Breadcrumbing, and how we fall for it

Breadcrumbing is a new term in dating, but the behavior has been around for a while. Like with ghosting, if you’ve been dating for any period of time, chances are you’ve encountered someone who does it, or perhaps you do it yourself.

Breadcrumbing is a tactic of leading someone on through “breadcrumbs,” like sending flirty texts or casual invitations that go nowhere.

Think of it this way: if you are breadcrumbing someone, that person is your Plan B, in case you crave a last-minute hookup or flirtation. If you give that person a little bit of evidence to seem like you’re interested — texting at random times, inviting them out for that late night drink in the hopes of hooking up (if nobody better is around), liking their posts on social media — just enough attention so that you can “hook” them into wanting more, then you are breadcrumbing.

If you’ve been breadcrumbed yourself, you know how frustating it can be. When someone you are attracted to drops in and out of your life, you start second-guessing everything — did I say the wrong thing? Does he not find me sexy enough? Do I laugh too loudly? Was he intimidated by me? What did I do wrong????

In other words, it can send you down a rabbit hole of questioning who you are and what you’re worth.

Some of us have even fallen in love with our breadcrumbers. We distract ourselves as we secretly keep watch over our phones, hoping for that next crumb. A flirty text, a photo, a Facebook or Instagram like, even a casual invitation for a drink can send us back into emotional limbo, wondering if we have a chance.

This isn’t real dating. Breadcrumbing is nothing more than a tactic of avoidance, though it’s hard to see this in the moment. When you’re interested or attracted in someone, you’re more likely to overlook certain red flags— like if he cancels dates again and again, or neglects to text you back.

Breadcrumbing is something we don’t want to admit is happening to us.

It’s hard to see clearly when chemistry is in high gear. Maybe you’ve been seeing your breadcrumber off and on for months or even years, and you love him but have no idea where you stand. You wonder if one day he’ll realize you’re The One. Make no mistake: if he hasn’t come through so far, he’s not The One.

When you find yourself making more excuses for your date than enjoying his company, chances are it’s not a two-way street.

But how do you really know you’re being breadcrumbed? Here are a few signs…

You flirt more over text or social media than IRL.

If he’s flirty over text, or compliments you on your Instagram posts but avoids meeting you in person, that’s not real love, that’s a virtual relationship. Stop engaging in online flirtation. It just perpetuates the breadcrumbing.

They are vague about plans.

If he won’t commit to any concrete plans but still engages with you sporadically, suggesting you get together, then it’s a red flag that he might be breadcrumbing you. A man who is interested is excited to get together and wants to know when he’ll see you again. HE MAKES PLANS. If he’s not putting forth the effort, or if he’s perpetually busy, he’s not that interested.

They text sporadically.

Does he text you flirtatious messages one day and then goes silent the next? Do you find yourself waiting around for him to respond? If you feel like you’re on hold, then you probably are. It’s best to acknowledge he’s breadcrumbing and move on.

They pop in and out of your life.

Sure, you might have shared a few steamy nights together, but he goes for weeks or months without contacting you, only to reappear out of the blue. This isn’t a sign that he’s interested in you again — it means he’s keeping you around as his “backup” option.

Don’t be anyone’s Plan B. Breadcrumbing is not dating, so don’t mistake it for something real.