What it is and 8 signs it’s happening to you
- Breadcrumbs occur when someone gives you just enough time and attention to interest you.
- But the Hatters don’t want to commit – instead, they manipulate you into wanting more.
- Responding inconsistently and not following plans are clear signs of breadcrumbs.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference Library for more tips.
If you feel like you’re giving more than you get with a potential partner, or if you’re on an emotional roller coaster, you could be a victim of breadcrumbs.
“Breadcrumbing is a behavior in which one partner essentially gives the other partner just enough the energy, time, attention, affection, or words of affirmation that provide some of the elements of being in a loving relationship. However, the other partner is still not present,” explains Dana McNeil, Doctor of PsychologyCertified Marriage and Family Therapist and Founder of The place of the relationship.
The breadcrumb trail is a sign of emotional abuse because it involves manipulation. Here are eight clear breadcrumb signs and how to deal with them.
1. Their actions don’t match their words
There is certainly some truth to the saying that actions speak louder than words.
McNeil says breadcrumb victims can get so hooked on the wonderful things that the other person tells them they don’t step back to assess whether the person’s actions match their words. The breadcrumbs do this to keep you interested without fully engaging.
“For example, if your partner says they love you and want to be in a committed relationship with you, but never seem to make time to spend time with you or make plans with you, so he doesn’t match his words to his demeanor,” McNeil says.
2. They respond inconsistently
The classic breadcrumb behavior is inconsistent communication. For example, there may be times when they’re super responsive, followed by times when they seem to fade away, says Kimberley Panganibana licensed marriage and family therapist Choose therapy.
“They give you just enough to keep you thinking they’re interested, followed by periods of complete silence to push you away. When they sense they’re in danger of losing you, they start paying attention again until ‘they sense you’re engaged,’ Panganiban says.
3. They talk to you but don’t set up a date
With breadcrumbs, it’s common to get stuck in an endless loop of flirty messages with no dating plans, McNeil says.
“It creates confusion because even if you ask them to set a time to meet, those requests may be met with apologies, ambiguous responses, or outright rejection delivered in seductive packaging that goes nowhere,” says McNeil. .
4. They don’t follow their plans
If and when you finally make plans with someone who has breadcrumbs, they’re likely to cancel, usually with a very good reason for their inability to keep their commitment, Panganiban says.
It can create a cycle of hope and excitement about spending time with the other person and making progress in your relationship, only to be completely disappointed.
“Someone who is serious about you and the relationship will keep their commitments. Crumbs aren’t serious, so they’ll often be flaky,” says Panganiban.
5. They make plans in the moment, usually around sex
Crumbs can be important for loot calls, McNeil says. On the rare occasions when a breadcrumb inspires plans, it’s usually spur-of-the-moment and sex-driven.
They may actually let down their walls and become vulnerable with you during this time, but it doesn’t last. “After the booty call, they go back to their normal lives, with no future plans with you and no contact until they’re ready for the next hookup,” McNeil explains.
6. They don’t talk much about their life
Breadcrumbs can be secretive about their lives, which can make you feel like they’re hiding something, says Panganiban. They may share a few things about their life to draw you in and make you feel a little closer, but they don’t go overboard with you or open up as much as you do.
“They intentionally keep you at a distance because they don’t want to get too close. Therefore, they may share information about themselves, but you won’t really feel like you really know them,” says Panganiban. .
7. They are less interested in you than you are in them.
Since hatters don’t intend to create a real, lasting connection, they probably won’t waste their energy trying to genuinely get to know you, Panganiban says.
You might come across as charming and flirtatious, but they don’t ask questions or spend time trying to connect on a deeper level. “You’ll feel like you’re pursuing them and investing a lot in trying to move the relationship forward and it won’t be reciprocated from them,” Panganiban says.
8. You feel bad about yourself after spending time with them.
Breadcrumbs can take you on a roller coaster of emotions.
McNeil says that while they may flirt with you or compliment you, they may also put you down. They may do this through tactics such as giving you a list of things you could do that would make you more interesting or comparing you to their exes.
“Being in a relationship isn’t supposed to make you feel bad about yourself, insecure, or worry if you’re enough. If this is a new feeling for you in relationships, you might want to ask yourself if you feel this way because you’re being breadcrumbs,” McNeil says.
How to manage breadcrumbs
If you suspect you’re breadcrumbs, here are five tips that can help you cope.
1. Try not to take it personally
Remember that while this behavior is about you, it is not about you. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but it’s something to keep in mind.
“People who use breadcrumbs do it to boost their own ego. They don’t care about other people’s feelings. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or that you’re not good enough” , says Panganiban.
2. Remember what you deserve
McNeil says you shouldn’t treat yourself like you deserve to be treated badly or minimize your own needs in order to make a relationship work. It’s not healthy or sustainable in the long run, because it will just let you down again and again.
3. Set clear boundaries and be direct
Having healthy boundaries is crucial for any healthy relationship. You should try to be clear with what you’re looking for, what you want, and what you expect, McNeil says.
Know where you draw the line in the sand and what you will and will not endure. “If you want to talk on the phone, have a more regular conversation, or have dates during daylight hours that don’t include being horizontal, then talk. Telling someone how you want to be treated also lets you to hear you ask for your needs and be your own advocate,” McNeil says.
4. Decide if the relationship is worth continuing
Take a close look at your “relationship” and decide if it’s worth continuing to put your energy into it. If you decide yes, Panganiban says you need to firmly state your limits.
“If they don’t meet your needs –– or if you decide not to waste even a second on them ––, disengage from the relationship so that you are available to engage with someone who can. providing you with what you need and deserve in a relationship. Panganiban said.
5. Notice the red flags in the future
You don’t have to settle for breadcrumbs. “Keep an eye out for red flags coming forward and don’t engage with people who aren’t as invested,” says Panganiban. If you decide to keep firmer boundaries, you can find more fulfilling relationships in the future.
You deserve more than crumbs. “It will never be satisfying to try to collect all those crumbs and put them together into something real and tangible when it’s full of holes, missed connections, or missing the ingredients to create real substance” , says McNeil.
Recognize the breadcrumb signs and take steps to set boundaries and clarify your intentions to get what you want out of a relationship. If the breadcrumbs aren’t meeting your needs, know when it’s time to leave the relationship and seek what you truly deserve.