First there was ghosting (a term which, believe it or not, has been around since 2004 but only got officially added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2017). Then came breadcrumbing, another strategy used by people who either don’t want or are seemingly incapable of being direct. And when someone breadcrumbs you, they’re gone but not completely gone. They might not text back and be vague about making plans to see you again, all while watching your Instagram stories or leaving you on read on Snapchat. You’re not sure if they’re still into you, but they do little things to make it seem like they might be.
“It’s worse than ghosting,” says Francine, 21, of Boston. “It leaves you confused and with ‘hope.’ Whereas with ghosting, at least they left you alone and aren’t making you confused about whether there’s still a chance.”
À la Hansel and Gretel, breadcrumbing will make you want to throw yourself into an oven (except you don’t get to eat a gingerbread house first). What is there to do if you find yourself a victim of one of the most unfortunate byproducts of modern dating culture?
To Confront Or Not To Confront
As much as breadcrumbing is absolute torture, there are two quick and effective ways to put an end to it. The first is to call the breadcrumber out.
It may be tempting to be rude or act annoyed — after all, breadcrumbing is pretty disrespectful and childish, so the appeal of sending a testy text is understandable — but don’t stoop to their level. It’s better to show you’re more mature and nicer than the idiot who has been acting not-so-great toward you.
“If you do decide to confront them, I recommend being really straightforward, e.g. ‘I think it’s really odd that I haven’t heard from you, but you watch my stories. What’s that about?’” says life and love coach Francesca Hogi. “You’ve got nothing to lose, so don’t sugarcoat it.”
However, Hogi warns against expecting any sort of satisfying answer for a breadcrumber’s behavior. Still, there is an upside. “Confronting a breadcrumber is a good way to turn them into a ghoster, which, [in this case], isn’t a bad thing,” she says. This frees you from engaging with someone who has quite clearly proven they are not worth your time and energy.
When you focus on people whose words align with their actions, you automatically eliminate breadcrumbers.
The other option is less confrontational but equally effective: blocking the breadcrumber and moving on. “I do not give them the pleasure of getting a peek into my life and block them everywhere,” says Kelsey, 22, of Dallas. “Why even give them the honor of acknowledging their existence by confronting them?”
Hogi agrees with this strategy if you aren’t quite ready to put a final period on your relationship with the breadcrumber. “If you’re confronting them out of any desire to convince or entice them to want to see you, don’t do it. Chances are that even if they temporarily acquiesce and see you again, it’s only a matter of time until they ghost you. If you’re still holding out hope that they’ll have a change of heart, I recommend blocking them to remove any temptation to pine after someone who isn’t that into you.”
However, confrontation can be useful if you’re looking for some constructive feedback. “If you are genuinely curious about what went wrong because you want to learn from the situation and you’re OK with the possibility they can’t or won’t answer the question, [confronting them] could potentially be useful,” Hogi says. “Occasionally you might encounter someone who gives you feedback that rings true — for example, they enjoyed your company but you seemed like you had too much going on to devote time to a new relationship. If you really are overcommitted and that’s something you’re ready to change, this is information you can actually use.”
Refuse To Be Breadcrumbed Again
Being breadcrumbed is a mind game that can take a toll, so it’s important to do everything you can to avoid establishing a pattern. By putting an end to this behavior and not letting people get away with it in the future, you’re protecting your mental health.
“Be mindful of early indicators that someone isn’t prioritizing you, or caring for your feelings or wellbeing,” says sex educator and coach Domina Franco, M.Ed. “Listening to your gut is imperative.”
This is especially true if you are looking for something stable and serious. (In the case you are OK with a sporadic, casual connection, breadcrumbing, while annoying, may not be a deal breaker.) If your goal is establishing something that could turn into a long-term relationship, she suggests cutting things off quickly upon realizing someone is breadcrumbing you. “When someone exhibits this inconsiderate behavior, they have actually provided you with incredibly valuable information about themselves: that they are not worth your time,” says Franco.
Hogi echoes the sentiment. “If anyone is happy to text but is silent on future plans or makes little to no effort to see and learn about you and what you care about, beware,” she says. When you focus on people whose words align with their actions, you automatically eliminate breadcrumbers.
Remember: someone who isn’t mature enough to be direct and respectful usually doesn’t have the skills necessary to be in a healthy relationship. Emotionally intelligent people do not breadcrumb, and a great partner will jump at the chance to be with you. You are not a chicken cutlet. Don’t let someone breadcrumb you. You’re worth more than that.