anyone can promise you the world, but very few people can give it to you, and plus, you’ll never find the right relationship if you’re in the wrong entanglement.