Breadcrumbing: Meaning, Signs & How to Avoid It

What Is Breadcrumbing in Dating?

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you feel like your love interest is leading you on, but not really committing to anything, you may have experienced breadcrumbing.

Breadcrumbing is a dating trend where someone sends flirty or suggestive messages, but never actually follows through with plans or commitment.

It’s a way of keeping someone interested, without actually investing in the relationship.

One of the main signs of breadcrumbing is mixed signals.

If your love interest is sending you flirty messages one day, but then ignoring you the next, it’s a red flag.

It’s important to note that breadcrumbing can be considered a form of passive-aggressive behavior, where the other person is trying to keep you interested, while not really committing to anything.

It is often associated with online dating, where people have access to multiple love interests at once.

Technology has made it easier for people to keep their options open, and breadcrumbing is a way of having a backup plan, in case things don’t work out with someone else.

If you’re experiencing breadcrumbing, it’s important to recognize the signs as early as possible and not get too invested in the relationship.

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What Is Breadcrumbing in a Relationship?

Breadcrumbing is a manipulative behavior where someone sends sporadic messages to keep their love interest on standby, without any intention of committing to a relationship.

It involves sending just enough attention to keep the other person interested, but not enough to move the relationship forward.

This behavior is often used by narcissists who seek validation and control over their love interest.

They enjoy the power they have over the victim and the attention they receive without any commitment. Breadcrumbing is a form of emotional manipulation that can leave the victim feeling confused, frustrated, and lonely.

Signs of breadcrumbing in a relationship include:

  • Late-night texts
  • Sporadic messages; and
  • Avoiding making plans

The breadcrumbing individual may also make excuses for not being able to commit or may ghost their love interest altogether.

MORE: 15 CLEAR Signs He Doesn’t Want A Relationship With You.

Breadcrumbing can be damaging to one’s self-esteem and can lead to feelings of rejection and worthlessness.

It’s important to recognize the signs of breadcrumbing and avoid falling into the trap of a noncommittal relationship.

In modern dating, breadcrumbing has become more prevalent due to the ease of texting and online communication.

However, it’s important to remember that a healthy relationship involves commitment and mutual respect.

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Signs You Are Being Breadcrumbed

If you suspect that you are being breadcrumbed, here are some more signs to look out for:

  • Inconsistent communication: Your love interest may send you a flurry of messages one day, and then go silent for days or weeks without any explanation.
  • No plans to meet up: Despite the flirty messages, your love interest never seems to want to make concrete plans to meet up in person.
  • Excuses for not meeting up: When you do suggest meeting up, your love interest always seems to have an excuse for why they can’t, such as being too busy with work or having family commitments.
  • Lack of interest in your life: Your love interest never seems to ask about your life or show genuine interest in who you are as a person. (Situationship, anyone?)
  • Mixed signals: Your love interest may send you mixed signals, such as flirty messages one day and then being distant the next.

If you are experiencing any of these signs, it is possible that you are being breadcrumbed.

It is important to remember that you deserve someone who is willing to commit to a relationship and treat you with respect. Don’t waste your time on someone who is not willing to invest in you.

And if you want to deal with a breadcrumbing man in a high value way, there are two specific words you can say to him that will stop this behavior and communicate your frustration quickly:

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Why Do People Breadcrumb?

There are several reasons why people breadcrumb.


One reason why people breadcrumb is immaturity. Some guys may not be ready for a committed relationship, but they still want to have someone to flirt with and boost their ego.

Breadcrumbing allows them to have the emotional comfort of knowing that someone is interested in them without having to put in the effort of a real relationship.

Emotional Discomfort

Another reason for breadcrumbing is their own internal emotional discomfort.

Some people may have been hurt in the past and are afraid of getting hurt again.

Breadcrumbing allows them to keep their love interest at arm’s length while still enjoying their attention.

Hook Up Without Commitment

For some men, breadcrumbing is a way to hook up without any commitment.

They may enjoy the thrill of the chase and the excitement of flirting, but they have no intention of taking things further.

Self Centredness

Self-centeredness is another reason why people breadcrumb.

They may enjoy the attention and validation that comes with flirting, but they are not willing to reciprocate or put in the effort required for a real relationship.

Fear of Commitment

Finally, fear of commitment is a common reason for breadcrumbing.

Some people may be afraid of getting too close to someone and losing their independence.

Breadcrumbing allows them to keep their love interest interested without having to commit to anything serious.

MORE: Why Won’t He Commit? 7 Secret Reasons.


Breadcrumbing Examples

This modern dating phenomenon of breadcrumbing is prevalent in the world of text messages, especially late at night.

Here are a few examples of breadcrumbing that you may have experienced:

  • The Late-Night Texter: This is the guy who only messages you late at night, usually after midnight. He sends you flirty messages, but never makes plans to meet up. He keeps you on the hook, but never commits to anything.
  • The Sporadic Messenger: This is the guy who only messages you once in a while. He disappears for days or even weeks at a time, but then suddenly pops up with a message. He keeps you interested, but never follows through.
  • The Mixed Signals Guy: This is the guy who sends you mixed messages. One day he’s all over you, and the next day he’s distant and unresponsive. He keeps you guessing, but never commits to anything.
  • The Love Bomber: This is the guy who sends you lots of messages, but they’re all about how much he loves you and how amazing you are. He’s overly affectionate, but never makes plans to see you in person. He keeps you hooked with his sweet words, but never follows through.
  • The Attention Seeker: This is the guy who only messages you when he wants attention. He sends you messages about his problems or his day, but never asks about yours. He keeps you around for his own benefit, but never shows any real interest in you.

These are just a few examples of breadcrumbing that you may have experienced.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to recognize that this behavior is not acceptable.

Don’t waste your time on someone who is not interested in a committed relationship. The more time you spend with them, the worse everything gets for you.

Do Breadcrumbers Know They Are Breadcrumbing?

Breadcrumbing is a behavior that can be difficult to identify, even for the person doing it.

Often, breadcrumbing is not a conscious decision, but rather a subconscious one.

The person may not even realize that they are breadcrumbing, or they may justify their behavior by telling themselves that they are “just being friendly” or “keeping their options open.”

In reality, breadcrumbing can be a sign of low self-esteem or a fear of commitment.

By keeping multiple love interests on the hook, the breadcrumber can avoid the vulnerability and potential rejection that comes with committing to one person.

The breadcrumber may also be seeking validation and attention from multiple people to boost their own self-esteem.

Breadcrumbing can be a difficult behavior to identify, as they’re still giving you enough attention to keep you partially satisfied.

Quite simply, the more aware you are, the more equipped you are to deal with breadcrumbing.

Tips to Handle Being Breadcrumbed

Breadcrumbing can be emotionally draining and can make you feel confused about your relationship status.

Here are some tips to handle being breadcrumbed by your love interest:

  • Recognize the signs: If your guy is not making any effort to meet you or is only texting you sporadically, then he might be breadcrumbing you.
    Recognizing the signs can help you take necessary actions to protect yourself emotionally.
  • Set boundaries: Let your love interest know that you are not okay with being breadcrumbed.
    Set clear boundaries and let them know that you expect more from the relationship. If they are not willing to meet your expectations, then it might be time to move on.
  • Focus on yourself: Being breadcrumbed can take a toll on your self-esteem. Instead of waiting for your love interest to text you back, focus on yourself.
    Do things that make you happy and boost your confidence. Remember that you deserve someone who values and respects you.
  • Don’t fall for manipulation: Some men breadcrumb because they want to keep their options open. Don’t fall for their manipulation.
    If they are not willing to commit to you, then they are not worth your time and energy.
  • Communicate effectively: If you feel like you are being breadcrumbed, communicate your feelings effectively.
    Let your love interest know how their behavior is affecting you. If they are not willing to change, then it might be time to move on.

Remember that breadcrumbing is a form of emotional abuse and can have a negative impact on your mental health.

Don’t let anyone make you feel unworthy or unlovable. You deserve to be with someone who values and respects you.

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How to Respond to Breadcrumbing via Text: Use High Value Banter

If you’re dealing with breadcrumbing from a guy, one of the best ways to test for breadcrumbing is with high value banter.

Banter is a form of playful communication where you bounce back at each other through text (or in person), and this style of communication introduces spontaneity and attunement.

A person who is breadcrumbing you will be exposed pretty quickly when you start using high value banter to communicate with them.


Because spontaneity brings more of the truth (and their motivations) to the surface.

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Tips For Coping With Breadcrumbing Emotionally (And practically)

Here are some tips on how to respond to breadcrumbing via text:

  1. Don’t play into their game: Breadcrumbing is a form of manipulation, and it’s important not to play into their game.
    If they’re sending you non-committal messages, don’t respond with a lot of attention or excitement.
    Keep your responses short and sweet, and don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing that they have your full attention.
  2. Set boundaries when it’s called for: It’s important to set boundaries with someone who is breadcrumbing you.
    Let them know what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. If they’re not willing to respect your boundaries, it’s time to move on.
  3. Don’t make excuses for them: It’s easy to make excuses for someone who is breadcrumbing you.
    You may think that they’re just busy or that they’re not good at texting. But the truth is, if they’re not making an effort to communicate with you, it’s a sign that they’re not interested in a serious relationship.
  4. Take care of yourself
    Breadcrumbing can be emotionally draining, so it’s important to take care of yourself. Surround yourself with friends and family who support you, and don’t be afraid to take a break from dating if you need it.

Remember, breadcrumbing is a form of manipulation, and it’s important to set boundaries and be honest about your feelings. If someone is not willing to give you what you want, it’s time to move on and find someone who is.

Is Breadcrumbing Emotional Abuse?

Yes, breadcrumbing is a dating trend that can be emotionally abusive, especially when it is done repeatedly.

Emotional abuse is defined as any behavior that is designed to control, intimidate, or manipulate another person.

It can take many forms, including verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and emotional neglect.

Breadcrumbing falls under the category of psychological abuse, as it can cause significant emotional distress.

If you have experienced breadcrumbing, you may wonder if you are overreacting or if your “person” is intentionally trying to hurt you.

The answer is that they could be, or they could just be careless and lack empathy.

Let’s also remember that narcissists are often the ones who engage in breadcrumbing behavior, and that tells you a lot about breadcrumbing.

They enjoy the attention and control that comes with keeping someone interested, but they are not interested in forming a real connection.

They may also enjoy the power they have over you, as if they lose that power, it could make them feel insecure and unsure of themselves.

Do Narcissists Breadcrumb?

Absolutely they do.

Narcissists thrive on attention and admiration from others, and breadcrumbing is a way to get that attention without giving anything in return.

They enjoy the power they have over their partner and the ability to keep them interested without having to commit to anything.

Narcissists also tend to lack empathy, so they may not even realize the emotional toll breadcrumbing takes on their love interest – and nor would they care.

Research has shown that breadcrumbing is often associated with narcissistic personality traits.

Narcissists tend to have an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a need for constant admiration.

These traits make it easier for them to engage in breadcrumbing behavior, as they are not concerned with the emotional impact it has on their love interest.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How should you respond to someone who is breadcrumbing you?

If you suspect that someone is breadcrumbing you, it is important to acknowledge the truth of what it is.

You can use high value banter to expose them if you want.

Or if you feel it’s appropriate, you can also choose to be honest with your partner or friend and explain how their behavior is making you feel.

I don’t recommend this in all cases, as breadcrumbers usually don’t care, and all you really need to do is expose their intent to yourself.

If they continue to breadcrumb you, it may be time to move on and find someone who values your time and energy.

What are some warning signs of breadcrumbing in a friendship or romantic relationship?

Some warning signs of breadcrumbing include

  • Inconsistent communication
  • Vague plans, and
  • Lack of effort in making plans or spending time together

If your friend or partner only contacts you when it is convenient for them or seems disinterested in spending quality time with you, it may be a sign that they are breadcrumbing you.

It is important to trust your instincts and have open and honest communication with them to clarify their intentions.

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