I was scrolling through our community and found this question: “How can I tell if a narcissist is breadcrumbing me?” It got me thinking, here’s what I’ve come up with.

If a narcissist is inconsistent with their communication, making vague promises about the future, showing interest or giving attention selectively, guilt-tripping you when you express discontent, or using flattery, social media, or meaningful conversation to keep you engaged, they are most likely breadcrumbing you.

In this article, I’ll explain each of these signs to help you determine whether or not the narcissist in your life is breadcrumbing you.

1.) They Are Inconsistent with Their Communication

One sign of breadcrumbing is inconsistent communication.1 

You might notice they only reach out when it’s convenient for them or when they want something from you. 

For example, you might not hear from them for weeks, and then suddenly, they send a flurry of messages, filling your phone with texts and calls.

They might say something like, “I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately,” or, “I really miss talking to you.” 

A narcissist sending a text to breadcrumb someone.

This sudden interest feels special, but once they get the attention or response they want, they go silent again. 

This pattern keeps you waiting and hoping for the next breadcrumb of attention, making it hard for you to move on or to focus on someone who is consistently interested in you.

Related: How Do Narcissists Keep You Hooked? (7 Tactics)

2.) They Make Vague Promises about the Future

Another sign a narcissist is breadcrumbing is when they make vague promises about the future that never seem to materialize.2 

What does this mean?

The narcissist might hint at future activities, trips, or commitments to keep you hopeful and invested in the relationship. 

But they never actually follow through on any of them.

For example, they might say:

“We should definitely go to that new restaurant you mentioned…sometime soon,” or, “Imagine us taking a trip to the beach next summer.”

However, they never make concrete plans or follow through with these ideas. 

These future promises are like breadcrumbs leading you on, suggesting a future together that keeps you hanging on to the relationship despite the lack of real commitment or progression.

Related: How to Respond to Future Faking

3.) They Show Interest or Give Attention Selectively

It is common for narcissists to show interest or give attention selectively, based on their current needs or mood, rather than a genuine interest in your well-being when they are breadcrumbing you.

This means they might suddenly become very attentive and charming when they need a favor, emotional support, validation, or some other form of narcissistic supply. 

For example, imagine you’ve had a rough week and decided to share your feelings with the narcissist in your life, hoping for some support. 

Instead of offering genuine empathy, they might change the subject to something that interests them. 

However, if the next day they find themselves feeling down or in need of praise, they’ll reach out to you with messages like, “You always know how to make me feel better,” or, “I need to hear your voice, it’s been too long.” 

A narcissist breadcrumbing their target.

This selective attention, based on their needs rather than a balanced relationship, keeps you in a cycle of hoping for more consistent engagement.

4.) They Guilt-Trip You When You Express Discontent

When you start to express dissatisfaction with the way things are, a narcissist might use guilt-tripping as a way to breadcrumb you further. 

They do this to make you question your expectations and to keep you in line with minimal effort on their part. 

For example, if you confront them about their sporadic communication or lack of commitment, they might respond with: “I’m doing the best I can,” or, “You knew my life was complicated when we met.” 

They might even turn the tables and accuse you of being needy or demanding, suggesting that your expectations are the problem, not their behavior. 

This manipulation makes you second-guess your feelings and lowers your expectations, making you grateful for any “crumbs” of attention they decide to throw your way next.

Related: 10 Tactics Narcissists Use to Make You Feel Guilty

5.) They Use Flattery When You Start to Lose Interest

A narcissist might resort to flattery and exaggerated compliments as a breadcrumbing technique, especially when they sense you’re starting to pull away or lose interest. 

This sudden shower of praise is designed to reel you back in.3 

For instance, you might decide to focus more on yourself or to start distancing yourself due to their inconsistent behavior. 

Suddenly, they’re full of compliments, saying things like, “No one gets me like you do,” or, “You’re the most understanding person I’ve ever met.” 

These comments can make you feel special and valued, tempting you to re-engage with them. 

However, once you’re back in their grasp, the cycle of neglect resumes.

This switch from neglect to flattery is a manipulation tactic to keep you hooked without offering any real change in their behavior or commitment.

Related: How Do Narcissists Try to Win You Back?

6.) They Use Social Media to Keep You Engaged

Narcissists often use social media as a tool for breadcrumbing, keeping you engaged with minimal effort. 

They might not communicate directly with you for days or weeks, but they’ll like your posts or leave vague comments on your social media.4 

For example, you might post a picture of yourself, and they comment something like, “Looking good as always,” or they might share a song or a quote that has a special meaning to the two of you, yet not send you a direct message or call you. 

These online breadcrumbs create a sense of connection and keep you hopeful for more direct interaction. 

It’s a way for them to mark their presence in your life without committing to real communication or deepening the relationship. 

This behavior plays into the digital age’s dynamics, where online interactions can create illusions of closeness and intimacy without the substance of a genuine relationship.

Related: 7 Reasons Narcissists Love Social Media

7.) They Use Rare, Meaningful Conversations as Bait

A telltale sign of breadcrumbing by a narcissist is when they occasionally engage in what seems like meaningful conversations or make significant promises. 

These rare moments are strategically placed to keep you hooked, offering just enough hope that things will change for the better. 

For example, after a period of distance or after you’ve expressed feeling neglected, they might suddenly open up about their feelings or discuss future plans together, suggesting a level of intimacy and commitment that has been absent. 

They might say, “I can really see us building a life together,” or share personal struggles, making you feel like you’re finally breaking through to them. 

A narcissist baiting someone with a meaningful conversation.

However, these moments are fleeting, and soon after, they return to their pattern of minimal effort and engagement. 

This tactic is particularly effective because it makes you believe there’s a depth to the relationship worth waiting for, even if it’s rarely displayed.

For more helpful information like this, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

As a general rule, you can assume a narcissist is breadcrumbing you if they:

  • Are inconsistent with their communication.
  • Making vague promises about the future.
  • Showing interest or giving attention selectively.
  • Guilt-tripping you when you express discontent.
  • Using flattery when you start to lose interest.
  • Using social media to keep you engaged.
  • Using rare, meaningful conversations as bait.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

If you’ve got questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I really value your input and would love to have a conversation with you!

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Roxy Zarrabi. (2022. June, 6). 8 Signs of Being Breadcrumbed. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-dating/202206/8-signs-being-breadcrumbed ↩︎
  2. Stephanie A. Sarkis. (2023. March, 28). 5 Reasons Narcissists Will “Breadcrumb” Their Exes. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/202303/why-narcissists-breadcrumb-you ↩︎
  3. Nicole Arzt. (2022. December, 6). Breadcrumbing in Relationships: What It Is & How to Deal. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/breadcrumbing/ ↩︎
  4. Cleveland Clinic. (2023. August, 24). How To Identify and Address Breadcrumbing. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/breadcrumbing ↩︎

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