Skip to main content

Cart

Ghosting, Breadcrumbing, What It Tells You, And How To React

By June 27, 2022Blog

‘Ghosting’ and ‘breadcrumbing’ in a dating context tells you a lot about the person doing it. It’s an (almost) immediate snapshot into their character and integrity, if you are being present enough as you get to know them.

Ghosting can be described as: ‘a way of ending a relationship with someone suddenly by stopping all communication with them’ (Cambridge Dictionary).

Breadcrumbing is described as: ‘the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal social signals (i.e. “breadcrumbs”) in order to lure a romantic partner in without expending much effort. In other words, it’s leading someone on’ (Urban Dictionary).
If you’ve had a few conversations with someone you met online or offline, or have even been on several dates with them, and they mess you around by suddenly ghosting you or are breadcrumbing you over a period of time, they are telling you they are not interested in a relationship with you.

And because someone treating you callously is not the basis for a happy, healthy romantic relationship with them, be grateful you know now, rather than after you’ve invested more heart space, head space and time on them.

Having helped so many dating coaching clients with this issue, I’m going to make this really simple for you so that you don’t let it bother you much.

I want it to become a give-it-an-eye-roll-and-move-on moment for you, every time you encounter ghosting and/or breadcrumbing. Because really, that’s all they deserve and you deserve to not let it hurt you or take you off track from your all important dating and relationship goals.

 

Safeguarding yourself from a breadcrumber is not ghosting

Just a quick aside.

In some circumstances, you might eventually stop communicating with a ‘breadcrumber’ but can we really call that ghosting when so much time lapses in between the breadcrumbs being given, where they were trying to take advantage of your good nature? Not really, because by then you’ve probably responded to many messages along the way and the connection was naturally fizzling out. That’s not ghosting: a sudden cessation of communication. Instead, I would call that eventually realising what they are doing and safeguarding yourself and owning your worth in a ‘relationship’ that has been progressively dying out for a long time, if not since the start.

 

Ghosting and self-esteem research

I know at this point it may feel easier said than done, but it really starts with how you view the person doing the ghosting – the ‘ghoster’ – and how you view being the victim of ghosting – the ‘ghostee’.

Researchers looking at the effects of being ‘ghosted’ on mobile dating apps found that people reported that being the ghostee can be painful and had an impact on their mental well-being and self-esteem [1]. These ghostees explained one or more reasons for why they thought the other person had ghosted them and the answers were varied:

  • 59% of ghostees blamed the ‘ghoster’;
  • 37% blamed themselves;
  • 17% blamed the affordances of the app (saying they made it easy for people to ghost fellow daters).

Ghosters also gave a variety of reasons for ghosting others (also offering one or more explanation):

  • 67% blamed the ghostee;
  • 44% blamed themselves;
  • 29% blamed the affordances of the app;
  • 22% said they had no obligation to communicate;
  • 16% stated their concern for the ghost (such as not wanting to hurt their feelings).

But before you think some of these findings justify someone ghosting you, or think that you are not good enough and that’s why they ghosted you, just reserve judgement until we’ve looked at some more research. Then we’ll discuss all of this so that you feel in control of your emotions and lucky you got this information about their character as quickly as you did.

 

Ghosting, breadcrumbing and life satisfaction, loneliness, and helplessness research

Researchers looked at the effects of experiencing (a) ghosting, (b) breadcrumbing or (c) both breadcrumbing and ghosting, and they found that victims of breadcrumbing or the combination of breadcrumbing and ghosting, expressed feeling less life satisfaction and feeling more hopeless and more lonely [2]. Interestingly, they did not find any relationship between being a ghostee and life satisfaction, loneliness, or helplessness.

This is not to say that this is your experience. Neither aforementioned studies were done with thousands of daters, however, both studies highlight that such cruel behaviour can have a significantly negative impact on victims self-esteem, mental well-being, life satisfaction and feelings of helplessness and loneliness.

 

Three questions to ask yourself about ghosting and breadcrumbing

Let’s be real:

  1. Is it really that hard to tell someone you have been chatting with or going on dates with, albeit non-exclusively thus far, that you would like to say goodbye?
  2. And when people report they ghosted someone because they didn’t want to hurt their feelings, are they simply making up excuses for their hurtful behaviour?
  3. Do ghosters and breadcrumbers truly believe they have hurt you less by suddenly ignoring you, or by only popping in and out of your life every now and then in such an unpredictable and non-committal way, respectively?

 

Ghosting and breadcrumbing tells you who THEY are, not who you are

Being ghosted or ‘breadcrumbed’ does not reflect your worth. It reflects who they are.

Plus it means you have been shown that you need to walk away, fast, and thank goodness for that sign. Heed it. It’s serving you, your happiness and your dating and relationship goals.

Remember, in a dating context where the connection or budding relationship is still in its infancy, it really isn’t that hard to tell someone something to the effect of, ‘Thank you for the time we’ve spent chatting/on dates, this connection isn’t quite right for me, and I wish you all the best’.

It’s also really not that hard to not disturb someone’s inner peace by sending them a non-committal message every once in a blue moon when you know they are looking for an actual partner who wants to date and commit.

If someone can’t or won’t give you at least that level of respect and honesty, they are not relationship material. Not. Even. Close.

And yes, you could say that they are not into you and that’s why. That’s all very well and good. But that doesn’t mean treating you with respect and honesty and compassion isn’t necessary. It is. So don’t let any of their excuses/lies or your own level of attraction to them, make you forget your worth and what the minimum level of decent conduct is from one human to another.

 

How to compassionately end a new dating conversation or dating relationship

Before we look at some more research that’s going to help your mindset so that you can respond to ghosters and breadcrumbers with that give-it-an-eye-roll-and-move-on response, let’s look at how you end a dating connection or someone you’ve been on several dates with, easily, compassionately, respectfully. That way you know that anything that falls outside of this type of ending is a p**s take, i.e. they are mistreating you; and you deserve so much better.

It also helps you to know how to handle this type of situation when you are wanting to end things with someone new in your life, so that you don’t make excuses for hurting someone and then expect karma to not bite you in the arse in the future.

Always aim to leave people better off than how you found them. And when you do, it changes your life for the better, too.

 

~ ~ ~ Strategy ~ ~ ~

There’s no need to ghost a date, just use these 3 steps to end things:

1. Let them know you are ending communication/dating with them with a simple few compassionate, respectful words to the effect of, ‘I’ve appreciated getting to know you, I am looking for something different, I wish you all the best’.

2. If they prompt you for a deeper answer and/or insist it could work between you, you might say something like this to reiterate your original point, whilst still being compassionate: ‘It’s just not clicking for me and it’s nothing personal, we’re just not the right fit, and I’m sure you’ll find someone perfect for you; we both deserve to.’

3. Then you might choose to cease contact with them. And that is not ghosting; that is I let them know twice where we stand and now I am leaving it up to them to accept what I have said.

Special notes:

You may need to reiterate your point a few times. And as a general rule, the more time you have invested with that person, the more effort you should expend in compassionately saying goodbye and answering any questions you can so that you aim to leave them better off than how you found them. That is, if they are not making you feel afraid for your safety. If, genuinely, they are giving you concern for your safety, then once or twice is sufficient and you should simply follow the 3 steps above.

Either way, when it gets to the point where it feels like you are banging your head against a brick wall, then at that point, you have to draw a line under it, cease contact, and leave them to pay attention to what you have said because too much communication can disrupt the key message.

~ ~ ~

 

That’s all anyone needs to do to cease a conversation or actually stop dating someone fairly new in their life.

If someone’s behaviour falls outside this, that’s not okay. Best case, they are lazy and/or selfish (which is not good relationship material); worst case, they have an evil streak and you could be in danger (thank God/the universe for your blessings and get away from them, fast).

Remember, when a person is genuinely trying to get to know fellow daters whilst they’re searching for love and romance, they will know quite early on when someone isn’t right for them so the level of explanation required won’t need to be that complex or time-consuming. That’s why when someone ghosts you in the early stages of chatting or dating, or they are breadcrumbing you, they have most likely been playing you.

Ghosting and breadcrumbing are callous, selfish, empathy-lacking approaches to new dating relationships. They will have known (very) early on that they weren’t really interested in a relationship with you and they have been leading you on.

When someone has no real romantic interest in you but has kept you dangling with breadcrumbing, trying to give you false hope every once in a while with very little effort to get to know you or show any concern for you, and/or suddenly drop all contact with you, then it’s probably because they are narcissistic, and/or even worse, additionally, they may have been enjoying toying with you and hurting you, like a psychopath. They have a lack of empathy and perhaps a cruel streak.

 

Ghosting and the Dark Triad traits research: psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism

Researchers conducted a study to investigate whether those with the Dark Triad traits would be particularly inclined to ghost someone they are in a relationship with [3]. They state this so well when they write:

‘Ghosting may be a particularly appealing way to terminate relationships for those characterized by the Dark Triad traits because they tend to lack empathy that might suppress this kind of break-up style and they are motivated towards casual sex. It is, after all, passive aggressive, avoiding the undesirable or punishing aspects of relationship termination (i.e., difficult conversations), and callous in that it is done with selfish and unempathetic intent…More specifically, the grandiosity and pride characteristic of those who are narcissistic may translate into a lack of willingness to admit to a “mating mistake” (i.e., delusions of grandeur) or have a direct confrontation where they may be revealed to be in the wrong, leading narcissistic people to engage in ghosting (i.e., avoidant conflict management). The overt duplicity of those who are Machiavellian may also promote ghosting given open and honest break-ups may run contra to their deceptive, pragmatic approach to the world and relationships. And last, ghosting is noted as an emotionally cold, if not abusive, way of terminating relationships, so those who are characterized by dispositional callousness, like those high in psychopathy, may engage in ghosting.’

So well put.

And what did their research uncover?

That those who reported they’d previously ghosted someone – when compared with those who said they hadn’t ghosted anyone – and believed ghosting to be acceptable, were more psychopathic and Machiavellian.

These people also tended to find ghosting someone to be more acceptable in short-term relationships vs. long-term ones – i.e. like the scenarios we’ve been exploring in this article.

 

The ghoster’s excuses

Remember how in the first study we looked at where ghostees reported that being ghosted had affected their self-esteem and mental well-being, the ghosters had given the following reasons for ghosting others (where one or more reason could be given):

  1. 67% blamed the ghostee;
  2. 44% blamed themselves;
  3. 29% blamed the affordances of the app;
  4. 22% said they had no obligation to communicate;
  5. 16% stated their concern for the ghost (such as not wanting to hurt their feelings).

Reasons 1, 3, 4, and 5 (so all but reason 2) could be excuses given by people with Dark Triad traits – psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism – because these people lack empathy, or have lower levels of it in the case of narcissists, and are very quick to blame others and other things for their own mistakes and cruelty.

Furthermore, anyone who uses reasons 1, 3, 4, and 5 have perhaps also been too lazy to think, ‘Hmmm, how can I end this ongoing conversation or dating with this person in a caring, respectful way?’ Just as Jim Rohn used to say, ‘If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.’

And as per my three steps above, it’s not hard is it? Even if you weren’t sure, you could ask someone ‘How to let someone down gently’ or Google it.

When a person is conducting themselves respectably, they do. When they are compassionate, they do. And if they are not that person, then why take it personally? It speaks volumes about them, it doesn’t say anything negative about you. So there is nothing to be confused about or even hurt about. This is why you need to eye-roll-and-move-on if tomorrow, someone ghosts or breadcrumbs you.

 

Additional Help

To put strategies in place to prevent being the victim of ghosting or breadcrumbing, or at least minimise it, and thus make your dating journey so much more enjoyable and fruitful, book in some coaching sessions with me and I’ll help you to adopt a whole new way of dating, fairly quickly and easily.

References

1. Timmermans, E., Hermans, A.-M., & Opree, S. J. (2021). Gone with the wind: Exploring mobile daters’ ghosting experiences. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(2), 783–801. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407520970287

2. Navarro, R., Larrañaga, E., Yubero, S., & Víllora, B. (2020). Psychological Correlates of Ghosting and Breadcrumbing Experiences: A Preliminary Study among Adults. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(3), 1116. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17031116

3. Jonason, P. K., Kaźmierczak, I., Campos, A. C., & Davis, M. D. (2021). Leaving without a word: Ghosting and the Dark Triad traits. Acta Psychologica, 220, 103425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2021.103425