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Love and Relationships

What is Breadcrumbing? What it Means and How to Respond

Dympll looks at some common relationship traps and warning signs!


Dympll Staff Writer


Feb 25, 2023

Breadcrumbing - Relationship Terminology

  • Breadcrumbing defined
  • How to spot Breadcrumbing
  • What to do if it's happening to you

Breadcrumbing is when your ex or romantic partner texts or reaches out just enough to keep you around and interested, without any intention of making a real effort to get you back or progress a relationship. When they lead you on or keep you hanging on, just to use you as a backup option if it suits them.

How to Spot Breadcrumbing

Your girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with you.

It was a tough breakup because you really wanted to be together.

Through some hard work on your part and support from friends and family, you've started to get over the heartbreak and are feeling more like your old self again.

It's been a couple months since you've had any contact with your ex.

Out of the blue you get a text...

"OMG, work has been nuts lately! So many projects due at once and I'm worn out! Hope things are less crazy for you!"

You read it and feel frozen for a second. This moment is quickly followed by confusion and an unmistakable feeling of excitement, which confuses you even more. You really felt you'd finally moved on. You cant' help it - the first things that come to mind are, "Does he miss me?" or "Does she want to try again?"

Why wouldn't these thoughts pop into your head?

It's confusing, right?

This is exactly what they want you to feel...

The ex you really wanted things to work out with has reached out to you and wants to talk, but this isn't talking, this is Breadcrumbing.

Then you wonder...

What if they're really trying to get back together...?

If the texts or messages are superficial or generic we wouldn't get too excited just yet

They are "just wondering" how everyone or anyone is doing? There is no real initiation or commitment to getting together IRL, or "sooo busy" and can't find a good time that works to meet with you.

Why are they doing this?

Chances are, if the random texts from your ex lack the substance you are looking for and deserve,

this is simply a need to stoke their own ego or make them feel better about themselves,

typically when they're feeling lonely or reminiscing.

It's also possible your ex has an Avoidant attachment style and this small bit of interaction, at the expense of your emotions and recovery, is just enough for them to go another stretch of silence, without any real desire to get back together.

If you happen to have an Anxious attachment style or a combination that includes this style,

you may find that Breadcrumbing can wreak havoc with your heart.

Erica Jossa at The Love Compass does a very nice job describing attachment style pairings that work well together.

Pairings that may require some significant effort and a good awareness of the psychological needs, motivations, and triggers of your significant other's (past, present, or futures) attachment style.

What should you do?

Here are 4 Tips for Dealing with Breadcrumbing

1.  Be Less Excited and Engaged

There needs to be an effort on their part. If their texts are mainly about what's going on with them, a need for some sympathy or commiseration, or a need for sex - watch out.

Your responses should be short (ie. Yup, Cool, & Ok) without any smiley faces or exclamations.

The one exception is when responding to questions about "you"

YOU are always great (even if it's not entirely true), "Things have been really great lately!", is the appropriate response.

Don't bother asking them questions or elaborating on anything.

Just keep it simple.

If they continue to talk to you just like any other friend then just let it go. That's not what you want and that's not what you need.

2. Challenge Them

If every text is simply to inform you about what's going on in their life and the cursory, "How are you?"

or even worse, the close-ended, "Hope you're doing well!", then feel free to ask them straight out why they're texting you?

Something like this...

Them: "Ugh, I am stuck in back to back meetings all day today! This is the worst. Hope your day is better than mine!"

You: "So I've noticed you've been texting me off and on for a few weeks now, with not much more than what's going on with you or how have I been or hoping I'm well. Why keep doing it?"

This could either force some good conversation or confirm the fact that they're really not serious about mending anything or having a relationship that you want and deserve.

3. Test Them

You know what you want.

If this really is an attempt by them to reconnect, and you want to give them the chance, lay out some ground rules.

Have them make plans to do something or meet to hang IRL and see if they follow-through with it.

Let them know you're not cool with going days without communication or whatever it is you want and need if you're going to risk getting back into it again.

Otherwise, your time is better spent elsewhere. You have nothing to lose and this is your time to call the shots.

4. Just End It

You may have tried some of the other options and realized there is no future with you and your Breadcrumber.

Just be clear and to the point:

"I thought you might have been serious about working on things. I gave you a chance to show me that's what you wanted. Let's make this our last text."

Take care of yourself and be sure to check out some of our other amazing articles to support, enrich, and excite for your best life!

Bye, bye!

Disclosure: This article was not written by a medical professional, unless specifically stated otherwise. Advice or support content is not intended to be either professional medical or mental health advice or recommendations. All support and advice is from direct and/or anecdotal contributor/author experiences and topic research. If you are experiencing a physical or mental health emergency or mental or physical abuse, please seek professional support. Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to us, at no cost to you when you decide to purchase a reviewed product.


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