Expert Insights How to Identify Breadcrumbing and Expert-Backed Strategies to Navigate It in Relationships

Here are Expert Tips on Spotting Breadcrumbing and Taking Appropriate Action in Relationships

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What is breadcrumbing?

Dating is all fun and games until the object of your affection starts leaving you “breadcrumbs.” A newly coined term which essentially describes leading someone on, getting “breadcrumbed” can feel even worse than being ghosted or outright rejected, because it keeps you coming back for more.

Here’s how to spot breadcrumbing, plus what to do about it, from relationship experts.

Breadcrumbing is a dating tactic that involves stringing someone along with “breadcrumbs” of attention in order to keep them interested. It’s like when you’re starving for a full course meal, but all you get are a few measly crumbs from the table. As Chamin Ajjan, a sex therapist, puts it, these “breadcrumbs” come in the form of frequent but empty communications that make you think they’re interested, only to lead nowhere.

According to psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, breadcrumbing has become all too common in the age of DMs and social media. It’s so effortless for someone to like your Instagram posts or reply to your stories, giving you the false impression that they’re still interested. But in reality, there’s no substance, no meaningful connection. It’s just a facade to keep you hooked, like a fish nibbling on a baited line.

The breadcrumbs are those little instances where you think they’re interested, but it’s just a tease. Alicia Muñoz, a couples’ therapist, explains that one week they might slide into your DMs, and the next they ghost you or change their behavior entirely. It’s like a rollercoaster ride with no guarantee of a smooth landing.

7 Signs You’re Being Breadcrumbed

Identifying breadcrumbing behaviors can be tricky, but remember, it’s all about the follow-through. If there’s no follow-through, then that’s what crumb giving is all about. So, here are the telltale signs you’re being breadcrumbed:

Signs of Breadcrumbing
Intermittent texting
Social media likes and DMs
Flirting without follow-up
Plans that keep falling through
Hot & cold affection
Only interested in sex
Questions about the relationship are shut down

Let’s break these down with a sprinkle of humor and a dash of fashion.

Intermittent texting

Sure, some people might play the “I’m a bad texter” card, but let’s be real, if they’re into you, they’ll slide into your DMs like a supermodel on a catwalk. If their texts are sporadic, shallow, and devoid of depth, chances are they’re not looking for a real connection. It’s like getting a cheap knockoff accessory when what you really want is a designer bag.

Social media likes and DMs

Don’t be fooled by digital flirtation—it’s a mirage in the desert of love. Liking your posts or sliding into your DMs without engaging in meaningful conversation is like trying to accessorize with a paperclip. It’s cheeky but ultimately useless, leaving you empty-handed. As Annette Nuñez puts it, it’s their way of saying, “Remember me, because I don’t want to commit, but keep me on your back burner.”

Flirting without follow-up

In a world governed by filter-filled photos and airbrushed perfection, it’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of flirtation. But beware, flirty behavior without any substance is like an ill-fitting garment—you’ll try to make it work, but it’ll never truly fit. So, don’t waste your precious time on empty compliments and hollow promises. You deserve a relationship that’s more than just a fashion statement.

Plans that keep falling through

We’ve all encountered those elusive creatures who make empty promises to hang out but vanish into thin air. They’re like a trend that promises to be the next big thing but fades away before you know it. Whether it’s constant cancellations, vague commitments, or perpetual busyness, it’s time to recognize that you’re not a charity case for their time. You deserve someone who will prioritize you like a timeless fashion piece.

Hot & cold affection

Mixed signals are as fashionable as socks with sandals—a fashion faux pas that leads to confusion and discomfort. One moment they’re showering you with attention, and the next they’re colder than a winter day. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that even fashion enthusiasts would refuse a front-row seat to. If you find yourself caught in this whirlwind, it’s time to step off the ride and find someone who’s consistent in their affection.

Only interested in sex

Sometimes, the breadcrumbs they toss your way are merely sexual in nature. It’s like a fashion influencer who only sends you free samples but never invites you to their exclusive runway show. If the only crumbs they offer are sexual in nature, then it’s clear they’re just looking for a good time, not a meaningful connection. Don’t settle for being a disposable accessory. You’re worth so much more than a one-night stand.

Questions about the relationship are shut down

One of the biggest signs of breadcrumbing is when they avoid or shut down any talk about the future of your relationship. When the topic of commitment arises, they sprout more excuses than a fashion designer reeling from a bad review. Busy schedules, fear of commitment, or not wanting a relationship—they’ve got more escape routes than a catwalk model. Don’t fall for their evasive tactics. It’s time to strut away and find someone who’s willing to have a real conversation.

Why do people breadcrumb?

As fashionistas, we know that some people are just attracted to shiny baubles. In the same way, insecurity, loneliness, and avoiding real connections can drive people to breadcrumb without even realizing what they’re doing. They crave multiple “relationships” to boost their self-esteem, convincing themselves that they’re not doing anything wrong. The truth is, they’re treating you like an accessory, like a trend that they can discard once it’s no longer fashionable.

But let’s not discount the fact that some people actively choose to breadcrumb. They do it to feel relevant, to keep you from moving on, or simply to keep their options open. It’s like they’re building a fashion boutique, collecting potential customers instead of committing to one buyer. They like the attention, they want to know they have somebody in their back pocket, and they’re not interested in fully investing in a relationship. It’s an ego trip, and sweetheart, you deserve better than being just a mere fashion accessory.

The impact of breadcrumbing

Breadcrumbing might seem like a glamorous game, but it can have a devastating impact on your emotional wellbeing. It’s like being caught in a game of chance, where you keep pouring your time and energy into the relationship, hoping for that jackpot moment, only to leave empty-handed. Therapist Ken Page describes it as an “attraction of deprivation,” where you become fixated on relationships with emotionally unavailable people. It’s like hunting for the perfect outfit, but all you find are knockoffs and ill-fitting pieces that leave you feeling confused and unloved.

Anxious attachment style or not, falling victim to breadcrumbing can damage your self-esteem and trust in others. You deserve someone who treats you like a Paris Fashion Week VIP, not someone who leaves you feeling like a bargain-bin find. So, rise above the crumbs and focus on loving yourself like a fashion icon.

How to handle being breadcrumbed

Ready to walk the runway of self-respect? If you’re being breadcrumbed, it’s time to stop engaging with the person and their pitiful crumbs. Have an open and honest conversation about your desires and relationship expectations. If they’re not willing to meet you halfway, it’s time to sashay away and remove yourself from their fashion show. It may be hard to risk rejection, but remember, you deserve more than cheap imitations and empty promises.

Now, darling, it’s essential to recognize that falling for the breadcrumbs is a reflection of your own inner feelings. If you find yourself believing that you need the love and affection of an emotionally unavailable person, it’s time to step back and evaluate your self-worth. Feeling bad about yourself for wanting a real relationship is a clear sign that they’re not the one. Don’t settle, my stylish friend. You’re not a knockoff accessory; you’re a timeless classic.

Break off those breadcrumbs with confidence and style. Tell them, “It seems like we have different dating priorities right now, and I’m not interested in what you’re looking for.” Remember, healthy relationships don’t require guessing games. If someone is genuinely interested in you, you won’t need to decipher their crumbs. They’ll make you feel like a fashion statement, not a discarded trend.


Q: What does it mean to breadcrumb someone?

A: To breadcrumb someone means to string them along with occasional texts, social media likes, and other forms of shallow attention in order to keep them interested. It’s like giving them a taste of the cake but never allowing them to have the whole slice.

Q: Is breadcrumbing narcissistic?

A: While breadcrumbing can certainly be an egocentric behavior, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person breadcrumbed you has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. They might just have a touch of fashion narcissism.

Q: Why would a guy breadcrumb you?

A: A guy might breadcrumb you because he wants to keep you on his back burner, lead you on, or satisfy his need for attention without committing to a real relationship. It’s like he wants to keep you as an accessory in his fashion collection.

Q: What to text a guy who is breadcrumbing you?

A: If a guy is breadcrumbing you, send him a text that makes it clear you’re looking for different dating priorities: “It seems like we have different paths we’re walking, and I’m not interested in yours. Best of luck on your breadcrumbing journey!”

The Takeaway: Don’t Settle for Fashion Crumbs

Let’s not sugarcoat it, darling. If you find yourself hanging onto breadcrumbs, it’s time to cut loose and reclaim your fashion power. True love and genuine affection require more than mere crumbs of attention. You deserve the full course, a feast of love and connection. So, don’t let those crumby individuals keep you hungry for more. Redirect your energy back to yourself, focus on self-love, and trust that the right person will offer you a buffet of love, not just breadcrumbs. Remember, you’re a fashion icon, not a fashion victim.