In the Brother's Grimm fairy tale, Hansel left a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest in hopes that he and Gretel could find their way home. We now see breadcrumbing as a noncommittal behavior of stringing someone along. Have you been following the breadcrumbs of someone hoping it will lead you to a committed relationship? Sadly, breadcrumbing is becoming an all too common and a normalized phenomenon, like ghosting. As we spend more time online, this kind of behavior is seen more often. This kind of behavior is convenient and feels more guilt free, especially when employed through technology. It is easy to breadcrumb someone as there are no consequences for it.
What does breadcrumbing look like?
When someone request’s repeated hook ups but isn’t interested in spending non-physical time together.
Messages are superficial. The individual doesn’t ask about your daily life, and they offer no concrete details about their life.
They ignore your messages. When they do respond they don’t explain why they have disappeared.
They like your social medial post’s but do not offer a reply.
They make vague plans about the future but don’t set up real plans to meet.
They indicate they would like to see you, but they don’t follow through.
If they do make plans, they cancel at the last minute.
They make comments about shared interests to keep you thinking there is some real interest.
They communicate using emojis, memes or photos.
Why would someone breadcrumb?
People who breadcrumb measure their own self worth through the amount of attention they derive from others. In essence it feels good for them. They can have a sense of connection without the commitment.
Here are some common traits:
They are your ex and they are not ready to let go. Ex partners can breadcrumb for a variety of reasons. They send mixed messages that can be confusing if you still have feelings. But the messages are not a clear communication. Do they want to stay friends? Do they want to try again? Are they looking to hook up? Often these are attempts to stay in control and keep you from moving on. This can be especially true if you are the one who ended the relationship.
They are narcissists. This comes as no surprise. They are game players and seek only to validate their own self-importance. They don’t feel guilty about emotionally manipulating others to suit their own needs
They gather an increased self-worth. As they lead people on, they feel better about themselves. The more people who follow them the better they feel about themselves.
Lonely people breadcrumb. Challenged by low self-esteem, some find it easier to maintain multiple shallow relationships. By breadcrumbing, their social needs are met. They always have someone to fill their time in hopes they will alleviate their loneliness.
They are in a relationship. Individuals in relationships can seek increased attention from others by employing breadcrumbing. They get the attention without the consequence. To many, it seems as though they are not having an affair.
They are emotionally needy. They are in constant need of validation from others; that they are worthy of the attention.
They like you. Some individuals are not ready, or able to, deal with commitment. They want to be connected but are not ready or interested in a deep emotional investment.
They need a backup plan. And you are it. Some people use the breadcrumbing tactic in case their current relationship fails. They try to keep the extra connection alive by making plans and backing out. Or they will send vague messages to keep you on the back burner.
What are the damages?
Breadcrumbing is a humiliating and prolonged experience. The victim can get stuck in a sense of helplessness. More so than ghosting, breadcrumbing leaves the victim in constant stand by. Life can become uncertain and unpredictable as the victim waits for the breadcrumber to move towards a commitment.
Breadcrumbing can lead to addictive behavior. Breadcrumbing leads the victim to be in a constant state of suspense, waiting for responses, likes on posts, and/or messages. The victim will constantly check for calls, messages, or post likes to maintain the belief that the breadcrumber legitimately wants to make a commitment. As in addiction, the behavior reinforces an anticipation of a reward.
As breadcrumbing is a prolonged experience, the feelings of being left out of the breadcrumbers social experiences can lead to profound loneliness.
What do I do if I am being breadcrumbed?
Respect your own needs. If you are looking for a relationship this is not the person you are looking for. Be honest with yourself about your expectations and relationship goals.
Call it out. It may be tough to confront this behavior, but it will be worth your time. When you realize, someone is breadcrumbing let them know they are leading you on. Let them know how you feel and condemn the behavior. It lets them know you will no longer be their victim.
Talk it out, write it out. Talking to a trusted family member or friend can be helpful. Don’t be surprised if they have gone through the same experience. It helps to know you are not alone. Writing in a journal can be helpful. You can process your hurt feelings and move on from the experience.
Find a therapist. This experience can really shake your world. It may remind you of similar experiences or feelings from the past that can be confusing. Talking to an objective therapist will help you move out of being a victim and help you learn how to avoid breadcrumbing in the future.
Ultimately, when looking for love, it’s easy to ignore the red flags because the person seems so ideal in other ways. By ignoring the red flags, you can be led into disaster. Remember, actions speak louder than words. When someone shows consistently an unwillingness to connect, respect your intuition and walk away. The person of your dreams is out there. You just gotta keep looking!