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By Spencer Abel

Are you being simmered in online dating?

Simmering (or breadcrumbing) is the act of keeping a prospective romantic interest on a leash – close enough to keep them interested, but far enough away to avoid any definitive relationship label. Has a former Tinder date consistently told you that she wants to hang out again, but then has consistently put you on the back burner? If so, you’re probably starting to feel the heat.

This new trend is what Esther Perel, psychotherapist and author of the new book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, has labeled as one form of stable ambiguity: “It’s a way to actually cultivate the comforts and consistency of being in a relationship without having to engage in the full commitment and loss of freedom that may come with the relationship. So it’s stable, but it’s ambiguous.”

We may decide to string someone along because we want the attention, like operating from a position of power, or genuinely want to hang out but are too scared to take the final step. But forget why we do it for a moment. If we’re on the receiving end, how do we deal with a chef that’s got us indefinitely on simmer?

Bask in the simmer

We allow ourselves to play the game because of the thrill. It’s nice to know that someone out there is willing to at least continue the charade of acting interested in us. Combine this with the anticipation that’s been building from your potential suitor’s expressed interest yet refusal to meet up, and now you’ve got your own romantic soap opera. “We all know that being on hold has an element of anticipation and maybe a little bit of excitement that comes from the anticipation,” says Perel. The crucial part is knowing when this excitement turns into anxiety and becomes unhealthy.

Backstroke through the dating pool

The stable ambiguity found in relationships where breadcrumbing exists by definition means that the relationship doesn’t have any explicit boundaries. This means that you’re free to date anyone you want to. Look, it’s totally possible that you hook up with that sexy yet infinitely frustrating woman that keeps telling you she wants to hang out but never commits. But by no means should you be waiting around. In the meantime, kick it with someone who wants to have a relationship that goes deeper than ambiguously flirty emojis.

Excommunicate from your network

If you’re fairly certain that this simmer won’t eventually turn into a boil, it’s best to let this fairy fly away. Those who leave us feeding off of breadcrumbs are sometimes hard to get rid of. They prod us through any number of social media avenues. To set yourself free, the best thing you can do is to take away their screen presence, because that is likely the medium they’re using to flex their power.

Switch roles

What’s the tally? How many times have you asked her out compared to how many times she’s asked you? If you’re tired of constantly being rejected, you might want to flip the switch. If you’re going a bit insane while waiting around for this person to finally accept your overtures, put the onus on them. Once you’ve made it clear that you will no longer be asking them out, you can sit back and go about your swiping in peace.

Staying on simmer is a process that can go unnoticed for quite a while. Once you know you’re in the pot and can feel the heat under you, it’s time to take action.

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