Breadcrumbing 101 – How to Avoid It

Breadcrumbing is a term you’ve probably never heard. But like ghosting, it’s been a common phenomenon in the dating world for years. It’s even more present with the rise of online dating websites like Tinder and OkCupid.

Healthline defines breadcrumbing as leading someone on with small nuggets of interest. These nuggets of interest can be:

  • Occasional text messages
  • Phone calls
  • Social media interaction

Brides provides an equally helpful definition. They define breadcrumbing as sending out non-committal flirtatious social signals. What breadcrumbing boils down to is leading someone on.

It’s a toxic dating behavior that can make things even harder for today’s singles. Here’s everything you should know about it.

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What are the signs of Breadcrumbing? (Red Flags)

Back when I was a single man, I’d encountered many of these signs while trying to explore a connection with someone. And at times, unfortunately, I was the one doing it. Here are some things to look out for to avoid disappointment.

1. Responds to text messages inconsistently

You and someone have gone to the next step of exchanging phone numbers. It’s exciting to start texting someone you have an interest in. The problem is, they barely ever respond to you.

You’re sitting somewhere eager to hear from them, and they’re apparently “too busy.” No one is too busy for someone they like. I can tell you with anyone I showed genuine interest in, I always made time.

2. Talks about getting together without getting together

Unfortunately, I did this a few times with women I wasn’t sure I was that into. We should all have the maturity to admit when we don’t have any interest in meeting up. It’s only fair to avoid wasting someone’s time.

3. Emphasizes engaging in a physical relationship

Some men (and women) are only interested in doing something physical with you. While you may enjoy the physical interaction, it doesn’t mean there’s a shared romantic interest.

4. Avoids directly communicating romantic interest

Now, of course, some people will flat out say they like you and want to be with you when they don’t. But the less obvious trick some people will pull is not ever saying they like you.

I did this myself to avoid feeling like I was leading someone. But deep down, I knew I was. The person won’t say they like you, but they’ll say things that sound like it.

Pay attention to statements such as, “I enjoy talking to you” or “I’d like to see where this goes.” Any vague statement without ever going so far as to say, “I like you.” or “I want a relationship.” More times than not, people who are interested in you will be direct in saying that.

Why do people breadcrumb?

Most of you probably don’t care to know the reason why people breadcrumb. You just don’t want to be the one that it happens to.

At the same time, even those of you that don’t care probably do feel a little bit hurt. And maybe you do wonder why a person would do that to someone.

I can only speak from my own experience in the times I did it. And for myself, I just wasn’t mature enough to let someone know I wasn’t that interested romantically.

No one feels good about the idea of telling someone that. But still, it’s worse for a person to be misled about your intentions than to be told that you’re not interested. Other reasons that other sources mention on why people breadcrumb include:

  • Being narcissistic
  • Needing validation
  • Already being in a relationship
  • Being lonely

How do you deal with someone who is a breadcrumber?

First of all, you can’t deal with it until you recognize it’s happening to you. If you’ve encountered one of the signs mentioned above, then it’s possible you’re being breadcrumbed.

Once you understand that, it’s time to decide how to respond. There’s a direct and indirect way you could go about this.

The direct way to deal with this is to seek firm answers from them. Ask them if they have romantic feelings for you and an interesting in pursuing a romantic relationship.

If they say they do, tell them that you feel their actions need to start backing that up. Explain to them that you need more consistent communication to believe their feelings are genuine

Explain to them that if they can’t meet up and spend time with you, you can’t see this interaction going any further. That will send a strong message to the person you’re talking to. They’ll either follow through or decide they’re not that interested.

Now, if you prefer a less direct way of sending a message, choose not to respond to them regularly. Instead, give the level of attention you’re receiving.

That way, you’re not letting yourself get too emotionally invested. If the person senses that they can’t get the attention from you they want with minimal effort, they’ll probably move on. It’s best to choose to focus your time more on those who do give you the level of attention you desire.

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