In the modern dating world, the term breadcrumbed means to be given just enough attention to keep you interested but never being fully invested. Typically, you go on a couple dates with a person and then they seem to be busy or cancel dates at the last minute. You question if they are interested and feel confused because on the dates they seem “so into you,” but once they are no longer around you, they are distant and difficult to get in contact with. Usually, right when you are about to write them off, they will text you something like “Hey! It’s been a while, lets meet up soon!” At this point you start to question yourself, “was I expecting too much,” “did I overreact,” “maybe they were truly busy?” You give it another shot and after trying to figure out what they mean by “soon” you go on another date with them and have a blast. The cycle then repeats.
My Breadcrumbing Story
As every millennial who didn’t meet their lifelong partner in high school or college, I have done quite a bit of online dating… Here is an example of breadcrumbing I experienced.
I went on two great dates with a new dating partner. He was kind, asked questions about me, and was willing to be open and vulnerable early on. I was very excited! The morning of our next date he texts me profusely apologizing that he forgot about his guy’s poker night, and if he canceled there wouldn’t be enough people to play. I was disappointed and frustrated that he didn’t remember until several hours before our date, but was trying to be the “cool, flexible girl” and said, “no problem, let’s reschedule!” He texted me throughout the night and I was reassured that I wasn’t blown off and he truly forgot about poker night.
I waited patiently over the next week for him to reschedule, the ball was metaphorically in his court. I finally convinced myself that “I’m an independent woman, if I want to go on another date with him, I’ll just ask!” We scheduled our next date and the day before we were scheduled I received another text… This time he had a last-minute work meeting that popped on his schedule, and he had to cancel. I expressed my frustration but was understanding that work is important. He quickly rescheduled, so I convinced myself that something with work truly did come up. We had a wonderful date and I forgot all about the late cancels. He told me that he had a camping trip next weekend and there’s no cell service, so he will be out of touch. As you can guess with how this story is going he never texted or called again. The next time I saw him was 6 months later on a flight to DC. We both awkwardly avoided eye contact and went on with our day.
Does this sound familiar? It’s difficult at times to decipher if life events are really popping up, if they really are that bad at texting, or if they really are busy for the next month.
Why Breadcrumbing Happens
There are times when breadcrumbing is for more nefarious reasons such as the person being married or trying to play hard to get to manipulate you into chasing them, but typically it’s for reasons we are all probably guilty of.
One common reason is that the person is casually dating multiple people. With online dating, people typically are going on dates with multiple people at once. Of the multiple people someone is dating they may start to have a preference. They aren’t ready to be exclusive with the person they like best and don’t want to end it with you. So, they keep texting you but push off dates because they are prioritizing the other person. If the other person doesn’t work out, that’s typically when you get the text asking you for another date. You were already not their top choice, so their interest may decrease and increase based on their other dates.
Another reason is because they are not sure how they feel about you. Often, I hear people say they don’t want to lead people on and want to make a decision if they like a person based on the first date. They may have felt like the first date went “okay” and don’t know if they want to move forward. So, they keep texting you over the next week or so, but avoid making future plans, while they sort out what they want to do. Then they may feel lonely or consult friends who encourage them to try a second date so they text you to set it up. Due to their uncertainty, they may cancel last minute or stop talking to you after the second date. The mix signals you are experiencing are accurate and the person doesn’t know how they feel about you.
What people fear is most likely happening with breadcrumbing is that a person is dating multiple people causally, likes the attention you give them, and has no intention of dating you more seriously. They may not think you are “relationship materiel” but enjoy your company enough to turn up the attention when they feel you pulling away, and turn down the attention when they think you are getting too close. Typically, this is when you end up in a situationship. A relationship that is undefined, dates happen sporadically, and you are never sure where you stand. This can be extremely frustrating and leave dating scars that are difficult to move past.
How to Avoid Wasting Your Time and End the Breadcrumbing
Breadcrumbing feels terrible to experience. You may feel anxious, “crazy”, and uncertain if the person you are dating is breadcrumbing you. While there is no way to tell based on a first date if someone will be a breadcrumber or to prevent someone from acting in this way, we can adjust our own behavior. The moment you start questioning your dating partner’s intentions, ask for clarification. For me and clients I’ve worked with this quickly ends the pattern of dating flakey people and prevents dating burnout.
This is a vulnerable thing to do. Asking someone’s intentions leaves you open to rejection. Often people avoid this due to concerns about seeming too clingy or scaring potential dating partners away, but if you are wanting a committed relationship, it’s good to know right away if the person you are dating doesn’t want the same. They will either reject you, ghost you, or express their desire to seriously date you. With the first two options at least you know early on and don’t waste your time. Despite all the romcoms promoting this, you will not win someone over by “playing it cool” and waiting two years for them to change their mind. And if they do express a desire to date you seriously you can talk more about your expectations of how often you talk and go on dates.
Text prompts for when you think your dating partner is breadcrumbing you
It’s been difficult to schedule our next date, are you still wanting to continue to date?
I feel like I’m getting mixed signals. In person it seems like you like me, but then I don’t hear from you for days at a time. Are you interested in pursuing a relationship?
I’m having trouble deciphering if you are interested in me or not. Would you mind clarifying where you are at?
You have stated that you want to schedule another date but then you are too busy with work to schedule anything. Is dating something you can prioritize right now?
If reading these text prompts makes you sick to your stomach with vulnerability click here to schedule a phone consult to work on increasing your comfort with being direct and vulnerable! If you are wanting more resources about healthy dating check out our Self Help Page.