Unless every single first date or hookup you've ever had has turned into a long-term relationship, chances are, you've experienced breadcrumbing to some degree. If you've never heard of the term, breadcrumbing is when someone leads you on just enough to keep you interested (anything from throwing you an Instagram "like" once a month to occasionally texting and hooking up with you), but not enough to actually be in a relationship with you.
"Breadcrumbing is the conscious act of leading someone on for the thrill of the ego boost," Susan Winter, best-selling author and relationship expert, tells Elite Daily. "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."
Yeah, breadcrumbing is that sh*tty, you guys.
Here, five brave people share their personal stories of being breadcrumbed that will make you want to throw your hands in the air and give up.
This girl was breadcrumbed by a guy who "didn't want a girlfriend."
I went to New York City for some Tinder f*ckboy who didn't want to get rid of me because the sex was awesome. He'd been on-and-off radio silent for weeks and I was convinced going to see him would change something (he was still in school and on break). Then after the trip, he went back to radio silence and told me he 'didn't want a girlfriend.' Two months later, he started dating someone four years younger than me who looked legitimately 12 years old.
— Kate, 24
This guy was breadcrumbed by a guy who planned "well thought-out dates" for the two of them.
First and foremost, what is dating if not actively seeing someone multiple times a week, sleepovers, etc. over the course of six months? Apparently, [that is] not dating. That was made clear to me Fourth of July weekend via text message.
Whoever knows where to send the bill for the countless dinners, well thought-out dates including Dua Lipa and Lauryn Hill concerts, and the Patti Smith poetry reading, let me know. [He said,] 'I really care about you...' Sure, just not enough.
What's even better is having him [say] he's not ready to be in a relationship because he's too broken, but he really needs to see where the two of us go. Even better than that, waking up to Facebook telling you he now has been in a relationship for a few months.
— Andrew, 24
This girl was breadcrumbed by a guy who dodged labels by saying "I know this is basically a relationship, but I don't want to call it that."
I was once seeing a guy a couple times a week for a few months. He knew that I was really into him and wanted something serious, and we were exclusive, but he would dodge the question of labels by saying stuff like, 'I know this is basically a relationship, but I don't want to call it that.'
For awhile, I didn't question his stance because he was a great quasi-boyfriend. But then his responses started petering out, and I'd get anxious that he wasn't interested in me anymore... until he'd hit me up randomly, or do something insanely luxurious and nice for me (a hot bath filled with rose petals surrounded by candles on a random Tuesday night), and I'd feel better about the situation. Finally, he straight up ghosted me. In hindsight, I should've seen that he was breadcrumbing me. I love dating!
— Hannah, 24
This girl was breadcrumbed by a guy via weird social media likes.
For months after we’d stopped seeing each other, a guy I dated would like almost every single one of my Instagrams that were selfies and/or thirst traps, but never photos of me with friends or anything like that. He even once texted me about an IG to tell me how good he thought I looked in it. In case that wasn’t enough to give me false hope it wasn’t really over, he also texted me about random things every few weeks. It didn’t stop until he got a girlfriend.
— Sam, 25
This girl was breadcrumbed by a really good friend.
I was friends with this guy all four years of college. We were great friends, had a constant flirtation going, hinted that we were attracted to each other, would like each other's social media posts, all that stuff. But we never did anything more than that, because he was in a relationship whenever I was single, and I was in a relationship whenever he was single.
Senior year, we were both single for the first time ever, and we started talking more and hooking up. That continued for a couple of weeks, and I was ready to (finally!) start dating — something I thought we'd both kind of wanted to try for years. But I should have realized he was just breadcrumbing me, because he slowly started pulling away, stopped answering my texts, and eventually became so distant that he didn't even say hi to me when we passed each other in the quad. I think he got back with his ex-girlfriend, but it really sucked because not only did I lose a romantic prospect, but I lost a really great friend.
— Christina*, 24
* Name has been changed.
Who's ready to cancel dating forever?
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