Modern dating trends can be pretty brutal, especially when it comes to online dating. You may or may not have heard of “breadcrumbing,” which is basically the new ghosting. Have you ever met someone on a dating app or website and exchanged countless flirty messages, but when it came down to hanging out IRL, they just wouldn’t commit to a specific time? Or have you had an ex text you consistently but refuse to meet up? If either of these situations sound familiar, you’ve been breadcrumbed. As with any dating situation where one party is being misled about the other’s intentions, breadcrumbing is basically a surefire way to hurt someone’s feelings. We got relationship experts to tell us why people do it, what you can do if it’s happening to you, and how to make sure you *never* do it to someone else.


What’s behind breadcrumbing?

The psychology behind this phenomenon is pretty simple. “Unfortunately, people tend to breadcrumb to seek attention without commitment,” says Riana Milne, a licensed mental health counselor and dating coach. Another major motivator? Because of what experts call “swipe culture,” there are more options for potential mates to choose from than ever. Some people have a hard time figuring out who they want to date, so they keep multiple people on the hook until they make up their mind.

“Our modern world is full of choices, and dating is no exception, notes Erika Martinez, a licensed psychologist and dating expert. “Too many choices, though, can be overwhelming, which causes uncertainty and anxiety. The paradox lies in the fact that people want to have lots of options, but they also want certainty. Breadcrumbing allows a person to get the best of both worlds — freedom of not being tied to a relationship and an ability to date others while knowing they have a ‘sure thing’ should they lose options,” she explains. It’s pretty terrible, right?

sad teeange girl video messaging mobile phone

Here’s how to handle it if it’s happening to you

Most of the time, it becomes relatively obvious over the course of several days or even weeks that you’re being breadcrumbed. Even if you’re not totally sure (maybe you think they could just be busy with work or other obligations), Martinez suggests that you confront the issue in a straightforward way. “Describe the behavior you’ve seen, express that it concerns you, and check with the person to see if you’ve misunderstood something,” she says. “Be kind, polite, and assertive.” Coming at the conversation from a perspective of curiosity, asking for more details, rather than one of accusation, can achieve more honest results. While this is probably the most mature way to deal with breadcrumbing, “it takes a lot of effort to keep your ego checked and stay curious,” notes Martinez.

“If after the conversation, it’s clear you’re being breadcrumbed, then you need to ask yourself if you’re okay with being treated this way,” she continues. If you’re also exploring your options at the moment, maybe you’re fine with it. But if you’re not happy with the situation, then it’s probably a good idea to break things off. “Frankly, if this is how they treat you at the start of a relationship, what can you possibly hope for later on?” Martinez points out.

Young woman texting on smart phone

HOW TO Make sure you’re not guilty of it

Sadly, sometimes it’s hard to recognize that you’re actually breadcrumbing someone. After all, these impolite dating behaviors are getting so commonplace that they can go unnoticed — but that doesn’t mean they’re okay. Milne says you can avoid being a culprit in a very simple way: “Be honest, straightforward, and up front. If you’re dating other people, say so. If you’re dating and hoping to find an exclusive partner or want marriage or a family, be authentic about that. If you’re interested in someone, text them back.” In other words, be yourself and let others know how you feel about them through both your actions and your words. “If you don’t see future potential with someone simply say, ‘I think you’re very nice, but I don’t quite think we’re a match,'” Milne suggests. That way, you can move on and, importantly, so can they.

Martinez also advises that knowing what you’re looking for is essential when it come to being considerate of others in the dating scene. “When daters don’t know what’s motivating them, they date indiscriminately — out of loneliness and even boredom.” Take the time to ask yourself: Why are you dating? Why are you interested in this person? What are you hoping will come of this interaction? “If any of those draw a shrug of the shoulders, then you might be likely to breadcrumb others,” she notes. So there you have it: Know yourself, be true to who you are, and above all — keep it real with anyone you date.

Have you ever been breadcrumbed? How did you handle it? Spill the deets @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)