If Millennials are good at anything, it's inventing (or evolving) language to help us better understand ourselves. So while you may not have heard of the dating behavior "breadcrumbing," you will definitely recognize it when you hear it. Breadcrumbing is the practice of giving someone just enough attention for them to believe there's a chance at a relationship, while remaining mostly distant and emotionally (or literally) unavailable. These sample texts for confronting someone who's breadcrumbing can help you curb the bad communication practice before it emotionally wrecks you by deploying its kryptonite: honesty and directness.
Breadcrumbing is basically the dating app-ified version of what used to be called stringing someone along. Except now that we can do it via days of unanswered texts punctuated by an Instagram like, it can feel more invasive and disruptive than ever before. If someone is breadcrumbing you and it's causing you to feel, as they say, "a type of way," then that's pretty much a red flag that you two are either looking for different things, there's a stark gap in maturity levels going on, or you're just plain incompatible. But if you really like the person and believe it's worth it to confront them to try and unpack what's going on, then more power to you. Here are some good ways to start.
1. For Confrontation-Phobes
First, you have to figure out why there's a disconnect in your communication styles. If the idea of stating what you need clearly terrifies you, then I can personally attest that this is an easy place to start, because it mostly takes the focus off you.
Try this: ask "Can I ask you something?" (because consent is sexy), preferably when you already have their attention and know they're listening. Then follow up with:
"Do you feel like you're not big on texting? I've noticed that it's hard to sustain text conversations with you sometimes, and I'm wondering if you just don't like to text as much as I do."
What you're trying to do here is actually determine whether or not the person is a good match for you. Do you love the intimacy tons and tons of text banter creates when you can't physically be with someone 24/7? Do you want someone with whom to share every single great meme you saw today because it helps you feel deeply connected to them? Are you, in general, a person who processes your feelings better over long text exchanges rather than in person? If so, then spoiler alert: you may need a good, supportive, attentive texter in a partner. Own that need! If it makes you feel ashamed, or thirsty, or like you're being extra to do or need those things, then unpack why it makes you feel ashamed. Is it because other people, your culture, or society has been shaming you for it? If so, then those people probably don't share your values and you aren't compatible friends/partners.
Once you figure out the specifics of what you need from a fulfilling relationship, you can begin to use it as a filtering mechanism not just to find good partners, but to find good friends who will support your authentic desires. In other words, be clear with yourself on your needs and try your best to cultivate a sense of pride in them.
2. Hold Them Accountable For Being Unavailable
"It seems like you're busy a lot. I would really love to get to see you more often. Is that something you have time for?"
So, a classic tactic of breadcrumbers is relentless unavailability. It's impossible to cultivate a deep connection with someone when they're popping in and out of your life with long stretches of no contact in between.
I have definitely fallen victim to coaching myself to be satisfied with the time a person is ~generously giving me~ while totally ignoring what I actually need, which is more f*cking time. If you're feeling dissatisfied by the amount of time or attention a person is giving you in the early stages of a relationship, then newsflash: it's not going to magically get better later on, if and when you're "together for real." You'll just spend an entire relationship with the person longing for more from them than they're actually giving you.
Quality time is actually one of the five love languages. If you're feeling neglected early on in the relationship, it might be because time spent together is your love language, and other the person isn't speaking it. Before giving up altogether, try pointedly asking if the person has more time to give you. Be upfront about how much time you need and want to spend together.
If it's more than they're able to give you, then they may not as invested in you as you are in them. Another possibility, if they're so busy that they can't make time for you, even though they say they like you, is that they have some time management issues to address, which speaks to maturity and relationship-readiness. Work, school, family, and taking care of ourselves gets hectic for everyone. If someone is so overwhelmed by anxiety or stress that they can't make time for their partners, then they shouldn't be dating until they've gotten a better handle on it.
3. When You Have No F*cks Left To Give
"I really like you and I'd like to try exploring our connection more seriously. Is that something you're interested in, too?"
This one is not for the faint of heart. Learning to put yourself out there via flirting and casual dates is hard enough. But putting yourself all the way out there when you feel real relationship potential with someone is mega-advanced. Here's what helped me make the plunge, though.
If you've fallen really, really hard for someone, and they're breadcrumbing you, then they either don't know how much you like them and aren't considering the potential, or they're just not as into it as you are.
The person who's actually a good fit for you will lean into a relationship exactly as much as you're leaning into it (providing that everyone involved is being honest and open-hearted) at any given moment. If you're really feeling it and they're giving you breadcrumbs, then it's a pretty clear sign that you have incompatible leans. And if you pursue this connection without speaking up about how much you're feeling it, then it's likely that you will always be left craving more from the relationship. Finding people who can show up for us in the ways that we need them to is literally the best part of being an adult. But in order to do that, you have to know what you want, be able to ask for it, and be ready to hear the honest answer. That means letting go if the answer is no.
The crux of basically all relationship advice is to say to the person exactly what you would say when you're venting to your best friend about what to do. Radical honesty and radical vulnerability isn't going to attract every person who you want. But it will attract the ones who are right for you and can support you in self-love by loving you for who you really are.