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15 Signs of Breadcrumbing and 5 Ways to Deal With It

Depending on the era of when you were, or are dating, breadcrumbing or whatever it is had different names. It was called dragging along for the most part but recently I have come across this new term, breadcrumbing. 

So I started looking into it. And tried finding out if it is exactly like the ‘dragging along’ that we knew a few years ago. Or is it more than just that? 

Before giving you the impression of ‘Oh, poor me, I’m so old’, I’m actually in my mid 30s. And I was quite surprised to find out that till now, I haven’t heard of this word before.

Ok, ok, I did hear about it…but in a totally different context and with a totally different meaning. I’ve heard about it in website development and in children’s stories. Where breadcrumbing meant to leave traces so you know where to go back to. 

But what is breadcrumbing in relationships and dating? 

Breadcrumbing is an important term in relationship and dating. Mainly because it describes a common behavior pattern that can be emotionally manipulative and hurtful. It can lead to feelings of confusion, frustration, and insecurity. As the person doing the breadcrumbing gives the other person false hope or a sense of connection . All of this without ever following through on any concrete plans or commitments.

By having a term to describe this behavior, people who are experiencing it can recognize what is happening. And make informed decisions about how to proceed. It can also help people identify and avoid potential partners who exhibit this behavior. Therefore reducing the likelihood of getting hurt or strung along. 

Additionally, understanding breadcrumbing can encourage individuals to communicate more openly and directly about their intentions and expectations in a relationship. Promoting healthier and more respectful communication between partners.

I am sure all of us have done it at least once, even if at different levels and intensities. And it certainly seemed quite innocent at that time… But when I’m actually reflecting back on the effect that it had on the other person, it does make me feel sorry for having done that. 

And it certainly has happened to me quite a few times. And it is quite hurtful. It can lead to all sorts of self-doubt and self-criticism too.  Also to endless loops of replaying things in my head, over and over again. And asking myself: ‘What could I have done differently?’ and leaving me questioning my every move and overall frustrated. 

Breadcrumbing meaning

But what does breadcrumbing mean?

Breadcrumbing is a dating trend where a person sends flirty or suggestive messages to someone they’re interested in. But they have no intention of actually pursuing a serious relationship with them. 

This behavior can include occasional text messages, likes or comments on social media, or sporadic invitations to hang out. 

The term “breadcrumbing” comes from the idea that the person is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to keep the other person interested. But never actually leading them anywhere. 

Breadcrumbing can be emotionally manipulative and hurtful. As it can give the other person false hope or make them feel like they’re being strung along.

It’s what many people who are dating still do this when they contact hundreds of individuals. And actually being interested only in a couple of them. 

Breadcrumbing Definition

The term “breadcrumbing” is not an official term recognized by any governing organization or authority. It is a slang term used to describe a specific behavior pattern in the context of dating and relationships.

Since it is not an official term, there is no specific definition set in stone. 

However, the common understanding of breadcrumbing is that it involves leading someone on through sporadic, minimal attention or communication with no intention of following through with a serious relationship.

Why is breadcrumbing bad

Breadcrumbing is bad because it can be emotionally manipulative and hurtful. 

When someone is being breadcrumbed, they are receiving mixed signals. And also attention from a person who has no intention of ever committing to a serious relationship with them. 

The person who is doing the breadcrumbing may be leading the other person on with flirty or suggestive messages. But they have no real interest in pursuing a deeper connection. 

This can cause the other person to feel confused, insecure, and frustrated, as they are left with false hope. And no clear understanding of where they stand with the person breadcrumbing them.

Being breadcrumbed can also take a toll on a person’s self-esteem and self-worth. It can make them feel like they are not good enough to be in a real relationship. Or that they are somehow lacking in some way. 

Furthermore, it can waste their time and energy on someone who is not interested in them beyond the occasional attention or communication.

Overall, breadcrumbing is bad because it can lead to emotional distress, confusion, and damage to a person’s self-esteem. It is important to recognize this behavior and avoid engaging in it or being on the receiving end of it.

In my dating life, personally, I learned quite quickly from my mistakes. And after being ‘breadcrumbed’ a few times, I learned what to do when this happens again. 

Having a brother that I am quite close to also helped as he was always super honest with me. So whenever I would start doubting myself because of being breadcrumbed, he would quickly talk me out of it. 

Before telling you the things that I was actually doing to avoid breadcrumbing, here are 15 signs of what it looks like in real life. 

Going through this list will help you determine if you are indeed breadcrumbed. After that I will give you my top 5 tips on how to deal with it. 

15 signs that you might be getting breadcrumbed in a relationship:

  1. The person only communicates with you sporadically, and you’re always the one initiating contact. If they are ‘always’ busy and never have time, or don’t remember even to send a quick and short text… they might be dragging you along. 

  1. They send vague or non-committal messages, such as “let’s hang out sometime” without making any concrete plans. Ok, this is something that I don’t like when it’s done by people. 

In my opinion, if you’re actually not interested to hang out, you don’t need to say it. You can literally say anything else, no need to create false hope, right? 

  1. They only respond to your messages with short or one-word answers, without asking any follow-up questions or showing genuine interest in you.

If they’re not interested in you, they won’t ask questions. Simple as that. 

  1. They cancel plans at the last minute or frequently reschedule without a good reason.

This is worst than leading you on with ‘we should hang out sometimes’. 

If they frequently cancel plans, it just means that they never even wanted to actually meet, and you are clearly not a priority for them. 

  1. They never initiate physical contact, such as holding hands or hugging, despite flirting with you.

This can be interpreted in various ways, maybe even the fact that they might be quite shy in person, and are more comfortable in an online setting. 

So before judging people on this, make sure to corroborate it with the other signs and only then draw your conclusion. 

  1. They seem to be online and active on social media but don’t respond to your messages or calls.

This too can be interpreted as to its frequency. They might still be online but talking with someone about something important and will talk to you once they are freer and can focus on your discussion. 

However, if this happens quite regularly… then you can guess where this is going… right? 

  1. They give you mixed signals, such as saying they’re interested in you one day, and then being distant or aloof the next.

This sign used to baffle me so much so that I’ve gotten to a point where I used to just tell them straight away to show me, instead of just telling me. Words don’t do it for me that much anymore.

  1. They never introduce you to their friends or family.

This too is quite strange, coming from a person that is supposed to like you. 

Although it might be ok in the beginning of a relationship, especially until you both get to know each other and see if you’re actually compatible… if a good while has passed and you still haven’t even met, not even friends… they might be just stringing you along. 

  1. They don’t prioritize spending time with you, neither planning to so do in the future.

This is done many times so you don’t blame them for having promised something and not delivering… like future plans. 

If they don’t make future plans with you… they literally don’t see you in that future. 

This should be your queue to get out of this situation as soon as possible…

Unless they’re someone who just don’t make plans AT ALL.


  1. They don’t make any effort to get to know you on a deeper level, such as asking about your interests or goals.

Some people might just be interested in one-night stands, or in friends with benefits. And that’s ok IF they are honest and upfront about this from the beginning, without dragging you or someone else along and making it seem like they would actually want more and giving false hope.

  1. They’re always too busy or have other plans when you suggest doing something together. 

We’ve all used that excuse: ‘I’m too busy at work right now!’

And whilst this might be true to a certain degree, we know that if you’re truly interested in someone, you WILL make time for them. 

But you’ll do it only if it’s worth it for you and if you truly like this person… 

So if someone is doing this to you… you know where you are on their priority list…

  1. They seem to be seeing other people or flirting with others on social media.

Normally I would say that unless there was a clear conversation of 2 people being in a relationship and setting the boundaries, everything is game.

But if someone is giving you signals that they like you and they also do the same with others… it leads you to think if they really like you or they’re just trying their luck and you’re just another name on their list.

  1. They only seem to reach out to you when they’re bored or looking for attention.

I am personally guilty for having done this in the past and I am quite sorry for having done it. 

Once I got called out by someone I was doing this to and it just then made me realise the impact that my actions have on others’ lives. 

Since then I have literally been doing anything else than reaching out to people just because I’m bored. 

  1. They avoid talking about the future or making any commitments.

If they’re trying to avoid discussions about the future, it is just so you don’t realize that they simply have different plans than the ones they’re implying to have. 

They avoid making any commitments just so you cannot hold them up to them and them having to break a promise. 

This way they feel they can easily walk away without any consequences. 

  1. They often make crazy excuses for not being able to meet up or commit to plans.

I understand that accidents and crazy situations might happen once in a while. But if they’re too frequent and they’re always used as an excuse as to why they couldn’t meet us… it’s clear they’re lying and trying to make themselves look like a victim. Or a saviour if they need to ‘fix’ things every time. 

If you’re experiencing several of these signs, it’s possible that you’re being breadcrumbed, and it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship.

Here are 5 ways to deal with breadcrumbing in a relationship:

  1. Communicate your expectations: Be clear with the person doing the breadcrumbing about your expectations and what you want from the relationship. Let them know that you’re looking for a serious relationship and that you won’t settle for being strung along.

  1. Set boundaries: If you’re not comfortable with the amount of attention or communication you’re receiving, let the other person know that you need more. If they’re not willing to meet your needs, it might be time to move on.

Although it might not be as easy as it might seem at first. Once you take the steps towards that… you will feel so much more relieved as you don’t need to spend your energy with someone that doesn’t deserve it. 

  1. Take a step back: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by the situation, take a step back and focus on yourself. Spend time with friends and family, pursue your hobbies and interests, and remind yourself of your own worth and value.

Maybe even talk to a friend, or a sibling, or parents who can talk some sense into you. As I said, I used to talk with my brother. And it helped me so many times to get out of a frustrating situation. 

  1. Look for red flags: Pay attention to the other person’s behavior and actions. If they’re not making any effort to commit to you or seem to be interested in other people, it might be a sign that they’re not interested in a serious relationship.

Regardless how much you like them, if they’re truly not interested in a serious relationship, no matter what you’ll do, they won’t commit to you… not the way you would like them to. 

  1. Move on: If you’ve tried to communicate your needs and set boundaries, but the other person continues to breadcrumb you, it’s time to move on. Remember that you deserve someone who is willing to give you the time, attention, and commitment you need and deserve.

I used to do this so many times whenever I would see even the first signs of breadcrumbing. 

Interestingly enough, there were people who re-reached out yeeaaarss later to ask what was the problem. Which just drove the idea home for me. The idea that they actually didn’t like me so it was better it happened the way it did. And my choice of cutting contact fully was a smart one. 

Here are some synonyms of the word and meaning of the word: 

  1. Stringing along
  2. Leading on
  3. Playing games
  4. Flirting without intention
  5. Teasing
  6. Toying with emotions
  7. Manipulating
  8. Playing hard to get
  9. Giving mixed signals
  10. False hope.


As a conclusion, regardless of how it is named and what synonyms of breadcrumbing are used, the point is that at one point we’ve all done it to a certain extent. 

And also it happened to all of us. 

But that doesn’t mean that we should continue doing it. On the contrary. 

We can be the ones who can break the cycle and do differently. Just because we’ve done something before and got away with it, and just because others have done it to us, it doesn’t mean that we should perpetuate this immoral practice. 

We can put a stop to it the minute we stop doing it ourselves, and the minute we don’t allow others to take advantage of us and keep doing it to us. 

Most people continue doing it simply because they are allowed to and never stopped. 

Imagine if all of us who have ever been breadcrumbed would stop it and call them out on it. Do you know what would happen? A lot less people would continue doing it. 

A vast majority will stop and rethink their actions, if we wouldn’t just condone and accept them anymore.


The ones doing the breadcrumbing would eventually see that it doesn’t work anymore and they would stop doing it. 


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