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Breadcrumbing: 4 Red Flags to Watch Out For

In this article we will talk about some of the most common signs of breadcrumbing, and how you can respond.

When my friend Naina was dating Varun, she often came to me saying how unfulfilled she felt when she spent time with him.

They were in an on-and-off relationship for a few months before they finally broke up and he married another woman. After reading a lot about the topic, I understood what was happening to Naina.

Varun was breadcrumbing her.

He made her believe he was into her and that he would one day start a long-term relationship with her, but he never acted on his promises in the end.

This led her to question her choices and wonder if what happened was somehow her fault.

According to Healthshots, breadcrumbing means “being noncommittal towards someone you wish to pursue romantically. It is about keeping someone interested, even when you don’t have the intentions to build a relationship.”

The Main Signs of Breadcrumbing

This post is about four signs someone may be breadcrumbing you, why they’re doing that, and how you can deal with their behavior to save yourself in the long run.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship where you constantly felt used and never got the commitment you wanted, then these signs might help you understand what was actually happening.

1. Inconsistent texting

Naina often used to lament how she had such amazing chemistry with Varun while texting, but things never moved beyond it. They spent hours talking to each other striking up one amazing conversation after another. 

When she was sure what they have is meaningful and something amazing would happen soon, Varun would suddenly disappear.

He’d stop replying to her texts, making her feel bitter that he’s ignoring her on purpose.

This always triggered her anxiety and made her question if she was good enough for him.

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, did you know that texting frequently but not really getting to know each other could be a sign of breadcrumbing?

Why do they do it?

There are speculations that when people disappear after leading someone on for a while, they do it because they are emotionally unavailable. They probably like you, but don’t want to commit to you for a longer-term relationship. 

Such people want to be the ones calling the shots always and don’t want to do any work in the relationship. Hence, when things heat up a little, they take the easy way out and disappear.

Recommended read: 9 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

2. They make vague future plans but never follow through

When they were dating, Varun used to suggest elaborate and exciting future plans with Naina. He told her he wanted to travel with her and that he’d steal her away for candlelight dinner dates.

But when she asked when they were going to go on that trip or on that promised date, he always came up with some excuse.

Naina was more frustrated than ever when things like this happened.

She often asked me if she was doing something wrong and if there was a way she could make herself more “appealing” to him.

Unfortunately, the reality is nothing could change his attitude. He was simply emotionally unavailable.

As this article on A Conscious Rethink puts it, one clear sign of breadcrumbing is when “they message you and vaguely suggest meeting up, but avoid making plans. If you ask them what’s going on between you, they dodge the question or say they don’t want to put a label on things.”

Why do they do it?

Your date might already be in a relationship. And you may be a backup option for them. They want some attention without putting in any work or making serious commitments.

That’s why they are stringing you along without even putting in the effort to meet in person. 

As Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and human development at California State University, San Bernardino, says, “making plans but never acting on them can happen when they are already in a relationship with someone yet are still seeking attention from others.”

Recommended read: 9 Relationship Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

3. They engage with you on social media, but don’t reply to your messages

Whenever Naina uploaded a new picture, Varun was the first one to comment on them. He viewed her stories and responded to most of her posts.

But when it came to being available for her when she felt vulnerable, he distanced himself from her.

As writer Rachael Pace puts it, “They will monitor your social media activities without engaging with you. This way, you will find it hard to forget about them because they keep lurking around until they are ready to converse with you.”

Why do they do it?

They may be lonely and want some quick attention.

Commenting on your social media posts is their way of staying on your radar without promising anything substantial in return. They are basically giving you breadcrumbs just to keep you around.

Recommended read: 17 Relationship Green Flags You Should Look Out For

4. They’re interested in hooking up, but not in spending quality time together

Because of all the mixed signals Varun gave her, Naina was ready to dump him. The only reason their relationship lasted for almost a year was that their intimate moments never disappointed her.

Whenever he “booty called,” Varun took great interest in her body and in giving her pleasure.

To Naina, Varun was like one of those amazing one-night stands you have that you know are never going to call you back, except this time, she was emotionally invested in the relationship and wanted something more meaningful.

But all Varun could give her was physical intimacy

Why do they do it?

Peter K. Jonason, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of South Alabama, explained that booty calls are a form of negotiation between two people who want different things from life. 

People looking for a NSA (No String Attached) relationship often end up dating people who actually want a long-term relationship. However, all these noncommittal people can give is physical intimacy.

This is their way of getting a quick ego boost by knowing someone wants and cares for them, while also avoiding emotional attachment. Their partner, on the other hand, ends up feeling “used.”

How to Respond to Breadcrumbing

Being breadcrumbed is hard. You’re constantly on the edge, wondering if you’re good enough, if you’re worthy of love.

Your date, in the meantime, can enjoy all the benefits of a loving relationship without actually committing to one.

Here are some science-backed steps you can follow to respond to this type of situation.

According to an article by Healthline, here’s how you can deal with breadcrumbing:

1. If you think someone is breadcrumbing you, call them out on their behavior

When you think someone’s breadcrumbing you, point out their behavior. 

This shows your awareness and how you refuse to be led on. It also gives them the opportunity to share any personal issues that might be holding them back from getting more serious with you.

2. Initiate a conversation about relationship goals

People want different things from a relationship. No matter how outlandish or “demanding” you feel your needs are, you can’t let anyone else decide whether they are “valid” or not.

If you feel your partner is breadcrumbing you, try talking it out with them.

A conversation starter to try, according to writer Crystal Raypole, is: “I’m getting the impression that we have different relationship goals at the moment. I’d like to work on building a stable relationship. How about you?”

3. Suggest a specific date and time to meet

If the way your date keeps breadcrumbing you is to continuously change or cancel plans, then call them out on this and propose a specific date and time to meet.

This may lead to an actual meeting if they aren’t purposely trying to breadcrumb you. If they don’t want to meet, then they’ll probably avoid committing to a time or cancel the plans at the last minute.

If they do this more than once, their message will be loud and clear and you can walk away.

4. Respect your own needs

Perhaps you understand that your date has no goal of getting into a serious relationship with you and you don’t actually mind. You could be fine with seeing them casually. That’s totally fine. After all, you know what you need for yourself.

However, if you’re in that phase of life when you do need more than just casual texting and hooking up, make it clear to them that you’re not ready to wait around until they change their mind.


When you’re being breadcrumbed, it can lead to feelings of frustration and isolation. As rehabilitation consultant and writer, Val Walker, MS, puts it, breadcrumbing causes a sense of helplessness, lower quality of life, and the loneliness of feeling excluded.

If you’ve ever doubted that you’re being “led on” by someone, here are four signs that your partner is breadcrumbing you:

  1. You have amazing conversations on text, but they disappear suddenly without any explanation when things heat up.
  2. They make vague but tempting future plans, but when you actually ask to meet, they refuse.
  3. They respond to almost every update you post on social media but don’t actually reply to your messages.
  4. They’re interested in booty calls, but not in spending quality time together.

Breadcrumbing is one of the harshest ways to treat a partner, and if you’ve ever been there, know that none of this is your fault. You deserve someone who treats you better and fulfills your emotional needs.

Call them out on their inconsistent behavior and ask for a specific date and time when you can meet. Initiate deep conversations where you both discuss relationship and life goals.

If they don’t give you what you want in spite of all this, then it’s a clear sign that they aren’t interested in you for a long-term relationship.

It’s vital that you take care of yourself and run before you’re too emotionally invested in them.

After all, not every relationship is meant to work out. The most important thing in the world is your own mental and emotional wellbeing.

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Featured photo by stockking –

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Rosa from Italy

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