14 Confusing Signs That Someone is Breadcrumbing You

Grab Your Free Report: 39 Online Business Ideas for Introverts

There might be affiliate links on this page, which means we get a small commission of anything you buy. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please do your own research before making any online purchase.

Share this:

Finally! You’re dating this fantastic person, but your intuition is telling you something’s off.

You’re not quite sure if they’re fully invested in a serious relationship or want to keep things casual. The fact that they’re giving you little to nothing to work with makes it even more challenging to uncover their true motive.

This is precisely how I felt a few years ago when I was getting breadcrumbed by a guy. How did I know this for a fact? I’m about to share with you 14 signs of breadcrumbing that I wish I knew but may help save you from emotional devastation.

Breadcrumbing is a psychologically harmful practice people engage in for different reasons. I bet you’ll be thankful you read this entire article, as there’s much more to learn about the emotional effects of breadcrumbing and why people do it. 

You'll also find links to EXAMPLE scenarios. 

What Is Breadcrumbing? 

Breadcrumbing (also known as “Hansel and Gretelling”) is a slang term that describes a behavior pattern in dating and relationships where someone interacts just enough to keep you interested.

The person, called the breadcrumber, communicates in ways that makes you think they’re romantically interested in you. However, things usually never get serious. In short, they lead you on, causing you to feel confused and uncertain about where you stand.

Don’t miss these Nine Breadcrumbing EXAMPLES.

Men appear to be more likely than women to adopt this pattern of behavior. Regardless of gender, with a bread crumber, you’re never really able to pinpoint their true intentions.

The bottom line is that the person has no real intention to commit. Instead of saying so, they feed you the least amount of attention, affection, and communication to maintain attraction.

Some behavioral experts classify breadcrumbing someone as a form of emotional manipulation. Honestly, it feels a bit like gaslighting, even though the intention may be distinctly different.

Unlike bread crumbers, gaslighters seek to gain psychological control and influence or distort how you view reality.

Since gaslighters have numerous tactics in their arsenal, don’t be surprised if they engage in this tactic as well. That being said, Nicole Artz, a licensed family and marriage therapist (LMFT) at ChoosingTherapy, reminds us that breadcrumbing is a form of emotional abuse.

What Makes Someone Breadcrumb Others?

I can’t express how angry I became after I realized I was being played for a fool by the bread crumber I mentioned earlier. Over the course of my research, I came to understand the reasons behind the tactic.

As I found out, he has an avoidant attachment style. People with this insecure attachment style are usually emotionally unavailable. At the same time, he didn’t want to lose the opportunity to be with me when he was ready to commit.

More than likely, it would’ve been when it snowed in hell! He could’ve manned up and said he wasn’t ready for a relationship. Instead, he threw me crumbs to keep me around.

The person who breadcrumbs you may genuinely like you and wish to be in a relationship. However, they’re somehow incapable of meeting your needs. Walk away. Don’t allow them to make you a placeholder while they keep their options open.

While they waste your time, you’re losing out on opportunities to meet someone who values commitment and will treat you the way you deserve.

Here are more potential reasons someone you care about is stringing you along:

  • They are fearful of commitment or getting hurt.
  • They have an avoidant personality so they naturally keep you at a ‘safe’ distance.
  • They want the benefits of the relationship but not the obligations (selfishness).
  • They are too lazy to make an effort or lack relationship tools.
  • They have difficulty saying “No,’ e.g., saying “I’m not ready for a relationship.”
  • They have a manipulative or deceitful personality, e.g., a narcissist, gaslighter, or sociopath.
  • They are bored, lonely, or have low self-esteem. Getting your attention validates their existence.
  • They don’t want a relationship but are afraid of losing you if they let go (a dilemma).

How Getting Breadcrumbed Affects You

Avoiding the psychological effects is almost impossible when you’re emotionally invested in the person who throws you bits and pieces to keep you around. 

Even though it’s not always consciously or intentionally done, those on the receiving end of breadcrumbing often suffer emotional and mental consequences.

You may feel confused in the early phase. Some victims confessed to questioning whether the breadcrumber really cared about them at all. Others experienced self-doubt about their appearance or felt unlovable.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself asking, “What’s wrong with me?” the same way I did when I fell for a breadcrumber. The ordeal reignited my deep-seated distrust for men, right when I was starting to get over my trust issues from the past.

In your case, you may find yourself on high alert for any sign someone is playing with your emotions.

On the contrary, someone who was constantly held at arms’ length by a lover may become clingy in their future relationships. Guilt, shame, low- self-esteem, and self-loathing are other psychological impacts.

Overall, how deeply you’re emotionally impacted depends on your level of interest in the breadcrumber. Months may pass before you finally realize you got played. This type of betrayal can send anyone into an emotional tailspin.

14 Unmistakable Signs You’re Getting Breadcrumbed

Breadcrumbing gives you hope for a future that doesn’t really exist. Here’s how to tell you’re being strung along by someone who’s only luring partners for surface-level relationships and casual sex. 

#1. They Give You Just Enough Time and Attention

A text here and there comes in from the person. You get excited at each ping. After all, they hardly reach out. Your excitement is short-lived, just like their text interaction.

You’d be lucky if they call, but phone chats also last a few minutes. Talk about a very short attention span.

A mere “Hi, there” is a lot for you, though, because it gives you the sense that they’re interested. Otherwise, they won’t text, right? Not quite. They are intent on stimulating your oxytocin just enough to keep you hooked.

#2. They Target Your Weaknesses

In some cases, targeting your emotions and weak spots is intentional. A malignant narcissist or someone with sociopathic tendencies may more likely be this cruel. 

Better yet, if you’re an empath or someone who trusts easily, you can easily fall victim to breadcrumbing by a narcissist. These individuals only use others for personal gain.

Narcissists frequently need an ego boost. As such, they may future fake or give you false hope to keep you around as a secondary supply of narcissistic fuel.

#3. They Communicate Off and On

There isn’t much that’s consistent with the person, including their communication style. They can’t even commit to consistent texting or dates.

Days or weeks may pass in between communication. You’ll feel like you’re in an off-and-on ‘relationship’. Call it a ‘situationship’, if you will.

breadcrumbing signs | how to deal with breadcrumbing | breadcrumbing definition
Avoiding the psychological effects is almost impossible when you’re emotionally invested in the person who throws you bits and pieces to keep you around. 

You can never seem to wrap your head around whether you guys have something going or you don’t. The moment you decide to cut ties, they start communicating more frequently.

Again, it’s not because they love you so much. It is to pull you back in. As soon as you get comfortable again, they start dropping you the crumbs.

#4. They Keep Things Vague

Do you often feel as if you’re playing fill-in-the-blanks with your love interest? Take it as one of the signs of breadcrumbing. Breadcrumbers and future fakers make vague plans because of the fear of commitment.

For example, they may say “Let’s get together for coffee this weekend,” but don’t state a time or date. Is it gonna be Friday, Saturday, or Sunday? They’ve left a window of opportunity to get out of the date.

At first, you may think they don’t like to speak much similar to introverts. But don’t get it twisted. The lack of clarity is intended to keep you guessing.

Some breadcrumbers get a high off of keeping you guessing where you stand with them. I agree that it’s cruel, which is why breadcrumbing falls under emotional abuse.

#5. Their Actions Do Not Match Their Words

They say they like you and want a relationship but act the opposite. How many times have you two dated or spent quality time together in the past 6 months? 

You can probably count them on both hands. They may claim to be too busy to meet when you point out the lack of emotional intimacy.

However, they’re never too busy for those episodes of heavy sexting to lure you into bed. The person also keeps turning down dating opportunities even though they say they think you’re the ONE. Being on the receiving end of these ‘mixed messages’ could cause anyone to feel confused.

#6. They Don’t Treat You Like A Priority

Breadcrumbs are unwanted bits and pieces of bread. No one really eats it, so why would someone try to feed you that? Because they don’t value you. In fact, they don’t think of you as a priority.

Usually, the breadcrumber will connect with you when their priority contacts are too busy to entertain them. Otherwise, you won’t hear from them.

When they finally reach out, you’ll receive flirty or sexually suggestive text messages and eggplant emojis. Once they determine you're not interested in shallow conversation or hooking up, they’ll cease replying, for now.

And if you feel like the person you're with now is not treating you right, then watch this video to help you find your suitable partner:

#7. They Hardly Put in An Effort

Healthy relationships take two people making time to meet up and get involved in bonding activities.

Breadcrumbers run away from emotional connection. Seeing you in person puts them at risk of getting emotionally attached.

Therefore, they’ll pursue a relationship via texting. Their chats are an endless loop of flirting and trying to get you to come to their home. They rarely call and getting them to go on dates feels like pulling teeth.

Many times, they stop responding in the middle of a text conversation. The next time you hear from them, they don’t apologize for being rude.

#8. They are Flaky with Plans

Great! You finally get them to agree to a date, after insisting they set up a place, time, and day to meet. Much to your chagrin, they back out of the plan–at the last minute!

You may not think much of it the first time they flaked on you. You only realize something’s not right after they repeatedly stood you up.

They’ll have a good excuse for chickening out at the nth hour, but won’t make an effort to change their behavior. That’s a breadcrumber for you.

They’re a complete and utter let-down. They are good at getting your hopes and excitement up, only to quickly crush them.

#9. They Make You Think They Will Commit

Dealing with a breadcrumber is like being treated to a ‘cliffhanger’ at the end of the movie. They always leave you wanting more. The whole dating phase feels like a teaser, a sneak preview of what’s to come. Only that you never get to see the entire film.

signs of breadcrumbing | breadcrumbing | what is breadcrumbing
They say they like you and want a relationship but act the opposite.

One thing these arms’ length relationshipers have in common is they rarely ever commit. It makes sense considering that a fear of emotional vulnerability is one reason why some people string others along.

#10. They Make You Feel You’re Not Doing Enough

While they keep dangling the carrot in front of you, presenting the idea that you’ll win the prize, you find yourself giving and giving. You think to yourself that if you’re a little nicer or a bit more affectionate you’ll get the ‘carrot’.

Don’t allow this shallow person to treat you like a rabbit who has to perform for a treat. Eventually, you feel emotionally drained. If you try to walk away, they’ll toss themselves at you.

Perhaps they’ll finally show up for a date and lovebomb you with compliments, gifts, or a lavish dinner at the best restaurant in town. It’s just a game to pull you back onto the emotional rollercoaster ride.

#11. They Appear More Interested in Sex

Breadcrumbing and booty calls seem to go together. Of course, sex is a part of healthy romantic relationships.

The problem here is that the person is usually eager to meet up only behind closed doors. There’s nothing special about someone sexually objectifying you.

People who are not ready or willing to commit tend to stay around for sex and other perks. You cannot trust them with your emotions, as they’re not interested in love.

There’s usually “no contact until they are ready for the next hookup,” Dana McNeil, PsyD, a licensed marriage and family therapist told the Insider.

#12. They Treat You Like An Afterthought

Not only do they maintain a strange air of mystery, breadcrumbers treat you like you’re NOT a priority.

Texts will pop up from them when they have nothing else to do with their lives. Perhaps their primary source of attention and validation isn’t available. That’s when they’ll throw some more crumbs your way to grab yours.

what is breadcrumbing | breadcrumbing signs | how to deal with breadcrumbing
They can’t even commit to consistent texting or dates.

This is how you can tell they’re using you. If they considered you a priority, they would make time to regularly text, call, and spend quality time with you. Don’t buy their bullshit about being “busy.” People make time for what’s important to them, right?

#13. They Forge a Shallow Relationship with You

How much do you really know about this person? Better yet, how much do they know of your past, likes, dislikes, dreams, and aspirations? Perhaps you’re now realizing not very much.

Secretive and elusive are apt descriptions of breadcrumbers. You may think they’re hiding something. You’re right. They’re hiding the fact that they’re really not interested in you on a deep emotional level.

They’re usually emotionally detached and distant, like emotionally unavailable and avoidant people who struggle to commit.

#14. They Disappear and Then Suddenly Reappear

Honestly, a real relationship never really ever comes out of this type of toxic, hopeless situation. According to Cosmopolitan, Breadcrumbing Is the New Ghosting and It’s Savage AF.

You’ll get ghosted, but that’s not the end. They’ll miraculously show up looking for a booty call, then ghost you again. Usually, they’ll show up right when your self-esteem is growing or you’re about to move on.

Don’t be fooled. They’re not reformed and ready to commit, but only trying to reel you back in for a fresh cycle of Hansel and Gretelling. You’ll know by their MO–the usual flirty text messages trying to appeal to your libido. There’s usually no explanation, empathy, or compassion for you.

Final Thoughts on Signs of Breadcrumbing

Interaction with a breadcrumber is mostly one-sided and only leads to a loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, and despair. Isn’t it ironic how they give you so little, yet are able to get you emotionally attached?

Don’t get sucked into their toxic web of deceit. They know they don’t want to or are emotionally unable to meet your needs.

Since they lack the emotional maturity to ‘man up' and commit, they end up stringing you along. The best thing is to heed these signs of breadcrumbing and ignore people who waste your time and emotional energy. In fact, block ’em!

You’ll save yourself from sleepless nights, anxiety, shame, and guilt related to this kind of emotional abuse. You know you deserve someone who values you enough to take you seriously. Discover 9 Breadcrumbing Examples & How to Respond to Someone Doing It.

And if you're looking for more articles about relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:

signs of breadcrumbing | breadcrumbing | what is breadcrumbing
Share this: