You may have heard of the latest dating trend called breadcrumbing aka when you're seeing someone, have gone on a few dates with someone, or have been texting with someone you met online who gives you just enough attention to keep you in the picture but in reality, they're stringing you along via text. Like ghosting, benching, or zombieing, it's pretty much another crappy way to phase out someone you're seeing. But breadcrumbing is nothing new.
"Breadcrumbing is ridiculous and hurtful," Dr. Jennifer Rhodes, licensed psychologist, relationship expert, and the founder of the bi-costal consultancy, Rapport Relationships, tells Bustle. According to Rhodes there are two ways to handle this behavior. One is to place the person in the category of "non-serious" dating material and don't invest any of your time or energy into reading into his or her behavior. And or two, be direct. Ask them what their deal is.
"Sometimes the breadcrumbing happens due to circumstances in someone’s life and they have no idea that they are dong it. Other times, someone is just not ready for a commitment," Rhodes says. "Showing up as a grown-ass adult and asking for what you want is really the only way to maintain your sanity with this new trend. You do not need to be angry or confrontative but learning to set appropriate personal boundaries will make you feel empowered."
"Why give these morsels of hope any time of day when someone else out there is willing to give you their whole loaf?"
If you know the signs that you're being breadrcumbed and you feel like it's happening to you, here are some ways to deal:
1Get Out Early
The best way to deal with breadcrumbing is to avoid becoming victim to it in the first place. "If you met someone online who talks about getting together, yet when you suggest that you find a mutually acceptable time and place to meet in person they are never available, RUN," As Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, psychotherapist and relationship coach tells Bustle. "You can only be breadcrumbed if you go along with it."
According to Coleman, this type of behavior can be acceptable once or twice. After all, work can get hectic and schedules can jam up temporarily. Keyword: temporarily. But if you see this becoming a pattern, just forget about it. "There's no need to enter a relationship if you are repeatedly annoyed by someone's behavior before you even meet them," Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. "You would already be starting a relationship with several strikes against that person. If you've given more chances than you are comfortable with, it is time to move on."
2Be Upfront From The Very Beginning
Don't be afraid to set boundaries from the get go. "My approach with my clients who are on the dating scene is always to encourage them to be direct and upfront as much as possible, right from the start," Dr. Jennelle, a PhD psychologist and relationship advisor tells Bustle. "People often feel nervous to put their needs and wants out on the table or ask the hard questions (e.g., Do you want to see me again?) on the first few dates, but when you don't, it can set up a precedent for dishonesty and ambiguity."
If you aren't getting clear answers from someone you've just met and you've clearly stated your intentions, they're just not worth your time. According to Dr. Jennelle, the issue here has more to do with personal standards, values, and boundaries than anything else. "You are worth a direct, honest answer if you are being direct and honest yourself," she says. "If someone isn't providing you with clear answers and you are asking that they be clear, it's time to move on. You have to choose to be vulnerable but also self-protecting. Put your best intentions and true self out there and only accept those who do the same."
3Be Honest With Yourself About The Situation
"The number one rule of dating is: if someone wants to see you, they will do everything they can to make it happen," Yue Xu, dating expert and co-host of the Date/able Podcast, tells Bustle. "When we have feelings for someone, somehow we become their PR person and spin everything they say in their favor." For instance, how many times have you told yourself or others a variety of the following things:
- He's just super busy with work. That's why he's so successful.
- She's in the middle of finals because she's smart and takes school seriously.
- He's helping out a friend because he's super loyal.
- She always has family obligations because she has strong family values.
As Xu says, it's time to stop with the excuses because truth be told, no one is ever that busy. If they really are, chances are, they shouldn't even be dating in the first place. "Just keep reminding yourself that if someone wants to see you, they will move mountains to do so because you'd do the same," she says. "So if it seems like they're busy all the time but give you a glimmer of hope, let it go and move on to someone who will give you the attention, time and energy you want."
4Call Them Out
"Breadcrumbers don't actually think someone will call them out, because technically, they're doing nothing wrong," Xue says. "However, you deserve better than that. And frankly, you're more mature than that."
So let them know you know what's up. If you've noticed that things haven't escalated passed texting back and forth for a while say something like, Hey, I'm not really big on texting. Let me know when your schedule frees up. "Now if he or she still breadcrumbs you, they're obviously the asshole," Xu says.
5Don't Play Into Their Game
"Expert breadcrumbers will give you morsels of hope," Xu says. That means a cutesy text here and there. A flirty Snapchat. A couple of likes on Instagram. Maybe they'll even allude to something in the future, i.e. I can't wait until the weather's nicer so we can go on a hike.
"Don't play into their game by responding with something they want to hear," Xu says. "Instead, the best thing you can possibly do is ignore their breadcrumbs. Why give these morsels of hope any time of day when someone else out there is willing to give you their whole loaf?"
6But If You Really Want To Play Their Game, Do So On Your Own Terms
"While this may not be the best option, you can always get some satisfaction by giving it right back to them," speaker and counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle.
Taking the high road is of course the more mature way to go about it. But then again, sometimes human nature kicks in and you just want to give it right back to them. So if someone's stringing you along and taking their sweet time to get back to you, do the same. Throw them a crumb. If you hear back from them, then you can decide whether or not you want to throw them another one. Will it hurt them? Maybe, maybe not. Will it make you happy? Possibly. "The downside to doing this is you might be wasting energy you could put into finding someone worth your time," Rappaport says.
"If you begin to wonder if this person is ever going to ask you out, then it’s probably a sign that you need to move on," Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, is the founder and Chief Relationship Advisor of Relationup tells Bustle. "Take control and regain the power of the relationship. Cut them off and send the message that you have only two settings, in or out and you’re out unless they take action."
8Always Be True To Yourself
"When you're looking to start a relationship, don't ever try to sell yourself or manipulate the other person into doing what you want," Patty Newbold, author of the award-winning AssumeLove.com blog, tells Bustle. "You really won't like the long-term results, no matter how tempting they look at first glance."
I know how easy it is to fall into these dating traps. Sometimes it feels like it's easier to just go along with whatever's happening to you than to leave the situation entirely, but don't ever think you don't deserve better than just enough. Like Xue Yu said, forget the breadcrumbs. You deserve the entire loaf.