By Nikhita Mahtani
Have you ever met a guy you seemed to naturally click with?
You were on a roll texting each other back and forth, and you felt SO excited at the potential of hanging out and seeing where the relationship would lead.
You kept your flirty exchange going on for a while… and maybe you still are. You’ve been waiting for more concrete plans, phone calls, or even just a little attention.
But you never got it.
I’m sorry, but you’ve just been breadcrumbed.
Often promoted as the new “ghosting,” breadcrumbing is when a guy leads you on with texts, calls and maybe even plans to meet up… but he never acts on any of it.
As NYC relationship expert and bestselling author Susan Winter puts it,
Breadcrumbing is the conscious act of leading someone on for the thrill of the ego boost. It’s the ‘hot’ cycle in the game of hot and cold. Designed to lure in one’s prey through attention, flattery and sexual intrigue, breadcrumbing is completely self-serving. It’s a head trip, played for control and domination.
So, yeah. That guy you’re getting butterflies in your stomach for is only using you for attention, and has no plans of keeping the relationship going.
“Breadcrumbing is the conscious act of leading someone on for the thrill of the ego boost.” Susan Winter
It kind of sucks, but when you’re head-over-heels infatuated with the potential of this new guy, it’s tempting to just make an excuse about how “busy” the guy is, and how he’s obviously interested. Otherwise, why would he keep texting you?
It’s important to listen to your gut, and notice the tell-tale signs of breadcrumbing.
Breadcrumbing consists of small doses of hope. Texts, comments on social media, perhaps even an extended conversation or meeting — all of which is crafted to hook you romantically. Who doesn’t want to feel special and appreciated?
Signs of breadcrumbing include texts sent when you can’t answer and calls made when the person knows you can’t pick up. It also involves flirty text messages with no concrete plans of meeting up, and random social media attention such as likes or comments.
Are you getting weird responses when you ask for the person’s schedule and vague contact messages like, “Speak soon” or “Let’s touch base later on?” YEP, he’s breadcrumbing you.
At a certain point, you’ll take the bait in the hopes this person will finally acknowledge your presence properly again. But unfortunately, that’s when you’ll get radio silence.
When you’ve finally given up hope, the breadcrumber psychically senses your absence. Suddenly, they resurface.
Now, the game begins again with more flattery and alluring bait… also known as the breadcrumbs.
It’s a constant cycle of back and forth, with no real destination at the end.
But there’s a way out.
There are two ways to fight the breadcrumbing once you’ve recognized the common signs.
The first? Confrontation. Winter says,
Call them out on their bad behavior. Clarify you know this game and you’re not interested. Walk away… and keep walking. There’s no rehabilitation for an ego in need of this level of compensation.
Breadcrumbers usually need the ego boost because they’re insecure. They need to know someone is interested in them, so they use you as a pawn in their own sad lives. Don’t be fooled.
By confronting the breadcrumber, you’re showing that you’re smarter than he or she might have expected. You’re effectively removing the attention the breadcrumber needs to thrive, and are therefore affecting his or her self-esteem.
The second way to fight a breadcrumber is by simply ignoring him or her. Essentially, you’re ghosting the breadcrumber.
Lisa Brateman, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship specialist in NYC, says,
When you begin to suspect that this is happening, pivot your mindset. Do not waste your energy on someone who will probably never exist for you other than online. If there are no plans to meet in person within the first few weeks, the reason is the interaction isn’t intended to develop past superficiality.
Brateman suggests by ignoring the breadcrumber and not giving the attention he or she has come to expect from you, you’re allowing a way for the breadcrumber to move on and find someone else. Also, it’ll feel great to have the breadcrumber vying for YOUR attention for a change.
But I know: It sucks when you think there’s the potential for more in someone who’s really just a giant asshole. But I promise you, things get better.
You’ll find someone who actually cares about you, and who will give you the time and respect you deserve. Why settle for breadcrumbs when you can have the whole damn loaf, anyway?