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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Relationships: Is Your Partner "Breadcrumbing" You? Part 3: Getting Help in Therapy

In my prior articles about "breadcrumbing," I discussed this concept in terms of it being a deceptive strategy used by a person in a relationship to string along and dominate their partner for selfish purposes.  In Part 2 of this topic, I also provided a fictional vignette to illustrate how this happens (see my articles: Relationships: Is Your Partner "Breadcrumbing" You? - Part 1 and Part 2).  In this article, I'm continuing with that same fictional vignette to show how psychotherapy can help someone who is caught in this web of deception.

Relationships: Is Your Partner "Breadcrumbing You?" Part 3: Getting Help in Therapy

A Clinical Vignette: How Psychotherapy Can Help Someone Who is Being Manipulated in a Relationship

To recap from Part 2 of this topic:
Soon after Tania ended her relationship with Ed, she began dating John, a handsome, charming, intelligent and gregarious man she met at a party.  Initially, she was happy to meet John.  She couldn't believe she could feel so excited about meeting someone new.

But her excitement quickly turned into a roller coaster of emotions from excitement to disappointment and sadness.  Eventually, it turned into feelings of low self worth as it became evident that John was stringing her along for his own selfish purposes.  Specifically, Tania really liked John and she wanted to date him, but he was only interested in hooking up.

Tania confided in her friend,  Alicia, who had been unaware that Tania was dating John.  She told her about all the disappointments, cancelled plans, invitations to his apartment only to have sex, and so on.  Alicia listened patiently and then she told Tania that John had a reputation for being a player who would string women along with just enough attention to keep them interested and contacting him, but without giving of anything in the way of real substance.

Even though Tania could see John's pattern of behavior in hindsight, she still felt drawn to him, so she was reluctant to cut him off.  But as she realized that being around him was making her increasingly unhappy and she was feeling bad about herself, she took steps to stop contact with him.

At Alicia's suggestion, Tania contacted a psychotherapist that Alicia recommended, and Tania set up a consultation with the therapist.

During the initial consultation, Tania talked about how sad she had been after she broke up with Ed because, even though she loved him, she could see that there would be no future with him given how afraid he was to fully commit to their relationship and take it to the next step.

Tania told the therapist that, in hindsight, she could see that she was emotionally vulnerable when she met John because she had not fully grieved the end of her relationship with Ed.  Even though she liked John when she first met him, she also realized now that he was somewhat of a distraction for her to keep her from feeling the sadness related to the end of her relationship with Ed.

When Tania talked about how John manipulated her by stringing her along, she told the therapist that not only did she feel disappointed--she also felt foolish and ashamed for allowing him to manipulate her time after time.  She realized that she had been lonely after her breakup, and this contributed to her allowing a bad situation with John to go on for as long as it did.  She said she kept hoping that he would realize how much he liked her and treat her better.

Her psychotherapist felt empathetic towards Tania.  She realized that Tania was being very hard on herself, and she normalized the situation by telling Tania that people who use breadcrumbing as a manipulative strategy are usually very good at it and they sense the other person's emotional vulnerability, which they take advantage of for their own selfish purposes.

They also discussed Tania's family background and early childhood.  Tania revealed that she was closer to her father than her mother.  When she was five, her parents divorced and she hardly saw him after that because he moved out of state.  She told the therapist that she grew up yearning to be around her father.  In hindsight, Tania said she felt her father was narcissistic and he didn't take into account how much she missed him and how disappointing it was when he was hours late without an explanation to pick her up.

On those rare occasions that she saw him when he came to visit New York, she said she missed him so much that she overlooked that he came very late or he would sometimes cancel at the last minute.  Looking back on it, Tania said, she thought she didn't want to make waves by complaining to her father because she was afraid that he would get angry and she would see him even less.

As Tania was talking about this, she realized for the first time that she had similar feelings with John as she did with her father.  She and her therapist talked about the similarities between John and Tania's father. They also discussed the connection between how she was with her father and how she interacted with John, and Tania felt a strong connection.

During the next several months, Tania worked in therapy to deal with the loss of her relationship with Ed.  She and her therapist also worked on the earlier trauma of yearning for a father who lacked empathy for her feelings when she was a child and the connection to her dating relationship with John.

To overcome these issues, her therapist used a combination of Somatic Experiencing and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy (see my article: Integrating EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychotherapy).

Both EMDR therapy and Somatic Experiencing are experiential types of therapy that get to the underlying issues more effectively than regular talk therapy (see my articles: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Regular Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma and Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR Therapy, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

They worked on helping Tania to overcome her early childhood trauma.  Then, they worked on Tania's current problems and her anticipation about the future.

Relationships: Is Your Partner "Breadcrumbing" You?  Part 3: Getting Help in Therapy

Over time, Tania gradually felt better.  As a result of her trauma therapy work, Tania no longer felt drawn to men like John.  In addition, when she met someone who attempted to manipulate her in a similar way, she saw it immediately and she took care of herself by ending contact with him because she felt she deserved better.

Breadcrumbing is a form of manipulation that is used by both men and women to dominate and control the other person in a romantic situation.

People who are susceptible to being manipulated like this usually have earlier underlying issues that are getting replayed in the current situation--similar to the fictional vignette about Tania.  This is why these people are particularly vulnerable to these type of mind games.

Aside from stirring up old issues that s/he might be unaware of until they are unearthed in therapy, this type of manipulation often has a negative impact on the person's self esteem, especially if this person remains in the situation with the hope of getting a commitment from the person who is manipulating him or her.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have been hurt by someone who manipulated you in a relationship, you owe it to yourself to get professional help from a licensed mental health professional.

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to work through the underlying issues that make you vulnerable to this type of manipulation so that you're no longer susceptible to these mind games.

Once you have freed yourself from the emotional abuse of breadcrumbing, you can make better romantic choices and lead a more fulfilling life (see my article: Choosing Healthier Romantic Relationships).

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and uses Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

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.