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How to tell if you are in a situationship, or if you are being breadcrumbed

There's a fine line between being in an indefinitely undefined romantic relationship and being led on

Breadcrumbing is worse than ghosting.
Breadcrumbing is worse than ghosting. (Unsplash)

On Urban Dictionary a situationship is defined as “less than a relationship, but more than a booty call…a romantic relationship that is, and will remain, undefined.” In my line of work as a relationship coach I find this definition to be the most accurate. 

Situationships are on the rise across the world; they are in the realm of relationships even if undefined – there is an element of romance and physical intimacy. What’s really confusing and plaguing quite a few of my single clients is, however, the act of “breadcrumbing”. 

Again, Urban Dictionary defines it well: “Someone who breadcrumbs, leads you on by dropping small morsels of interest — an occasional message, phone call, date plan, or social media interaction. These happen sporadically and usually don't have any follow through.”

There's a fine line between being in an indefinitely undefined romantic relationship, aka a situationship, and being breadcrumbed in the name of one. I have a male client V and another female client N, who have been experiencing breadcrumbing in their respective relationship journeys. 

V is 28-years-old and is in love with a 25-year-old girl he connected with on Bumble. Initially they video chatted a lot (they connected during the pandemic), then as the world started getting back to normal, their conversations dwindled. 

V attempted to meet this girl quite a few times. But she always declined to meet in person. This girl responds to his messages once for every ten messages he sends. Once is a while she will like one of his tweets. This has been going on for a year and she has returned V’s call only once in this time. In that call, she flirted with him, she even indicated that she would meet V soon. And then again nothing happened. V is obsessed with this girl – even though they haven’t ever met. That, by the way, is a reality of today’s world too – only online love and online heartbreak – it deserves a column of its own!

On the other hand, N, a 33-year-old is in love with a former college batchmate, R. Funnily enough, R was into her in college, but N was seeing someone else then. When N and R reconnected a decade later, N fell in love with R – in fact she wanted to get married to him. It’s now been three years of R's on-and-off behaviour. R is very aware that N is in love with him; because she has told him. 

Yet, in these three years R has met her only four times. He texts N out of the blue, sometimes even late in the night. When she initiates a message R responds to her texts days later. Messages are flirty. N went to the extent of sharing their text messages to seek my help in understanding what R is trying to do. She thinks perhaps she is imagining that he is showing interest in her – but she wasn’t – this man is most certainly leading her on. N has resolved countless times in these three years to move on from R, but breaks this resolve as soon as she gets a message from him.

In my opinion, breadcrumbing is worse than ghosting. The breadcrumber keeps the hope alive as he or she is clearly interested in keeping their “one foot in” with someone who they know is into them.  Unlike in a situationship, here, we see a gross misuse of the power they know they possess over a person who is unconditionally making themselves available to them. 

Breadcrumbers will keep coming back till you let them. N’s story is indeed quite sad as she recently discovered through another batchmate that R had gotten married two months ago, yet a month after getting married he had responded to her message in a flirty tone. One would argue that V and N were not in real relationships with the Bumble girl and R, respectively. But the emotions that they had invested were real and became deeper every time they got a response, however irregular as it might have been. The longer this breadcrumbing lasts, the longer one needs to be able to heal from the hurt of the heartbreak.

The red flag of breadcrumbing is not difficult to identify. The pattern is established quite quickly. There is no solid reason given when a breadcrumber disappears and reappears. Intuitively we all know when we are in such a situation. We just have to call it out to ourselves. It’s easier to take control of your emotions as soon as you discover and acknowledge what is really going on. 

This is a trap and getting out of it is very difficult if you let it continue for an extended period of time, as the person can keep emerging as and when they want to. There is no upside to hoping that a breadcrumber will eventually reciprocate your feelings. In fact, it will keep you from having the relationship you should ideally be in.

This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached at

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