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Living on breadcrumbs

Overcoming a stage-five stringer

Dear Stacey,

I met an amazing woman online who was fresh out of a long relationship. We had chemistry, and she seemed to have everything going for her—a good job, a busy social life, and she was very active in the community. However, anytime I suggested meeting in person, she avoided making concrete plans, and if we did make plans, she would cancel. I told myself that she wasn’t yet ready for another serious relationship and that she was trying to have fun and figure things out. This went on for a little over a year and, because I was so invested in her, I was patient and continued to communicate with her pretty regularly. Recently, I made another suggestion to meet in person, and she was evasive. After I pressed her with questions, she finally admitted that she was going away for the weekend with her boyfriend. She hadn’t told me she had started dating someone, but, after learning this, her avoidance started to make sense. Needless to say, I didn’t react to the news very well. She ended up blocking me on social media and via text. I was very into this woman, but the way she treated me wasn’t right. Now I don’t know what to do and how to move on. Help!



Duped and confused


Dear Duped,

Younger generations love to adapt new ways of explaining old ideas, particularly when it comes to dating. Breadcrumbing and benching have become the latest ways to describe old favorites such as: being led on, back-burnered, or strung along. The new metaphors aren’t terribly complicated: A person provides the bare minimum amount of attention (“crumbs” in the form of text messages) to maintain your interest and/or keeps you on the bench waiting while other players are in the game. 

Forgive my pun, but I think you’re seeking some validation that this woman’s actions toward you were “crumby.” And in true diplomatic and indecisive Libra form, I’m going to tell you my answer: Maybe. There’s a reason I’m not fond of online dating, and it’s a story I always thought I’d save for a chapter in my eventual book. Enough years have passed where I’m now unsure I even want to give this person that kind of real estate. Since your predicament seems similar, it’s worth revisiting. 

Many years ago, I worked in a dead-end job where my coworkers were scattered across the west coast. During that time, I assisted a person on an account, and we became quite friendly and flirtatious. There was talk of my relocating out west. This person even created a position for me at the company he was running on the side. Like your online lady friend, everything looked good on paper: he was attractive, smart, funny, successful, and confident. In hindsight, he embodied all the things I was lacking at the time—well, at least in the success and confidence departments. Like your situation, this was mostly handled via emails and phone calls (texting really wasn’t a thing yet). Similarly, it dragged on for a long time, and he was dating other people. I wasn’t really pursuing anyone else because my goal was to get out west.

I specifically remember the phone conversation where the job offer was made—and my disappointment in hearing that he was going to continue seeing other people if I moved out there. One line from the discussion sticks with me to this day.

He said, “I can’t give you what you want.” 

I remember holding the phone receiver and staring at it like it was a foreign object that had been lodged in a bodily orifice. I wasn’t handling any of his accounts anymore, but during the course of the months that followed, he occasionally contacted me for favors and to check in. Why was he calling me? Did that make him an attention-seeking, narcissistic jerk? Sure. Or, perhaps the correct answer is maybe. He had shown me his true colors and had even verbalized them, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t push boundaries if given the chance. The real problem was that I allowed those lines to be crossed with the false hope that he would change his mind and finally give me what I wanted. I hadn’t moved on.

There’s a quote that flies around the Internet, and I think it’s been misattributed to both Mark Twain and Maya Angelou: “Never make someone a priority when all you are is an option.” I have no idea who actually penned it, but there’s a reason it’s so damn popular: it’s true. You devoted a year of your life pursuing this woman, and she wouldn’t even take the time to meet you in person, and because of this you didn’t take the opportunity to assess how things would play out in real life. She continued to message you because she most likely enjoyed the attention. She liked knowing she had a person waiting in the wings, and while you were being breadcrumbed and benched, she was forging real-life connections with others. But here comes a point where you have to take ownership of your willingness to allow a person to treat you this way.

Until you make yourself and your own needs a priority, you won’t be able to assess whether or not someone is truly right for you. The times where I have made the worst dating choices were periods where I felt the worst about myself, looking for an escape or for someone to fill a void. It’s time to establish some healthy boundaries. Make your needs known, meet people in person as soon as possible, and if people aren’t giving you what you want, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

The bakery is full of options. Don’t settle for crumbs when you can have the whole loaf. 


Stacey Rowe is a freelance writer based in Rochester. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @thestaceyrowe and at

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