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5 Steps to Stop The String-Along

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

Originally published on Heartalytics.

Breadcrumbing, ghosting, zombie-ing…what’s next, “vamping?” In modern dating, there are limitless ways to reject and be rejected, and no childhood fairy tale nor mythical creature is safe from losing its innocence.

Ghosting is when someone stops responding to you altogether without explanation; zombie-ing is when a ghost re-initiates contact, effectively rising from the dead. And breadcrumbing, á la Hansel and Gretel, is when someone has no intention of moving the relationship forward, but gives you just enough attention, via the occasional text or Instagram like, to keep you as an option for the occasional ego boost.

Of these passive forms of rejection, breadcrumbing is perhaps the most painful. Whereas when someone ghosts you, it’s fairly evident they’re no longer into you, when someone breadcrumbs you, it can be confusing, frustrating, and a total time and energy suck.

Breadcrumbing isn’t always intentionally cruel or even conscious.

If you’re in the trenches of modern dating, it’s likely you’ve been breadcrumbed, and it’s likely you have at least kind of breadcrumbed someone. Have you ever felt luke-warm on someone you’ve been on a few dates with and thrown him/her an occasional bone like meme or article, just to keep that door of opportunity slightly ajar? Yeah, me too. And have you ever been on the other side of this power dynamic? Yeah, it sucks. Nothing is fair in love and Tinder.

The thing is, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re being breadcrumbed. Maybe he really is busy. Maybe her dog really did just die. Maybe he really is kind of into you. Whatever the case, all roads lead to Rome: this person is not into you enough. Not being into you doesn’t make him/her a bad person. But it does make said person someone you don’t want to invest your energy and time in.

It’s up to you to be discerning enough to protect your own time and dignity, and claim the whole damn loaf for yourself (asiago focaccia, please). Here’s what to do if you think you’re being breadcrumbed:

Suggest making concrete plans.

If the breadcrumber hits you up out of the blue for a little flirt sesh, suggest making concrete plans to meet up. If he/she waffles (pun intended), makes an excuse, and doesn’t suggest an alternative plan, you are being breadcrumbed and it’s time for you to bid him/her a textual Bye.

Be real with yourself. 

It’s likely you know on some level you are being breadcrumbed and are just trying to convince yourself otherwise. Check yourself: are you making excuses for him/her? Have you created elaborate stories for yourself on why you haven’t seen this person in two months? The political climate! It’s Holiday Season! They are just so consumed developing that new app and it’s definitely the next Postmates! Look inward, get real, and stop making excuses to protect your ego. You, my friend, are being breadcrumbed.

Let go of the need for closure. 

The old lady in Titanic was probably foreshadowing breadcrumbing when she talked about waiting “for an absolution that would never come.” Sometimes we let breadcrumbers get away with making their proverbial mess for far longer than we should because we want answers.

We want clarity, and we want a clean line rather than a muddied string of confusing and suggestive texts at three in the morning.

In order to walk away from the trail of crumbs, you have to accept the reality that you may never know exactly what is going through his/her mind. The bottom line is, if they wanted to see you, they would make it happen. And that’s all the closure you will need and get.

Be upfront.

If you think you’re being breadcrumbed, you could just ask straight up: do you see this going anywhere? He/she will either a) say yes and repent for his/her breadcrumbing ways, b) say no, or c) be so freaked out by the prospect of a relationship that you’ll never hear from them again. Either way, they’ll stop sowing their crumbs in your pasture.

Just dip. 

You may think that, because you’re not actually spending time with your breadcrumber, there’s no harm in keeping the flirtation going. But, as dating coach Matthew Hussey points out in reference to guys who put in “minimal possible investment,” you may not be spending time physically, but you are spending time mentally.

More likely than not, your breadcrumber is taking up space and attention and holding you back from meeting prospects with more romantic potential for you.  So pull the plug already.

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