Many years ago when married to my ex husband, I was really sick with the flu. I was miserable. Between being sick & living with our failing marriage (for which he blamed me completely), it wasn’t a nice time. A couple of days into the flu, he came home with a get well card for me. I was so happy! I never got get well cards, or cards of any type from him. I opened the envelope & took out the card. He hadn’t even bothered to sign it or seal the envelope! He simply bought it, put it in the envelope & handed it to me. At the time, this made my day & brightened my awful mood some. Looking back though? I realize I was content with narcissistic breadcrumbs.
One thing narcissists have in common is training their victims to be content with the breadcrumbs, the bare minimum, the very least they can get away with doing. The example in the above paragraph is a very good example of narcissistic breadcrumbs. And, like a good victim, I was content with that because usually, my ex did nothing for me when I was sick or injured. That unsigned card was the biggest gift he had given me during our marriage. It didn’t occur to me the only reason he even did this much might be because we were living with his parents & he probably figured bringing me a card would make him look good to his mother.
Why would narcissists do the bare minimum? They are done so you will see they are doing something nice for you & ignore the abuse. They are merely a distraction by the narcissist so they can continue to abuse you however they like. You are supposed to be so overwhelmed with this “good” thing that they are doing for you, that you’ll forgive & forget the many bad things they have done. Remember my example? Do you really think my joy at receiving that pitiful, unsigned card lasted? No. It also didn’t negate the facts he didn’t listen to me or care about me above what I could do for him. But, it was supposed to. As if a few years of this would be simply forgotten by giving me a card that he couldn’t even bother to sign. Narcissists don’t think like normal folks do though- they assume such tiny gestures will overwhelm us with gratitude & distract us indefinitely from the problems at hand.
If a narcissist wants something from you, he may do something nice for you before asking you for that favor. Money is a favorite tool in these situations. For example, money is tight for you so the financially stable narcissist gives you some money to tide you over until payday. A couple of weeks later, he asks you to do something for him. He will remind you of how much he helped you out recently by giving you that money. “After all I do for you, & you can’t even manage to do this one little favor for me!”
Narcissists also don’t like to do for other people. Doing for others means thinking of someone beyond yourself, which is NOT something they care to do. Why think of someone else when they are so much more important?! This is partly why they do the bare minimum- the minimum also means they don’t have to think of someone other than them for long.
If you “force” them to do something (mind you, by forcing this can mean asking “Would you mind doing ___ for me please?”), you will pay for it. Asking a narcissist to do something for you, no matter how small, can incite a rage or passive/aggressive behavior. So if they feel forced to do something nice for you to try to distract you from their behavior, they will resent you for “making” them do it. The fact you didn’t ask them to do it isn’t important. In their minds, you made them do this thing & they aren’t happy about it, so they will punish you passive/aggressively by doing the bare minimum. And, if you don’t appreciate their effort, then they have a valid reason (at least in their minds) to blow up at you. “Nothing I do pleases you!” “You don’t appreciate anything!” “You’re impossible to please!”
Narcissistic breadcrumbs are a way of life in a narcissistic relationship. If the narcissist in your life suddenly is doing something nice for you, then be aware, there is a reason for it.