What is breadcrumbing? Relationship expert explains if you've been a victim of the new dating trend

What is breadcrumbing? Relationship expert explains if you've been a victim of the new dating trend
The Dating Trend of 'Breadcrumbing'

From ghosting, to blue sky dating, to red flags, pop culture is full of different terms to describe any given scenario within dating and relationships.

One of those terms includes the word "breadcrumbing," and while an image of cooking may pop into your head, it's actually a detailed term to describe when someone feeling led on or receiving the bare minimum.

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But how can you tell if you're being breadcrumbed? And what should you do about it?

Dr. Cortney Warren, Psychologist, Relationship Expert and Author of the new book, Letting Go of Your Ex: CBT Skills to Heal the Pain of a Breakup and Overcome Love Addiction gave Indy100 the lowdown on breadcrumbing.

What is breadcrumbing?

“Breadcrumbing is a manipulation tactic that only benefits one party — the breadcrumber enjoys the romantic attention they receive from you without having to truly invest in the relationship in any real way, as a committed partner would."

Dr. Warren noted that breadcrumbing is not a clinical term or a clinical diagnosis and that it's a term widely used in pop culture.

She explained how the person you're in a relationship with or having a dynamic with will be "giving you little tiny tidbits of information," to make you think they want to get to know you or want to form a relationship but they really aren't ever actually in it.

"They're kind of leading you on in a way that oftentimes is really hard for the person who is being breadcrumbed if you call it that way, because on the one hand, it seems like the person's interested in you," she told Indy100.

Examples of breadcrumbing

So what does breadcrumbing look like?

"They give you little text messages or you maybe met them a few times if you want it on a couple of dates," Dr. Warren noted, "and so they showed some interest, but now when you're trying to get a hold of them or make a plan, they're really noncommittal.

"Or they only give you like a little emoji as opposed to like an actual direct response and so often for the person who is being breadcrumbed, they feel very kind of confused."

It is often not intentional

While being breadcrumbed may feel hurtful, it may not always be intentional, according to Dr. Warren.

I don't think it's always intentionally mean and I don't think it's always even intentional," she said and noted how she "sees it as the opposite where you will find people who are breadcrumbing but they're doing it because they don't want to hurt somebody's feelings."

"They're doing it because they don't want to be the one to be like, 'Well, I'm just not that into you. Or you know, I like these things about you. But I don't see a future but for now, you know, I like you and your fun. And so I don't really want to cut you off.'

"I think that it's a way that sometimes people will react with another person when they're not sure how to directly address how they really feel."

The different reasons someone breadcrumbs

Given that breadcrumbing isn't always intentional, there could be a host of reasons why the breadcrumber is breadcrumbing in this way and could be because of something that has nothing to do with you.

From being busy, to being ill or going through something that's person, or bring stressed at work, Dr. Warren noted that there are a number things that could be going on.

"And so that's why having the conversation is so important because they might come back to you and say, 'oh gosh, I am so sorry. I am so preoccupied with you know, this work project or a breakup that I'm going through that I just don't have much energy and bandwidth to give back right now and it has nothing to do with you and I'm really sorry I hurt your feelings,' it really couldn't be that.

Ghosting and Breadcrumbing

While ghosting can be brutal as the person you're involved with vanishes, breadcrumbing can be more painful.

"Usually with ghosting, you're kind of left wondering what happened, but it's pretty clear that it's over whatever it was the friendship, the dating experience, it's done," Dr Warren explained.

"Whereas I think with breadcrumbing it's oftentimes worse for the person experiencing it because that person is still in their life, but they're giving mixed messages essentially, they're in some way saying I really liked you or want you in my life and in other ways saying I really don't like you that much, or I really don't want you in my life that much.

"And so, it could be that instead of ghosting someone, the person is just kind of doing the bread crumbs because they don't want to cut them off entirely because that seems a little bit too cruel."

However, Dr. Warren believes honesty is the best policy in situations like this.

"Ideally, you're in relationships with people who can be really honest and authentic with you and tell you what they think and how they feel," she said.

"In some ways that hurts in the short run, but in the long run, it's much better for all of our relationships, because we're coming from an authentic place that enables us to make choices to have a great life, whatever life that looks like for you."

How to confront someone who is breadcrumbing you

Confronting someone over their breadcrumbing might feel daunting, but Dr Warren shared her advice on how to go about this.

"Start from your experience, so to speak with 'I' statements," she said.

For example: "So I noticed that when I asked you to do something, you don't seem to respond positively. Or I noticed that when I send you a text message, you just send me an emoji back."

"So you start with what you think or what you're noticing, and how you feel," and by using clear examples to communicate what you would like to be different.

Dr Warren also recommended to "set a boundary" with your breadcrumber.

For example: "If you want to have a relationship with me. I would like to be more proactive in seeing each other or communicating and if you don't, I just like to know that so that I can make better choices for myself."

Having confidence

Those who are being breadcrumbed, one of Dr Warren's "biggest tip" is to "first and foremost is to focus on building your own self esteem."

"Focus on what you care about, what you need in your relationships, what you value the most in dating partners and in friendships," she said.

"And so the more you do that, the more you know who you are and what you want, and who you want in your life, the easier it will be to practice asserting yourself in situations where you don't feel valued and you don't feel honoured."

We've all probably breadcrumbed at some point

"The reality is that we're also very likely to do these things to other people," Dr Warren said.

"And so, having some perspective that all of us are on this journey, that sometimes we do things that hurt other people intentionally and sometimes we do them because we're just not very skilled at doing it another way or we're not strong enough in our own skin to tell the truth, or we're too afraid of hurting their feelings."

She noted how we're all on a journey together and while you might be hurt from being breadcrumbed, "it's probably likely that you've done it to somebody else too."

"So the reasons are very diverse, but when you notice yourself doing it stop.

Dr Warren concluded: "I really encourage people to be honest with themselves first and foremost, and then with other people in their lives, and with respect and kindness, to communicate what you really think and feel because actually it will set them free as much as it sets you free."

Dr. Cortney Warren's newest work is a self-help book on love addiction and breakups calledLetting Go of Your Ex, out now.

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