Keeping someone on the hook isn't a new phenomenon, but it has recently received a name of its own: Breadcrumbing. It can be hard to tell if a person is leading you on, which is why it's important to figure out ways to know if someone is breadcrumbing you or if they're actually interested and just really bad at communication. With ghosting, it's a little more obvious, but someone's failed attempts at expressing themselves could very well come off as attempts to lead someone on.
"Some people might like to keep their options open," says Nikki Goldstein PhD over email. "If things are casual they might not want to close the door completely. Or, they don't know how to breakup with someone and are scared of that awkward conversation or hurting someone feelings."
Breadcrumbing might not be as painful as ghosting, but it's also not as obvious. However, you don't want to hold out hope for someone who has no interest in being with you. So how can you tell whether it's time to let go? Here are 11 questions that can help you tell if someone is breadcrumbing you or if they're actually interested and just really bad at showing it.
1Is The Situation Progressing?
"If communication is not hitting the mark, and you feel like you are standing still then this might make things clear," says Goldstein. When true feelings are involved, a relationship will progress, even if it's slowly. But when you are being breadcrumbed, nothing changes.
2How Long Do You Go Without Talking?
Miscommunications are usually when you don't hear back for a short period — not a pattern. "Maybe a project was due and it consumed the weekend, but it can't consume 6 months when you hear back with only erratic messages," says matchmaker Susan Trombetti over email.
3Are They Dating Other People?
"Have you found them on dating website, or have you heard they are seeing other people?" says Goldstein. "This might be an indicator that they are either not ready to commit to one person or are breadcrumbing you."
4Are Your Interactions Mostly Negative Or Positive?
If your interactions make you feel good most of the time, that's a good sign. However, if the bad times outweigh the good, then this should be clear. "He is either not into you or the situation is not working," says Goldstein. "Either way, it's time to take a closer look."
5Do You Get Together For More Than Just Sex?
Take a look at what you do when you hang out — do you just have sex? "Maybe the relationship started out great, you went out together, and had fun, but now you only hang out for late night happy hour and a quickie afterward," says relationship expert April Davis over email. "Don't fool yourself: It isn't a real relationship. They just want to see you once in a while for one reason, and you're not they only one they're doing this to."
6Do They Stick To Their Plans With You?
Occasional rain checks over a long period of time are understandable, but if you literally never see them, you are not a top priority. "The reason people breadcrumb is because they want to keep their options open," says Davis. "When they feel you pulling away, or can see you moving on through social media, they'll send you a simple text just to plant the idea of them in your head."
7What Do You Guys Talk About?
"If a person asks really general information about you, rather than specifics, they are breadcrumbing," says relationship expert Suzanne Venker over email. Someone who is interested wants to have more meaningful conversations, even if it takes them a little bit longer to respond.
8How Is Their Attitude?
"A person who's simply bad at showing their interest will be kind and solicitous, as opposed to flippant and non-committal," says Venker. "They will never be rude or stand-offish — just more shy."
9Who Initiates Conversation?
"If you're always having to take the initiative, and they respond nicely without cutting you off entirely, the person is breadcrumbing," says Venker. If it feels one-sided, it probably is.
10How Long Are Their Responses?
Some people are just not big texters, so someone could still be into you without wanting to chat all day. But if someone is sending one word responses and you're engaging much more in conversation, they might just be stringing you along. "If this is a common occurrence, you might want to consider if it's their attitude towards texting or their attitude towards you," says Goldstein.
11What Does Your Gut Say?
"Sometimes no amount of reading into texts or talk can interpret what is really going on," says Goldstein. "You can't underestimate what a gut feeling can tell. Do you think you are being breadcrumbed?"