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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Relationships: Is Your Partner "Breadcrumbing" You - Part 2: A Clinical Vignette

In my prior article, Relationships: Is Your Partner "Breadcrumbing" You?, I discussed the dynamics involved with breadcrumbing.  As I discussed in that article, this is usually an intentional form of manipulation whereby the person who engages in breadcrumbing through intermittent text messages (and other forms of messaging) lures people in to get them interested for the sole purpose of boosting their own ego, manipulating, dominating them, and getting attention.  The person who engages in breadcrumbing is usually only interested in casual encounters like hooking up--not serious relationships.

Relationships: The Manipulation of Breadcrumbing

A Clinical Vignette About the Dynamics of Breadcrumbing:

While attending her friend's party, Tania met John, a handsome, charismatic and intelligent man who approached Tania soon after she arrived.

Tania was immediately captivated by John's good looks, charm, gregariousness, intelligence and sense of humor.  She was also struck by how well he listened to her and how interested he was in getting to know her.

Two months before, Tania broke up with Ed, someone she had been in a relationship with for several years.  Until she met John, she had been hesitant about getting involved with another man because she was still very upset that the relationship with Ed had not worked out.  Although they loved each other and they talked about moving in together, Ed was too afraid of taking their relationship to the next level.  Since Tania was in her early 30s, she decided, reluctantly, to end her relationship with Ed because she wanted to get married and have children before it was too late.  She understood Ed’s fears and she had a lot of empathy, but she also had a strong feeling that Ed would never get over his fears and she would end up alone.

By the end of the evening at her friend's party, Tania agreed to give John her phone number so they could get together.  And she was pleasantly surprised to hear from him late that evening after she got home.  He sent her a text message telling her that he enjoyed talking to her and hoped to see her soon.

Tania responded that she really enjoyed talking to him too, and she also hoped they could get together for a drink within the next week or so.  Then, she waited to hear from John--and she waited and waited, but she didn't hear from him, so she sent him a text to see if he wanted to get together.

Within a few hours later, at around 10 PM, she heard from John.  She felt herself light up as soon as she saw his text.  He apologized for not getting in touch with her sooner.  He said he had been very busy at work.  Then, he texted her that he would really like to see her and asked her if she wanted to go out for drinks that night.

Tania hesitated because she was about to take a shower and have an early night, but she really liked John and she thought there was no harm in meeting him for a drink that night.  So, she texted him that she could meet him for about an hour or so that night and asked him where he would like to go.

John responded that there was a great bar near his apartment and he asked her if she would feel comfortable meeting him at his place so they could go together.  Once again, Tania was hesitant.  She wondered why, if the bar was so close to his apartment, they didn't just meet at the bar, but then she thought she was being silly.  So, she agreed to meet him at his place so they could go together.

When she arrived at John's place, he seemed really happy to see her.  He told her that he had had a long day and he was mixing himself a drink.  Then, he made her favorite drink and suggested that they relax for a few minutes before they went to the bar.

As they sat on the couch, John leaned over and kissed Tania.  For the first time since she broke up with Ed, Tania felt sexually aroused by the kiss, and she was thrilled that she could enjoy being with a man again.

Then, John asked Tania if she would mind a lot if they stayed in because he was really tired and he would rather spend time with her in his place.  Tania could see that John sensed her hesitation and he quickly apologized, "I'm sorry, Tania.  I don't want you to think that I lured you here to jump on your bones.  I like you and I don't want to move too fast."

Tania told him that she really liked him too, but she could only stay an hour or so because she needed to get up early the next morning.  She sensed his disappointment, but he said he understood and they chatted about their lives until Tania said it was time for her to leave.  Then, John walked her home, kissed her good night and told her that he would contact her within the next few days.

During the next three days, Tania thought a lot about John.  She knew she should slow herself down because she was already head over heels about him, and she didn't want to get involved too fast, especially since she had just ended her prior relationship. But she felt she couldn't help herself.

By Day 4, Tania was getting concerned that she might not hear from John.  Although she was concerned, she decided to wait to hear from him rather than contacting him.

By Day 5 at around 11 PM, John sent Tania a text, "What's up?" Tania was happy to hear from John and sent him a long text updating him on what had been going on with her during the last several days.  She waited to hear from him, but she heard nothing more that night.  She was disappointed, but she thought he might have fallen asleep.

By Day 7, Tania felt like she was really missing John.  She told herself that she hardly knew him and she was probably reacting to his lack of communication out of her own loneliness.  She checked her phone numerous times during the day, but there were no text messages from John.

Ten days after she had last seen John, Tania received another late night text from John, "Hey.  What's up?  I miss you.  I know it's late, but do you want to come over?"

Tania was very tempted to accept John's invitation, but she didn't feel good about just going his apartment, especially since she hadn't heard from him in several days, so she suggested that they make plans to see each other on another day.

John responded by text, "I'll get in touch with you soon."  Then, there were no more texts from John for another week, and Tania was beginning to wonder if she had said or done something to cause John to distance himself from her.  She wondered: Had she been prudish for not accepting his invitation to come over to his place?  But she decided that she had felt uncomfortable going over there, and she shouldn't do anything that made her uncomfortable.

Two weeks after she had seen John, she received another late night text from John, "Sorry I haven't gotten in touch with you.  I've been very busy at work.  I hope you're not angry with me."  Then, he ended the text message with a little emoji hug and a flower.

Tania responded back that she was glad to hear from him and she wasn't angry.  She suggested, once again, that they make plans to get together.  But she didn't hear anything back from John.

A week later, Tania was feeling disappointed that John had not contacted her again, and she also felt sad and lonely.  She thought about her ex, Ed, and wondered briefly if she had made a mistake by breaking up with him.  She wondered if Ed would be interested in going with her to couples therapy, but then she pushed that thought out of her head and she went to bed.  She was restless all night and tossed and turned.

By the next day, Tania realized that she needed to distance herself from John.  She saw the pattern of her getting excited whenever she heard from him and then feeling sad and dejected when he didn't text her for a while.  She really didn't feel up to dealing with this back and forth on his part, so she decided that she should forget about him.

But by the next day, Tania received a text from John, "Hey.  I'm thinking about you."  Initially, she felt excited, but then she reminded herself that nothing ever seemed to come of these texts and she decided to ignore it.  A few minutes later, she received another text, "What are you doing?  Are you there?"

After a few minutes, Tania responded that she was tired and she was about to go to sleep.  John texted her that he would like to see her and he would text her in the morning.  Once again, Tania felt an initial burst of excitement, but then she reminded herself that John didn't follow through in the past, and she should forget about him.

When she woke up the next morning, she saw that John was calling her and she picked up the phone to hear him say, "Tania, I'm so glad I reached you.  I hope I'm not calling you too early.  I apologize for not getting in touch with you sooner.  I would really like to see you.  Are you free tonight?"

Tania hesitated, but she felt excited about hearing from John and she wanted to see him, so she accepted his invitation to go for dinner at a local restaurant near her apartment.

For the next several hours, Tania happily daydreamed about John, what she would wear, and what she would talk to him about when they got together.

By 2 PM, he texted her letting her know that he was really looking forward to seeing her, and she felt giddy with excitement.  She told him that she was also looking forward to seeing him too.

But by 5 PM, John sent her a text that he had to work late, and he would need to take a rain check on dinner.  He was apologetic, but Tania felt very disappointed.  She went home, made herself a bowl of cereal, and decided to go to bed early.

By 11:30 PM, Tania received a text from John, "I just got home.  I know we said we would go out to dinner and I'm so sorry I couldn't make it.  I'd really like to see you.  Would you want to come over?"

Against her better judgment, Tania agreed to go over to his place.  All the way there, she felt conflicted about her decision, but she felt lonely and she really wanted to see John.

A half hour later, Tania was in bed with John having the best sex she had ever had in her life.  She couldn't remember when she had felt so happy.  They stayed up for a few minutes to talk and then Tania put her head on John's chest to sleep.  But she felt him tense up and she asked him if there was anything wrong.

"Tania, I hope you don't mind, "he said softly, "But I have a hard time sleeping with someone else in my bed, and I have to get up early tomorrow...I'm really sorry."

"Do you want me to leave?" she asked feeling the tears welling up in her eyes and throat.

John hesitated, "I don't really want you to leave.  I want you to stay close to me, but I know I won't sleep at all tonight if you're next to me.  You don't have to go home--you can sleep on the couch."

Tania held her breath so she wouldn't cry in front of John.  She felt sad and humiliated.  She didn't want to sleep on his couch, so she told him that she would catch a cab home.  He offered half heartedly to go downstairs to help her get a cab, but she told him that she could manage on her own.  Then, he kissed her on the forehead and rolled over to go to sleep.

She cried all the way home in the cab, and she couldn't sleep that night.  She felt sad, angry, humiliated and used.  She vowed to herself that she wasn't going to ever see John again.  Then, she tossed and turned the whole night.

Even though she vowed not to see John again, part of her hoped that he would call or text her the next day, and sure enough, she heard from him, "I really like you, Tania.  I'm sorry you had to leave last night.  I hope we can get together again soon" and he ended the next with a bunch of hearts and flowers.

In spite of herself, Tania felt elated, but she also felt wary.  By Noon, she got another text from John, "What are you doing tonight?  Do you want to come over?

Tania paced back and forth in her office before she responded to John.  Then, she decided to call her friend, Alicia, to get her advice because she felt like she was in the grip of something that was beyond her.  She knew that Alicia didn't know John well, but she knew him as an acquaintance from their circle of friends, and she hoped that Alicia could shed some light on what was going on with John.

After she told Alicia everything that was going on, Alicia was silent for a few seconds before she said, "Tania, I'm sorry to hear you've been involved with John.  I had no idea--or I would have told you that he's a player and he's breadcrumbing you just like he has done to so many other women.  You're much better off without him, especially since you're so vulnerable after the breakup with Ed."

Despite Alicia's advice and her own conflictual feelings, Tania continued to be involved with John for a few more months.  His pattern of contacting her, ignoring her and then contacting her again continued as did her indecision about whether or not to continue to see him.  Throughout it all, she felt like she was on an emotional roller coaster.

They got together at his apartment a few more times, and each time Tania knew that she would be going home alone.  John was apologetic, but less so each time.  When she asked him how he felt about her, he told her that he really liked her, but "I'm not into labels.  Can't we just have fun together and enjoy each other's company without defining it?"

When Tania spoke with Alicia again, she was feeling depressed, and Alicia suggested that Tania stop seeing John (on those rare occasions when he wanted to see her) and block John from her phone.

Alicia also suggested that Tania seek help in therapy.  She told her that she thought John took advantage of her because he knew that she had just gotten out of a relationship and she was emotionally vulnerable and easy to manipulate.

Reluctantly, Tania blocked John from her phone.  Then, she left a message for a psychotherapist that Alicia had seen a few years before and recommended to Tania.

The vignette above is a typical example of how someone like John senses the emotional vulnerability in a woman like Tania, how he targets her and manipulates her through breadcrumbing.

Even though the vignette focuses on how a man uses breadcrumbing to manipulate a woman, women also engage in breadcrumbing and this occurs in all types of relationships, including heterosexual and gay relationships.

In my next article, I'll continue with the same vignette to show how psychotherapy can be helpful to someone like Tania who has fallen prey to a player like John.

Getting Help in Therapy
If the vignette above resonates with you, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional.

This type of manipulation can really make you  question your judgment and it takes its toll on your sense of self worth.

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to heal and overcome the effects of breadcrumbing so you can make better choices in your relationships.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

In my couples work, I use Emotionally Focused Therapy to help couples to overcome the problems in their relationship.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.