Here’s How To Tell If You’re Being Breadcrumbed By Someone

by Annie Foskett

I've never been breadcrumbed. Well, at least not since the term "breadcrumbing" has entered the zeitgeist. That's not a humblebrag; it's an admission of my age and a testament to the fact that most of my recent dates have been duds. On second thought, can you be breadcrumbed after a first date? I recently went out with someone who continued texting me, but never asked me out again. On third thought, the signs of breadcrumbing are probably a lot more overt than some polite post-date texts.

For any other aging millennials who may be unfamiliar with what constitutes "breadcrumbing" here's my take: Breadcrumbing is like diet ghosting. It's what happens when a person realizes a relationship is going nowhere, but rather than straight up disappearing or ending it with words, they string you along with little "crumbs" of attention.

You know how Hansel and Gretel of fairytale fame left a trail of breadcrumbs in the woods so they could find their way home? Breadcrumbers leave a trail of casual texts and DMs so they can find their way home to your bed for sex. You know, because ghosting doesn't usually lead to future booty calls. (See also: "Have your cake and eat it too.")

To be fair, breadcrumbing isn't always as nefarious as I'm making it seem. Life circumstances and modern technology might mean that you keep in touch with someone you used to date without any ill-intentions. It's hard to let go sometimes, and that's OK. So how do you figure out if you are actually being breadcrumbed? Like, in the mean way. Here are some very clear signs you are interacting with a Hansel/Gretel:

1. They Are Dating Someone Else/Other People

If someone is texting you regularly, but also still dating other people, in a way, they are breadcrumbing you. They are essentially saying, "Hey, I want to keep my options open, but I'm still going to text you once a week so we can meet up when it's convenient for both of us." If you are on board with this, props to you. If you are not, say "night night" to that relaysh.

To be clear: It's also totally realistic that a person wants to date a bunch of people casually without being a jerk. As long as you are comfortable with the amount of communication and commitment that's been established, you probably aren't being breadcrumbed.

And if an ex is dating someone new, but still liking your bikini Instagrams and sending lightly flirtatious DMs your way — run! Those are some tempting croissant-level crumbs, and you're on a no-exes diet.

2. They Only Send You Suggestive Texts

... or tag you in memes. When someone truly cares for you, they make time for you. They text you asking you actual questions. They might even call you regularly. They try to see you regularly. If someone you were or are dating has stopped communicating with you in meaningful ways, and only texts you flirtatious jokes or even sexts, here's the real deal: They probably just wanna f*ck.

"[Breadcrumbing is about] making someone think they're cared for, important and relevant — but the breadcrumbs are just a way to keep the person in the game," says founder of Relationship Advice Forum April Masini. It's confusing, because technically bae is still reaching out, but not in the right ways.

3. They Don't Make Plans With You

You know that friend (acquaintance) you run into every so often? You always declare your love for each other, insist on starting an email thread to schedule drinks, and then never make it happen? Instead, your friendship mainly consists of liking each others' Instagrams regularly. That's like the platonic, diet version of breadcrumbing.

Maybe that friend is in your field, and you want to keep the relationship open. Or, maybe you genuinely want to see them, but are busy. No matter what, you make time for the friends you actually care about and want to see. The same thing goes for dating. If you are "dating" someone who you haven't seen in person for three weeks, chances are you are being breadcrumbed. (Unless they're traveling.)

I know these signs seem obvious, but when you have feelings for someone they can be more difficult to see. If you're not sure if someone is breadcrumbing you, I say be a brave woman and ask them straight out. The term is basically in the lexicon now, they'll know what you mean.

Why would someone breadcrumb you if they cared about you? And why would you want to be with someone who doesn't care about you? "Sometimes [people] breadcrumb others because they're lonely, sometimes fearful of being alone, and sometimes sadistic, or simply selfish," explains Masini.

If you think you're being breadcrumbed, you don't have to be accusatory, you just have to be clear about what you want: is what this person is giving you enough for you, or do you want more? If it's the latter, go forth and find someone who will bring you a whole bagel. They're out there.

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