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5 Reasons Narcissists "Breadcrumb" Their Exes

5. It's easier to go back to an old "supply."

Key points

  • Breadcrumbing is when a person gives someone just enough attention to "string them along" or makes them think they are interested in them.
  • The purpose of breadcrumbing for a narcissist is to give them an ego boost.
  • Responding to breadcrumbing signals that one is available for "narcissistic supply," so the best response is silence.
Matthias Zomer/Pexels
Matthias Zomer/Pexels

Your ex texts you out of nowhere and asks how you are doing. She tells you she misses you, and you don't hear from her again until months later. You may have been breadcrumbed.

Breadcrumbing is when a person gives you enough attention to "string you along" or makes you think they are interested in you. They will pop into your life and then disappear just as quickly. This behavior can make you feel hopeful but then confused and hurt.

Breadcrumbing can be a typical behavior of narcissists and other toxic people. Breadcrumbing is usually done through a low-effort text or direct message. The narcissist may breadcrumb with future faking, vaguely referring to some plan for the two of you in the future that will never materialize. Then they seem to cut off contact with you. You may wonder if you said something wrong or blame yourself. On the contrary, this dropoff of communication isn't about you at all—the narcissist probably got their ego needs met and then moved on.

Narcissists seem to breadcrumb you when you think you are feeling like yourself again—you feel you have broken free and are rebuilding your life. Narcissists may breadcrumb you right after the relationship ends or even years later. Breadcrumbing is usually about narcissists soothing their ego so they don't have to face feelings of inadequacy.

Why else would a narcissist breadcrumb you? Continue reading.

It Keeps You in "Rotation"

It gives narcissists comfort that you are still willing to communicate with them. They tend to keep a "rotation" of ex-partners and ex-friends they can contact when they need an ego boost. Every once in a while, they will ensure that rotation is kept fresh by seeing who responds to their messages. They then "file" you away for when you become useful to them again.

It Keeps Them on Your Mind

One of a toxic person's worst fears is to have someone ignore them or not think of them. They know they have thrown you off when they reach out to you seemingly out of nowhere. They know that they now reside in your thoughts. This gives them an ego boost and a feeling of power. Just the idea that they are on your mind is enough for them to have a reprieve from feelings of emptiness. Their goal is to stop feeling a narcissistic void.

They Need Something From You

Narcissists will contact you as if nothing terrible happened during your relationship. They will be friendly and charismatic. Then you discover why they contacted you—they want something from you. They may know you can get them tickets to an event, or they need your help with something at their house. They don't start with their request, but they may have breadcrumbed you long-term with flattery and then months later hit you up with how you can be useful to them. If you say no, they may fly into a narcissistic rage.

It Soothes Them After Losing Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists must have a "supply" available to them. They may move on quickly to another relationship or have been cheating with multiple partners. Narcissistic supply isn't always in the form of a person. Narcissists may derive a large part of their identities from their jobs. If work isn't going well or they have been fired, they may start spiraling. If their ego takes a hit, they can experience narcissistic injury. Knowing that you are still out there and are willing to respond to them can temporarily soothe feelings of emptiness.

It's Easier to Go Back to Old Supply

It's less work for a narcissist to return to old supply (like an ex-partner) than to find new supply. Seeking new supply means the narcissist has a chance of being rejected. It also means the narcissist must keep their "mask" when interacting with new supply. The new supply may leave if the narcissist reveals who they are too early in the relationship. If they know an ex-partner tolerated their pathological behavior, at least to some degree, they assume the same will be true if they reconnect. They are weighing the chances of you being their next supply by breadcrumbing you.

How to Respond to Breadcrumbing

One of the best ways to respond to breadcrumbing is by doing nothing. Don't respond to any attempts to contact you. Please write down why you no longer want contact with this person and how they made you feel. Now block this person's phone number, email, and social media accounts. Block any access to you.

Breadcrumbing Essential Reads

This is easier said than done. Cutting someone off can be painful if you have a trauma bond with them. If you have children with this person, going no-contact may not be an option. However, going low-contact might be feasible.

The more time passes without this person dropping in on your life, the better you will feel. Talk with a licensed mental health professional if you feel confused or devastated by this person's interference.

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