'Breadcrumbing' Is a Sneaky Dating Red Flag to Watch Out For

what is breadcrumbing cat

Between getting ghosted or being catfished, dating is truly like navigating an uncharted jungle. And even when you force yourself to get over your own personal barriers (i.e. flirter’s block), it seems there’s yet another red flag to keep an eye out for these days. Yesterday it was stashing; today we’re warning you about breadcrumbing. Though it’s not the same, breadcrumbing is a sneaky behavior akin to gaslighting in that it may leave you with a few questions…and lot of hurt. 

So, what is breadcrumbing?

According to Psychology Today, breadcrumbing is a “term for stringing someone along with small nuggets of communication—but never fully committing to a relationship.” Breadcrumbers may like your story on Insta or leave a comment on a photo and once they see that you’ve gobbled up the little morsel of communication, they leave you on read. They may also go through bouts of consistent texting, then vanish suddenly before coming back again. Unlike ghosts who drop off the face of the earth without a reason or explanation, breadcrumbers leave the impression that they want more but never actually commit. In other words, when someone is breadcrumbing you, they want to keep you on the hook.

What are signs of breadcrumbing?

In addition to the examples mentioned above, here are four major signs that the person you’re seeing is breadcrumbing.

  1. They pretend to share common interests. Like gaslighters, breadcrumbers are master manipulators and they can’t string you along unless they sell a fantasy. So when they’re in that continual communication phase, breadcrumbers will pretend to be into all the things you’re into. You like hiking? They too have been into hiking lately. You’re into astrology? Guess what, they’ve just recently started reading their monthly horoscope. Coinkadink? No. They’re purposefully curating interests so it seems you both share the same sensibilities.
  2. They make vague plans. Again, breadcrumbers are all about creating false hope, so if you find that the person you’re talking to constantly uses phrases such as, “We should do that one day,” or “Let’s plan that for [insert far away season here]” but never actually follows through, yeah, you might be dealing with a breadcrumber.
  3. You don’t know where you stand with them. A breadcrumber thrives on serving up inconsistency, which is why they oscillate between being super into you and going cold. Vulnerability and honesty are currency of a healthy relationship. So, if someone is unclear about their intentions with you, look up, because they’re probably flying a big red flag.
  4. They only follow through on plans surrounding sex. Another defining characteristic of breadcrumbers is that they’re keen on booty calls. While you can never get them to solidify dates, when it comes to hookups, they always show up 

How to cope with breadcrumbing

When you’re really into the person who is breadcrumbing you, their flakey behavior can leave you feeling insecure, lonely and hurt. Below are some ways to deal with breadcrumbing:

  1. Set boundaries. The best way to deal with a breadcrumber (or any person you may be dating really) is to establish clear boundaries. Make a decision about the behaviors you are and aren’t willing to tolerate and stand firm by that. When the ‘crumbers inevitably try to come back and sell you dreams, they won’t be successful.
  2. Don’t respond. The only way a breadcrumber asserts control is by taking you on a whirlwind emotional journey. So the best way to get rid of them is to cut off their oxygen by barring all access to you. If ignoring texts, calls and DMs proves to be difficult, block their number or social media accounts altogether.
  3. Don’t take it personally. Breadcrumbers need validation and reassurance and having power over someone’s emotions gives them that. Be confident in knowing that their behavior has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

7 Long-Term Effects of Gaslighting (& How to Recover)

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Resident Hufflepuff, Beyonce historian, self-proclaimed tea sommelier

Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...