Is Breadcrumbing Considered Verbal Abuse?

December 29, 2022 Cheryl Wozny

Sometimes behaviors appear in relationships that can make you feel uneasy or confused. Breadcrumbing is one of these habits that may have you wondering if it is verbal abuse. If you haven't heard of this term before, it can be good to know what signs to look for and if the breadcrumbing is severe enough to classify it as verbal abuse. 

What Is Breadcrumbing? 

Breadcrumbing is when an individual throws tiny morsels of attention at a person, just enough to keep them interested or hanging on in the hopes of a relationship. However, they never provide enough to ensure the recipient feels adequate, loved, or has confidence in the relationship

This behavior can sound like many situations for couples just starting to date. I've dated people before who seemed more withdrawn and not invested in the relationship. Some individuals may not want to appear too eager or like to take things slowly instead of being fully committed to another person. However, there is a point when it's evident that the breadcrumbing actions fall into a more emotional and verbally abusive category. 

Some ways to pinpoint breadcrumbing as a harmful behavior are: 

  • Some days the person appears eager to spend time together, while other days, they disappear.
  • The person is vague when making plans together and never follows through
  • The person sends text messages to you but never responds to yours. 
  • The person engages over social media but never in person.
  • The person only shows heightened attention to you when you back off. 
  • The person gives mixed messages that make it hard for you to understand their intent.
  • The person blames your insecurities when asked about the relationship. 

How to Deal with Breadcrumbing in a Relationship

Not all instances of breadcrumbing will fall under verbal abuse. But knowing how to deal with this behavior can keep you from entering a toxic relationship.


One of the best ways to tackle breadcrumbing is open and honest communication. 

Being upfront with someone you are interested in about your intentions, needs, and wants regarding a relationship can give way to healthy communication between you and the other person. However, it can be problematic if they don't respond to you or continue only to show interest when it suits their schedule. They may be battling self-esteem or commitment issues or don't want to invest in a meaningful relationship with you. 

Know the Signs

Unfortunately, if you have been the victim of verbal abuse in the past, you may easily fall into a breadcrumbing relationship without realizing it.

I remember my dating years when I was so desperate for someone to show me any form of attention that I would cling to the slightest signs of affection. Instead of finding a partner who wanted to be with me, I allowed myself to be open to narcissists who treated me awfully. Knowing how to spot breadcrumbing can keep you from falling into this trap. 

Remember Your Self-Worth

No one deserves to be treated as an afterthought. The person you are with should show genuine interest in you and be willing to participate in the relationship. Remember that you are worthy of a healthy relationship, and it's okay to stop responding to someone who uses these tactics with you. 

If you suspect someone is breadcrumbing you, consider their intent and the circumstances. Not all instances will be verbally abusive, but it can lead to a toxic relationship if it doesn't progress further than these tiny morsels of attention that keep you on the hook, wanting more. 

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2022, December 29). Is Breadcrumbing Considered Verbal Abuse? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

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