What Is Breadcrumbing and 6 Ways to Recognize This Manipulative Behavior

Have you ever heard about breadcrumbing? Do you know how you can spot a breadcrumber?

Dating can be both fun and stressful at the same time. You meet new people, go on a few dates just to see whether you’re compatible or not, flirt, have a first kiss, and who knows, maybe they’ll be the one, or the one for now, at least. But not every date is a successful one, some of them are just experiences you never want to repeat.

Breadcrumbing is a dating term used to define a negative, manipulative dating behavior, explains to clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly. The breadcrumb will give you just enough interest to keep you involved, but not enough to make you happy.

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that a breadcrumb has no interest in getting to know you better and spending quality time, for them, it’s just a temporary ‘fling’, where they want your attention at a superficial level.

According to Dr. Manly, it’s a very selfish, manipulative behavior, considering “the breadcrumber does not want the other person going elsewhere; instead, they use manipulative tactics—throwing out little crumbs of interest now and again—to keep the other person engaged.”

And now you might wonder, why is breadcrumbing a thing in this day and age? Dr. Manly has an explanation. Some people breadcrumb either because they want attention, fear being alone, or simply because they’re bored and have nothing else to do. Toxic people implement this behavior “to exert power and control over people who have strong feelings for them,” Dr. Manly added.

Moreover, a breadcrumber will do this because they want to have options, they might be in a relationship with someone else and want to have a little fun outside that relationship, or they’re simply not looking for a real connection, explains clinical psychologist Dr. Kim Chronister.

But no matter the reason, their behavior is selfish, and manipulative, and ends up hurting other people, whether they’ve done it on purpose or not, adds Dr. Manly. If you’re now wondering whether your partner is a breadcrumber or not, read on to discover the signs and learn how to stop it, according to relationship experts!

wife, breadcrumb
Photo by UfaBizPhoto at Shutterstock

They’re simply not interested in finding out new things about you.

If your partner is not interested in finding new things about your life, you might be dating a breadcrumber, Dr. Manly explained. While they can appear interested from time to time, it happens very rarely and on a shallow level, and they’re still not going to be interested in you and your life, Dr. Manly added. They only do it to get attention and keep you interested in their own benefit.

A breadcrumber is not a man of his word!

If you’re dating a breadcrumber, expect to be left hanging all of the time, as they’re always making plans to go on dates but never get to actually do it.

According to psychotherapist and certified life coach Tess Brigham, “This person starts a conversation with you in a very general way like, ‘How’s your day going’ and then you don’t get a response for another day or two when they ask you again, ‘How’s your day going?’ They always provide generic questions with long pauses and no forward momentum in the conversation.”

Find out more about psychological concepts here!

They’re not trying to spend quality time with you.

If you’re dating a breadcrumber, you’ll always be the one who will have to ask to spend some quality time together. But it’s important to understand that someone who wants you in their life will make an effort to do so, no matter how busy they might be, so don’t try to find excuses for their bad behavior.

Building a healthy relationship with a breadcrumber is almost impossible, considering they’re not looking for anything serious and you’ll be the one who begs for their attention.

According to Dr. Manly, you can easily recognize a breadcrumber as they make you feel worthless, unimportant, and disconnected. If your partner is making you feel this way, now is the time to get out of the relationship and move on.

relationship, breadcrumb
Photo by varyapigu From Envato Elements

They reach out to you in a different manner every time.

Breadcrumbers are not consistent and always seem to change their tactics, and that’s because they don’t care too much if they’re part of your life or not. They’re ‘shapeshifters’ and utilize many forms of communication every time they talk to you.

To be more precise, you meet someone, your text for a while, go on a few days, and weeks later, they leave a comment on your Instagram photo, even though they have your number and they could easily text there, they do not seem to care enough, explains Tess Brigham.

When they finally reach out, they don’t justify their absence.

You can easily recognize a breadcrumber when they’re giving you the silent treatment after a few dates and then come back into your life out of nowhere a few weeks later, without justifying their absence.

According to Brigham, if they start texting you again, and linking your photos on social media but don’t bother explaining why they stop contacting you in the first place, they’re definitely a breadcrumber and you shouldn’t waste any more time talking to them. If it makes no sense to you and you can’t seem to understand their behavior, how could you allow them to come back into your life?

They always give short answers.

You’re in the mood to have a nice conversation with someone? A breadcrumber is not the person for that. Probably one of the most common indicators that you’re dealing with a breadcrumber is the fact that they’re not very talkative, and prefer sticking to short answers.

According to Dr. Chronister, they want minimal effort so they usually send a ‘hey’ text and then reply with an emoji, and you might not hear from them again the rest of the day. However, there will be times when they will try to hold a conversation with you, but that usually happens when they’re waiting for you to initiate contact. But according to Dr. Chronister, expect the conversation to be minimal, boring, and random.

significant other, breadcrumb
Photo by Rawpixel From Envato Elements

How you should respond to breadcrumbing.

If you’re dating a breadcrumber, there are a few things you can do to eliminate this type of behavior from your life. Firstly, Dr. Manly recommends having an open conversation with the breadcrumber and explaining to them how you feel. Expect them to get defensive, but make sure you express your concerns and do not let your guard down.

Additionally, tell them you expect to be treated as a priority, you want to feel loved, valued, and appreciated, and that you do not tolerate any type of bad behavior in your life. If they’re not willing to change, then you’re wasting your time. Dr. Manly suggests focusing on building relationships with people that are kind, loving, and understanding, and staying away from those who make you feel like you’re not worthy of love.

According to Dr. Chronister, you shouldn’t participate in their manipulative games, meaning you don’t have to respond every time they send you a simple ‘hey’, ‘how you’ve been’ text, or an emoji. She also recommends asking yourself if this person and their selfish behavior is worth your time and energy.

If you feel like you can’t build a future with this person and they’re taking you for granted, leave them and never look back, probably they’re not going to change either way.

Also, if you do this, people will value you more because you’ll send a message that you have standards and you don’t accept anything less than you deserve, Dr. Manly explained. Expect them to feel angry and irritated at your standards at first, but they will soon realize they didn’t deserve you.

Lastly, Birgham suggests not engaging at all with these types of people. Breadcrumbs can function only when you follow them to see where they lead, but if you don’t play their manipulative game and follow their rules, they won’t have any power over you, she added.

Therefore, it’s normal to feel sad, disappointed, or even hurt that things between you two didn’t work as planned, but you need to acknowledge the fact that this person wasn’t good for your mental health, and sooner or later, they would have made you break.

If you’re feeling isolated and lonely, you should definitely be checking out these brilliant ways to cope and combat such feelings!




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