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What is Breadcrumbing?

Understanding Breadcrumbing

The manipulative dating trend, breadcrumbing is a slang term used to define flirtatious or affectionate behavior without any intention of committing to a relationship. This behavior is manipulative and inconsistent, as the person doing it keeps the other person interested but never actually commits. As a result, the recipient of breadcrumbing is often left feeling confused because actions don't match the stated intentions.


What is Breadcrumbing?

Someone who engages in breadcrumbing likes the thrill of pursuing a relationship but not the actual work involved in maintaining a commitment. They are erratic, unpredictable, and offer just enough attention to keep their romantic interest hooked. Breadcrumbing can occur in casual dating, as well as serious relationships.


Breadcrumbing vs. Gaslighting

While breadcrumbing is a type of leading someone on, it is more sophisticated than gaslighting. Gaslighting is a deliberate attempt to distort someone's perception of an event or situation. For instance, a gaslighter may deny ever flirting with you or insist that you knew they were in a serious relationship. However, someone who breadcrumbs may also gaslight and vice versa.


Breadcrumbing vs. Poor Communication

While breadcrumbing is a type of poor communication, it is also indicative of emotional instability and poor attachment to others. It is used to manipulate others, unlike other forms of poor communication, which may result from difficulty articulating needs or relying on deception or exaggeration to establish relationships.


Identifying Breadcrumbing: Six Key Signs to Look For

Breadcrumbing is a common occurrence in the dating world, with one study revealing that around 30% of people have experienced it at some point. It can manifest in various ways, making it challenging to distinguish between genuine interest and breadcrumbing behavior. Below are six signs to watch out for to help you identify breadcrumbing:


  • Individuals who engage in breadcrumbing enjoy flirting with potential romantic partners, but they never take things further. They may never ask you out, or if they do, they never follow through with concrete plans. Flirtatious Behavior That Goes Nowhere Only Interested in Physical Intimacy


  • Some breadcrumbers may spend time with you, but only to satisfy their own needs. They may only value you for physical intimacy, which can leave you feeling used.

  • The breadcrumber always seems to have something going on, making it impossible to spend quality time together. While they may apologize for their unavailability, they don't make any effort to change the situation.

  • If you're dealing with someone who breadcrumbs, you may struggle to understand their intentions. Their communication can be cryptic, requiring you to read between the lines or seek clarification from others. Breadcrumbers can be quite convincing in their expressions of interest, but their actions don't match their words. They may say they want a relationship with you, but their behavior suggests otherwise.

  • The breadcrumber may suddenly show more interest in you once you lose interest. They enjoy the challenge of pursuing you, but once they have your attention, they tend to pull back again. This can create a frustrating cycle of pursuit and rejection.

  • A breadcrumber may always seen to be busy with mysterious emergencies, sends vague communication and mixed messages. And display hot and cold energy.

Why Do People Engage in Breadcrumbing?

Breadcrumbing behavior is not always intentional or malicious. Instead, it may stem from emotional wounds that individuals project onto others. They may have been hurt in previous relationships, causing them to protect their egos, or they may fear vulnerability.


Here are some reasons why people may breadcrumb:


  • Low self-esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem may breadcrumb others to gain approval and validation. They feel good when someone shows interest in them, so they pursue that feeling repeatedly.

  • Loneliness: Breadcrumbing can provide a pseudo-connection to someone else, allowing the breadcrumber to enjoy a sense of closeness that can be comforting and temporarily relieve loneliness. At the same time, they can avoid being vulnerable.

  • Fear of commitment: Commitment requires work, but breadcrumbing does not.

  • Breadcrumbing can feel like a fun game, particularly if someone is good at it, offering emotional closeness without other intimate sacrifices.

  • Avoidant attachment style: Someone may breadcrumb because they want a genuine relationship, but once the other person gets close to them, they withdraw. This pattern is usually unconscious, but it allows individuals with an avoidant attachment style to keep their defenses up


Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Breadcrumbing can be a symptom of NPD, and it may coincide with emotional manipulation and narcissistic abuse. Breadcrumbers with NPD may breadcrumb to cope with their insecurities or to keep tabs on someone else. Furthermore, breadcrumbing can be a type of hoovering, even if the relationship has ended.


Relationship trauma


Relationship trauma can impact how safe someone feels with a partner. If someone has been hurt by others in the past, they may feel more comfortable being the one who causes pain than the one who receives it. This pattern is usually in response to fear of interpersonal conflict, and it represents an act of self-preservation.


Impacts of Breadcrumbing


When it's mild, the impact of breadcrumbing can be frustrating and confusing. In more serious forms, breadcrumbing can be devastating, especially if you trusted the other person or fell for them emotionally. Over time, breadcrumbing patterns can cause you to lower your standards or avoid dating altogether. This can cause excessive hypervigilance or neediness in relationships, or you may turn the behavior inward, exacerbating feelings of shame and selfloathing.


How to Respond to and Deal With Breadcrumbing


Breadcrumbing hurts. It's normal to feel annoyed by your situation or worried that things won't improve in the future. You may not be able to entirely stop breadcrumbing from happening, but you can take preventative steps to decrease the chance of it occurring repeatedly. Below are some ways to deal with breadcrumbing.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Breadcrumbing can be a symptom of NPD, and it may coincide with emotional manipulation and narcissistic abuse. Breadcrumbers with NPD may breadcrumb to cope with their insecurities or to keep tabs on someone else. Furthermore, breadcrumbing can be a type of hoovering, even if the relationship has ended.


Relationship trauma

Relationship trauma can impact how safe someone feels with a partner. If someone has been hurt by others in the past, they may feel more comfortable being the one who causes pain than the one who receives it. This pattern is usually in response to fear of interpersonal conflict, and it represents an act of self-preservation. Be direct: If you suspect someone may be breadcrumbing you, label the behavior and let them know how it affects you. Consider saying, "I feel hurt when you stop talking to me all of a sudden without warning. I know you're busy, but I don't want to get involved with someone who's flaky with their communication."


Determine if you're on the same page

Be honest about whether or not you want to be in a relationship. Discuss your values with the other person to see if they share similar beliefs. Decide what's non-negotiable for you: You have a right to set boundaries in your relationships. Consider what behavior you don't want to support and make a genuine effort to stop enabling it. Seek support: If you're unsure if you're being breadcrumbed, consider talking about the issue with trusted loved ones. It's important to stay open to feedback, even if you don't necessarily like it.


Practice self-compassion

Someone else's behavior doesn't dictate your worth. Remember that you didn't cause someone to hurt you, and you are still worthy of love and goodness.


Work on your self-esteem.

If you have high self-esteem, you may be less likely to tolerate breadcrumbing behavior from others.


Keep practicing emotional self-care

Emotional self-care is important, but it becomes even more important when you feel hurt or vulnerable. You can practice self-care by prioritizing rest, meaningful relationships, and activities that feel good to you.


Don't resort to it yourself

You may be tempted to breadcrumb as a revenge tactic, especially if you're trying to give someone a taste of their own medicine. However, doing so only perpetuates your pain and keeps you tethered to that person.


One of the key benefits of therapy is recognizing patterns in your life–you may play more of a role in relationship dynamics than you realize! That doesn't mean breadcrumbing is your fault. But, working with the right therapist can help you overcome any potential problems and enjoy healthier relationships in the future. Hypnotherapy is excellent for recognising the patterns, identifying the ISE (Initial Sensitising Event), clearing, healing and inserting new heathly patterns.


Final Thoughts

If you're dealing with a breadcrumber, it's important to look after your emotional and psychological needs. You don't have to tolerate abusive behavior. If you're struggling to let go of this relationship, or if you keep falling into the same frustrating patterns, consider reaching out for support. Don't resort to it yourself: You may be tempted to breadcrumb as a revenge tactic, especially if you're trying to give someone a taste of their own medicine. However, doing so only perpetuates your pain and keeps you tethered to that person.

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