At the beginning of this year I found out that feeding bread to ducks is a terrible idea. It lacks nourishment and energy, bloats them so they don’t have space for proper food, and just generally fouls the water the ducks call home. 
 
Coincidentally, at about the same time, I heard about the term ‘breadcrumbing’, a non-dating behaviour that does pretty much the same thing to humans. 

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Observe…
 
Breadcrumbing: The act of stringing someone along with going-nowhere flirty texts, bloating their expectations with sweet nothings so that they have no time for real love possibilities, and just generally polluting their minds with maybes. 

In the olden days, like last year, we called it blowing hot and cold. I prefer to call it by its real name: ‘just being a big a-hole who doesn’t know what they want, but needs their ego stroked’.

Then, when the breadcrumber is sure their sitting duck is interested, they drop all contact. 

They stop returning texts and calls, don’t flirt back anymore and generally go cold on any idea of hooking up. 

The minute their target wanders off to better pastures? Boom. The breadcrumber is back, laying down another crumby morsel of contact: A ‘heya’ text or a ‘thinking of you’ email or a ‘drinks?' DM

And so, the cycle begins again. 

In the olden days, like last year, we called it blowing hot and cold. I prefer to call it by its real name: ‘just being a big a-hole who doesn’t know what they want, but needs their ego stroked’. 
 
It’s the ultimate push-pull dating game. 
 
I used to be such a sucker for this kind of punishment, I found myself in an escalated version of it: the cyclical relationship status. On again, off again; now I want to be with you, now I don’t. 

It’s exhausting.

Why do we string people along and why do we take the bait if we know it’s not making us happy?

In its most extreme form I think breadcrumbing can tend towards gaslighting. In my experience this is especially true for guys who flirt outside the confines of their monogamous set-ups. They’ll flirt away, but when you call them on it they’ll make out like you’re crazy for imagining anything was going to happen – or even that it was happening. 

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Why do we string people along and why do we take the bait if we know it’s not making us happy? 
 
I don’t know. There’s a lot going on for the people on either side of this game. 

But no matter what the individual reasons for acting like a fool, no one ever wins. Neither duck nor breadcrumber get what they want or need. So how does the game end?
 
You stop playing. 

If you’ve been hoovering up the tiny bits of gassy interest your ghosting breadcrumber keeps throwing you – stop. 

You see, the thing with a game is that you choose to play or not to play. When someone hits you a ball, you either return it or you put your racket down and walk away. If you know your affections and attention are being baited with sweet nothings and empty promises – don’t bite. 

You deserve better. At the very least you deserve as much as you’re willing to give. And I bet that’s a lot more than some soggy white bread and sweet nothings.

Follow Dorothy Black on her blog and on Twitter.

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